The Quirkiest (and Super Local) Detroit Dining and Drinking Spots

Modified: December 10, 2019 | Story by Chloe Seymour | Photos by Wright & Co., Dakota Inn Rathskeller

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:

  • Jolly Old Timers – 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.
  • Abick’s Bar – 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.
  • The Keep – 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.
The Keep cocktails

The Keep

Detroit Stories that Surprise:

  • Andrew’s on the Corner – 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.
  • Dakota Inn Rathskeller – 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 Ghost Bar – 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!
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Dakota Inn Rathskeller building

Dakota Inn Rathskeller

Activities to Awe:

  • Cadieux Cafe – 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.

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Mentioned Attractions And Venues

  1. 1
    Jolly Old Timers
    641 W. Forest Ave., Detroit, MI 48201
  2. 2
    The Keep
    140 Cadillac Square, Detroit, MI 48226
  3. 3
    Andrews on the Corner
    201 Joseph Campau St., Detroit, MI 48207
  4. 4
    Dakota Inn Rathskeller
    17324 John R St., Detroit, MI 48203
  5. 5
    The Whitney
    4421 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48201
  6. 6
    Abick's Bar, Gilbert Street, Detroit, MI, USA
  7. 7
    Cadieux Cafe
    Cadieux Cafe, Cadieux Road, Detroit, MI, USA
  8. 8
    Willis Show Bar
    Willis Show Bar, 3rd Avenue, Detroit, MI, USA