Editor’s Letter: Restaurant of the Year and Black History Month

Hour Detroit’s editor-in-chief discusses what you’ll find in the February 2024 issue.

How do you follow up a cover that seems destined to become a fan favorite and bestseller? You give the readers something else that is as universally appealing as Dan Campbell: food.

That really wasn’t our intention when we bumped up our Restaurant of the Year feature from March to February, but it worked out nicely. In fact, we were on pins and needles all fall, hoping and praying that the Lions would make it to the playoffs so that January’s Detroiters cover story, featuring Dan Campbell, would be even more special. The truth is, February has been known to be one of the most hated months of the year, so we wanted to give folks an opportunity this month to visit the restaurant we have bestowed with this honor.

Like many Restaurants of the Year, this year’s choice, Freya, has been on our radar for a while. It not only made our Best New Restaurants list in August 2022 but also made similar lists by the Free Press and The New York Times a month later. Dining writer Dorothy Hernandez says, “When Freya first opened, we knew they were operating on a high level and waited till it settled in and found its groove before naming it Restaurant of the Year, because a restaurant this special doesn’t come around often.”

Kate Walsh // Photograph by Brad Ziegler
Kate Walsh // Photograph by Brad Ziegler

February is also time to celebrate Black History Month. In this issue, we have an article about the plans to remove I-375, the highway junction whose birth meant the death of two Black neighborhoods (Black Bottom and Paradise Valley), and the story of a Royal Oak resident’s quest to share her family’s story with the world. This is one of those articles that was a long time in the making for us. I attended a fundraising event for the Hamer Finch Wilkins Park, named for one of Royal Oak’s first Black families (which will feature a sculpture of the family matriarch by local artist Austen Brantley), in early 2023 at the Royal Oak Historical Society Museum. The story fascinated me, so I put it on our lineup for 2024, hoping it would coincide with the park’s and sculpture’s completion.

One of the things I love about Detroit is what a small world it can be. At this Royal Oak event, I learned that Brantley would be sculpting the bust for the park. I had just met him a few days before outside The Congregation coffee shop in Detroit, where I was with a photographer who was taking candid photos of people exiting the café; Brantley’s friend was one of them. I chatted with Brantley while this was going on and learned about his work; he then invited me to his exhibit at The Carr Center. Then suddenly I heard his name everywhere.

Another more recent experience also made me appreciate this wonderful city and its history. In December, I had the privilege of attending the press night for Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations (written by Campbell’s fellow 2024 Detroiter Dominique Morisseau) at the Fisher Theatre. At this performance, The Temptations founder Otis Williams got on stage after the show. When he spoke of his love for Detroit and the early days of Motown, the crowd could not contain itself.

There was more energy in that theater than I have ever felt at any music event in my life. To be in one of the city’s most iconic buildings, surrounded by many people who appeared to have also experienced Motown’s golden age in person, literally gave me chills and made me truly appreciate my job and the fact that I’m once again living in my hometown.

So, if February (or Valentine’s Day) has you down, I hope that your spirits will be lifted by reading this issue and learning about the many places, people, and events that make up this great city.

This story is from the February 2024 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.