I’m still kvelling over Chrysler’s Imported From Detroit commercial that debuted during the Super Bowl. I bet a lot of you are, too. That spot was magnificent, not only because it was well done, but because it told the world the truth. That’s what was so moving. It perfectly captured our very essence. Hell, it even prompted me to buy a Jeep Cherokee.
But we Detroiters – yes, all of us here are Detroiters – already knew that despite all our problems, we are a proud, resilient people, bloodied but unbowed, shaken but never-say-die.
Sometimes I feel like we’re one of those characters on the Jerry Springer Show, crying “You don’t know me!” to a jeering audience.
We are so misunderstood.
But for every naysayer there’s a Rudy Hendrix, a small-business owner who looks forward to each new dawn. Hendrix is the spirit of Detroit, a gentleman and brilliant entrepreneur who happens to produce some of the best victuals around.
Hendrix (yes, brother of Freman Hendrix) is the proprietor and pit master at Lady Louisa’s Place, a warm, cozy restaurant on McNichols near Greenfield. I stopped in there some months ago and enjoyed some really outstanding comfort fare. I’m craving some fried okra and tomatoes right now (it’s not really fried; more like sautéed).
And the man is self-taught. He started cooking for his family 15 years ago, just holidays at first. His grub became so well received – particularly those tender ribs – that he went and expanded his kitchen into his own restaurant. He goes the extra mile with all that he does. “Quality and consistency have to be just right,” he said, “and customer service will always come first.”
Hendrix could have gone big and opened a big-box spot, but he wanted Lady Louisa’s to be a neighborhood kind of place. He takes pride in serving his neighbors, who hail from all over Metro Detroit, comfort food cooked fresh daily, using the best ingredients.
“We cook with love and affection the same way your mother and grandmother did,” he said of his restaurant, named after his late paternal grandmother. “This is food you remember from your childhood.”
I liked Rudy’s stuff so much that we’re carrying some of it in our stores. The creamy mac and cheese – recently rated by the Free Press the area’s best – can be found at our Union Lake, Haggerty and 14 Mile and Haggerty and Five Mile stores, along with oh-so delectable fried cabbage, fried corn and those lip-smackin’ okra and tomatoes.
“This truly gives us a presence in suburban communities that we otherwise would not have,” he said. “We are so pleased.”
The pleasure is all mine. You see, this is how we’ve gotten by, in the face of all manner of adversity: by helping each other, extending our hands across boundaries and, time after time, rallying back, lifting each other up and urging each other on.
This is the Motor City.
And this is what we do.