As the story goes, Michigan was once inhabited by its native people until the French basically came in and kicked them out so they could do their French thing and make fancy beaver skin coats. After all that French beaver silliness came to an end, that’s when things really got down to business with railroads, manufacturing, mining, and eating so many coneys, laying the foundation for the Michigan we know and love today. We’d like to give a shout out to the state’s oldest restaurants which have mostly run continuously for 90 years or more. We are cutting a couple of these places slack for having endured a fire or two over the years, because that kind of thing used to happen. A lot.
What you’re getting: Really good cheeseburgers to enjoy while watching old bikers dancing on a stripper pole
What once was a popular stop for stagecoaches and hardworking pioneers is now a blue-collar haven for daily loaders and weekend warriors alike, and a popular stop on motorcycle trips. The Inn retains its dusty, wild Midwest character and seems to withhold the stomping, rambunctious crowd it gets every Friday night.
What you’re getting: Award-winning Hungarian goulash and classic Michigan fare such as lake fish in a beautifully renovated stagecoach stop.
Renovations began in 2012 on this historic restaurant after its previous owners could no longer afford to keep up with the repairs that would be required to keep the more than 160-year-old building up to code. It ended up becoming a project for the entire town (of which there are about 25 people) to help the inn keep its vintage aesthetic.
What you’re getting: Burritos, cod, smelt, perch, and steak!
A local’s hangout that serves shots of lord knows what kind of liquor with bacon garnish, it’s a collection of oddities (which includes the locals) with bar grub that goes the extra mile all while you relax under the watchful eye of taxidermied buffalo and moose. Charming, for sure.
What you’re getting: Huge burritos in a kitschy, haunted old dive bar
Nick Fink’s is named after its benefactor, a Prussian immigrant, and the space has over the years held its own as a barber shop, hotel, post office, and reportedly even a brothel. Today it’s a Grand Rapids bar that attracts locals for the chill vibe and cheap food, and travelers looking to take in a bit of GR history.
What you’re getting: Typical bar fare (we love typical bar fare!) with a vast selection of Michigan draft beers
Originally a flour and feed store opened circa 1870, the bar was officially christened (how do you christen a bar? We picture splashing whiskey every where) in 1898 and called “The Bismark.” It’s changed hands over the years but retains its turn-of-the-century farm vibe with live music -- typically of the folk variety -- and a very no frills aesthetic.
What you’re getting: The best garlic bread known to man.
Located in Detroit’s Eastern Market, the Roma began its life as a boarding house for travelers and farmers rolling through one of the Midwest’s hottest spots -- actually one of the hottest spots in the entire country. The patron of the boarding house was an Italian woman known for her home-cooking - and at the urging of her many fans - she opened her doors to diners in 1890. The Roma was sold in 1918 and remains in the family of the second owner.
What you’re getting: Seriously delicious dry-aged prime rib
More than 25 trains passed through Holly each day in the later part of the 19th century, bringing wealthy travelers and ramshackle vagabonds by the boxcar-full and dropping them in the middle of farm country needing a place to stay. It’s been a locale in Prohibition lore, with pro-Temperance movement leader Carrie Nation landing in jail in 1908 after she disturbed the peace in the bar. The hotel has burned to the ground not once, but TWICE, the second time being 55 years to the day and exact hour that it went up the first time.
What you’re getting: The best damn weekly fish fry in the city
Nancy’s is a hidden gem in the Motor City, nearly unchanged by the last century-plus and staying true to its neighborhood pub feel despite the newfound investment interest in Corktown. It’s a tiny, bluesy watering hole that always manages to fit more than its fair share of good-timing Detroiters into its humble walls.
What you’re getting: Sausage up the wazoo, and probably the city’s best selection of beer in a classic old Detroit building
Detroit was attracting immigrants by the boatload in the early 20th century, and the German couple who started serving beer and Old World-style cooking to their hard-working countrymen in this downtown neighborhood hit it gold. Over the years, new faces have come and gone, but what remains is this piece of gritty architecture, its German heritage, and its refuge vibe.
