Downtown Bars & Nightlife
76 W. Adams Ave., Downtown
The Royce moved into the Kales building (designed in 1914 by architect legend Albert Kahn) in early 2016, taking up an expansive two-story space that has become part wine shop, part wine bar. Partners Angela Rutherford and Ping Ho wanted The Royce to reflect both Detroit's industrial and deco background; the result is really lovely. A clean, curved white bar with a shiny white-tile background is situated opposite floor-to-ceiling shelving holding wine bottles from around the globe. The loft-like space perched above the bar is set up with small tables, long couches, and a cozy rug. You can buy the bottle or the glass and there are small food plates and cheeses to match.
2030 Park Ave., Downtown
Cliff Bell's first debuted in 1935, opened by John Clifford Bell, who ran a series of prohibition bars in Detroit before then. (Some say that he was among the first to have bar-stool seating at a saloon.) Bell, who was born in 1886, ran the mahogany and brass bar for the next two decades. In 1985, the club closed for a long spell, with renovation on the space beginning in 2005. Today, Cliff Bell's is known for its live music (particularly jazz) and 1920's feel. Bonus: Beyond drinks, the food menu here is legit.
Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy
1439 Griswold St., Downtown
Larry Mongo's speakeasy first opened in the '80s—during those years, his son, Jerome, ran it as a night club with a focus on rap music. The space shuttered for more than 10 years during the '90s and early '00s when downtown Detroit was at its most desolate, but friends convinced Mongo to re-open for a one-night-only event in 2007 and he hasn't closed since. The place, which is cluttered with kitschy antiques and old photos, has live music on Fridays and Saturdays. Mongo himself can always be found somewhere in the restaurant, entertaining visitors with his crazy stories and often jumping on stage to sing karaoke with the band—he's a total character and very much beloved by locals from every part of the city.
225 Gratiot Ave., Downtown
The Belt is a short alley downtown (in a former garment district) decorated with wall art, graffiti, and hanging, glimmering lights that connects Grand River to Gratiot Avenue. (It's in part a project of adjacent gallery, Library Street Collective.) Tucked into the Gratiot end of the Belt, is a speakeasy-like bar called Standby that serves flowery craft cocktails and elevated bar snacks (confit duck salad, whisky mushroom pierogi, beets and ricotta with watercress and mint). Spots at the intimate bar are date-worthy, while the tables opposite, framed by a wrap-around booth draw groups.
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