Corktown Bars & Nightlife
2445 Michigan Ave., Corktown
There are a number of distilleries in Detroit; Two James is the OG. Housed in a warehouse-esque building in Corktown with a garage-door front, Two James has a circular bar that serves the house liquors, crafted in small batches that draw largely on local ingredients, including: Catcher's Rye whiskey, Grass Widow bourbon, Old Cockney gin, 28 Island vodka, Nain Rouge Absinthe Verte. You can take a tour of the distillery itself on Friday evening, or Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
2110 Trumbull Ave., Corktown
This place even smells like a dive bar (which you get used to after the first drink). The entertainment here begins with a juke box and a handful of old-time arcade games—there's a pin ball machine, Centuri, Pac-Man (oh boy), surrounded by 70's styles chairs. They have live shows regularly (local bands but also some international players—there was an Aussie band playing last time we were in town) and dedicated movie nights, which all draw a young crowd. They've also got a popcorn maker, and somewhat low-key mostly vegan menu (with the exception of the hot dog) by Laika Dog Kitchen.
Green Dot Stables
2200 W. Lafayette Blvd., Corktown
The always-packed Green Dot is situated in a parking lot among warehouses; it looks like an average Irish pub from the outside, but inside it's much more kitchsy—and wonderful. For food, it's sliders with a twist: quinoa burgers with kale and chimichurri, grilled cheese, gyros, BBQ bacon with sweet potato. At $3 a piece, you might expect them to be microscopic—but they're actually quite big. For drinks, there are Detroit and Michigan beers on tap, plus bottles from local breweries like Atwater, and cocktails—all for $3 each (not kidding).
2130 Michigan Ave., Corktown
Sugar House (which has gone by a couple different names) was one of the earlier places to move into this now more lively stretch of Michigan Avenue in Corktown, and it's arguably the spot to go in Detroit for cocktails. (It's owned by Dave Kwiatkowski, who is also half the duo behind Downtown restaurant Wright & Company.) The dimly lit interior is a mix of Victorian style and cabin/hunting decor with a long, wood bar and large chandelier hanging over the table in the front window space. The bartenders here make all the classics (including the Detroit gin signature, "Last Word," with green chartreuse and lime) and seasonal originals (marked on the menu for their Michigan ingredients and Detroit-specific ingredients). Keep an eye out for the mixing of an old-fashioned with smoke in the bottle.
Batch Brewing Company
1400 Porter St., Corktown
The craft beer scene (from Midtown neighbors Motor City and Jolly Pumpkin to riverside Atwater) is commendable across Detroit, but our favorite brewery is down the street from Trumbull & Porter hotel, in the more industrial area of Corktown. Batch Brewery gets a strong local crowd—on a nice (weeknight even) night, the picnic tables on the ivy-draped patio will be full of locals. Inside, there are more communal tables (where you'll find more locals playing board games), and the bar, which stands in front of Batch's house barrels. They have about twenty beers on offer, and it's not unlikely to come in when they've just tapped a new one. There's really something for every beer taste, but look out for a sour saison. The food here gets high marks from regulars, but Mudgie's is a popular food spot a couple blocks away.
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