What you’re getting: Cedar Planked Trout -- go big or go home
Set in one of the Upper Peninsula’s loveliest hamlets, stepping into this restaurant legitimately feels like walking out of a time machine. The Germans did it once again - bringing beer and hearty food to a region as remote and frigid as it is beautiful. The Michigan House started as a hotel and saloon, and hasn’t changed much in appearance since it opened more than 110 years ago.
What you’re getting: Kielbasa that will make you wet your pants
This Poletown institution has been serving homemade Polish food to its countrymen for more than a century, and has stayed close to its roots, only changing hands through family and friends a few times. The Polish Yacht Club’s members are still hoping City Council will agree to its long-held request that a canal be dug from its very much landlocked home on Joseph Campau down to the Detroit River, but until that happens, you’ll find them happily drinking Zywiec without an empty stomach in sight.
What you’re getting: A moist coney dog nestled in a starchy bun, and topped with chili and onions.
The battle between Lafayette and American is like the Cain and Abel of the processed meat world. Legend has it, two Greek immigrant brothers opened the first Coney-style restaurant in Detroit and due to a business disagreement, decided to part ways and continued their businesses competing side by side. Today American and Lafayette sit side by side and each has its own dedicated following.
What you’re getting: See above.
What you’re getting: A completely gratuitous and delicious pile of meat and toppings called the Garbage Burger
Willed into existence by Polish immigrants, this place has the feel of a log cabin in the middle of Kalamazoo’s downtown. With plenty of Michigan beers to choose from, Louie’s has maintained its small-town charm for nearly a century and has a steady stream of loyal locals coming through the door.
What you’re getting: A Reuben that’s actually worth the social media fan fare
This chill and off the beaten path bar is a neighborhood hangout and a beloved gathering spot for sports fans to catch a shuttle to the game. Basically, it’s served its purposed over the years as a home away from home and a comfortable we’re all family here vibe. We can’t be certain how it looked in its earlier days, but it gives the vibe that not much has changed -- probably because they got it right directly off the bat.
What you’re getting: Barbecue meatballs that will make your stomach forgive you for all the Coneys you’ve eaten
Schuler’s began as a hotel with a small dining room owned by the town’s deputy sheriff, and has been passed down three subsequent generations landing it on the list of Michigan Historic Landmarks. It’s accessible fine dining without much need for drastic renovation to the menu over the years.
What you’re getting: An unchanged chili sauce and a back-in-time vibe
Back when Highland Park was a leafy town brimming with work, a couple of Greek immigrants opened this diner and, from its modest size and family-dinner vibe to its chili sauce, very little has changed since. Today, it’s a popular spot for breakfast and responsible for the general alimentation of the Highland Park Police Department.
What you’re getting: A Coney dog -- what else?!
Duly’s is a Southwest Detroit classic, a long, narrow bar to eat at and not much else going on besides the chatter of locals and the popping sounds of a busy frier providing coneys late into the night (it’s open 24 hours).
What you’re getting: The Polish combination platter: kielbasa, cabbage rolls and pierogi. You can’t go wrong with the Great Lakes Whitefish either.
Nestled along an absolutely stunning piece of Lake Michigan shoreline, this restaurant was built by its original owner, a retired Polish autoworker who fell in love with the forests and quiet of Northern Michigan and its Ottawa and Chippewa cultures. The building is pieced together, and includes a curio shop, living quarters, tavern, balcony, dining room, and four great stone fireplaces.
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Megan Frye is a Detroit-based writer who on certain days feels like the stripper pole of the New Hudson Inn probably feels every day -- winded and in need of a good exfoliant. Grind on her in Twitterland at @fryechild -- but please, no Poison.
