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The Seven Best: Detroit bars

It's Friday, and everyone knows it's time to lift a glass in honor of the weekend (and the massively exciting University of Michigan/Michigan State University football game Saturday).

Join me on a tour of my favorite Detroit watering holes. This is part of a new Feature I'm calling The Seven Best…So feel free to tell me that I'm crazy because I forgot your favorite spot. I promise to go there and have at least one adult beverage in your honor if I can find a babysitter. Thanks to my friend, Mike Goode, for reminding me of these awesome places and many more.

1. Cadieux Café: 4300 Cadieux Road. I love this Belgium bar so much I had my rehearsal dinner here. It began as a Prohibition-era speakeasy and then transformed into the social club for the region's Belgian population. It still thrives as home to the best steamed mussels and feather-bowling lanes around. How does one feather bowl, you ask? Imaging throwing a wooden wheel of cheese down a dirt lane toward a feather stuck in said earth. (Check out the video of Anthony Bourdain of No Reservations hitting the lanes below.)

2. The Ivanhoe Café: 5249 Jos Campau. Stanislaus Grendinski founded this beloved bar in 1909. The working-class joint is also known as the Polish Yacht Club, a wink-wink name that the guys who hung out here used when they wanted to get out of the house. The bar and restaurant, which feels like the interior of my grandma's house, offers traditional Polish fare served family style so be prepared to share.

3. Dakota Inn Rathskeller: 17324 John R Street. The Dakota opened in 1933 and remains Detroit's only authentic German bar. It used to be a laundry, but now it looks like a little piece of Bavaria. The restaurant is full of antique beer steins, Fräuleins and schnitzel. The wait staff is all dressed in classic old-school clothing and they they rule over the regular oompah bands and polka contests. Oh, and did I mention that the bar celebrates Oktoberfest all month long?

4. Ol' Shillelagh: 349 Monroe Street. A classic Irish bar, its Web site has a ticker to monitor the time left until St. Patrick's Day. The bar opened in 1975 and has been packed ever since. The owners have to put up tents outside on the big day to accommodate everyone who wants to be there. I have so many memories (yet no memory) of great nights here, singing along to whatever singer might be on stage that night.

5. Foran's Grand Trunk Pub: 612 Woodward Avenue. The bar recently changed its name to better represent its history as the Grand Trunk Railroad's ticket station. The building, a Michigan historical landmark, is stunning with 25-foot ceilings, brick walls and brass chandeliers. And it is a great spot to enjoy the region's favorite Faygo pop. Back in the day, we would take a two-hour lunch and enjoy a pint and a bowl of shepherd's pie.

6. Cliff Bells: 2030 Park Avenue. Original owner Clifford Bell hated Prohibition, so he did everything in his power to bring drinks to Detroit. He opened his signature club in 1935 inside a building designed by master regional architect Albert Kahn. The bar went through a series of owners and names only to shut down in 1985. It reopened two decades later to reclaim its status as one of the most gorgeous interiors in the city.

7. Elwood Bar & Grill: 300 E Adams Avenue. This lovely little Art Deco diner has the perfect location – smack dab behind Comerica Park's left field (go Tigers!). The Elwood moved from its original location at Elizabeth Street and Woodward Avenue to make room for the new baseball stadium and enjoyed a complete renovation in 1997. Do me a favor and order some fries for me.

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  • 1


    It'll be sad to see Cadieux Cafe and Cliff Bells fall into the hands of German tourists.

  • 2

    You must go to Cafe D'Mongo's! Its on Griswold and Clifford, next to the downtown synagogue in downtown detroit just north of Capital Park.

    Its only open on fridays and saturday nights. Go on sloppy joes. The atmosphere is speakeasy style and the drinks are strong.

  • 3

    Not to be a bubble-burster, but Cafe D'Mongo's is no long open on Saturdays. Fridays is quite the hoot, but careful, folks might take your picture, too.

  • 4

    Well, at least the hipsters already ruined D'Mongo's, so no big loss if the Germans, journalists and tourists invade.

  • 5

    Be sure to check out The Moth StorySLAM storytelling competition at Cliff Bells on the first Thursday of every month. Last night was the first event and it was a huge success. The place was standing room only with a line down the block, so reserve a table and get there early. If you're not familiar with The Moth you can learn more at

  • 6

    Gah! You ARE crazy! You missed Motor City Brewery! You wouldn't even need to get a babysitter when the rooftop is open. They've got great homemade pizza that has the mother of all crusts (well ... until Supino came to town, but it's close!). AND just for the kiddos -- they have homemade sodas too. Just stay away from the wines or ciders, they are ... well, sometimes reminiscent of vinegar. But the beer! They just started selling their Cass Avenue community garden pumpkin ale! 9% ABV and not too over spiced. Hell, I'll buy this adult beverage for you and THEN you can toast to my honor. ;)

    All other bars mentioned get the thumbs up from me. The Dakota Inn is awesome, as is Cadieux (anyone who sells Westmalle at a bar gets major props from me). Jakoby's is also great when the tap lines are actually working and the taps listed are actually ON tap.

  • 7

    You've got to check out The Anchor Bar on Fort near 1st. Journalist's heaven... a dirty dive bar known for being a regular watering spot for Detroit's news hounds!

  • 8

    Probably never crossed my path, but perhaps my husband's... He's a shooter for WDIV and has spent a fair amount of time at the Anchor! I've only been there a few times, but I love it! We live in Lansing, otherwise we'd both be hanging out there more often!

  • 9

    How can you not include Nemo's in this list??? Since Detroit is classified as a "sports town" and finding salvation in our Detroit Tiger's disappearing run to a division championship, how can you not include one of the best sports bars in Detroit?

  • 10

    You will get arguments because Detroit has a lot of good bars but I am glad you included the Dakota Rathskeller, a jewel in the middle of Detroit's problems

  • 11


  • 12

    The Traffic Jam by the Opera House, great microbrews, decent food.

  • 13

    ". . . Back in the day, we would take a two-hour lunch . . ."

    Ah yes, when newsrooms were flush . . .

    . . . measured deadlines in hours before multi-platform convergence . . .

    . . . and we print journalists dreamed it'd never end.

    I raise a frosty mug to "back in the day" nostalgia.

  • 14

    i really like all the detroit bars

  • 15

    [...] since we all love Detroit bars, I want all my fellow NFL Lions fans to check out detroit.blogs.time and tell me what you think about[...]

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