The Collaborative Nature of Detroit's Food World
by Carlos Parisi
If you’ve been in Detroit for more than one day, you’ve likely heard of some kind of collaboration between one person/organization and another. To us, this is normal. We’re a very small town, full of people who work together to push each other forward. Even Frank Sinatra first thought to collaborate with Sammy Davis Jr. upon meeting him in Detroit’s Michigan Theatre. It’s just another way our spirit shines.
No matter the creative outlet, a collaboration tends to find its way into conversations. In food, it’s pretty evident. Looking at the menus across the larger Downtown area of Detroit, you’ll find simple notes like, “Featuring Wigley’s Corned Beef,” or “Featuring Aunt Nee’s Tortilla Chips(GF).” But there are some places where the collaboration is part of the overall Mission of Establishment. I can’t name them all, but here is a short list of some friends that I think you’ll recognize or want to check out.
Pie-Sci Pizza (5163 Trumbull Ave, Detroit, MI 48208)
These guys started as a collaborative effort with Woodbridge Pub, serving pizzas on Sunday nights. With the pop-ups they were doing around town, they furthered their reach and were able to build a network of extraordinary friends. In creating their own establishment, they’ve continued to partner with local organizations to offer a collaborative monthly pizza special, are sourcing a variety of local ingredients, and are even working with Bikes & Coffee (a block over) serving vegan soft-serve ice cream, pairing well with espresso, weekend breakfast burritos, or a stroll through the neighborhood.
Cold Truth Ice Cream (2135 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48216)
Currently, this ice cream pop-up is available inside of Corktown’s new pizza establishment, Grandma Bob’s. This team has started as a collaboration and has continued in the same way. Originally a collaborative project with Reilly Craft Creamery, this team started vending ice cream out of a garage door in the alley behind Trinosophes, located in Eastern Market. They’ve now found a new collaborative partner in Grandma Bob’s Pizza to serve up some vegan and organic chilled treats.
Kiesling (449 E Milwaukee Ave, Detroit, MI 48202)
A favorite for the service industry, this cocktail bar has opened its doors to local pop ups, guest bartenders, and special events. They now have evolved one constant collaboration into a monthly event called Spilling Cups. Regularly, Kiesling now brings in local guest bartenders and chefs during this event to take over for the night, creating a party favorite to the industry.
Yum Village (6500 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202)
Right down the street from Kiesling is the home kitchen of Chef Godwin Ihentuge. His space is so much more than an absolutely delicious fast and casual Afro-Caribbean restaurant. Chef Godwin has made his space an incubator for up and coming talents, a collaborative space for artists, a space for community events and he hosts partnered pop ups for an even more exclusive dining experience. Yum Village also collaborates with the neighborhood and especially their immediate neighbor across the street, Chef Quiana “Que” Broden and her location “The Kitchen by Cooking with Que.”
Her restaurant not only serves very addictive vegan dishes but is also an education space and space for the community to collaborate, learn, grow, and build a stronger local food presence. With ties to FoodLab Detroit, Detroit Food Academy, and other community organizations, these two establishments are building even more on the idea of Detroit’s overall collaborative nature.
Marrow (8044 Kercheval Ave, Detroit, MI 48214)
Located in the West Village neighborhood, this butcher shop and restaurant has skyrocketed to the top of my favorite places to dine in the entire city. Their ever-changing menu, community focused owners, insanely knowledgeable staff, proper portions, and community workshops make this place a gem in the Detroit dining community. When you’re there, you’ll quickly realize that the shop is full of locally made goods, and their menu has procured collaborations from the whole city. The women behind this restaurant, Ping Ho and Chef Sarah Welch, are now also teaming up with the owners of another collaborative restaurant, Folk, and local grocer/shop Farmer’s Hand in Corktown (Kiki Louya and Rohani Foulkes) to create an even larger collaborative food footprint in the city.
While this isn’t much at all and doesn’t even step foot past Detroit’s larger Downtown Area, it shows how no matter where you go, we all know each other and want to work with each other. Get further into the city, and you’ll see that collaboration everywhere. This city has grown strong only because of the unity and power we’ve found together. Our hustling spirit is evident through every one of these collaborations. Don’t be afraid to talk about your ideas, you might find the missing link to the next best thing in Detroit.