Hungry Robert C. Valade Park visitors will find quality takeout items available at two separately owned businesses, Geisha Girls and Smokey G’s Smokehouse.
Robert C. Valade Park, a $4 million riverfront park named for the philanthropic, former leader of clothing manufacturer Carhartt, opened in October 2019 as a marvelous addition to the Detroit RiverWalk. The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy project reclaiming the riverfront is gradually building toward its conclusion east of the Belle Isle Bridge.
Other parks dot the 5½-mile expanse starting at the Ambassador Bridge, but this stretch — just east of the Aretha Franklin Amphitheater, with free parking across from the box office — is my favorite. It’s a complete summer blast here with a beach, sand volleyball, kids’ playground and an open pavilion. On a weekday here, I saw picnickers learning to Latin dance.
Turquoise umbrella tables are widely spaced on a patio around a former boat slip. Beyond that, over a bridge, is Bob’s Barge, a floating weekend bar for patrons to enjoy libations while facing Windsor, Canada.
Hungry visitors will find quality takeout items available at two separately owned businesses, Geisha Girls and Smokey G’s Smokehouse. They are side-by-side at a counter inside the Shed. The large, light-flooded public space has sparse tables, flat-screen TVs and garage-style overhead doors.
Greg Simms opened Smokey G’s in Valade Park on March 9, 2020 — just before “the world shut down” for the COVID-19 pandemic. Simms got his start as a caterer in 2014, bringing his smoker to university tailgate parties. He continued catering during the shutdown.
My friend Roberta was pleased with the taste of her well-trimmed beef brisket at Smokey G’s. Bottles of Simms’ barbecue sauce will be carried soon at upscale housewares store, Williams-Sonoma. The sauce added delicious flavor and some heat to my meal.
More notable items are smoked salmon and turkey legs. His vinegary coleslaw “clears your palate so you really taste the product you’re eating,” Simms said. Vegetarian sides are smoked sweet potatoes and Brussel sprouts, with smoked Portobello mushrooms and smoked peaches soon to join the lineup.
Geisha Girls also opened that March 9. “I relied on online delivery apps to stay afloat,” said owner Mary Stallworth. She’s also doing pop-ups again, bringing food to distilleries and bars for customers to enjoy with their liquor.
Stallworth learned to make traditional sushi from chefs at her previous restaurants. But the Geisha Girls menu is unique — “a fusion of soul food and Japanese” — that reflects her Japanese and African American ancestry. She likes incorporating familiar foods, such as apple cider or buttermilk.
Avocado Bomb was my choice recently. So good! The panko-encrusted avocado quarters are topped with spicy mayo, sweet soy, spicy tuna, imitation crab and mango salsa. Crispy sweet potato root strings are the garnish. “It’s like an avocado exploded,” Stallworth said. Bring it on, say I.
Sushi Tacos include a wonton base, vinegared rice, choice of sushi and mango salsa. Slappin Roll has shrimp tempura, pineapple and more. Both take-outs open at 11 a.m., with varying closing times.
Geisha Girls and Smokey G’s Smokehouse
2670 Atwater Street
Detroit, MI 48207
GG: (313) 880-0899
GG: See Facebook page
SGS: (313) 693-2533
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