Food & Drink

The 9 Most Beautiful Bars in Detroit

Published On 11/03/2015 Published On 11/03/2015
COURTESY OF LONDON CHOP HOUSE

Sure, you can get a good drink in any of Detroit's hard-scrabble, chicken wire-bedecked drinking establishments, but every once in awhile, wouldn’t it be nice to do your drinking beneath a gracefully arched mosaic ceiling, or a stained-glass window? Well, you totally can 'cause those are just two of the places on our list of The D’s most beautiful bars.

London Chop House

Downtown

Originally opened in 1938, the London Chop House retains much of its early 20th century panache and flair thanks in large part to nearly $2 million in renovations between 2010 and 2012 after the restaurant had been shuttered for nearly 20 years. Noticing a theme here? Detroit’s comeback kid mentality is largely based on reinvigorating its food and drink scene with nods and homages to an earlier era.

Courtesy of Kyle Mattson

Cliff Bell’s

Foxtown

One of Detroit’s classiest music venues -- that's also known for its cocktails and elegant aliments -- Cliff Bell's holds much of its charm due to the sheer antiquity of the space; originally opened in 1935, the jazz hall was completely restored 70 years later (which includes a couple decades of sitting dormant) to maintain and update its vintage chic.

Courtesy of Selden Standard

Selden Standard

Midtown

There are places that rely on flash in order to get attention -- and then there are the places that let the product speak for itself. That is the Selden Standard, a bar that is equal parts minimal and graceful, sophisticated and modern.

Flickr/Thomas Alan

Rowland Café

Downtown

The Guardian Building boasts arguably Detroit’s most beautiful commercial interior: it’s the kind of place you just wish you had a reason to hang out in and not be harassed for loitering. Fortunately, there is one excuse and it comes in the form of an espresso bar. Yup! Make sure this is a stop either before or during one of those crazy People Mover pub crawls the kids like to take these days.

Courtesy of Sal Rodriguez

Sugar House

Corktown

We’re not sure what makes this bar more beautiful -- the exposed brick, chandeliers and taxidermy, or the impressive collection of booze from all corners of the globe. It certainly is a sight to behold, hand-in-hand with that fancy Sazerac-type thing you’ve got there. 

St. CeCe’s

Corktown

With degrees of warmth dropping noticeably and the night overtaking the day, the fact that St. CeCe’s has a real, live, no-bullshit fireplace to cuddle up next to makes it beautiful enough for us, not to mention the woodwork, stone, and stained glass, which were brought in from Ireland to give this pub a homey and authentic ambiance.

Courtesy of 2 James Spirits

Two James Spirits

Corktown

Whiskey barrels and the work of local artists line the walls of Two James’ tasting room where you can saddle up to the sizable, spool-shaped bar and ask the bartender to pour you a flight of the goods made on-site in what was the first licensed distillery to open within city limits since before Prohibition.

Courtesy of Great Lakes Coffee

Great Lakes Coffee

Midtown

It’s no secret that we love exposed brick in Detroit almost as much as we love booze, so with this insider knowledge, Great Lakes Coffee put it all together with artisan beers, cocktails, a rotating wine list, and of course, some very effective caffeinated gold. If you like all of the above, AND appreciate a solid man bun, this place has all the beauty you can handle.

Townhouse Detroit

Downtown

We’ve already called this place the most Las Vegas bar in Detroit, and just in case you didn’t know, Las Vegas is considered to be pretty good looking, thus, this lounge is a welcome, upbeat, and airy accessory to this old Rust Belt dame.

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Megan Frye is freelance writer who is just happy to do her drinking on the tailgate of some old Detroit steel as she is in a beautiful bar. Follow her on Twitter @fryechild.

