Your unofficial Pizza Bowl guide to Detroit for our friends from Florida & Toledo

So you’re coming to Detroit, fans of the University of Toledo and Florida International University, for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Welcome to the Motor City.. and here’s a guide to some of things to do here.

We crowdsourced through social media what people were looking for, came across some key themes, and tied it to our experiences eating, working, living and playing in the city of Detroit.

First question.. Do you have Casinos?

Photo Credit: Mike Russell, Wikipedia

Yes, we have ’em. In fact, we have three.

Although not the be-all, end-all of Detroit entertainment, these 24-hour entertainment complexes have changed the Detroit landscape and provide first class entertainment. They’re also hotels, but frankly, as I’m writing this, I’m not sure any rooms are available. All of the casinos also have food as well as dance clubs.

The three casinos in the city are MGM Grand Detroit [map], Motor City Casino [map] and Greektown Casino [map]. Greektown is your bet for being within walking distance of the stadium, though I’m sure shuttles will be available to all of them. That casino is in the heart of the historic Greektown neighborhood, and has a few other places we’re going to mention right by it. I’ve walked there and it’s five to seven minutes from Ford Field, safe, and full of nightlife (even on a cold winter day). Look for the tall blue building, and you may even see three-story tall “Greektown Casino” lights on the parking garage. In short, it’s hard to miss. All three casinos, however, offer a stellar experience.

Are there sports bars in Detroit?

We’ve got spots for sports! Here are a few highlights..

Inside of the Park Bar

Right down the street across from Comerica Park (which is next door to Ford Field), there’s Cheli’s Chili Bar [map]. Cheli’s is owned by former Detroit Red Wing and probable hockey hall of famer Chris Chelios. There was a neat renovation and update of this historic building, and now a couple levels of action. There’s also a roof deck, but obviously that’s going to be more of a summer thing (something to remember if you come back!).

Across the street from Ford Field is a really interesting place called the Elwood [map]. It’s one of our buildings that was moved on a truck a few blocks to it’s current home. It boasts a really interesting art deco interior, however, it’s small. If you get in, though, it’s a real treat being right across from the stadium.

Pappy’s [map] is in Greektown, across Monroe street and the casino. It’s got a sports feel, is clean, and is a newer addition within the last few years. It’s one of the many places in the district where you can get Saganaki – flaming cheese – and really, if you don’t leave the D without getting an “Opa!” …you may have missed out.

Tucked behind the State Theatre (which is near the stadium complex) is a great place called the Park Bar [map]. It’s giant circular bar is probably the best I’ve seen for conversations, and there’s been many a night this author has had a Jack and Coke and a bite to eat. Lots of locals go there and the pro tip for visitors is that they have killer shawarma at Bucharest grill, connected to the Park Bar in the back.

What is Shawarma? Just a wrap that happened to be sent from heaven. Seriously though, it’s a middle eastern wrap with lamb (or other meats) – it’s got garlic, but it’s so very tasty and a staple of the local diet no matter your background.

Another solid selection is Lefty’s [map]. Lefty’s is a bit away in Midtown but it’s got TVs, a cool atmosphere, tin ceilings, and is your author’s personal favorite. Many in the midtown area (just about a mile away by car) swear by the place.

What is something we might not know Detroit is known for?

Three letters: BBQ.

We’ve got killer BBQ places – one of which was featured on the Today Show for their awesome mac & cheese.

For the purposes of time, I introduce you to my three friends: Slows, Rub, and Redsmoke.

Slows [map] – is in the funky Corktown neighborhood. It’s garnered national attention for it’s mac & cheese and is reknown for it’s quality. The place almost has a wait for a reason – it’s the place with the big buzz. Also to note, they have a killer bar selection. Try the Founders if you like a solid Michigan beer, or Knickerbocker if you like gin.

Rub BBQ Pub [map] – Located next to Grand Circus Park (and a block or so past Chili’s, mentioned earlier). It’s got a neat view of the park and some like it for different reasons than they like Slows. I don’t want to step on a hot button topic, but frankly, they’ve all got their strengths.

Red Smoke [map] – Right in Greektown and a new addition to the Detroit BBQ Holy Trinity. There, you’ll get a sampler on your plate of a variety of sauces and explanation of each.

Okay. I’m done with sports. How about culture?

Here are four choices to get your brain going:

First up, I’ve gotta recommend the Detroit Institute of Arts [map]. They’ve got some new exhibits opening, but their current highlight is “Fakes, Forgeries, and Mysteries.” It’s gotten national attention and is about pieces in the collection that turned out not to be what was expected, as well as the science behind these surprises.

Second, a personal favorite is the Detroit Historical Museum [map]. If you ever wanted to see what the city was like back in the day, you can see a streetscape of historic Detroit in basement. If you’re one of the folks from Ohio, you’ll see how our histories are tied, and it might be a fun experience for a Floridian, too.

And third, one would be remiss not to mention the Henry Ford in Dearborn [map]. Although a shot down I-94, it’s an amazing collection including the Rosa Parks bus that as a flashpoint to bring about the end of legal segregation, airplanes hanging from the ceiling, the ever-known Weinermobile, as well as amazing machinery and much, much more. Personally, I like checking out the various trains from different ages. If you come back by in warmer times, Greenfield Village has an amazing amount of historical buildings and reenactments, including an 1880’s rules baseball game with authentic uniforms. From there, you can check out the 3-D theatre or a tour of the Ford Rouge Plant.

So maybe that third one was three suggestions in one!

Feeling Funky? My fourth and final is Motown Museum [map], the house that the Motown sound and the likes of Stevie Wonder, Martha Reeves, the Jackson 5, Diana Ross, The Supremes, and Marvin Gaye went through these doors and recorded those hits right here. The Motown sound was and is an integral part of Detroit. Not gonna make it to the museum? Or interested in more? You might want to check out the movie “Standing in the Shadows of Motown” to learn about The Funk Brothers, who were the backup band behind many of those hits. Still, the Motown Museum stands over on Grand Boulevard in New Center.

So welcome to Detroit, Florida International University and University of Toledo. We’re glad to have you. A few notes to leave you with:

-The Twitter hashtag for the game is #LittleCaesarsPizzaBowl
-We’re at @detroitunspun on Twitter or fan us on Facebook – we’ll be checking in on game day if you’ve got a question. One of us will try our best to answer.

p.s. – We’re also known for Coney dogs, purveyed by American and Lafayette Coney Islands, which will warm you up when it’s cold. Check out this Food Wars highlighting that epic, decades-long battle. Think Philly and their cheesesteaks.

As a fun note, Iron Chef Michael Symon from the Food Network is head chef at a place called Roast, which kittycorner from the Coneys. The restaurant lives in the beautifully renovated Book Cadillac Hotel, which just a few years ago was a vacant shell but is now a top-notch place to stay in the city. It’s just another sign of the city’s turnaround.

So, in short, welcome to Detroit!

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