Friday, October 31, 2008


With a Polish (and good looking I might add) staff, murals of scenes from old world Poland, and authentic Polish food, the dining experience at Polonia is as good a way as any to experience Polish culture in the historically Polish enclave Hamtramck. Hamtramck was founded by Germans, but Poles began to flood the area when the Dodge Brothers opened a plant nearby.

Located in "Poletown," the premises of Polonia began as a Workmen's Cooperative in 1927 to offer home cooking to Polish immigrants who had just arrived in this country. With that in mind, the tradition of familiar Polish dishes has continued as Polonia offers a wide range of Polish dishes at cheap prices.

You cannot eat at Polonia without trying the dill pickle soup as a first course. I hadn't tasted it before, but after getting a recommendation from a friend, I had my first experience. The soup was extremely tasty. I believe it has a chicken broth base which is thickened with either ketchup or sour cream. There are little specks of dill throughout, which adds the perfect touch. I didn't need to add anything to it, and I finished it in about a minute and a half as I voraciously ate it as if someone was chasing me.

For my meal, I ordered the Polish Combination plate so I could get a taste of everything. At $8.50, the combination plate is delicious and cheap. It came with stuffed cabbage and tomato sauce, sausage, two pierogies, and mashed potatoes with brown gravy and kraut. Everything was outstanding. It's hard to go wrong with mashed potatoes, but these were better than usual as they were covered with brown gravy and kraut. The stuffed cabbage was just as I would imagine it to be, stuffed with beef and covered in a perfectly concocted tomato sauce.

If you eat sausage, Hamtramck, and Polonia in particular, is the place to get it. In its natural casing, the sausage hit the spot. I could've eaten more of the sausage if I had chosen to go that route, but I thought better of it. I'll have to get my fill on my next visit.

Next it was on to the pierogies. There are multiple choices available including potato, cheese, kraut, or beef. I went for the traditional potato. I'm not a pierogi expert, but if I never ate a pierogi from anywhere else, I wouldn't mind. The potato pierogies came out hot and the filling was made just right. On a future visit I will no doubt try a different variation, but the potato pierogi was more than sufficient.

Everything on my plate was delicious. By the end of the meal I was eating everything on my plate at the same time. I was scooping up parts of pierogi with kraut and then variations of stuffed cabbage or sausage with mashed potatoes.

I have a feeling that there is more traditional Polish fare that I have yet to try, but next time I might just get a plate of only pierogies and sausage. Both are favorites of mine and Polonia does them more than justice.

I've heard rumors that Polonia may move locations or even be sold in opposition to a proposed Aldi which will take up much of Polonia's parking spaces. I don't know how much truth there is to this, but I wouldn't take any chances. Although Polish Village Restaurant is right down the street, Polonia is too good to miss.

Below are some photos from my meal at Polonia. To see the entire flickr set click here.

Polonia Restaurant
2934 Yemans Street
Hamtramck, MI 48212
Tel: (313) 873-8432
Website: Polonia

Detroit Army

Thursday, October 30, 2008


A Detroit City Council committee approved a $288 million Cobo Center expansion plan which would increase the size of the convention center by 166,000 square feet. After being approved the committee sent the proposal to the full city council to get approval so that the project can move forward. Cobo Center and North American International Auto Show officials optimistically said that the expansion could be done by 2010.

Personally, I'm not even sure which Cobo expansion proposal this is. I seem to remember one proposal by Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano which was to cost almost a billion dollars and then a pared down plan which was to be around $600 million. I also remember Governor Granholm and former mayor/king Kwame Kilpatrick introducing a more reasonable expansion plan. Possibly the Granholm sponsored plan was the one which was sent to the city council today.

We'll keep you updated...

Detroit Army

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


It's possible that I'm just a sucker for sappy Detroit songs, but to me, the new song "Detroit '67" from the Sam Roberts Band showcases Detroit's historical relevance while contemplating its future. On the other hand maybe it doesn't mean anything, but the song is catchy as hell and the accompanying video provides plenty of great historical and present day footage of Detroit.

The link to the video is provided below.

Detroit '67 Video

Detroit Army

Monday, October 20, 2008


The Greenleaf Trust building will host a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday in what looks like just part of a developmental boom in downtown Birmingham. The building will stand at Maple and Woodward and across Woodward from the Barclay Inn where a completely new hotel is planned. The five story building will house Greenleaf Trust's southeast Michigan office, Zazio's, an upscale Italitan eatery from Kalamazoo, office space, and luxury residences.

Say what you want about Birmingham being uppity, but the city has a quality downtown core and seems to be in a development mindset. It might be the most flourishing downtown in southeast Michigan. Other developments in Birmingham are just finishing such as the old Briggs building at 151 S. Old Woodward which houses Clark Hill, offices and ground retail, and the Bank of America building which will go up at on the Northwest corner of Woodward and Brown which will hold a Bank of America branch, a second floor health club, and office space.

Across Woodward, plans continue to develop what the city has dubbed the "triangle district," including the newly built 735 Forest building which has lofts on the top floors and the new Forest Grille on the ground floor, and the aforementioned hotel on the southeast side of Woodward and Maple, among others.

See more details about the Greenleaf Trust building here

Detroit Army

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


"Go east young man," is what I was told through a comment that was left for me after my first post about North Corktown and its status as nothing more than an urban prairie. The implication was that while trouncing around in the dead of winter, I missed the development taking place on the east end of North Corktown, mostly on Harrison and Cochrane.

