There’s a Reason for All the Hype About Corktown

February 18, 2013  |   Story by Jeremiah Staes  |   Photos by Bill Bowen, Astro Coffee, Gold Cash Gold

Corktown has been in the news a lot lately as one of the most up-and-coming neighborhoods in the country, let alone the Detroit region.

It’s a place that is on the rebound and has a definite sense of identity and community. Sure, it’s part of Detroit, but much like the storied neighborhoods in New York or Chicago, Corktown has an identity of its own.

The area has a long history as Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, with “1834” emblazoned proudly on the signs. The name, some say, refers to County Cork in Ireland, as many of the early residents were immigrants after the potato famine.

Busy-ness on Michigan Avenue

Just a few years ago, Michigan Avenue had more boards than businesses, but now, it’s not just the well-known Slow’s Bar BQ in the shadow of the old Michigan Central Station (which is slowly getting piecemeal improvements). Joining Slow’s on Michigan Avenue alone, you have restaurants and bars such as Astro CoffeeMercury Burger & BarLJ’s Lounge, Ottava ViaPJ’s Lager House, Two James Spirits and Gold Cash Goldnot to mention a host of other restaurants underway. The strip also includes shops such as El Dorado General Store.

But here’s the more encouraging sign: there’s much more to Corktown than one strip.

Neighborly Charm

There are neighborhood streets lined with homes from another era mixed with some new development, which although not all grand in size, are generally well kept up and some of the cutest places you will find anywhere. Folks travel from downtown and points farther to Mudgie’s, which is a Corktown neighborhood anchor with some of the best sandwiches in the city. Another popular gathering spot is Batch Brewing Co. down the street from Michigan Avenue, serving elevated pub cuisine and beer brewed on the premises.

There’s even a dog park going in, financed by a Kickstarter online funding project that raised more than $15,000.

Corktown’s Ethnic Emphasis

When it comes to spiritual life, the historic Catholic roots of the community are part of the neighborhood to this day. St. Anne’s, the second oldest continuously operating Catholic parish in America, established two days after Antoine De La Mothe Cadillac founded the city of Detroit (however, the current building is not from 1701, but 1886), serves not only Corktown but parts of southwest Detroit as well due to its location.

But it’s not alone. Most Holy Trinity Church on the east side of the neighborhood was founded in 1834. It’s the oldest English-speaking Catholic parish in Detroit, as the previously mentioned St. Anne’s originally performed mass in French.  Here’s an interesting fact about Most Holy Trinity: you can get your marriage vows read in Maltese.

The Maltese community has also been a part of the history of Corktown. If you get your car fixed at the Mobil auto repair shop on Michigan Avenue and talk to the owner, you may find not only that he’s part Maltese but also that he grew up in the neighborhood, just across from the train station.

Building Business

Ponyride, a business incubator, provides a home for multiple creative businesses. Many times, the nationally recognized Detroit Soup, which raises microgrants for local projects, holds their events in the neighborhood.

There’s still a lot of work to be done in the area, but it’s made a lot of progress in the last ten years as part of a greater downtown Detroit revival.

In short, Corktown is not only a place to visit, but a place more and more Detroiters are proud to call home.


Read more about downtown Detroit restaurants.

Mentioned Attractions And Venues
  1. Slows Bar BQ
    2138 Michigan Ave., Detroit, MI 48216313-962-9828 Highlight on map | More Details
  2. Astro Coffee
    2124 Michigan Ave., Detroit, MI 48216313-808-0351 Highlight on map | More Details
  3. Mercury Burger & Bar
    2163 Michigan Ave., Detroit, MI 48216313-964-5000 Highlight on map | More Details
  4. LJ's Lounge
    2114 Michigan Ave., Detroit, MI 48211313-962-0013 Highlight on map | More Details
  5. Ottava Via
    1400 Michigan Ave., Detroit, MI 48216313-962-5500 Highlight on map | More Details
  6. PJ's Lager House
    1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit, MI 48226313-961-4668 Highlight on map | More Details
  7. Two James Spirits
    2445 Michigan Ave., Detroit, MI 48216313-964-4800 Highlight on map | More Details
  8. Gold Cash Gold
    2100 Michigan Ave., Detroit, MI 48216313-242-0770 Highlight on map | More Details
  9. Eldorado General Store
    1700 Michigan Ave., Detroit, MI 48216313-784-9220 Highlight on map | More Details
  10. Mudgie's Deli
    1300 Porter St., Detroit, MI 48226313-961-2000 Highlight on map | More Details
  11. Batch Brewing Co.
    1400 Porter St., Detroit, MI 48216313-338-8008 Highlight on map | More Details
  12. Ponyride
    1401 Vermont Street, Detroit, MI 48216, United States Highlight on map