When I was a kid I remember being stuck at my dad’s house for a weekend and there was a made for TV movie about the life of Isiah Thomas that we watched. This was right before the Pistons won the NBA Championship and maybe was the reason I started getting into basketball. We recently went to Detroit to let our friends just across the border know about Toronto Cocktail Conference and while there, popped into some of the most fun, interesting and friendly bars we’ve been to in a while. Like, super friendly. Like “Do I know this person? Am I hugging a stranger now? Is this a thing in Detroit?” amounts of friendliness. Here are a handful of bars we checked out while in The Motor City.
The Old Miami (3930 Cass Ave)
We showed up about 15 minutes before this bar closed on a Monday night. Yeah, those guys. That said the staff was SO FRIENDLY that they were totally accommodating while we sat in this atmosphere ridden dive bar and drank bottles of Molson Canadian (cuz we’re Canadian, get it?) while they wiped tables and did their cashout. If you are looking for an authentic dive bar experience, The Old Miami is there for you.
Grey Ghost (47 Watson Street)
Grey Ghost is a pretty big space that looks like it used to house a factory of some kind. They have kept the seemingly forever trendy industrial aesthetic and added some touches of modern art throughout. The service here was great (we went here to eat) and the bar is immense. There is a sea of cheater bottles at each cocktail station and the spirits selection is huge. I had a strawberry Pisco drink because strawberries at this time of year are perfect, and so was the drink.
The Peterboro (420 Peterboro Street)
The Peterboro is in Detroit’s Chinatown area. They play with Asian ingredients both on the food menu and the cocktail list. Roger, the bartender there has created a list that ranges from slightly spicy versions of classics, to buckets of Painkillers. (Note: if you are not drinking alone, you should probably just get the bucket-size of a drink). The Peterboro sticks out not just because of their creative take on Asian cuisine/cocktails but because they are big enough that they can accomodate families with kids and it’s not a big deal. All in all, a great spot.
Wright and Co (1500 Woodward Ave, 2nd Floor)
To get to this bar you need go through an alley entrance and up 3 flights of stairs. In 10 years of finding hidden entrances and doorways in alleys, I have never seen a “hidden” bar this big. The room that houses Wright and Co is HUGE. Also a restaurant, the bar here is one of the longest bars I’ve ever seen and the list is thoughtful in it’s inclusiveness. This is a place for #fancydranks.
Candy Bar (1509 Broadway Street)
The worst part about Candy Bar is that you never want to leave. This adorable pink, cushy room is the perfect place to let hours drift away as you sip on a Martini and watch the reflections from the giant (like, REAL big) disco ball dance on the walls. I feel like if you are going on a date in Detroit and you don’t get here, you fucked up.
The Standby (225 Gratiot Ave)
The Standby has one of the most aggressive cocktail lists I have ever seen. The menu is split into Spirit types and the cocktails range from low abv fruity deliciousness to stirred bad ass cocktails that would make a cowboy want to slow down. I had a drink here called La Joya that mixes Mezcal, Green Chartreuse, PX Sherry and Grapefruit bitters. It was expertly made and easy to drink, despite being a drink for serious drinkers only. After we left, we found out that there was a bar at the end of the alley that only serves frozen drinks. Besides all the great bars listed here, that slushy bar will be the reason I go back to Detroit.
The Keep (140 Cadillac Sq)
This is a basement where you will find every bartender and server in Detroit that has just finished a shift. It has brick walls and concrete floors and almost no decoration and it’s the perfect spot to end the night with a beer and a shot.
Seven is a lot of bars to go to in one Bar Hop, so we recommend spending a few days in Detroit. There are a few more we want to put on the list, like The Whiskey Parlor and Grand Trunk (which is inside an old train ticketing station!!!) and Sugar House and Bad Luck, but being hungover while travelling is such waste of a travel day, right?
When I got home to Toronto from this trip, I got a Grant Hill pistons jersey on Ebay, because the Thomas and Dumars ones were too pricey.
Note: As with all Bar Hops, we are not encouraging getting inebriated. This is a list of great cocktail bars that we suggest visiting while in Detroit. We want you to have fun and play safe. Check out How to Do a Good Bar Hop for some hot tips.