Food & Drink

Shhhh! These Are the Best Hidden Bars in Detroit

Published On 09/17/2015 Published On 09/17/2015
The Keep
The Whitney Restaurant
La Dolce Vita
Buddy's Pizza
Sky Deck
Jon-Erik Kellso/Tom's Tavern
Flickr/Liza Lagman Sperl
Cafe 78
The Whiskey Parlour
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1. The Keep 140 Cadillac Square, Detroit, MI 48226

This spot’s laid-back speakeasy vibe is served with crafty mixed beverages and plenty of dudes with well-groomed facial hair from the hip barbershop above. And though the bar is subterranean, it's got an outdoor patio where you can relax in the summer months with one of their draft cocktails or beers in hand.

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2. The Leland Hotel Bar 400 Bagley Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

If you are looking for a cheap place to stay long term that has good views of Downtown, then the old Leland Hotel is for you as long as you don’t mind the cockroaches and the water pressure. We are more interested in the other things the Leland can offer us … like alcohol and a solid burger. Whether you head to the reception desk in the glamorous, refurbished 1920s-era lobby for a laid back drink (yes, the desk is a bar), or head to the old ball room to dance at City Club, Leland is notorious for the a good time and a cheap drink. On the street level is also a 1950s-style American diner called Lucy & Ethel’s good for greasy comfort food.

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3. Ghost Bar 4421 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201

Built in 1894, this rose marble mansion is not only a beautiful, historical landmark, but also a fine dining restaurant (think afternoon tea and beef wellington) that houses the Ghostbar, an upscale lounge on the third floor of David Whitney Jr.’s Gilded Age home. Getting it’s name from alleged sightings of Whitney’s deceased widow, Sarah, Ghostbar serves up deadly cocktails like The Witching Hour (a tart citrus drink rimmed with sugar) and the Boulevardier (the Detroit answer to a Manhattan), and offers a variety of quality beers on tap as well as a stunning wine menu. Every weekday evening is happy hour which features an unbelievable discount on the admittedly pricey menu, live piano music, and occasional oyster specials.

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4. Abick's 3500 Gilbert St, Detroit, MI 48210

The longtime owner of Abick’s passed away in 2014, after a long stint living above the bar her parents opened in 1919, but the place still has the near-century-old familial charm it always has: original tin ceilings, a old-time brass cashier, walls filled with old family photos. A cigar lounge, all smoke and scotch, lives in the back of the dive, for puffing pleasure. You can find a reliable platoon of regulars shooting pool under the bar’s green-tinted lamps, but that doesn’t mean the atmosphere is exclusive to the old guard: the wave of young people moving into the neighborhood have adopted this anachronistic standby as their new favorite, too.

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5. La Dolce Vita 17546 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48203

A double-threat, La Dolce Vita is equally capable of satisfying you with bottomless mimosas and shrimp benedicts in the early hours or wowing your date with lobster-stuffed ravioli and house-made gnocchi in the evening. When the weather allows, don't settle for anything less than a spot on the patio as you fatten up to jazz music.

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6. The Raven Lounge 5145 Chene St, Detroit, MI 48211

Potentially the oldest continuously operating blues bar in the state, The Raven Lounge is a bit out of the way, but totally worth the trip for some authentic blues and soul food.

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7. Buddy's Pizza 17125 Conant St, Detroit, MI 48212

Lauded as one of the best pizza joints (and now, chain) in the nation, Buddy's Pizza is known for its iconic Detroit-style pies baked in cast iron pans. The celebrated joint has been perfecting its pizzas, salads, and soups since 1946, and now serves them alongside a beer and wine, and dessert menu. To help you make room for additional slices, the restaurant even offers a bocce court right next door.

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8. La Casa De La Habana 3780 Jackson Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Located upstairs "La Casa Cigar Bar," this private club will serve you a martini, scotch, or other cocktail to the sounds of live music.

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9. Detroit Opera House Sky Deck 1526 Broadway St, Detroit, MI 48226

The Sky Deck offers possibly the best view of the city, in addition to a full beer, liquor, and wine bar. Ballpark fair food options are also available.

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10. Atwater Block Brewery 237 Joseph Campau St, Detroit, MI 48207

Located in Detroit’s historic Rivertown district, this brewery offers a rotating selection of craft beers. At first glance, it might appear as a break spot for a brewmaster, but upon further inspection, it's one of the only places in town to drink surrounded by huge vats of cerveza.

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11. Tom's Tavern 10093 W 7 Mile Rd, Detroit, MI 48221

Ramshackle does not been to describe dive bar Tom’s Tavern, open since the 1920s: operating hours fluctuate, the floor boards bend, the bar is crooked, much like the standing structure itself. Yet, still the people come, drawn by cheap pints (don’t expect anything craft) in a homey space filled with mismatched chairs and vintage photos. Jukebox tunes play on nights when there’s nobody banging on the piano in the corner of the bar. Tom’s doesn’t have a food license, but take comfort in the fact that a pot of free chili just may be on offer. If setbacks over the years like a building fire and a truck plowing straight into this saloon didn’t stop it, what can?

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12. Detroit Athletic Club 241 Madison St, Detroit, MI 48226

One of the most beautiful and prime-located buildings in Detroit is also a private social club with everything from ballrooms and pools, to full-service restaurants, and of course, multiple bars.

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13. Kresge Court 5200 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202 (Midtown)

Located in the Detroit Institute of Arts, Kresge Court offers gourmet lunch on a beautiful patio.

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14. Café 78 4454 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201 (Midtown)

From the folks behind The Sugar House and Wright & Co., Café 78, is a breakfast/lunch spot and bar located inside the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. "Dinner" is more of the light snacking variety, offering the same soups, salads, and sandwiches served at lunch (unless they happen to be hosting a private dinner party... in which case, game on). Otherwise, you can get Zingerman's pastries and Anthology coffees for breakfast, as well as beer, wine, and Sugar House-sanctioned craft cocktails throughout the day.

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15. The Whisky Parlor 608 Woodward Ave , Detroit, MI 48226

Located above the more baroque Grand Trunk Club, the Whisky Parlor is finished in cozier dimensions, with a carpeted floor and tableclothed tables that illuminate under candle lights. Guests here can choose from over 100 whiskeys, while sinking into a relaxed night backdropped by live jazz music.