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1. Cliff Bell's 2030 Park Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

Hands-down Detroit's finest cabaret club, Cliff Bell's is a cocktail bar, restaurant, and entertainment destination with dramatic Art Deco décor that includes a curved wood ceiling, mahogany leather banquettes, and a vintage Steinway grand piano. Stop by to wash down great jazz and burlesque with quality martinis and other beverages mixed by well dressed and professional bartenders.

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2. London Chop House 155 W. Congress, Detroit, MI 48226

Returning to its original location in the basement of the Murphy-Telegraph Building after a 20yr absence, London actually IS your grandfather's chop house (it first opened in 1938 as a power dining staple), so pay homage at the restored oak bar or polished classic red leather banquettes to devour meat and live jazz. Then, step into one of two working OG phone booths, and excitedly text everyone that you’re in a working phone booth. Seriously, the London Chop House is as old school as it gets, a throwback to a former era rich with sumptuous design and cuisine.

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3. Selden Standard 3921 Second Ave, Detroit, MI 48201 (Midtown)

Made moody and proper with charcoal black tables and seats, and a white-tiled full-service bar that intimidates with its wide liquor selection, Selden Standard marries the upscale with fresh, rustic fare usually seen in more whimsical settings. The menu is brought to you with the help of partnerships with michigan farms, and features simply dressed courses like charred octopus, chicken and ricotta campanelle, and half grilled chicken.

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4. Rowland Cafe 500 Griswold St, Detroit, MI 48226

This has to be one of Detroit's most beautiful bars.

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5. Sugar House 2130 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48026 (Corktown)

One of Detroit's leading mixology bars, this hip Corktown spot uses eclectic spirits and mixers to make inventive and delicious drinks. Bartenders clad in tiki shirts or vests shake and stir creative concoctions with off-the-beaten-path liquors -- cacaçha, mezcal, absinthe, madiera, and chartreuse, to name a few -- and homemade infusions and syrups. While the specialty menu rotates seasonally, the staff's encyclopedic knowledge of classics from Aperol Spritzes to Zombies ensures a constant flock of regulars, aided by the antique hunting lodge décor (taxidermy animals mounted throughout, vintage bar stools, original brick facade from 1888) and dim, sultry ambience.

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6. St. CeCe's 1426 Bagley St, Detroit, MI 48216 (Corktown)

This casual gastropub serves up delicious burgers, a make-your-own noodle bowl, and plenty of local craft beers and spirits. Though anything but austere, the woodwork, stone, and stained glass that deck out this pub make for a composed ambiance, a casualness continued in the patio in the summer and in the colder months, by the live fireplace placed smack-dab in the middle of the dining room for all to enjoy.

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7. Two James 2445 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48216 (Corktown)

This Corktown distillery -- the city's first -- churns out gin, vodka, and whiskey, and comes with a bar serving cocktails infused with the liquors. It's located in a former taxi garage, a grungy element which it preserves through exposed steel and a concrete counter curved into an exaggerated horseshoe shape. The whole setup is airy, open and conducive to socializing, though you're also welcome to shop their retail selection for whiskey to go.

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8. Great Lakes Coffee 3965 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201 (Midtown)

Great Lakes has a bit of everything: great coffee, tasty small plates, and rotating wines and cocktails. They focus on small scale productions and locally-sourced ingredients, with awesome offerings like cold-brewed coffee ON TAP and house-made syrups and infusions for their cocktails. The Midtown coffee shop has become a gathering place with the warm atmosphere featuring reclaimed wood and smart design elements, it's easy to see why.

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9. Townhouse Detroit 500 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

Two bars, a wraparound patio, and just over 300 seats set the scene at Townhouse, a bustling pub restaurant in downtown Detroit. It has a sister location in Birmingham, but the only the thing the two have in common is the much-lauded Townhouse Burger: a 10oz blend of dry-aged steak served on a buttered brioche roll and topped with bourbon-glazed onions and aged white cheddar. Though the all-American burger is what's most cited here, the menu boasts an extensive selection of dumplings, sushi, and appetizers served on a strolling dim sum cart.

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