Things To Do Downtown Detroit – Bars, Restaurants & Breweries
Detroit is the butt of a lot of jokes and people that haven’t been there recently don’t understand the transformation that has been happening. Metro Detroit has always had a lot of great neighborhoods outside of the city like Birmingham, Royal Oak, Ferndale, Grosse Pointe, Ann Arbor, Novi etc. Downtown Detroit, on the other hand, has always been a little overlooked though. Hopefully not any longer though! There are tons of things to do downtown Detroit these days.
Three major casinos were added right around the time the Detroit Tigers built a new stadium in the heart of Detroit. The Lions moved their team downtown as well, right next door to the Tigers. Then finally the Red Wings and Pistons opened a new arena as well just a few years ago. Having all four sports teams within the city limits spurred other development as well. New condos were built, people moved back into the city and that brought new and trendy bars, restaurants and breweries. The cocktail scene in Detroit is grossly underrated and I wanted to highlight that. I will also throw in a fine dining option as well.
Things To Do Downtown Detroit – Our Bar Hopping Tour
My wife and I recently did a tour of all of these locations to grab some pictures so I will follow the route we took when writing this up. I will also throw in some other options that I love in each category and places that I want to check out in the future as well.
Best Dive Bars/Cheap Eats
We started off the downtown Detroit tour at one of the best deals in the D, Green Dot Stables. If you like sliders, cheap eats and cheap drinks then this is your place. Green Dot is located just outside the Corktown neighborhood (lots of cool bars and restaurants in Corktown) but Green Dot is kind of in a no man’s land. It is surrounded by industrial buildings, rather than other restaurants and bars, which makes it a little bit of a hidden gem. It is only a few miles from the heart of downtown Detroit but we started here since it was located just outside of the city center.
Green Dot Stables has a huge array of sliders available to you and are priced in the $2-$4 range. They also have some of the best fries you have ever had. They come in a couple of different flavors like cajun or truffle & herb. The beers and drinks range from $3-$6 a piece as well. Suffice to say you can have an awesome meal and a couple of drinks for around $15 a person. That is tough to beat.
Bookie’s Bar & Grill is our favorite spot to be on game days. The good thing about having 4 professional sports teams is that game day is most days. They have a gameday deal that comes with four shots and a domestic pitcher of beer for $16.
Some other cheap eats or dive bars I still need to check out are the Old Miami, Mercury Burger bar and Tommy’s Detroit Bar and Grill. The Old Miami is a Detroit staple and has a huge outdoor area where bands play in the summer. Tommy’s Detroit is as dive bar located near Cobo Hall. Mercury Burger Bar is located right near where Old Tiger Stadium used to be and the world famous Slow’s BBQ. If you are in Detroit and like BBQ be sure to pop into Slow’s before you leave.
Late Night Cheap Eats
We can’t talk about dive food places and cheap eats without talking about the famous Detroit coney dog. There are two staples downtown, Lafayette Coney & American Coney. The funny thing is they are located right next to each other. See, way back in the day American Coney had two partners running it. There was a fight of some sort that had one owner leave to open his own coney place….right next door! So you have to do the coney challenge while in Detroit and get a dog from each and pick which one you prefer!
Detroit has quite a few breweries to offer up. The most famous brewery located in the city is probably Founders since their beer can be found around the country. Our personal favorite is Batch Brewery, which is located a few minutes away from Green Dot Stables. The beers are great here and they are constantly changing the tap list. They offer board games to use free of charge and a transitioned old train car offered some pinball and other arcade games. They also added a massive outdoor area during covid that makes it easy for large group gatherings. We have had a few Detroit miles and points meet ups there.
It is also right across the street from the Trumbell and Porter Hotel which looks pretty cool and I was sad when they left the Choice Hotels Preferred Hotels program. I still need to check that place out and their highly rated Red-Dunn Kitchen.
I can’t talk about Detroit breweries without mentioning Atwater Brewery. Their Dirty Blonde is one of my favorites and it is a great spot to have some pints and their food is pretty good too.
Another favorite of ours is the Eastern Market Brewing Co. which is located in the center of the Eastern Market. The Eastern Market offers cool shops, stores and restaurants and fresh produce and flowers from vendors on the weekends. It is the perfect way to top off a Supino’s Pizza (also located in the Eastern Market and rated best in Detroit, sorry Niki’s).
Although Niki’s is my favorite Detroit style pizza in town, grab the feta cheese one, you’ll thank me later.
One place I still need to check out is Brew Detroit which is only a block or so away from Batch Brewery.
Roof Top Bars
Detroit doesn’t over a ton of options in the way of rooftop bars but the newest location was our next stop after checking in to the hotel. The Monarch Club opens at 4PM and we wanted to get in there early since it can be up to a two hour wait to get in later in the evening. It is located at the top of the newer Element hotel and just steps away from the bustling Woodward dining and shopping area.
