RIP: 9 shuttered Detroit bars & restaurants that we'll miss
2014 was an exciting year for new bars and restaurants in Detroit. However, it wasn't exciting for everyone. It was also the year some old favorites left us. Pour one out for these 10 establishments that left too soon:
When Gastronomy opened in a terrible, terrible office building in the great big suburban office park that is Southfield, it showed so much potential. With Executive Chef Adam Hightower at the helm, the food was some of the most cutting-edge in Metro Detroit at that particular millisecond in time in 2012. But, a combination of losing its star chef just months after opening, an inability to draw in outside clientele to its remarkably awful location in the middle of an office park labyrinth that required GPS navigation just to get through the maze of parking lots and "corporate drives", plus an interior design that tried and failed to conceal the fact that it was once a Morton's Steakhouse on the ground-floor level of a soulless office building, it closed. It briefly became Epic Café, basically a high-end diner, until that, too, closed.
The Detroit Zen Center Café
For those looking for fresh, raw, and organic food made from scratch, the Detroit Zen Center Café was a godsend (lol?). Unfortunately, that simply wasn't enough of you, and the Zen Center decided to close the café this summer due to lack of interest. The Center itself is still open, however, and their products are still available for purchase in area stores and markets.
Rodin & Good Girls Go to Paris
Detroit, it is truly the end of an era. When Torya Blanchard opened her humble little crepe stand on John R at the corner of Woodward (now the home of Chickpea in the D), it was the talk of the town. For years, the New York Times vacillated between its annual Slows BAR BQ check-in and the latest buzz on Good Girls (before the days of Dan Gilbert, or, shall we say, 2010 B.D.G.). Blanchard, like Phil Cooley, was held up as the gold standard of entrepreneurial possibilities in the city, a demonstrable success story of how a bit of pluck, passion, and a cashed-out 401k can lead to the fulfillment of all one's dreams in this "blank slate" city.
It was a good story. But, things change, times change, people change, passions change. Good Girls will always be a great success story of its time and place in Detroit's history, but its closure really does mark the end of an era. As for that sexy, sexy Rodin space, take heart. Sandy Levine, owner of The Oakland in Ferndale, will open Chartreuse Kitchen & Bar in that location in 2015 with former Terry B's chef Doug Hewitt at the helm.
Detroit is not a city to let sentimentality get in the way of progress (LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL), so when the Imaginarium of Doctor Ilitch was officially announced (even though the land grab had been happening on the DL for years), it was only a matter of time before our favorite little "Terry-oke" bar closed up to be bulldozed over to make way for progress. The drinks were cheap (so cheap) and the vibe was just right for locals and party bus pub crawlers to let loose on the mic, singing songs they have no business singing (thanks to those cheap drinks). It will be sorely missed.
Maria's Front Room
There probably aren't many people in Metro Detroit who would try to claim that Maria's Front Room was a great restaurant (it wasn't), but it was a reliable one. Open for 25 years in Downtown Ferndale (for point of reference, not a whole lot else was going on in Downtown Ferndale 25 years ago, except maybe Como's and Danny's Irish Pub), Maria's was an Eyetalian-American kind of joint, good for a hearty bowl of okay pasta and a glass of wine served in those stubby-stemmed banquet-sized wine glasses (no long-stemmed Riedel Chianti glasses at this checkered tablecloth place). It was homey and comforting, always there for you when you needed it, and maintained much of its original charm even when new owners took over in 2008. And now it's gone. We pour out a bottle of cheap Chianti in your honor, Maria's.
Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe
Let's just be real about something: Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe was just as over-ambitious and overpriced as the ill-fated gourmet grocer that preceded it, Zacarro's Market, and it also lacked the diversity of product and competitive price points needed to hold its own against the numbers-crushing Whole Foods. So, it closed. The end.
The longtime home of somewhat on-again, off-again monthly LGBTQ disco dance night Macho City and Detroit's original leather daddy bar, the R&R Saloon, bid a fond farewell this year after 37 years in business. So maybe leather daddy bars aren't exactly everyone's "thing", but there's no denying that in the early days of Movement (post-DEMF and that little two-year blip of WTF), places like the R&R and the Detroit Eagle (also RIP) – seedy gay bars on the outskirts of everything – threw some of the very best after-hours after parties. At least we still have The Works (and Macho City is back to being a monthly event, now at Menjo's).
After a transformer fire burned the bar beyond repair, it was closed for good in April (after over 30 years in business). It was a sad goodbye indeed. Hamtramck might not be wanting for lack of dive bars, but there is an equal place in the hearts of every Hamtramckian for each and every one of them, and Hippo's has left a hippo-sized hole in its absence.
Kiernan's Steak House and Silky's Martinis & Music
This longtime Dearborn destination for food and fun closed its doors after business had been steadily slipping over the last decade. Kiernan's was an unapologetically old-school steakhouse, had been open since 1965, and once brought in a steady crowd of lunching businessmen from the nearby Ford Motor Company World Headquarters, while the adjoining Martini bar brought in the younger party-people crowd at night with DJs and live music. Downtown-West Dearborn isn't exactly known as a nightlife hotspot as it is, and the closure of these sister properties deals it yet another blow. Luckily, Detroit isn't too far of a drive, and its bar scene is blowing up.
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