For some of us, we search high and low for that one restaurant that gets us. We seek out the type of place where we can let our hair down, where the waiters and bartenders know our names and our credit cards are not needed to start a tab. To the staff our faces are reputable and we’re good people. This special oasis should always have local sports playing on the TV and/or the radio. If the occasion arises, the staff should have a working knowledge of the suicide squeeze, the differences and advantages of either the nickel or dime defense (because I really have no idea), and the Bad Boys of the 80’s. They should also be able to explain Detroit’s odd infatuation with octopi. Above all, this place has to have the food and service to keep us coming back.
If you find such a place in your lifetime hold it near because you never know when you’ll find such a place again.
If there were ever a place to call my own, Vivio’s in Detroit would be near the top of my list. Located right in the heart of the Eastern Market district, Vivio’s stands as a Mecca for those seeking the perfect Bloody Mary. It is no secret to those who know me that I love a good Bloody Mary. The Bloody Mary, more than any other drink I know, allows for maximum creativity and a sense of individualism. For starters, you can have it spicy or mild. You can mix in garlic, horseradish, Worcestershire, onion, celery salt, or beef stock. You can top it with celery, asparagus, carrots, olives (stuffed with bleu cheese, garlic, jalapenos…), pickles, cilantro, peppers, cucumber or shrimp. And you can rim the glass with salt, pepper, garlic or onion powder, and cayenne. Yeesh! It’s like foraging a salad bar, a spice rack, and drinking soup all at once. Want to know the best part? Vivio’s sources many of these ingredients right at the Eastern Market.
Vivio’s has what I would call a classic approach to its Bloody Mary. It is clean tasting, neat, and to the point. Vivio’s infuse its vodka with pickles, peppercorns, and jalapenos and this process gives the vodka a very fresh and pungent taste. There is a juxtaposition of sorts that I have yet to figure out: the vodka somehow packs an in-your-face wallop while remaining surprisingly subtle and natural. It’s a hard taste to describe but once you try it I think you will taste what I mean.
For an extra charge you can add spicy asparagus that was made and pickled right here in Michigan. If you are a Heat Miser you will definitely want to add the asparagus.
On top of the fabulous Bloody Mary Vivio’s does provide an ample bar menu complete with pastrami burgers and mussels. The mussels here really are a treat. The head chef stopped by and told us that we needed to try the Cajun mussels. Mind you, it was 11 in the morning and we’re already a few deep into our Bloody Mary count. Mussels were the last thing on our minds but Joe and I decided that if we were to really experience Detroit that we needed to follow others’ suggestions and just “do”. Ten minutes and a Bloody Mary later a bowl of melted butter and a steel pot filled with mussels, sausage, celery and onions lay before us. All I can say is shame on us for ever doubting the power of bivalves. They were a warm, slimy reminder that good things happen in unexpected places.
About halfway through our mussels, something happened. The mussels, the tomato juice and vodka, the bartender with the Tigers t-shirt and uniquely loud laugh, the view of Detroit out the window through the rain…they all worked together to form some sort of a symbiotic wonderment. I would be lying if I said this wasn’t one of the strangest and most wonderful things I have experienced in a while. I had found “my place”. This is where I want to be. This city, in the rain, in this moment.
I know, I know. You think I’m a sentimental sap and it just drips out of every review I write. Well this time it was different. I love Detroit. I do. There’s a grungy beauty and resilience to this town and the people who call it home that you can’t find in other places and for some reason that attracts me. I find it exciting and inspiring how these people have an undying love for what they do and the city they do it in. They love being the underdog; They love being the one that, by overwhelming consensus, will never really amount to anything. Check out the 2004 Pistons if you don’t believe me! I personally love an underdog. It allows for more freedom to make mistakes. And we shine even brighter when we do succeed and blow apart expectations (and win in 5 games).
I can’t handle the pressure of being perfect all of the time. It doesn’t allow me to lighten up. If I were perfect I definitely would not be eating mussels and bloody marys at 11 o’clock in the morning. I’d be out day trading, planting crops in Uganda, or doing anything else more productive than drinking spiked tomato juice in a neighborhood bar.
That’s why I liked Vivio’s so much. They didn’t judge me by my clothes, my speaking style, what car I drove, or who I was with. It was just good people who love what they do and that they can do it in Detroit.
2460 Market St Detroit