You’ve heard the phrase “Detroit is gritty.” You’ve also probably heard “Detroit is strong, tenacious, all-enduring, etc.” And, while both of those descriptions of our fair city are entirely true – here’s another completely accurate statement: “Detroit is quirky.”
Yes, that’s right – Detroit is an oddball. From the arts and music scene, all the way to the culinary space, Detroit offers some extraordinarily cool places to eat and drink. These places – whether they’re a basement bar or a warehouse featuring a totally made-up (and now popular!) sport – will hardly ever be on a classic tourist destination list.
Ready to travel to cool places in Detroit off the beaten path? The stories and spaces that lie ahead will surprise you – but they are all classically, wacky Detroit.
“Secret” Hideaways in Detroit
Hidden in plain sight, right in the heart of the Cass Corridor, Jolly Old Timers (JOT) is an incredible basement bar situated in a historical Victorian-era home. For most of its life, JOT was a secret social club, functioning as a hangout for Detroit’s finest for more than 60 years. Now, anyone is welcome, after climbing up the front stairs, ringing the doorbell and being welcomed by a JOT member.
In the running for the oldest bar in Detroit, Abick’s has been serving up classic drinks to auto plant and third-shift workers for decades – hence, why they open bright and early at 9:00 a.m. Tucked into a residential space on the city’s Southwest side, Abick’s is a classic “won’t see it unless you know it’s there” Detroit spot.
Though not quite “secret” or hidden – The Keep functions as a classic speakeasy (with amazing craft cocktails) right in the heart of downtown. Don’t let its main floor space fool you – The Keep has a cool, cavernous lower level with a great “secret” vibe.
Detroit Stories that Surprise
Want to grab a drink with mobsters? You may be out of luck looking for the real thing – but you can still hear their stories. Andrew’s on the Corner has been serving drinks in the Rivertown neighborhood for 100 years, surviving the Prohibition era and allegedly serving as a hangout for Detroit’s infamous Purple Gang. Now, a favorite among Red Wings fans, Andrew’s is a great place to grab a beer before hitting the arena.
This is the closest to Germany you’ll get in Detroit. The eccentric and authentic German bar in Detroit was founded 1933 by Karl Kurz, a German autoworker. Kurz’s legacy lives on, as the Dakota Inn still hosts the best Oktoberfest festivities in the city.
The Whitney doesn’t try to hide its haunted past, especially when it comes to the famous third-floor Ghost Bar. An early 1900s lumber baron, David Whitney and his first wife are said to still settle their differences around the historic home – and you can grab a drink in the midst of it!
Activities to Awe
Feather bowling. It’s pretty straightforward – this sport, played at the Cafe, includes both feathers and “bowling.” Hosting leagues for decades, amateur players can rent “lanes” to play with friends – and even chow down on Cadieux’s famous mussels too.
Willis Show Bar
A newcomer to the Midtown area, Willis Show Bar offers live band entertainment and burlesque shows that can be reminiscent of 1920s pinups. Willis is perfect for the out-of-the-box evening on the town.
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Whether you’re seeking Detroit ghost stories or a cozy neighborhood hideaway, Detroit has something for you. As the city continues to evolve, these quirky institutions and spots remain as a reminder of Detroit’s enduring eccentricity.
Discover more great Detroit bars.
6Abick's Bar, Gilbert Street, Detroit, MI, USA313-894-9329