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Metro Detroit--Favorite "walk to" places

Thought I'd lighten things a bit with a topic that everyone in the metro Detroit area can enjoy. I, for one, have incredible memories of places I could/can walk to for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or in-betweens, from everywhere I've lived.
As I child, it was the Sander's counter at Grandland (Grand River and Fenkell) for a donut and milk. We also did breakfast almost weekly at Cregar's (corner of Grand River and Outer Dr. W.) And Maria's and the giant sit-down Lil' Caesar's at Grand River and Warwick were our standard pizza joints.

I don't think much changed as I grew older, except that I drove to most places because, well, I could, so I'll skip those years. Cregar's and Sander's had closed by then, and Maria's had moved to its short-lived Southfield address; Lil' Caesar's just wasn't that interesting anymore. There really wasn't anything worth walking to, but we always kept our eyes open (still do).

My first place on my own after graduating college was in Ferndale. You bet your bippy I walked everywhere. My favorite was Hambo for breakfast; and that will never change. I loved Monday nights at the Woodward Ave. Brewery (do they still do half-off food?) and pints at Danny's.

I moved to Clinton Twp., Shelby Twp., and Grosse Pointe Park after that. There was nothing walkable in either Clinton or Shelby Twps. from where I lived, but in GPP I adored having a bar right across the street (Nolan's) and a few others just blocks away (Rustic Cabins, Tap Room), whose "walk-to-ness" my friends would debate.

So this brings me to my current favorite little diner, right in my own Dearborn backyard: The Great Ham Co. (formerly Jouli). It's a place I've only tried for breakfast since their ownership recently changed, and I'm happy with the quality and prices. It's fun to have a good breakfast joint to walk to. That's something to love no matter where you are :)

Would love to hear about others' favorite neighborhood places; not reviews, necessarily, but stories and mentions.

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  1. Nice topic...thanks. I remember as a kid in Birmingham, we'd ride our bikes (I'm assuming this is close to "walking") to the candy store on Maple between Woodward and Old Woodward --this was a palace of penny candy, wax lips, Pixie stix, Mary Janes, candy shoe buttons, etc. Then the Baskin & Robbins opened and we could get ice cream, sundaes and, on the last day of school, banana splits. The Sanders next to Demery's (Old Woodward) for the eclairs and the Dairy Queen on Woodward.

    We've enjoyed walking to Alex's in Berkley for Breakfast, Elaine's bagles, and Clark's ice cream in the summer.

    2 Replies
    1. re: berkleybabe

      One of the reasons we moved to Berkley was that so many things were in easy walking distance--library, post office, grocery store, etc. With the price of gas what it is, I'm VERY happy that we did!

      I like to go to Elwins for scones on Saturday mornings (so much better than getting them at the grocery store), Alex's, 24 Seconds for lunch, and O'Mara's for brunch or dinner. As the weather gets warmer, we might extend our horizon to breakfast at the Berkley Breakfast Cafe (or whatever it is now)

      1. re: coney with everything

        Don't skip Elie's. Very good (though limited) Eastern Euro fare.

    2. It's a good question, inasmuch as there are demonstrated health benefits to walking after eating. Walking and chewing gum (admittedly a problem for some) has been shown to be as effective as prescription drugs against acid reflux.

      I live on Ann Arbor's east side near U.S. 23, and for a long time our walkable breakfast options were either grim Denny's or the expensive Whole Foods buffet. Recently Greeko's coney island has opened up, and it's a cut above other places of its type. Meats are from good local suppliers, and everything I've had so far has been really tasty.

      1. It may not be a restaurant in the full-serve sense, but I grew up on the block that's dead-on the opposite side of New York Bagel in Ferndale, and to this day, I don't know of a better bagel made anywhere. Bonus points added if my plain raisin bagel is available on the day that I go in well-done form. *Much* better that way.

        When I used to work for FedEx, I would get up at some unearthly hours of the "morning" (by which I mean "middle of the night"), and every stinking time, NYB was "open" (by which I mean "the front door happened to be unlocked"), and they'd sell me my bagels right then and there.

        There is *nothing* like a fresh, steaming-hot-out-of-the-oven bagel that's got that nice shell on the outside with a soft, wonderful inside. There still isn't, and it's one of the best, most guilt-free ways to start one's day. Mind you: the key here is *plain* raisin bagel. No cream cheese, no lox, no butter, no nothin'...still wonderful. Really.

        And yes: very walk-to-able.

        1. As a kid growing up in Warren, we used to walk to the Baskin Robbins on 12 Mile and Hoover. It was one of the few ones around the Detroit area...I think it is still there. I liked the Bubble Gum ice cream - do they still make that flavor? We used to call it "31" as in 31 Flavors, because that is what it was called then. Not much else to write about...

          In college in Houghton, there were tons of great places to eat that were walkable destinations, most notably the Library Bar (before it burned down and was reincarnated into a microbrewery) and also I loved the sub sandwiches at the Ambassador and pickled eggs at the B&B bar.

          Like "QT3.1416", I also moved to Ferndale upon graduation from college, but since it was the 1980s, none of the places she has mentioned existed then! I guess I'm old!! But I did love walking to New York Bagel - yes, they still are my bagel benchmark. I also liked to walk to the Om Cafe (is that still there?) for vegetarian fare, and Bangkok Caffe on 9 mile for Thai. Also, I really loved Como's before it expanded and became more of a nightspot, but I had some pizza there the other day (1st time in 20 years) and it was as good as I remembered it to be.

          Now, I live in the country, so there is no place within walking distance of my house. : (

          1. A favorite in my neck of the Dearborn "backyard" is the Elmhurst Tap Room on Outer Drive. A decent neighborhood pub with good dinners, great steamed mussels, burgers that rival (some Dearbornites will say this is blasphemy) Millers, and some pretty good pizza. The Dearborn Tavern is back, with the original owner and menu..with some tweaks. They have good burgers and steaks. Their Bison Burger is a favorite of mine. Dearborn Tavern is actually the only place that my kids will eat a burger. Buddy's Pizza on Michigan Ave. is a regular haunt and favorite for my wife and me. Almost forgot to mention that decent Chinese food is not too far with the return of Lims Garden (a Dearborn staple for years) in storefront/carryout form on Carlysle. Good to hear, Amanda, that the former "Jouli" has turned the corner!

            1 Reply
            1. re: jaqzdad

              I'm not able to walk to Elmhurst or Dearborn Tavern, but we frequent both! We were just at the Tavern last Friday. I love that it's non-smoking and the owner is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. My husband always gets the fried pollock (all you can eat) and I tried the clams this time. Wow.

              Jouli hasn't so much turned the corner as they've moved down the street :) They took over the former Dearborn Cafe (Telegraph and Penn or Calvin, maybe?), which WAS our favorite walk-to diner place.

            2. I loved reading your post. I grew up in NW Detroit in the late 50's-60's- I loved sneaking off to Sanders for a big hot fudge sundae (via my bike) and I worked a few seasons at Cregars. I loved their orange-raisin nut bread sandwich with cream cheese and green olive filling. Did you ever have that? I also worked at Hudson's and love to eat their Maurice salad. What a great time to be a food lover!

              1. One of my "walk to" eateries is Travis Hamburgers, at Nine Mile and Mack (okay, start the song going in your heads), This Travis was one of the first in the family chain from the 1950's. It's a true diner experience. I still stop in here weekly for one of their Big Breakfast offerings: 2 eggs, hash brown potatos grilled in oil, five sausage links and toast. With an endless cup of coffee, the tab is less than $5. Good food, funky atmosphere, characters always on the premises.