48 Hours In Dearborn

In Dearborn, the local Ram's Horn advertises Halal meat and Ramadan specials. Automotive big brass hold court in the glass house at Ford Motor Company World Headquarters. The quintessential 1940s bungalow is everywhere. And old Dawn Donuts' A-frames transform into falafel stands overnight. With all this, you cannot ignore the fact that Dearborn is a bit of a conundrum.

Its odd energy mixes Middle Eastern culture, historical Henry Ford-related attractions, and a subtle suburban hipness that is uniquely Dearborn. And although strip malls, box stores and chain restaurants are ubiquitous, there's no shortage of independent places of interest and intrigue that warrant a visit. 

Here are metromode's picks for your 48-hour Tour de Dearborn.

Friday afternoon

If your guests arrive before 2:00 p.m. on Friday, swing by the Farmer's and Artisan Market in West Village Commons, just south of Michigan Avenue in downtown west Dearborn. You'll find locally grown produce and handmade goods like soap, candles and birdhouses. The market is open through October 10 with plenty of sweet potatoes, pumpkins, beets and other fall produce. Market dates will likely extend through October 24 because of its popularity.

From there, poke around the Henry Ford Estate, where Henry Ford's homestead and six-floor tinkering workshop on Evergreen Road have been well-preserved as a national landmark. While the 1915 country estate, Fair Lane, was supposed to be constructed modestly per Henry Ford's instructions, it ended up costing more than $2 million dollars to build and decorate all 31,000 square feet. 

When you're finished saturating yourself with Fair Lane's history and beauty, saturate yourself with vodka and blue cheese stuffed olives along Michigan Avenue at the Double Olive cocktail lounge. A 30-foot bar welcomes happy hour revelers nightly. Dark and smoky with black Naugahyde bar stools, the Double Olive also boasts a couple of big, mafia-deal booths for your lounging pleasure.

Friday night

Hit Miller's Bar at the west end of Michigan Avenue for burgers. This no-pretense, serve-'em-while-their-hot establishment dishes out some of the best burgers in southeast Michigan. Look for the rust-red façade and vintage stars on the lighted marquee. Their motto is: "Where Lesser Burgers Come to Worship." Amen.

After, grab a six-pack and catch a double feature at the Ford-Wyoming Drive In, the largest drive-in theater in the world and the last standing (at 60 years old) in metro Detroit. Don't run to the restroom between flicks or you'll miss the old 1950s countdown cartoons, complete with dancing popsicles and hotdogs. Your guests will return home with well-deserved bragging rights after catching a show here. 

Saturday morning

Like your pancakes light and fluffy with a delicate crispness on the outside? Make a beeline for Carter's Restaurant. You can't miss this bright white 60-year-old diner at the corner of Outer Drive and the Southfield Freeway service drive. It's counter service only, so you may have to vie for a stainless steel stool; and the regular next to you might be smoking Camels with his coffee. At 9:30 a.m. some folks are already choosing burgers with onions, so don't be shy about ordering what you're really hankering for. As a sappy Merle Haggard song serenades you from the jukebox, eat hardy.

When you've had your fill of eggs, bacon and greasy ambiance, conquer your cholesterol overload by walking the trails behind the Environmental Interpretive Center on the University of Michigan-Dearborn Campus. 

This 300-acre natural area off of Evergreen Road behind the campus parking structure is protected and nourished, as evidenced by the buzzing of insects and singing of birds – and not a drop of litter along the trails. You can catch painted turtles sunning on logs and hear the croak and splash of illusive frogs on Fair Lane Lake. Before you stroll along the two miles of trails that encircle the lake and offer views of the Rouge River, pick up a trail map and glean information about the latest spotting of birds and animals from the center's staff.

Saturday afternoon

Pick up lunch inside New Yasmeen Bakery or under Cedarland Restaurant's bright green awning, both on Warren Road at the east end of town. At Cedarland, exiting your car is not necessary with the handy-dandy drive-through window behind the restaurant. The chicken shawarma sandwich and falafel, hummus and tabouli sandwich travel well for a picnic, but don't be shy about experimenting with Cedarland's tasty specials, like oozzi, a boneless leg of lamb, or bamia, an okra stew. 

While New Yasmeen Bakery has all the Middle Eastern sandwiches and a full deli, a favorite is the zaater bread that's seasoned with thyme and oregano. Popped in the oven after you order, these piping hot flat breads are soft and tangy. To satisfy your sweet tooth, choose from New Yasmeen's colorful, 20-foot display of Middle Eastern sweets.

Lunch in hand, head over to The Henry Ford and choose from a dozen great picnic spots at Greenfield Village like the perimeter of Suwanee Lagoon, a grassy bank above the railroad tracks, or the Village Green. After poking around Greenfield Village's old-time shops and institutions, check out Henry Ford Museum's newest, traveling exhibit, "Out of this World: Extraordinary Costumes for Film and Television," on display October 11 through January 11. Fans of Star Wars and Batman (who isn't?) will surely dig this costume exhibit.

Saturday night

Make reservations at Annam Restaurant Vietnamien on Michigan Avenue to experience a dinner that's nowhere near tenuous. The food, from catfish in a caramelized sauce to southern Vietnamese coconut chicken curry, is explosive and the ambiance surprising (not your typical Formica booth, fake flower decorated strip mall restaurant). Annam is finger-snapping cool – modern Asian, but not without a touch of coziness that works with the 15-table setup. Vegetarians have big choice here, and a full bar makes it all the more palpable if you want a California white with your Saigon style shrimp and pork noodle soup.

Up for a little swing, hustle, fox trot, or anything in between? Try Silkies Martini and Music Café in the same downtown west Dearborn strip for live music and a packed dance floor.

For a swanky nightcap locale, relax at Grappa Lounge (part of Ciao Restaurant) on Monroe with a Chianti or LaPita's Mezza Lounge on Newman Street for a hookah and cocktail.

Sunday morning

End your visit like the grand finale at the fireworks by taking your guests to the Dearborn Inn for brunch in the Early American Room. Since Henry Ford's thumbprint is pretty much everywhere in Dearborn, it's not surprising that he was the man behind the 1931 inn – originally built as the first airport hotel. The colonial style décor that Ford favored is palpable today and magically lends itself to a traditional Sunday brunch. 

Among the Early American Room's original chandeliers, pillars and woodwork, an S-shaped buffet beckons guests to slither from fruit to anti pasta to crab claws and shrimp to hot entrees like cheese tortellini in gorgonzola cream sauce. In an adjacent corner, are stations for prime rib, waffles and omelets made to order. It's befitting of a queen or king, or, at the very least, intrepid visitors to Dearborn.

Melinda Clynes is a metro-Detroit-based freelancer and a regular contributor to metromode and Model D. Her last article was Metro Detroit On Deck.


Greenfield Village at The Henry Ford

Farmers Market

Henry Ford Estate

Camping out for a good view, at the Ford Wyoming Drive-in

New Yasmeen Bakery

Environmental Interpretive Center


Dearborn Inn's Early American room

All photographs by Marvin Shaouni
Marvin Shaouni is the managing photographer for Metromode & Model D.

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