Each week, thousands flock to Eastern Market to enjoy one of the most authentic urban adventures in the United States. The market, and the adjacent district, are rare finds in a global economy – a local food district with more than 250 independent vendors and merchants processing, wholesaling and retailing food. Learn more on this unique market via Joanna Dueweke of The Awesome Mitten.
Most people are familiar with the bustling farmers market that overtakes Eastern Market each Saturday morning. It is the location of an enduring art scene, growing restaurant district, and burgeoning retail location. It’s difficult to create an exhaustive list of everything going on in the market because things are always changing, events are always happening and locals are always full of surprises. In fact, Eastern Market is probably one of the only places in Detroit that doesn’t get much sleep. Monday through Friday, the wholesale market starts at midnight and runs until 6 a.m., supplying restaurants and consumers alike that are interested in buying bulk produce.
Markets aside, Eastern Market offers Detroiters, tourists and people from the region a place to celebrate the city’s legacy. Compiled here is just a few of the exciting things you can find at one of the oldest and largest year-round markets in the United States.
1. Art is for Everybody
In the fall of 2015, Eastern Market Corporation, 1xRun and Inner State Gallery worked together to bring over 45 local and international artists to paint large-scale murals throughout the district for ‘Murals in the Market’. For people that have visited Eastern Market before, it is obvious that outdoor art is integral to the culture of the market’s landscape. However, Murals in the Market offered a unique opportunity for businesses and arts supporters to sponsor an individual piece from their favorite artist. Now, the art is a lasting reminder of the collective investment in the market and those that use it as a place of commerce, a place to live, and a place to play.
2. Food That’s Prepared for You
Eastern Market is absolutely known for its produce and meat markets, but it is also known for and gaining traction with the restauranteurs and their avid followers. Although many of these places have been in the market for years, there are a couple newcomers that are rounding out the district’s offerings:
Almost as iconic as Eastern Market itself, Bert’s Warehouse is a popular jazz bar and soul food restaurant that doubles as a concert venue. Bert Dearing, owner of Bert’s Warehouse, has been around for the last 29 years and has seen the many changes of Detroit first-hand. Make sure you check out the ribs, jazz, and other great events that happen in the theater!
Recently, La Rondinella joined the Eastern Market family offering northern Italian fare for very reasonable prices. As an ode to his family’s heritage, Dave Mancini, owner of Supino Pizzeria, is creating an amazing experience for market-goers. Now, Eastern Market visitors have their choice of some of the tastiest pizza in Detroit next door to some of the tastiest Italian in the city.
Cutter’s Bar and Grille
Name for the meat cutters that opened the bar, Cutter’s is a staple in Eastern Market that’s often overlooked. Although it might look like your average Detroit dive bar from the outside, the bar offers some of the best burgers around. It’s a little off the beaten path, but this is a spot to check out any day of the week for great food and awesome drinks in a relaxed atmosphere. Another bonus is that this spot is a great stop while visitors explore the many murals nestled throughout the district.
Known for its delicious sandwiches and fantastic soups that are now being sold as wholesale items in places like Whole Foods, Russell Street Deli is an important stakeholder in the Eastern Market restaurant family. The business is now over 25 years old, and Ben Hall and Jason Murphy, owners of Russell Street, began as dishwashers in the 1990s. Customers can eat well knowing that Hall and Murphy care about their employees because they pay well over normal pay level for restaurant workers and work to provide benefits like healthcare and retirement plans.
3. There’s More Than Just Food
More and more, retail is becoming a part of the fabric that makes Eastern Market function. Interestingly, the juxtaposition of places like DeVries & Co 1887 and DETROIT VS EVERYBODY (DVE) proves just how multifaceted the district is in its offerings and its customers. Not only can shoppers find almost any cheese they might desire at historic DeVries, but they can also represent their love for the city at outfitters like DVE and Division Street Boutique where the infamous Detroit Hustles Harder shirts are sold. If that’s not enough, there are letterpress shops like Signal Return and Salt & Cedar offering paper goods and classes for aspiring artisans.
4. Outdoor Adventures
Officially opened in 2009, the Dequindre Cut connects the Riverfront with Mack Avenue and travels through Eastern Market. Built atop the former Grand Trunk Railroad line, the trail is 20-feet wide providing room for pedestrians and bikers, and it is lined by street art commissioned by the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy. During the second phase of the project (connecting Gratiot to Mack Avenue), the Dequindre Cut passes through Eastern Market and is adjacent to the newly created Detroit Market Garden. A project of Greening Detroit with funding from the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, the garden is a display of what can happen to a previously abandoned city block where stakeholders can learn how small-scale agriculture positively affects an urban environment.
What are your favorite “characters” of Eastern Market? Tell us in the comments below!
A writer and editor for The Awesome Mitten for the last five years, Joanna Dueweke is a proud Detroit resident and Traverse City-expat. Although the beaches of Belle Isle will never compare to the shores of Lake Michigan, Joanna is happy to live and work in a city like Detroit. When she’s not creating content for The Awesome Mitten, Joanna is playing soccer in the Detroit City Futbol League, organizing any number of community events including Detroit SOUP, cheering on the Detroit Tigers, or enjoying what the city has to offer.