As Detroit’s oldest existing neighborhood, Corktown is the epicenter of the city’s restaurant surge and home to some of its most beloved bars (both old and new). Located within the boundaries of Southwest and west of downtown, the neighborhood was named from the influx of Irish immigrants who settled in the area during the mid-to-late 1800s. Today, Corktown’s scene feels as dynamic as ever thanks to a mixture of locals and a steady flow of young professionals and creatives into the area, drawn by the eclectic scene.
With the recent investments by Ford Motor Company in a nearby office space and the forthcoming renovations of Corktown’s biggest landmark — the Michigan Central Station — the neighborhood is undergoing major changes. Despite the recent flood of money from property investors, a mix of lowkey pubs, music venues, and restaurants serving inventive food are maintaining the spirited and thrifty, DIY feel of the area for now.
Chances are for folks who are visiting Detroit for the first time, will at some point find themselves in this neighborhood and it’s certainly worth the trip. There’s also an abundance of shops worth exploring and lovely residential streets filled with historic, colorful Victorian homes. Travelers will find the area relatively easy to navigate by foot or by bike and will never find themselves far from a good meal. One can easily spend 24 hours in the neighborhood without missing a thing. It’s all here — hip brunch spots, funky breweries, and award-winning restaurants. For a quick romp through Corktown and a primer on the multitudes of food and beverage options in the neighborhood, let this itinerary guide your visit.
9 a.m. Breakfast
Wake up at Trumbull & Porter, a hotel with trendy art in and outside of the guest rooms, and an outdoor courtyard suited for live music, installations, and a beer garden. From the hotel, head up just the street to the sunny, modern, all-day brunch café, Folk for perfect for a perfect breakfast. The mainstays here include options like potato hash with greens and avocado, refreshing kale salads with vegan cashew dressing, gluten-free Belgian waffles with pistachio crumble, and avocado toast on thick slices of bread. If you need a caffeine kick, there’s an espresso machine. Consider trying a latte flavored with one of Folk’s pastel-hued milk infusions.
10:30 a.m. Break
Get some shopping in after breakfast. There’s several funky retailers to choose from in the neighborhood including Mama Coo’s — a stylish vintage and antique shop in nestled in pint-sized space next to Folk. Kitty corner to the block is Hello Records. Drop in and dig through the crates for new or used records from the 1940s through the 2000s. Whether you prefer jazz, soul, funk, blues, or want to discover local Detroit artists, there’s something here for any vinyl collectors. For book lover’s, will not want to miss the multi-level maze that is John K. King Used & Rare Books. Explore the endless stacks for dusty novels and nonfiction volumes.
1 p.m. Lunch
After some shopping, wander over to Mudgie’s Deli anchoring the corner of Porter and Brooklyn Streets for a hearty lunch. This beloved neighborhood establishment serves some of the best sandwiches in Detroit and its beer and wine selections are nothing to sniff at either. People with dietary restrictions can count on vegetarian and vegan options as well as gluten-free bread. Consider ordering the Gutty, a massive sandwich served on a kaiser roll and topped with Milano salami, Sy Ginsberg pastrami and corned beef, bacon, beef brisket, sharp cheddar, romaine lettuce, and garlic mayo. If the weather’s right, kick back with your meal out on the patio.
2:30 p.m. Break
Take a break and head over to Meta Physica Wellness. Relax your muscles with a massage or sweat in the sauna. If you want to refresh yourself after your treatment, pick up a smoothie, juice, or elixir from the organic juice bar. Alternatively, consider renting a MoGo bike and touring the neighborhood shops along Michigan Avenue including El Dorado General Store and Mid-Century antiques destination Xavier’s. Don’t forget to ride over to Roosevelt Park and take in the view of Michigan Central Station — a massive, decommissioned train depot.
4 p.m. Coffee
After your break, head over to Astro Coffee for some afternoon coffee. This café is well-known for its selection of sandwiches — especially the egg sandwich — and offers baked goods, some of which are vegan. Astro also roasts its own beans.
6:30 p.m. Drinks
There’s no shortage of places in Corktown to grab a drink. In the mood for whiskey? Try Two James Distillery, the first licensed distillery in the city since Prohibition. Beer lovers will enjoy Batch Brewing Company on Porter Street. The Sugar House, which helped kick off Detroit’s transformation into a world-class cocktail city, serves excellent renditions of classic drinks and a seasonal house cocktails, too.
8 p.m. Dinner
It’s hard to go wrong when it comes to picking a spot for dinner in Corktown. However, don’t leave without checking out chef Kate Williams’ Eater Award-winning restaurant, Lady of the House. Here, the rustic dishes are hearty, so don’t hesitate to share. Start off the meal with oysters served with two styles of sauce. Don’t overlook the carrot “steak” with hollandaise and pistachio, and cauliflower with parmesan sauce, challah, and fennel. The bread is made in-house and served beside soft butter and apple butter. Rotating charcuterie selections are also on the menu, along with lamb loin, prime rib large enough for two, and whole roasted chicken. For dessert, try the popular potato doughnut with chamomile cream, dehydrated yogurt, and sugared thyme. Consider making a reservation at Lady of the House in advance. Alternately, stop by for happy hour drinks and a snack at the bar, which is always open to walk-ins.
11 p.m. Late-night drinks and entertainment
Detroit has an active nightlife, and Corktown is no different. Wind down with some fun at one of the bars in the neighborhood, like PJ’s Lager House, a live music venue and bar with good sandwiches, or the old-school Nancy Whiskey’s Pub with its sprawling patio. Play a game of pool with a glass of whiskey at McShane’s Irish Pub. For live jazz, DJs, and a truly excellent patio, head to the most laid-back wine bar in town — MotorCity Wine.