If it’s true there is no better way to get to know a people than by the food they eat, then Detroit’s historic Eastern Market is the first place one should go when developing a relationship with this city. Each Saturday, over 25,000 Detroiters, metropolitans and tourists spend the afternoon shopping for Michigan produce and locally made goods, while exploring the many restaurants and street food stands that are the flavor of Detroit.
Open at 5 am, the market begins with farmers preparing their stands with colorful fruits and vegetables of the season. The aroma of fresh coffee and breads, hot cider, spices and flowers fill the air in this captivating market that has been in operation since 1891.
Next, the sounds of a city coming alive, as people of all kinds arrive early with the sun. The cost of tomatoes and peppers are heard off in the distance, apples, corn, and soon a crescendo of voices, morning birds and car horns blend to meet the day.
At 2542 Market Street, the Farmer’s Restaurant serves breakfast anytime. Regulars know about the Polish sausage and eggs, but the corner spot also delivers a wealth of omelettes, everything from the Western to the Corned Beef, the Gyros to, of course, the Farmers, all for under $6, and served with potatoes or grits and toast.
Just down the block sits the R. HIRT JR. CO, a beautiful red-bricked building that purveys in handmade natural furniture, garden supplies, chocolates, teas and a variety of spices. Or, step around the corner for a Bloody Mary at the Butchers Inn, where Detroit poet laureate John Sinclair and other art dignitaries convene to discuss the areas latest openings.
The Eastern Market’s main structures have been carefully remodeled with their eye on the future firmly rooted in its past. Large steel girders meld with walls of glass that allow for plenty of natural light. And, the ground level open-air platforms, combined with large ceiling fans, give the new sheds proper flow and ventilation.
Inside, vendors offer everything from honey and maple syrup, meats and cheeses, to coffee from the Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company. A variety of hand- mixed seasonings including, Jerk, Barbeque, Mexican and Steak can be found tightly packed in well- designed tins from the Detroit Spice Company.
Just outside, on Russell Street, a crowd of meat lovers are lured by the smell of grilled chicken, pork and beef that has been lovingly nurtured by the cooks from Bart’s Jazz club all afternoon. Giant slabs of ribs share grill pits alongside sausages and boiling pots of homemade BBQ sauce, while aromatic smoke, from mesquite woods, linger invitingly in the air emptying on-lookers every sense.
Have a seat and enjoy your meal in the sun listening to karaoke – Detroit style – as market-goers cover everything from The Rat Pack to Motown with surprising aplomb. It’s a wonderful way to spend an entire afternoon, and the Market is happy to accommodate staying open until 5 pm.
The Eastern Market serves both as Detroit’s garden and kitchen and clearly believes the quickest way to our hearts is through our stomach. With over 150 vendors, shops and restaurants in the district finding something to savor is not a question, and the experience itself is a beautiful window into the soul of a city that, for all its faults, still finds pleasure in feeding people and giving them a place to come together. ?