My wife Olivia has always said, "there is enough space in Detroit for everyone to have most of what they want if only the city were planned accordingly." New places are opening and the landscape is changing so much, its easy to look at these bright new bars and restaurants as a measure of progress. But economic progress is more than stadiums and skyscrapers.
I remember Chung's on Cass and Peterboro, back in the late 80's was one of the only places around the Wayne State area to get something beyond fast food to eat at night. Now there are so many choices and to be honest, I sell our salad mix to many of these new places, so I see better options and obviously want to support them.
Some of these better options do things like purchasing locally grown veg. from Detroit growers and have exciting menus, like La Rondinella. David Mancini combined Detroit's locally grown produce with Italian dishes you won't see in a cookbook, closed now, but Supinos has this sort of creativity on pizza. I see places like Craftwork and Mudgie's who are as creative as they are local, tasty and healthier because they are made by hand. And others like Brooklyn Street Local and Astro Coffee, where you look at their wall and see a list of all of the farms and businesses who supply them. They live and work in Detroit and care about the farms and businesses around them. You might be able to say there are two types of places to eat in Detroit. Some are for Detroiters and everyone else, while others are just for suburbanites who want to see a game, eat, drink and not wander to far from the Gilbert / Illitch entertainment bubble.
Some places are getting it right but I also see places coming up short. Its Detroit in 2017 and you only have one or two African Americans working in the back washing dishes. I see places using the words "local," but the only thing local is its location; all the ingredients come from Sysco, EDS or Gordon Foods. And can we have more casual eateries something besides the coney islands or pricey small plates suburban enclaves? Coming from a family of chefs, I know better. You can tell when pies are machine produced, when soups, cookies and other baked goods are made from the vat mixes that come in buckets from corporations and not from local farms. Even Donna Love from Love Pies (who is legally blind) will complain how some of their pie competition is all factory made and lacks flavor. Also, after decades in Detroit, I know that a place that hires a diverse staff has a more diverse clientele. They have better atmosphere and are less likely to see crime inside and out in the parking lot. The diversity of staff, locally grown product and unique menus are all things that improve a bottom line.
In Corktown there are examples of people that run their food businesses with cooperation in mind. I thought it strange that Even Phil Cooley (who my radical friends swear is an arch-demon of gentrification) showed up at my farm years ago with Charles (former owner of Let Petit Zinc). He was helping him with supply logistics and even assisted him with permitting to get his place legal and open. After that, I don't see competition in the same way I used to. By supporting this ecosystem of local food businesses, many are supporting long term neighborhood development. Since our city focuses so much on downtown, small businesses have more of an opportunity / responsibility to create long lasting change in their own backyards. Plus with Trump, Snyder and their appointees, some of the worst people ever to hold positions of power, now in control, our dollars might be the only lever of power we have left.
-Greg from Brother Nature
mrs. bro nature
.Brother Nature Produce is a small farm that specializes in salad mix and herbs with an urban and rural location. We sell at the Eastern Market, Corktown market (that we helped establish), the Farmers' Hand (a small grocer in Corktown), and to several restaurants in a 2 mile radius of Detroit. It all started back in 2007....