Through my most recent tour of North Corktown, I was able to witness some of the development that the comment was referring to. While Cochrane has multiple, although sometimes sporadic, multi colored new houses lining the street, empty lots with weeds can still be found. Harrison has more of the same with many new houses mixed with empty lots and the occasional burned out structure. Rosa Parks Boulevard also has its fair share of homes around Elm Street. The only other signs of development can be found a few blocks West at Wabash and Butternut where two new fairly large brick homes sit nice and neat, but surrounded by nothing but grassy lots and weeds. The contrast between new and old is something to be seen.

Wandering through the neighborhood I found myself wondering what exactly the story is behind the new development in the area and what the residents who live in these homes are like.

Within the last 5 years, 30 single-family homes developed in North Corktown as part of an affordable housing venture by the nonprofit Greater Corktown Development Corp. (GCDC).

A story from ModelD, the online Detroit centric magazine states that,

"The homes, which cost each $160,000 to construct, were available for purchase to moderate-income individuals and families at a range of $91,000 to $98,000 depending on the model. Additional construction funding came from National City Bank, Charter One Bank, Detroit LISC, City of Detroit Community Development Block Grants and the Empowerment Zone."

The article further explains that,

"The GCDC purchased scattered, city-owned vacant lots to build the homes, which cost between $91,000 and $98,000 in purchase price. But each home – dotted between Trumbull and Rosa Parks, Temple and MLK — cost about $160,000 to construct. Qualified applicants can buy a home for about $80,000. The corporation raised private dollars and received money through the City of Detroit, which received federal housing money to put in the pot. Residents must earn no more than 80 percent of the Wayne County median income. For a single person it is s $39,150 and $73,800 for a family of eight. Owners must live in the dwelling for at least five years. After that, the houses could conceivably be sold at market-rate prices."

While ModelD answers what attracted some people to move into North Corktown, my tour of the neighborhood answered who these new residents are. I began my tour on Cochrane. Before I finished snapping my first photo, a white woman from across the street was questioning me about what exactly I was doing. Apparently my meandering and taking pictures of their homes made residents suspicious. In an otherwise apathetic environment, this is a good thing.

I told her I was in the neighborhood to look at the new development. I let her know how nice the newly devloped areas looked. She thanked me and informed me that she was watching the house which I was photographing because the owners were out of town. Her concern for the neighborhood's overall health was refreshing.

I moved on and walked towards Harrison to find more. A black man who was outside watering his plants politely came up to me to find out what I was doing. After explaining myself, the man informed me that he heads the neighborhood association and that all residents of the neighborhood were doing their best to keep the area safe, clean, and free from the violence and despair of which many neighborhoods in Detroit were victims.

His home looked great. It was taken care of and nicely kept. Yet, the man also voiced his concerns for his neighborhood. He pointed to a building on the corner which someone was trying to turn into a bar. He wasn't pleased about the development and was planning on talking to city council about what options he might have.

He continued to show me a house next to his which was completely vacant and which the developer of the bar on the corner also owned, but had not kept up. He explained to me the damage that a dangerous eyesore such as the home next to his does to the community. He spoke of the unfortunate reality of how many "investors," are sitting on properties which they hope will have value in the future, but which for the time being are left rotting. For all the good which the work that this man had put into his own home did for street, the dilapidated structure next door did just as much damage.

I moved on to the corner of Cochrane and Perry when I heard the distinct crow of what could only be a rooster. Unbeknownst to me, I had stumbled upon a farm, complete with goats, roosters, and chickens. Since North Corktown is mostly urban prairie in the first place, the farm might not seem that out of place until you realize that you are only about one mile from downtown. Once you come across the urban garden just down the street, you realize that the farm might not be out of place at all.

Goats, chickens, and roosters living a mile or two from downtown Detroit is awesome. Take a look at some footage below.

After spending a couple hours in North Corktown, my thoughts about it varied. My experience was overwhelmingly positive and depending on which direction this neighborhood heads, it can be a model for other neighborhoods throughout the city. Ten years ago North Corktown was completely empty, which is exactly what it needed. The neighborhood was able to start from scratch, and new residents now have the ability to set the precedent as to how the new incarnation of North Corktown will evolve.

While the seeds of a sustainable neighborhood are now planted, there is much that still needs to be done. The area still has an extremely long way to go. Two streets of development in an entire neighborhood is a tease of what could be in an otherwise desolate area. The residents have the right attitude though and believe that they personally hold the key to North Corktown's destiny. Hopefully, North Corktown residents are right and progress will continue into the future.

Below are a few photographs of North Corktown. The complete Flickr set of photographs can be seen here.

Below is the neighborhood association President's home.
And the home next door...

Below is one of the two homes on Wabash.

And the scene looking out from the homes on Wabash...

A goat on the farm at Cochrane and Perry.

An urban garden.

Detroit Army

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Originally Posted 1/6/08
Updated 10/7/08

10/7/08 Update

Nevermind. Looks like the "Cadillac Centre" probably isn't going to happen. In this economic climate it's not surprising, but it's disappointing nonetheless. This project was really going to stick out as something new and innovative. Oh well...

"The proposed Cadillac Centre project, which could be one of Detroit's most notable downtown developments of recent years, appears to be in trouble and may not happen."

"The Detroit Economic Growth Corp. issued a statement late today saying the New York-based developers had failed to meet certain pre-development milestones and instead had asked permission to offer a modified plan for the site. The DEGC, a quasi-public arm of the city, said it had rejected that request."

See the entire article here
See even more up to date information here

Original Post 1/6/08

Woke up this morning to some very exciting news. The development will be called the "Cadillac Center" and will fill in the last empty parcel surrounding Campus Martius. This is craazy.

Link Below:

$150-million complex planned for downtown

Detroit Army