Story by Michelle Fusco | Photos by Nancy Whiskey, Nemo's, PJ's Lager House, Honest John's; Thomas Magee's Sporting House Whiskey Bar by Michelle and Chris Gerard
Detroit is in the middle of a restaurant and bar renaissance, so there is no shortage of chic cocktail bars, craft breweries, wine tasting rooms and distilleries.
Check out our drinking itinerary if that’s more your style. But if you’re more of a Bud Light, greasy fries, dim lights, friendly regulars kind of person, then check out these iconic Detroit dive bars.
Corktown Dive Bars
Detroit’s Corktown, named for early Irish immigrants to the area, is the city’s oldest neighborhood, and fittingly offers a healthy assortment of “shot and a beer” establishments that qualify as dive bars in the most affectionate sense of the words.
Nancy Whiskey holds one of the oldest liquor licenses in the city (113 years!) and is famous for its Friday night fish fry.
Nemo’s is big on sports and offers a shuttle (an old, painted school bus, that is) to games and other major downtown events. Their menu is simple –mostly just burgers and fries. But they are oh-so-tasty.
Choose PJs Lager House for live ‘n’ local music and a Cajun-inspired menu sprinkled with some unexpected vegetarian options.
Nemo's in Corktown
Downtown Detroit Bars
Downtown has seen a lot of growth in the craft cocktail scene, but there are still some great dive bars to stop by before a game or for after work happy hour.
Anchor Baris family-owned and makes the dive list for its storied past (someone did write a book about that!), requisite pool table and dart board, internet juke box and Friday night back-room karaoke. The bar was recently sold to a new owner, but they promise to still keep the soul of the place.
For a sporty spot, check out Coaches Corner, near Comerica Park and Ford Field. Besides pool and darts, this place has a dance floor, photo booth, arcade games and an outdoor patio.
Tommy's has a long Detroit history to learn if you can spare 25 minutes. The building itself was built in 1840 and has an underground tunnel entrance that was used to smuggle in liquor from the Detroit River during prohibition. There is also rumors that is was used as part of the Underground Railroad. On top of all of that, they serve solid beers and burgers.
Eastern Market Dive Bars
Eastern Market has seen some growth in new restaurants and bars, but check out these old standbys.
Vivio’s welcomes everyone in historic Eastern Market, the place to go for Bloody Marys.
Thomas Magee's Sporting House Whiskey Bar might not even be considered a dive bar. But this Eastern Market staple is always filled with fútbol-loving regulars. No food is served here, but you can order delivery to the bar from neighboring Stache International or Supino's Pizzeria.
Thomas Magee's Sporting House Whiskey Bar
Midtown Detroit Dive Bars
The Old Miamistarted as a hangout for Vietnam War vets. Now it is filled with cozy couches, a backyard fire pit and live music.
And we can't forget about Honest? John's. Although the menu has definitely ramped up over the years, come here for the locals, the neon lights, and classic brews and spirits.
Dimly lit? You bet. Sticky? Maybe. But Detroit’s dive bars are always easy-on-the-wallet, root-for-the-home team and come-as-you-are. Count me in!