I love Detroit. Once the leader of the industrial revolution, it has become the poster city for the collection of cities that now compose the infamous rust belt. That said, the pride and determination of the residents has been the blueprint in the evolution of a new Detroit; one which is humble, thankful and kinda cool.
Day one of a March Break getaway was a quick stop in Detroit to get a little closer to my ultimate destination of Tennessee. After crossing the border, I veered off the highway immediately for a quick stop in Mexicantown. If anything, this area of Detroit is a microcosm of the city as a whole. It’s wonderfully worn down, bleeding character which leads you to empathize instead of pity the situation. There are no shortage of eateries within the cramped quarters but I opted for La Gloria, an all day bakery specializing in cinnamon conchas, churros and even a tamale if you’r so inclined. After becoming somewhat confused by the narrow streets and haphazard parking job of the locals, I nestled comfortably in lot beside the noticeably pink building and walked in.
The procedure is rather simple. Grab a plastic tray, line it with some paper, get a set of tongs and walk by the numerous offerings enclosed within plastic bins. Most things (from turnovers to heart shaped cookies which say “Te Amo”) range from $0.50-$2.00. When you’re done, your order is rung up and placed in a bag or box depending on quantity.
The conchas are sweet breads similar to donuts that would be considered their “signature” item. I scooped up a cinnamon one as well as a few churros, a tart and a few other baked treats. The grand total was about $7. Collectively. they were quite delicious and well worth the price. I rolled in around four and was left to imagine how divine everything would taste at 5 am when the place opens.
After navigating the narrow streets of Mexicantown and taking a wrong turn or two, it was off to the airport area to crash before the long trip to Nashville. Romulus is not a mecca for food (it seems confined to a few fast food joints and one strip plaza which has a grille, Chinese place, a Subway and Beirut, a small Lebanese place. My daughter had a craving for the latter, so I ordered a couple of chicken shawarmas and a appetizer plate which consisted of hummus, baba ghannouj (which is Arabic for pampered papa), a few falafels, grape leaves and fattouch. The total was just shy of $30 (there were also three drinks). This is the point in which I put in the disclaimer that some of the best Lebanese food I have had is in the Detroit/Windsor area. Toronto lags significantly behind (just read my Dr. Laffa review). The starter plate was delicious. The hummus was smooth and full of flavour, the baba ghannouj was smoky and grape leaves were some of the best I’ve had. They were almost crispy but melted in your mouth afterwards, a far cry from some of the soggy offerings I’ve had at other places. The falafels were average in flavour a little too dry. The soup was piping hot, had a great texture and was seasoned nicely. The shawarmas were more than acceptable but were a little flimsy in construction (although it’s hard to complain that much for 5 bucks). I like shawarmas that are stuffed with pickles and lettuce and drip toum, tahini or hummus incessantly, making for a ridiculous eating experience. These were almost too easy to eat given the sparse use of condiments although the chicken was seasoned well.
Detroit dining is a mosaic of cultures highlighted by really cool Mexican and Lebanese food. Both La Gloria and Beirut represent their respective cultures in an inexpensive but delicious way. Chances are I’m unlikely to chow down on authentic middle eastern fare as I dive into the depths of Tennessee in the coming days.