Flint in 48 Hours

 By Kim Skeltis

Step inside Table & Tap with its graffiti mural and communal table of reclaimed barn wood, and you could be in Chicago. A rack of hoodies with the phrase Hard as Flint reveals the restaurant’s locale – an apropos saying for a city that’s had more than its share of hard knocks.

Hard as Flint is the mantra of a reborn city. Its tragedies have shaped a community of creators and doers who work hard to make Flint a better place, shifting from producing cars to beer, bread and boots. They know where the city has been, salvaging the best of its history to move forward. And from that grit and perseverance emerged a softer side of Flint. A college town. A foodie mecca. A beer city. An historic gem. And it makes Flint worth visiting right now.

If you’ve got 48 hours free, you can cover many of the city’s highlights and hidden gems. We’ve suggested a weekend itinerary below – hit everything or slow down the pace and pick some standouts.

FRIDAY EVENING – Downtown Immersion

Accessible from I-69 and I-75, Flint is an easy drive from most Midwest cities. Check into your hotel around 5 p.m. to enjoy a full evening. For proximity, Holiday Inn Express downtown can’t be beat. Or book one of six literary-themed rooms at elegant Knob Hill B&B, also in the city.

Start in the heart of downtown with a cocktail or glass of wine at Cork on Saginaw (Happy Hour runs until 6 p.m.), featuring 150 wines from around the world. Or hit Café Rhema for a pick-me-up at this Great Gatsby-inspired café. Order a cold coffee brew or share a French press. Kids will love fruity bubble tea or Italian soda.

After a cocktail or coffee, either stay at Cork for an eclectic European dish, or visit Table & Tap for dinner. This hotspot specializes in locally sourced food and barbecued meats, along with 30 rotating beers on tap, top-shelf bourbon and cocktails. If you’re feeling social, sidle up to other diners at the communal table.

Tonight, try one of Flint’s cultural offerings. University of Michigan-Flint features theater and dance performances Friday and Saturday evenings (October to April). Or check out the Flint Cultural Center with eight institutes on the wooded campus, including The Whiting, a 2,000-seat professional performing arts venue with live performances ranging from local Flint Youth Theatre to national touring productions like Blue Man Group. Other options include the Flint Institute of Arts Theater showing independent and classic films (starts in September), Longway Planetarium (Michigan’s largest) with First Friday events and special programs, and the 100-year-old Flint Symphony Orchestra hosting chamber music and Music in the Parks (summer), and classical concerts (October to May).

Got a late-night food craving? Cast your vote for Flint’s best burger between two watering holes: Soggy Bottom and the Torch Bar & Grill, ranked by Thrillist as one of the “33 Best Dive Bars in America” and its Torch Burger as one of the “33 Best Burgers in America

SATURDAY – Flint Food and Culture

Shop and nibble through your morning at the Flint Farmers’ Market. In existence since 1905, this storied market moved into the Flint Journal’s former 32,000 square-foot printing facility in 2014 after a 70-year hiatus from downtown. The bright, airy space holds 50 year-round vendors (another 20 outside in summer), commercial and demonstration kitchens, and event space. Wander the stalls of fresh produce, pop-up restaurants and handmade gift items, sampling a cinnamon roll at CINNAMOM or pho soup at MaMang. Stock up on weekend snacks like imported cheeses at Hills Home Cured Cheese or wine at d’Vine Wines. Steady Eddy’s Café is an alternative if you prefer a sit-down brunch.

Fueled on market finds, drive to Applewood Estate, a 34-acre, three-story estate built by automotive pioneer Charles Stewart Mott in 1916. While the grounds have been open for years, the home is open to the public for the first time this centennial year, offering free guided house tours daily (reservations recommended). You can also join a free guided garden walk (daily at 1 p.m.) or explore the grounds and exhibits on your own – kids can even check out an activity backpack. For lunch, stop at Applewood Café, a student-run, upscale casual restaurant inside nearby Mott Community College (open during school session).