1. New Hudson Inn56870 Grand River Ave, New Hudson
2. White Horse Inn1 E High St, Metamora
3. Sleder's717 Randolph St, Traverse City
4. Nick Fink's Bar3965 West River Dr NE, Comstock Park
5. Old Town Tavern122 W Liberty St, Ann Arbor
6. Roma Cafe3401 Riopelle St, Detroit
7. Historic Holly Hotel Restaurant110 Battle Aly, Holly
8. Nancy Whiskey2644 Harrison St, Detroit
9. Jacoby's German Biergarten624 Brush St, Detroit
10. Michigan House Cafe And Red Jacket Brewing Co300 6th St, Calumet
11. Polish Yacht Club5249 Joseph Campau St, Detroit
12. Lafayette Coney Island118 W Lafayette Blvd, Detroit
13. American Coney Island114 W Lafayette Blvd, Detroit
14. Louie's Trophy House Grill440 E North St, Kalamazoo
15. Andrew's on the Corner201 Joseph Campau St, Detroit
16. Schuler's Restaurant & Pub115 S Eagle St, Marshall
17. Red Hots Coney Island12 Victor St, Highland Park
18. Duly's Place5458 W Vernor Hwy, Detroit
19. Legs Inn6245 N. Lake Shore Dr., Cross Village
This old timey Tavern in picturesque New Hudson features brews a plenty, a build your own burger bar, and lots of nightly live music. Opened in 1839, the Inn's digs are a bit old fashioned, but that shouldn't stop you from kicking back and having a good time here.
This former stagecoach stop turned brick and mortar restaurant and tavern is an Eastern Michigan institution. Operating since the 1850s', this vintage era hangout now serves updated, modernized takes on traditional pub fare (think roasted brussels with parmesan, housemade spinach and artichoke dip, and BBQ pulled pork sandwiches) alongside local and imported craft beer.
This Traverse City mainstay got its start back in 1882, and is still alive and kicking today. Beyond its history, the popular neighborhood haunt is beloved for its quality pub fare, with bites ranging from jalapeño poppers to baked brie and larger entrées like burgers, burritos, and grilled regional seafood. The historic saloon is great for people watching, with a crowd of regulars equally as quirky as the drink offerings (whiskey shot with a bacon chaser, anyone?) and décor -- don't be alarmed by the array of taxidermy moose and buffalo mounted throughout.
Originally established in 1888, Nick Fink's outside Grand Rapids was recently renovated, but it's old school charm (and haunted reputation) still remain. Apparently, the ghost of old Nick Fink himself (a Prussian immigrant who oversaw the first incarnation of the site: he managed it as a bar, hotel, post office, and brothel) presides over the premises. Raise a glass to the old Finkster while you chow down on burritos and beer in his namesake space.
West Liberty's Old Town Tavern lives in a space that's been a saloon since 1898 (known back in the day as The Bismark), and has been quenching U of M student cravings for beer under this name for over 40 years. The atmosphere is casual and familiar in the wood- and brick-filled space, which is part of the reason Old Town remains one of the "townie" bars that refuses to vanish. It feels like an old-school hangout: back-slaps are given over local and imported craft beers under the stained glass lamps that hang from the space's antique tin ceilings. The decor hasn't changed since anyone can remember (yes, that painting of a nude lady still hangs), and the burger is still arguably the best in town.
Opened in 1890, Roma Café is Detroit's oldest restaurant. The classic late-19th-century immigrant Italian eatery is every inch a taste of Detroit's history; it was even a favored haunt of Detroit's notorious Purple Gang, and for good reason: chicken parmesan served with ample doses of gooey cheese, pasta in perfectly bright tomato sauce, and veal marsalas all comfort the heart while exciting the taste buds. And because this is an old-school joint, you can rest assured your Manhattans and Old Fashioneds will be prepared in authentic, accurate fashion.
Is it haunted? You'll have to plan a visit to the Historic Holly Hotel and see for yourself. This Victorian era lodging was recently named the most haunted building in Michigan (it may, in fact, be the most haunted building in America!), but all ghosts aside, it is a lovely place to stop in for dinner, an afternoon tea, or an evening cocktail.
Established in 1902, Corktown’s Nancy Whiskey holds one of the oldest liquor licenses in Detroit. Besides pour whiskey, the Irish pub, inhabiting the ground floor of an old corner building, does other thing right: fry seafood. Fish ’n’ chips, battered cod and seafood tacos are all the rage at a weekly fry. Live music on the weekends and television sets reliably tuned to Lions, Tigers and Wings games keeps the ‘Cheers’ atmosphere alive.