Once stepping off the elevator you are greeted with a nicely appointed bar area inside including a lookout tower type of room. There are also numerous roof top access areas that are open year round with fire pits and quite a bit of seating options.
This place is a must see when the weather is nice. You get views of the stadiums, the Detroit Athletic Club and everything else downtown Detroit has to offer. The Brakeman is a cool beer bar right across the street too and is a part of the Shinola Hotel.
Sexy Lounge Bars
We continue to get trendier and trendier as we work our way down the list. Next on our tour of bars and restaurants in downtown Detroit was The Candy Bar. This place is as sexy as it gets and it is located in the trendy, boutique Siren Hotel. It is located right around the corner from the Monarch Club and opens at 5PM.
We left Monarch Club after finishing our drinks and checking out the place to ensure we got to The Candy Bar shortly after it opened. The room is small, as in like maybe 25-30 people can be in there at one time. So, if you are not early then you could be waiting in line for a bit.
This place is a throwback in all of the right ways. It feels like a glamorous speakeasy from the roaring twenties. The ceiling drips with sparkles from the massive chandelier above the bar and the high back booths are the perfect touch. As you can see from the pictures pretty much everything is a shade of pink and it all comes together perfectly. I need to check out the owner’s other location, Lady of the House, which is in Corktown by Batch Brewery.
The Detroit Club, which reopened a few years ago, is a private club but certain rooms are open to the public. If you want to get a little bougie on your trip downtown Detroit what better way than to hit up a club without having a membership?
The old school place to go would be The Whitney. You can have dinner in the main dining room followed by cocktails at the Ghost Bar or on their garden patio during the summer months.
Trendy Cocktail Bar
Are you a cocktail snob? Do you want a $20+ drink from a guy in a man bun? Look no further than Bad Luck Bar! This place is hidden down an alley with no signage on the door, only a picture of a snake on the door. You can already tell this place is as cool as it gets can’t you?
Just because it is hidden doesn’t mean it isn’t busy, because it is always busy. The trick is to call as soon as they open at 5PM and get a slotted reservation. We walked in after checking out the Candy Bar and were put on the list for an hour later. They will text you when your turn is coming and you have 10-15 minutes to get to the bar or you lose your spot. Be sure to ask for a bar seat so you can see the magic happen up close.
As soon as you walk in you know this place is where it is at. The futuristic looking lights hanging low from the ceiling and the sky high liquor wall behind the bar draw your eyes in. When you finally grab a seat you are started off with a “free” house drink. It is intended to kind of cleanse your pallet. People enjoy it so much that they offer a bigger version of it on their menu. Speaking of the menu, you are going to flip through it a few times and struggle on which one to try. Each option seems more extravagant than the next. I settled on their version of an old fashioned. My drink was smoked along with some Moroccan cashews to add in flavor. My wife’s drink was lite on fire and poured back and forth to heat it up.
Most people only stay for one drink because of the price tag ($20-$25 a piece) but I think it was the best money spent all night. And this is coming from a beer drinker, not a cocktail snob.
If Put On The Waiting List
Checker Bar is a great dive bar spot near by. It offers tons of 25 cent arcade games on the second floor. If you want to do some nostalgic gaming while passing the time this is your place. The most logical place to go is right around the corner, Prime + Proper, but more on that in a second.
Other Notable Trendy Cocktail Bars
The other obvious choice is The Sugar House which is in Corktown right next door to Slow’s BBQ. I told you Corktown had a ton of trendy options 😉. I say it is the obvious choice because the person who helped put Bad Luck Bar together is also in charge of The Sugar House. So you get pristine cocktails there as well but it isn’t quite as magical.
Fancy Dinner Spot
One more place I wanted to point out was Prime + Proper which. as stated above, is right next to Bad Luck Bar. We have spent many nights having a cocktail at Bad Luck and then walking over to Prime + Proper to eat dinner. This is one of the better steakhouses in Detroit and we have never had bad food here. You will spend some money but it is worth it in my opinion!
My daughter and I have a tradition of going on a Daddy Daughter date here every year before school starts back up in August.
Things To Do Downtown Detroit: Final Thoughts
Hopefully I gave you a wide array of options of things to do downtown Detroit. Options that go beyond the mundane go to the casinos and check out a sporting event or concert. Detroit’s restaurant and cocktail scene is one of the most underrated in the country. People still hold onto past notions about the city I love. The truth is you really don’t know until you try it for yourself. Hopefully that clicking noise I hear is everyone booking their flights to the Motor City! This is just scratching the surface of what Detroit has to offer after all.
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Mark, Thanks for all these great tips. This is the kind of invaluable content I like to see. We get plenty of must try hotel and flight recommendations. But not enough tips on what to do once you get there. I live in Ann Arbor and learned about a lot of places I didn’t know existed. Love it!
Awesome – glad you enjoyed it Kathleen 🙂
Mark, this is a wonderful write up! As a native of the D who returns frequently, I regularly visit many of these spots and attest to how fab they—and their patrons—all are.
Glad you enjoyed it Vlad!