You’re a stone’s throw from the 85-year-old Flint Institute of Arts, the second largest art museum in Michigan. Need another reason to stop? Free Saturdays! Spin through the highlights using a free, self-guided audio tour that brings the collection to life, followed by the gift shop.

Hit happy hour at Tenacity Brewing, Flint’s first brewery whose name became a prophecy during the Flint Water Crisis. Opening in 2015 in a 1912 fire station, Tenacity features 10 beers, two hard ciders plus a root beer on draft, so there’s something for everyone. While Tenacity doesn’t have a kitchen, food truck fave Vehicle City Tacos parks outside regularly.

Enjoy dinner downtown at 501 Bar & Grill, a fresh, modernist restaurant known for small plates and martinis. From chicken and waffles to bone marrow, you’ll find an eclectic selection of sharable, bite-size entrees. Healthier appetites may prefer a flatbread pizza, burger or full entrée.

Take in a local sporting event tonight like a Flint Firebirds ice hockey game at the Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center east of downtown. Games are Fridays and Saturdays (season starts in September). For another type of skating, watch the Flint City Derby Girls at Rollhaven Skating Center in Grand Blanc.

SUNDAY – Suburbs/Genesee County

A visit to Flint isn’t complete without visiting its surrounding environs of Genesee County, boasting Michigan’s largest county park system, dozens of fruit orchards, 17-mile asphalt Flint River Trail and 142-mile Flint River. The hardest part will be narrowing your options.

Option #1: Small-Town Shopping and Dining

Enjoy a leisurely morning, then drive 25 minutes to quaint Fenton with its circa-1830s downtown. Indulge in a pastry at CRUST, cranking out 2,000 cookies and 1,000 artisan-style bread loaves daily that are sold locally and across the country, including to DEAN & DELUCA and Williams-Sonoma. Linger over a pain au chocolat and latte in the café or grab a dozen chocolate chip and sea salt cookies to go. Inquire about pie, scone/biscuit and bread-making classes.

Next, shop Fenton’s unique downtown stores like La Petite Maison and The Iron Grate for home décor, Yesterday’s Treasures for antiques, Fenton’s Open Book for literary treasures, and Eclections for clothing and accessories. Walk to the Fenton Fire Hall, a 1938 fire station resurrected in 2013 by the owners of famed Clarkston Union and Vinsetta Garage in metro Detroit. Photographs of volunteer firefighters adorn the walls with old fire station ledgers, memos and other correspondence in homage to its roots. Share a legendary mac and cheese dish or slow-smoked pulled pork for a snack.  Be sure to scan the 48 beers on tap. Then drive to nearby Heavenly Scent Herb Farm, a 1910-era barn and gardens with gift items, flowers and plants for sale.

Your Flint weekend is winding down, but not before you indulge in one final culinary experience. Visit The Laundry Room, a private event space next door to The Laundry, in Fenton by 5 p.m. when Chef Jody prepares a four-course Sunday Supper once a month for the first 24 people who arrive. Menu items are unveiled tableside and served family style. If you miss Sunday Supper, don’t fret – The Laundry’s standing menu of European-inspired dishes gives plenty of options.

Option #2: Historic Village

Kids and history buffs alike will love Crossroads Village and Huckleberry Railroad (May through September). Turning 40 this year, the park showcases 34 Genesee County buildings replicating an 1800s village. Also check out Halloween Ghosts and Goodies in October and Christmas at Crossroads Holiday Magic in December.

Take a 40-minute ride on the circa-1857 Huckleberry Railroad steam locomotive.  Legend says that it ran so slow that a person could jump off, pick huckleberries, and jump back on. Another park jewel is the Genesee Belle Paddlewheel Riverboat replicating riverboats that traveled the Mississippi a century ago. Catch a 45-minute cruise around Mott Lake (May through September).

Close your weekend with a local tradition – a Flint Original Coney Island at the 24-hour Starlite Diner that the owners have been cranking out since 1966. According to locals, the dry, loose meat makes it a Flint-style Coney. Add a side of Coney Cheese Fries, and you’re primed for the drive home.

