Smart Luxury: Detroit

by  Christina Valhouli | Nov 1, 2017
Detroit Foundation Hotel
Detroit Foundation Hotel

Think of a Midwestern city that offers stylish accommodation, excellent food, and culture and Chicago probably comes to mind first. But if you’re looking for all of those elements at wallet-friendly prices, consider Detroit. The city historically known for Motown and the automotive industry is in the midst of a well-publicized renaissance. Chefs, artists, and makers are flocking here to join the creative revival. Walk around Detroit, which was recently named the first American City of Design by UNESCO, and the enthusiasm and pride are impossible to miss.  And best of all? The city serves up good food and high style without any attitude.

Here's a look at how to enjoy the absolute best of Detroit, plus some comparable spots in Chicago, so you can compare average pricing. 

Where to Stay

The brand new Detroit Foundation Hotel is housed in a neo-classical building that was formerly the headquarters of the Detroit fire department. The hotel’s design references the city’s automotive and industrial past. Guests are given red auto fuses to redeem for a complimentary coffee or tea. Headboards in the guest rooms are crafted from repurposed wood and the custom wallpaper reflects Detroit’s architecture. The lobby-level Apparatus Room restaurant has a long communal bar and an open kitchen helmed by two Michelin-starred chef Thomas Lents where the multi-course chef’s tasting menu costs around $78 per person (depending on market prices). Weekend rates start at $219.

Compare to Chicago: The Chicago Athletic Club hotel has a similar design vibe, with décor that mixes vintage and industrial touches in a historic setting. Weekend rates start at $269.  

Where to Eat

There’s no shortage of incredible restaurants in Detroit. Start off your day with ricotta pancakes ($10) or an omelet topped with fresh flowers ($7) at Parks and Rec diner. Takoi offers experimental Thai food in an industrial setting were you can get a family-style chef’s tasting menu for $65 per person. The Selden Standard offers rustic, locally sourced food like a cup of green lentil soup for $5, while curry coconut roasted cauliflower is $9.

Compare to Chicago: Alternatively, French toast served with berries and whipped crème fraîche at the trendy brunch favorite Kennison is $13. Arun’s is Chicago’s most upscale Thai restaurant. A chef’s 10-course tasting menu, featuring vegetable spring rolls with Dungeness crab and tamarind curry pork, is $100 per person.

Where to Drink

The tiny  Bad Luck bar is tucked down an alley behind a nondescript metal door where you can sip 13 craft cocktails inspired by Tarot cards. “Death” is a blend of Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum, soy-infused Pedro Ximénez sherry, spiced butter, and lime juice served in a skull cup for $18. Cocktails are serious business at The Standby. A Grapefruit Gimlet ($11) is crafted from Opihr gin,  grapefruit sherbert, lime, and nutmeg.

Compare to Chicago: Chicago's Aviary is the concept cocktail bar from the Alinea group, run by celebrity chef Grant Achatz. The Jungle Bird is a layered parfait of rums, pineapple, and Campari and also includes rum spheres for $29.

Where to See Art

The permanent collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts, housed in a Beaux Arts building, includes works by Van Gogh and Monet. Don’t miss the enormous Detroit Industry murals by Diego Rivera, a tribute to the city’s industry and workers. Admission is $14 per adult. The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) showcases rotating exhibits. A donation of $5 is suggested.

Compare to Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest museums in the country. Highlights includes works from Marc Chagall and Georgia O’Keefe with admission running $25 for an adult ticket. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago is one of the largest in the world; suggested admission is $15 for each adult.

See Architecture Differently

One of the best ways to view any city is from the water. Sign up for a kayak tour through Detroit River Sports, which starts at Detroit’s Eastside canals and winds past the historic Fisher Mansion as well as Fox Creek and Klenk Island. The tour ends on the Detroit River, with views of the downtown. A 2-hour tour is $40 per person.

Compare to Chicago: The Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise is a classic way to see the city’s history unfold through its architecture. The 1.5-hour cruise is $46 per person.

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