It was just after the turn of the century when German immigrant Albert Jacoby opened Jacoby’s German Biergarten in 1904, and the sudsy legacy continues on Brush Street today. The Bricktown bar flags down drinkers with an old-time sign hanging on its brick facade, heralding the sizable selection of some 100 bottled and draft beers on offer. A classic tavern-style dining room decked out in dark woods makes a cozy station for German reliables like meatballs, sausage soup and wiener schnitzel. Modern ways make themselves heard in the historic haunt via live music from local bands in the upstairs lounge.
Since 1983, the Michigan House Hotel has been a major cornerstone of Calumet, MI. The space started as a popular hotel; Bosch Brewing Company then bought the premises in 1905 and razed the original structure. You can still spend the night here in one of the restored turn of the century rooms, but the space operates primarily as a cafe and brewpub. The menu is full of tasty, traditional dishes like rib-eye steak, pub fish & chips, and the house famous apple pie.
This longstanding cafe, owned and operated with the Detroit landmark venue the Polish Yacht Club, serves up traditional, Eastern European bar fare. Nibble on kielbasa and pierogis inside the homey, nautical setting, which largely hasn't changed since its opening in 1909. Open weekdays only, slide into a wooden booth and chat with the locals who have been patronizing this establishment from the get go.
While no one knows for sure where the Detroit coney dog originated, what's clear is that Lafayette is one of two establishments serving the premier version. Grab your own plate with a side of chili cheese fries, and ignore the sassy cooks and the dinginess of the space. You're here for the coney.
Located besides archrival Lafayette Coney Island, American Coney Island has been serving paper platefuls of the crispy fries-and-chili covered hot dog meal since 1917. The spot continues to be family-owned and -operated, and the only way you can get your hands on their secret Detroit chili sauce is by ordering your own dog, or a Coney Kit, which comes complete with 12 Dearborn Sausage brand special recipe hot dogs, buns, a sweet onion, American's famous family-owned Detroit chili sauce, instructions, and a hat.
This lodge and tavern has been a hometown favorite since its inception. Originally founded in 1918 as the town restaurant/soup kitchen, the bar was rebuilt and renovated in 2007 by a longtime resident and fan of the bar. Now, the walls are covered to the ceilings with taxidermy giving it a warm, woodsy vibe that resonates with hipster Kalamazoo College kids and dyed in the wool townies alike.
Rivertown’s Andrew’s on the Corner has survived Prohibition and a wave of demolitions that hit the town to make the way for casinos (a plan that ultimately fell through). That’s reason enough to drink, which is what the community pub was built for. Before you can finish your cold, cheap pint, you’ll realize that this is a hockey fan’s bar: the memorabilia and photos displayed make that clear (go Wings). The kitchen slings wings, nachos, and greasy sandwiches from plenty of tables within view of the game on tv.
This historic former hotel, family-owned and operated in the small town of Marshall, MI, now does business as a neighborhood local pub and eatery. The menu takes traditional dishes from the original Schuler's Hotel menu and revamps them for 21st century tastebuds. To start, try the classic Swiss Onion soup made with local Dark Horse beer, gruyere and parmesan cheeses.
This Coney Island spot has some damn fine coney dogs featuring a special family recipe dating back to 1921, and if you come by the first Saturday of the month you'll hear some live bluegrass.
There are many places in Detroit to get a Coney Dog, like Lafayette and American but Duly's, found off of Vernor Highway in Mexicantown, deserves a place on the list of Detroit coney greatness. It has the advantage of not only being just as good as the rest, but it's also the cheapest.
Cozily nestled on Lake Michigan, Legs Inn offers a glimpse of regional history and delicious Polish comfort food. Opened in 1925 by a Polish immigrant named Stanley Smolak, the stone cabin thrives today as a seasonal dining destination with live music and community picnics. Locals and visitors alike trek here for the merry tavern (who can say no a shot of buffalo grass vodka?), homemade pierogies, and kielbasa.