NOTE: All Flint businesses mentioned here use a combination of certified water filters, bottled water and hydration stations to provide visitors with clean, safe water.

5 Wine Tastings, Classes to Check Out in Genesee County

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Did you know that April is Wine Month in Michigan? Good thing there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate (in moderation) in Flint and Genesee!

In addition to being home to vintners including the Fenton Winery & Brewery and Spicers Orchards & Winery, the region also lays claim to several vino-loving restaurants and establishments. Take, for instance, the following locations that offer wine tastings and classes throughout the year:

  • Cork on Saginaw in Flint regularly hosts wine tastings on and off premises. On April 19, the eatery will offer a class exploring wine’s “quality/price ratio.” Admission is $25 per person by reservation. For more information, call (810) 422-9625 or click here.
  • Special to this month, the Flint Institute of Arts will hosts its 17th Annual From Vine to Wine tasting event on April 16. The event will feature a wide selection of wines, food provided by local restaurants and live entertainment from the Mott Community College Jazz Combo. Tickets start at $100 per person. For details, click here.
  • In addition to the beer and wine tastings held each Saturday, Oliver T’s in Grand Blanc also offers monthly wine classes, priced at $25 per person. Upcoming themes include Modern Portugal (April 21) and Main Street vs. Wall Street (May 19), a blind tasting where you’re the judge. To learn more, call 810-695-6550 or click here.
  • Redwood Steakhouse & Brewery in Flint Township hosts wine tastings the fourth Monday of each Monday. Admission is $25 per person and includes four wines paired with food courses. The April tasting will meet early this month (April 18) and will features pairings such as Mahi Mahi with shrimp and vanilla sauce with Murrieta’s Well The Whip. For more info, call 810-233-8000 or click here.
  • Signature Chop House in Flushing offers wine tastings on the last Thursday of each month. Tickets are $50 per person and include five wines paired with five courses. To learn more, call 810-867-4319 or click here.

What else is going on in Flint and Genesee County? Click here to find out.

3 Bookstores to Visit in Genesee County

book-1149031_1920There’s still one week left of National Reading Month. Why not make the most of it with a trip to one of these independently owned bookstores?

Fenton’s Open Book, 105 W. Shiawassee Ave., Fenton 

This bookstore carries the work of several local authors (i.e., Gabrielle Ford, W.C. Hoffman) and hosts book signings with many of them throughout the year. The public is also welcome to take part in the Southern Lakes Bookclub, which meets on the second Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. The next meeting will highlight “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini.

R&B Used Books, 12830 S. Saginaw St., Grand Blanc 

Established over a decade ago, this family-owned, used bookstore sells everything from general fiction and mystery to self-help, business, history, romance and more. Customers who participate in the store’s trade program receive store credit for each paperback and hardcover they trade in. For details, click here

Totem Books, 620 W. Court St., Flint   

One of Flint’s newest additions, this shop carries a wide variety of used books, vinyl, CDs, DVDs and ephemera. Visitors can also grab coffee, breakfast, lunch and/or snacks at the on-site cafe. Check out the menu here. 

What else is going on in Flint and Genesee County? Click here to find out.

4 Ways to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

clover-883210_1280As the saying goes, “Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.” Here are a few ways to celebrate in Genesee County! (All events will take place March 17 unless otherwise noted.)

    • Following a 1/2K run/walk thorugh Flint, sample beer and Irish-themed food at the St. Paddy’s Beer Fest on March 12. Tickets for the Flint Farmers’ Market event include a commemorative pint glass and 10, 2-ounce sample tickets.
    • Complete the Pot O’Gold 4 Mile Run & Walk in downtown Flint. (The first 500 people to register will snag a free leprechaun hat!)
    • Take part in a Flint tradition and enjoy a Reuben sandwich from Catholic Charities’ annual St. Patrick’s Day Box Lunch Sale fundraiser.
    • Listen to Irish-themed music and folks songs performed by The Dibbleville Dolls & Bobby Standal at the Fenton Hotel Tavern & Grille. 

