The Detroit pizza story: A tasty slice of American history

“What brings you to Detroit?” asks Desmon, the friendly receptionist at the David Whitney Hotel in Grand Circus Park, as he checks me in. Why are you going to Detroit? is a question I’ve already fielded. My answer is always a confident, “Why not?”

“I’m here to eat pizza,” I tell him, smiling at the array of pizza guides spread across the reception desk. Desmon’s eyes light up. “Ah, and just before Detroit Pizza Day! You’re in the right place then,” he says, handing me a map highlighting Buddy’s Pizza, the birthplace of Detroit-style deep dish pizza, conveniently located next door.

For decades, Detroit in the state of Michigan has carried the reputation as one of America’s most dangerous and run-down cities, so much so it earned the grim nickname, ‘Murder City, USA’, summed up on T-shirts sold on Etsy with slogans such as ‘I’m so bad, I vacation in Detroit, featuring a hand holding a gun.

But the string of freeways as I left the airport earlier hinted at connectivity and movement, not stagnation. As I passed through the inner-ring suburb of Dearborn, home to the Henry Ford complex and the birthplace of Detroit’s automotive legacy, the seemingly slick skyline of downtown Detroit loomed ahead, dominated by the Renaissance Center. And unknown to many visitors, Detroit-style pizza has garnered such local pride that it’s earned its own day—June 23rd—celebrated as National Detroit-style Pizza Day. And it happens to be while I’m here.

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