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A Day In Detroit's Popular Corktown Neighborhood

Detroit's Corktown neighborhood isn't only Detroit's oldest neighborhood, it's also one of the longest-surviving communities within Southeast Michigan. In the 1840s, a great potato famine drove many of the Irish from their homeland off to The Motor City (though there were no motors then...), where they founded Corktown. This area was host to Tigers Stadium, home of the Detroit Tigers from 1912 to 1999, which was situated at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Avenue, known affectionately as "The Corner." Corktown is now booming with new restaurants, shops, businesses and young families looking to place roots within the tight-nit area. Located just west of the city's Downtown, the homes here are historic and in wonderful condition, and previously-old, rundown lofts are being reconstructed and renovated for a whole new generation of Detroiters. Michigan Avenue, which runs through the center of the neighborhood, has a great shopping district with plenty of new stores and diners to explore, some of which you can find more about below.
Ottava Via
1400 Michigan Ave.
Detroit, MI 48216
(313) 962-5500

Ottava Via's trattoria-style menu, which is packed full of fine Italian flavors, will win over any fan of good Mediterranean food -- and Detroit is known for its great Italian dining. This Corktown favorite is the perfect place to meet with friends to pop open a bottle of Chianti and enjoy the fine loft-like atmosphere of this upper-scale casual dining experience. Do yourself and your fellow guests a favor and order plenty of small plates to go around, as this restaurant specializes in sharing and sampling. If you're looking for a place to eat with more traditional Italian fare (i.e. heavy-laden red-sauced pastas and noodles), this might not be the place to try, as Ottava Via looks to capitalize on a more discerning palate.

Many historic houses line the streets of Corktown in Detroit. (Credit, Michael Ferro)

St. Cece's Social Pub
1426 Bagley Ave.
Detroit, MI 48216
(313) 962-2121

St. Cece's, which was originally-built as a Corktown Irish pub, still has all of the looks of such a place: dark, brooding and atmospheric. Regardless of this, there's something about St. Cece's that can make you and a group of friends feel right at home. Overhauled to better represent the social pubs of old-world Europe, this eatery has a massive wood-burning fireplace and stained glass to boot, giving it that massive "European inn" feel. Executive chef Adam Verville keeps the menu fresh with constantly-changing options from some nearby Corktown organic farms, including meats and poultry. Locals rave about the generous delicious portions of the Asian noodle bowls. Still, Chef Verville isn't looking to have all the fun himself -- St. Cece's also offers pop-up dinners put on by other local chefs. See its Facebook page for more info and daily creations.

Related:  A Breakdown Of Detroit Neighborhoods

John K. King Used & Rare Books
901 W. Lafayette Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 961-0622

If you're a bibliophile in any sense of the word and can't get enough of that intoxicating "old book smell," then Corktown's own John K. King Used & Rare Books store is certainly going to blow you away. Established back in 1965, this bookstore is the largest in the state of Michigan and one of the country's largest bookstores altogether. This bookseller is so big that it comprises two whole buildings, complete with a rare books room, art books room and offices. One four-story building used to be an entire glove factory and now holds just books and nothing more.

Victorian homes line the streets of Corktown in Detroit. (Credit, Michael Ferro)

Wheelhouse Detroit
1340 E. Atwater St.
Detroit, MI 48207
(313) 656-2453

Detroit is becoming known more and more each day as a bicycle capital of the Midwest, with bicycle manufacturers and bike sellers popping up all over the Motor City. Corktown is home to one of the area's largest concentration of bicycling enthusiasts in the city, and is also the home base for Wheelhouse Detroit, which specializes in bicycle rentals and repairs. If you're just getting interested in the world of bikes, Wheelhouse Detroit can help you choose the right bicycle for you. If you're just looking to take a day trip throughout Detroit and Corktown on two wheels with friends or family, the Wheelhouse offers affordable rentals between $10-15 each and offers one of the city's best guided tours through Corktown's historic district, showcasing the incredible Victorian homes and buildings along the avenues.

Slows Bar BQ
2138 Michigan Ave.
Detroit, MI 48216
(313) 962-9828

Who could forget the cream of the Corktown dining crop? Slows Bar BQ has been earning national recognition and fame for more than a few years running. Certainly well-established as a local favorite, Slows has also cemented its reputation with national and worldwide acclaim. Everyone from The Food Network to Bon Appétit Magazine has sang this little BBQ joint's praises. And it's certainly all for good reason. Slows has reinvented the idea of Detroit barbecue, putting Motown on the map alongside some of the South's best names in ribs, pulled pork and other BBQ favorites. No longer just a restaurant, Slows is also a full-service caterer, delivery service and "call ahead/to go" food provider. If you're just stopping by Corktown and can't wait to try this amazing food, give Slows a call and pick something up.

Related: Best Parks In Detroit

Michael Ferro is freelance writer and a graduate of Michigan State University where he majored in Creative Writing and received the Jim Cash Creative Writing Award. Born and bred in Detroit, he currently resides in Ypsilanti Township. Additional writing can be found at
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