Neighborhood Spotlight: Downtown Ferndale

By: Aaron Cohen | March 24, 2021

Photo via The Corner Grill, Bar + Game Room.

Over two decades, the once quiet town of Ferndale has transformed into one of Metro Detroit’s most desirable places to live and work. Much of this is owed to the development of Nine Mile Road. For about half a mile west of Woodward Ave., both sides of the street bustle with businesses; some brand new and others bonified institutions that have withstood the test of time. For this week’s Neighborhood Spotlight, we focus on some of Ferndale’s new kids on the block, along with those who have stuck around to welcome them.

Assaggi

For twenty years, Assaggi Bistro has provided tasteful elegance and unparalleled quality to the Nine Mile strip. A unique combination of rustic Italian, country French and Lebanese, Assaggi prides itself on using only the freshest seasonal ingredients. After two decades, every menu item is a staple.

Try a flatbread pizza from the first wood-fired oven in Ferndale. Or the house-made gnocchi with wild mushrooms, cream, demi and truffle oil. If you’re looking for fresh seafood, nothing beats the pan-seared day boat scallops. And if you want to go straight for the classic, try the chicken francese. Don’t forget dessert. Yes, the tiramisu is out of this world, but if you’re looking for a truly unique aperitif, try the chocolate hummer. Maybe share with the table if you’ve already enjoyed a bottle from their expertly-curated wine list.

No matter what you order, expect to be blown away. There’s a reason they’ve stuck around for so long.

Prince Edward Island Mussels (Anisette, bacon, shallots, tomatoes, basil, Parmesan with pommes frittes). Photo courtesy of Assaggi Bistro.

Blue Nile

A little past the main Nine Mile drag, you’ll find another institution that has endured years of constant change. Blue Nile is one of Metro Detroit’s only Ethiopian dining destinations. If you’ve never tried Ethiopian food before, you’re not only missing out on a delicious cuisine, but an entire culinary experience.

Upon entering the restaurant, you’ll be inundated with savory aromas that may seem unfamiliar. Get right to the source. Step one: try the Ethiopian tea. It’s naturally sweet, spicy and totally decaf, so you don’t have to worry about pairing it with a late dinner. Step two: order the feast. Then sit back at your mesob (a round, Ethiopian table) and await full platters of cooked meats and vegetables served atop (and beside) heaping mounds of your new favorite food vessel – injera. Injera bears the appearance of a crepe or thin pancake with the flavor of sourdough. It is the center of all Ethiopian cuisine, used in place of silverware to handle and consume pretty much everything. Enjoy the magic that occurs as the bread absorbs the rich, buttery sauces of your feast. Expect to eat well beyond your typical meal and achieve a level of fullness unbeknownst to you prior. But that won’t keep you from seeking it out again and again.

The Corner + Detroit Axe

At the corner of Nine Mile and Planavon – the intersection many consider to be the western limit of “downtown” Ferndale – The Corner offers a completely new take on the restaurant experience. Come for the delicious American-style fare, craft cocktails and house-made, cider mill-style donuts. Stay for the mind-blowingly huge collection of every board game you could ever think of. It’s like your childhood and your weekly bar night teamed up to give you what you’ve really wanted all along – a place to eat, drink and dominate the game board.

Upstairs, you’ll find Detroit Axe. With plans to open a second location in Detroit this summer, Detroit Axe has already become an elite entertainment destination. Whether you’re a total beginner or curious about competitive league play, Detroit Axe offers everyone – young and old – the opportunity to heave real axes in a safe, incredibly fun atmosphere. Try it as an active alternative to an awkward first dinner date or book the room for your next holiday party. It’s an entire night of fun, right down the street.

Found Sound

Every city with a strong arts community, like Ferndale, needs a record store. Opened in 2012, Found Sound is a full-service shop catering to all music lovers. One could easily spend hours sifting through the massive stacks of vinyl at this beloved Nine Mile sonic hub. Be sure to check out their extensive collection of band and movie posters, CDs and tapes, VHS and DVD. At Found Sound, they don’t care whether it’s 2021 or 1981. They just want to hook you up with the entertainment you love. Support local small businesses and remember to keep an eye out for those once-a-year Record Store Day deals!