24 hours in Detroit: Shady Ladies founder Amy Haimerl's top food and drink spots in the city

“The story of my life can always be told through food and drink,” says Amy Haimerl of the Shady Ladies Literary Society, a Metro Detroit-based literary group that aims to connect storytelling with good food and conversation for both women and men. Growing up in rural Colorado, Haimerl recalls fond memories of Spam over a campfire with her father, stew made with fresh vegetables from the garden, and peach pie with fresh peaches picked in the morning with her mother.

“As I’ve grown up, my palate has gotten more adventurous, and I love to travel to taste new cuisines,” Haimerl, 44, of West Village, continues. “My best friend and I have organized more than one trip for a restaurant or because we’ve heard a city has outstanding culinary and literary offerings.”

At her core, though, the “Detroit Hustle” author says she’s still a kid whose dad was a truck driver who knew which truck stops served up the best French toast or biscuits and gravy. He taught her the power of being a regular at her favorite restaurants and extending that same connection to her friends.

That passion shines when it comes to creating her perfect day in Detroit. “I got to thinking about what spots in Detroit feel like home,” Haimerl says. Her top eating, drinking, and shopping itinerary is the best of the city through the eyes of the Shady Ladies Literary Society founder.

Amy Haimerl starts her day with a hearty meal of eggs, cheese, and bacon at Grandy's Restaurant on the east side.

9 a.m. Grandy’s Coney Island

“I always need a snack to prime me for Eastern Market,” says Haimerl, who likes to visit the historic shopping district on weekends, especially first thing in the morning. To satisfy her craving, she heads over to Grandy’s Coney Island Restaurant on Mack Avenue for what she calls the “perfect egg, sausage, and cheese” meal.

10 a.m. Eastern Market

With a morning meal for energy in place, Haimerl is ready to check off her grocery list. While walking around Eastern Market, she always makes sure to order hot beignets from the Beignets 2 Go food truck. “I always need a stop at Give and Grow Mushrooms just to see all the varieties,” she explains. On her agenda is also the Corridor Sausage stall (where Haimerl recommends the Vietnamese Chicken Sausage links) and the Pietrzyk Pierogi stall (basic potato and cheese is her go-to).

12 p.m. Belle Isle

In order to save room for her next meal, Haimerl heads over to Belle Isle for some exercise. “We drop off the groceries and pack up the dog for a trip to Belle Isle,” she says. “I like to walk the loop out around the lighthouse, especially in the winter.” Belle Isle, which is often viewed as a summer destination, provides activities and trails year-round for those who don’t mind venturing out in the cold. “Most people love summer on the island, but I love the peace and quiet that comes with freshly fallen snow. The air is crisp, and the buoy bells ring out in a way that sounds both beautiful and longing.”

2 p.m. Busted Bra Shop

“All of my friends from New York buy their bras from Busted,” Haimerl says. The custom-fit, specialty bra boutique in New Center has a wide selection that goes up to an N cup, and the fitters make sure “you get the right size,” she continues. “Thanks to Busted, there’s no more guessing in poorly lit department store fitting rooms.”

3 p.m. Yum Village

When her best friend Stacy is in town, Haimerl always makes sure to include a visit to Yum Village on Woodward Avenue in her perfect Detroit day agenda. “We’ll share a plate of jerk chicken and plantains,” she says. “We need sustenance for what’s next on our list!”

John K. King Used and Rare Books

4 p.m. John K. King Used & Rare Books

Afterward, the local shopping continues at John K. King Used & Rare Books, a longtime staple in the Detroit literary community and beyond. “The first time Stacy and I visited Detroit, long before I lived here, it was because we’d heard about John K. King Books,” Haimerl says. “No visit is complete without at least a run through their four floors of used books.” While Stacy heads to the sci-fi and rare sections, Haimerl browses the shelves with cookbooks and food memoirs.

8 p.m. PJ's Lager House

With a long day (and lots of shopping) complete, Haimerl is ready to unwind. “After a full day, I just want a place where I can walk in and the bartender will immediately pour what I’m drinking,” she says. “That place is PJ’s Lager House. No matter who is at the stick, they will have a rye bourbon waiting for me.” She recommends trying the food as well, especially the po’boy, Shroomer Burger, gumbo, and BLT. But they also have excellent vegan and vegetarian options, she explains, and considers PJ’s a “go-to” for guests who favor plant-based meals.

10 p.m. Nightcap at Castalia at Sfumato

To finish off a perfect day in Detroit, Haimerl pays one last visit to Castalia at Sfumato in Midtown — a spot she calls a “jewel box of a bar.” “Owners Kevin Peterson and Jane Larson started their fragrance company Sfumato a few years ago,” she explains. “But then decided the perfect pairing with scents is cocktails. Hence, a scent bar was born. There are only 18 seats, so you can always have an intimate conversation or just chill with a book.” Once home she plans out her next morning and where to go for breakfast: the classic Clique diner off of Jefferson Avenue for a carb-heavy meal, or a to-go bite of tacos from Taqueria El Rey in Southwest Detroit.

All photos by Nick Hagen unless otherwise noted.

*Disclosure: Managing editor Dorothy Hernandez was a featured chef at a Shady Ladies event in 2018.

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