Where will you be on St. Patrick’s Day? Let us know in the comments below!

6 Genesee County Restaurants Serving Up Live Music

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Looking for a restaurant that has live music on the menu? Check out these Genesee County gems, which regularly host different musicians throughout the week.

Beale Street Smokehouse BBQ (2461 North Road, Fenton)
Listen to live blues music from 7-10 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday. 810-750-0507

Brickstreet of Grand Blanc (1223 E. Grand Blanc Road, Grand Blanc)
Relax with Russell Wayne’s live lounge entertainment every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, from 7:30-11:30 p.m. Bob Adado takes the mic at 7 p.m. on Saturday. 810-603-2114

Cranberries Café (10250 Hegel Road, Goodrich)
Check out Live Music Thursdays, which run from 7-10 p.m. in this circa 1917 building. 810-636-3409

The Fenton Hotel Tavern & Grille (302 N. Leroy Street, Fenton)
Live piano bar entertainment begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 810-750-9463

The Rough Draught Coffee & Barroom (134 N. Leroy Street, Fenton)
Local artists play acoustic tunes every Saturday. 810-714-3005

Sherman’s Lounge (4211 Fenton Road, Flint)
Enjoy live, local bands on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights. 810-233-7057

What else is going on in Flint & Genesee? Click here to find out. 

3 Offbeat Breakfast Dishes in Flint & Genesee

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What better way to kick off a lazy Sunday morning than with a delicious, warm breakfast that causes passersby to stop and say, “Ohhh, what’s that?” For those of you looking for something that goes beyond your standard scrambled eggs and toast, here are a few of Genesee County’s less traditional options.

If you normally get a breakfast sandwich, try the…

If you love steak and eggs, ask for the…

  • Pulled Pork Eggs Benedict at Capitol Coney (4021 Van Slyke Road, Flint). It’s exactly what it sounds like: homemade biscuits topped with pulled pork and a poached egg, topped with homemade hollandaise sauce. Served with your choice of potato. Breakfast available 24 hours, seven days a week. 

If you always order the veggie omelette, you’ll love the…

  • Hungry Hippie at The Laundry (125 W. Shiawassee, Fenton). A cast iron skillet is loaded with polenta, roasted zucchini, yellow squash, red onions, bell peppers, fresh tomatoes and goat cheese. Oven-baked and topped with two over-easy eggs and Spanish romesco sauce. Breakfast served until noon. 

What are your favorite breakfast joints in Flint and Genesee, and what do you order while you’re there?

4 Cool Ways to Break a Sweat in Flint & Genesee

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Considering that health and wellness are ever-popular New Year’s resolution themes, here are a few ideas for staying fit in Flint & Genesee this winter.

  1. Check out a pair of snowshoes at For-Mar Nature Preserve. On the off-chance the snow doesn’t stick this winter, the Burton-based nature preserve also offers walking sticks for visitors looking to stroll the property’s seven miles of hiking trails.
  2. Scale a wall of ice at Peabody Ice Climbing. The Fenton-based venue provides both a great place for experienced climbers to train as well as a controlled environment where newbies can learn the ropes from a certified guide.
  3. Skate around the University Pavilion Ice Rink. Starting Jan. 2, the outdoor rink will be open from noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and from 6-9 p.m. Wednesdays. Local indoor options include Crystal Fieldhouse Ice Arena in Burton on Flint Iceland Arena, both of which offer public skating sessions and gear rentals.
  4. Take a winter run. The Ididarun 8 Mile Challenge will take runners along snow-covered roads at trails in Linden on Jan. 9. Afterward, they can warm up with hot, homemade soups and breads provided by the high school’s cross country team. Then, on Feb. 6, participants will carry logs and climb over cars during the Frozen Fun Run in Davison.

Wonder what else is going on in #flintandgenesee? Find out here.