Exploring Zoo City

In this blog, rooster and I spent the morning exploring Zoo City. We ate breakfast at the Crow.s Nest, visited the bookstore next door, and drink coffee at the Black Owl Cafe. #Zoo City #Crow’s nest #art #Kalamazoo #Michigan #Black Owl Cafe

Exploring Zoo City

The Crow’s Nest restaurant is located at the top of a steep flight of stairs. It is worth the climb to get to the delectable food served in this trendy eating establishment. If you happen to show up on a weekend or holiday be prepared to hang out on the stairs until you can get a seat. Hence, the Crow’s Nest was the perfect place to eat breakfast while exploring Zoo City.

Our Experience at the Crow’s Nest

We met a young woman from the Bronx borough in New York City. Her son didn’t have school for the day because of spring break. She brought her daughter to the Crow’s Nest so they could enjoy the morning together and said she was a fussy eater. However, she liked the pancakes they had at the eatery and claimed they were the best in town.

We didn’t have to wait long before a guy with a hot man bun showed us to a table. The décor leaned on the shabby chic side. The walls were done in exposed red brick, the ceiling and floors were natural wood, the ductwork was exposed and painted black. Patrons could see the activity taking place in the kitchen through a doorway at the back of the room.

The most eye-catching feature of the restaurant’s decor was the large sunshine stain glass window.  It lent an attractive warmth to the place. Rooster and I both felt it reminded us of Elizabeth’s Restaurant in New Orleans. It wasn’t that they looked the same or served the same style of food. What we found so similar about the two restaurants was the comfortable atmosphere.

What we selected

Rooster and I didn’t select the pancakes. I choose the Man Overboard! Rooster enjoyed The Harvest Benedict. Both dishes were packed with flavor. The cost was a little steep, but we were served so much food we could have saved half the serving for lunch. Rooster said the Crow’s Nest so far was his favorite place to have breakfast in the state of Michigan. He said he’d make the three-hour drive to Kalamazoo to eat there again.

If you pay a visit to Zoo City, be sure and stop by 816 S. Westnedge and enjoy a good meal. Tell the folks at the Crow’s Nest The Hen House Lady sent you.

Bicentennial Books

We noticed the Kalamazoo neighborhood we were visiting was filled with interesting shops. We saw the sign for a rare book store nestled in the building next to the Crow’s Nest.

There wasn’t any way I was going to pass up the opportunity to look over old books. I drug Rooster into the shop, but as soon as I walked in the door, I could see the explosion of clutter caused by too many books being in the same place at the same time. The smell of mold and kitty litter hit me in the face as I moved further into the shop.

Books were piled from the floor to the ceiling without any organization. The rows upon rows of bookshelves were packed with so many volumes displaying every conceivable title it was hard to locate a book that would attract my attention. This unique bookstore amazed us while exploring Zoo City.

Bookstore cat encounter

We weren’t in the store long before the culprit who was the owner of the litter box emerged from behind a stack of books at the rear of the shop with a meow. The calico cat made numerous attempts to escape through the front door.

The guy hanging out behind the makeshift counter explained she was a stray. It was his opinion she was in heat. The man looked comfortable on the job. He had an old couch to sit on and all the reading material a person could ask for to help him pass the time. I did find one novel I decided to purchase. The shop’s card reader was down, so we paid in cash.

As we left the shop, I thought Bicentennial Books was one of those quirky places we encountered exploring zoo city.  In all honesty, at first, the bookstore looked like a disorganized mess but held a lot of hidden treasures. If I’d come into the shop searching for a rare book, I couldn’t find anywhere else, the guy behind the counter would have located it in an instant.

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

The next stop we made exploring Zoo city was the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts located at 314 S. Park Street. (Rooster and I discovered the citizens of Kalamazoo like to refer to their community as Zoo City.) We parked on the street. While Rooster was feeding the meter a man in a suit exited the front door of the building and waved to us. He yelled, “You  can park in the lot to your right for free.”

It was a very welcoming and thoughtful gesture on his part. As we paid our entrance fee, we received a lot of questions about our yellow Chevy Spark. A lady working at the gallery was curious about the comfort of the vehicle and the gas mileage. From the moment we strolled through the front door, we experienced an explosion of creativity.  A hand-blown glass chandelier by Dale Chihuly entitled Ruby Light hung suspended over our heads.

The artwork we saw

Rooster and I only know two things about art. e judge art by the emotion these works stir inside of us. The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts had many great images for us to enjoy including several items created by Tiffany, but there were a few pieces of artwork, that aroused our emotions. The long flowing tissue paper sculptures by Maya Freelon captured my attention. The paper mâché acrylic on canvas piece by Stephen Hansen made us chuckle. The work consists of two painters. One appears to be busy at work. The other is on a continuous coffee break. Hansen asks the question “But is it Art?” in the title of the piece. We enjoyed our time at this museum while exploring Zoo City.

 The Steven MACGowan piece brought tears to our eyes

We both agreed that the painting was an amusing piece of art. Steven MACGowan’s “Choice, no Choice brought a tear to our eye. Rooster said this painting had the largest impact on him than any works of art he’d seen so far. Maybe it was losing our granddaughter to Cystic Fibrosis one year ago in March which created such a strong reaction. I felt the emotional impact of the piece myself. The artist did the work while his daughter was battling brain cancer.

Why he created the piece

Throughout the painting haunting images of grief exist. The bicycle sketch under the bench is a copy of one of his daughters she drew while she was ill. Various items of litter appear tossed near the bench by the careless hand of fate. A get-well card blown under the bench by a cruel wind, an empty potato chip bag, and other items that at first glance seem to be trash. The graffiti on the wall of the tunnel is the names of doctors, nurses, and other patients who he encountered during his daughter’s illness. The artist appears to the trapped in the tunnel with his memories.

A stairway to the street is also visible offering hope of escape, but for the moment the painter must stay where he is because there is no choice of making an escape from the situation. I may be wrong in my interpretation, but this is how the painting made me feel. This piece of art created an emotional response in us we took away from our experience exploring Zoo City

Coffee at the Black Owl Cafe

The Black Owl Café located at 414 Walbridge Street was our last place to visit during our day of exploration. We stumbled across this unique coffee shop a couple of years ago when we were returning from a trip to Wisconsin. The café’s specialty is serving the products produced by the Kalamazoo Coffee Company made at this location. We pulled out our laptops and spent an enjoyable afternoon writing. Snow flurries erupted outside the window, but we were warm and dry in the unique coffee house with antique decorations. Rooster says this place rates in his top ten favorite places we’ve been to write. I agree.

We met some interesting people, had some warm conversation, and enjoyed the atmosphere of the shop for three hours. We’ll be sure to come back to the Black Owl the next time we visit Kalamazoo. This was one of our favorite places while exploring Zoo City

A time for rest

We ended a great day of exploring Zoo City with a period of rest at the motel. We discovered Zoo City is an interesting destination to visit. It is a college town. Western Michigan University is a big part of the culture in this area. Rooster and I have discovered in our travels, communities with a university tend to be filled with high energy and artistic creativity.

Evidence of the community creative spirit displayed on the murals we drove past as we navigated the streets of Zoo City put a smile on our faces. Even with the nasty weather, we didn’t lack thought-provoking things to discover. Indeed, after a short rest, we were ready for the last leg of our Kalamazoo adventure.

Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh.  To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.

Be sure to follow Molly on Twitter!


Published by henhouselady

I am the author of Saving the Hen House. I didn't know when I started it would turn into a series. I love to ride motorcycles, the blues, my family, and going on adventures. This old hen rocks.

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