242 John R St., Downtown
Run by Herman Hayes, known in Detroit as Uncle Herm, Dilla's Delights honors the memory of his late nephew, the influential hip hop producer J Dilla. When it opened in 2016, the highly anticipated shop quickly—by 8 a.m.—sold out. Hayes uses organic ingredients to make his oft-inventive, sought after flavors. While there are no seats at Dilla's, fans make use of the narrow counter space looking out onto Downtown Detroit.
719 Griswold St., Downtown
Juice shops are not ubiquitous in Detroit as they've become in many cities. For your juice-fix here, go to Drought. Opened by four sisters, the company makes organic, cold-pressed juices, often using produce grown in Michigan, each one glass-bottled. Green #1 (chard, cabbage, apple, celery, kale, lemon) is a favorite. Drought also has oat and chia shakes, cold brew coffee, and packaged one-day cleanses. The new "Biocean" seawater shots at the checkout are said to be effective boosters, too. There are four Michigan locations; the Detroit storefront is located inside the Chrysler House, and is just meant for grabbing a juice on the go. (Fair warning: A quality chocolate shop with gift-worthy packaging, called Bon Bon Bon, sits directly across the way. Also inside building: the Dime Store restaurant.)
American & Lafayette Coney Islands
114 & 118 W. Lafayette Blvd., Downtown
A true-blue Detroit classic, these two Coney Island diners are open all day and share a wall—and a long-standing rivalry pertaining to the city’s best hot dogs. Basically, everyone in Detroit likes either American or Lafayette—it’s down-and-dirty food, but a quintessential Motor City experience.
2211 Woodward Ave., Downtown
It doesn't really matter what's playing at the Fox—while they get great shows, it's mostly worth buying tickets so you can just spend an evening in the stunning historic theatre. Opened in 1928 by William Fox (the movie executive whose company, which sold in 1930, still bears his name), it was designed by Detroit native Charles Howard Crane in the style of many grand theaters at that time, with all the old-school flourishes: grand lobby, check, Indian and Asian design influences, check, splashy marquee, check. It underwent a major restoration in 1987, and has been beautifully kept up since then. It's also worth checking the schedule at the Redford, another historic theatre that shows classic films and local musical numbers.
Detroit Opera House
1526 Broadway St., Downtown
Opened in 1922 (it was then called the Capitol Theater), the Detroit Opera house is one of the city's architectural jewels—homegrown designer C. Howard Crane was also behind the stunning Fox Theater, and this space is every bit as grand, if a bit more classic, with painted frescoes, dramatic chandeliers, and draping red curtains hanging from the ceiling at every entrance. During most of the year, the building hosts shows by Michigan Opera Theatre, which was founded by artistic director David DiChiera in 1971—2016/2017 is his farewell season. The theatre itself also hosts visiting ballet ensembles, plays, and touring musicals—this season, they're hosting both the Lion King and The Phantom of the Opera.
1500 Woodward Ave., Downtown
Native son John Varvatos returns to his roots with this downtown location, his first in the Midwest, inspired by the his flagship menswear store on the Bowery in New York City. Music—a little bit Motown, a little bit of rock ’n’ roll—undoubtedly influences the store’s design, which sells rare vinyl records and vintage audio equipment alongside his minimalist designs and custom Chuck Taylors. And like his store on the Bowery, the space also features a stage for performances. (The store celebrated its opening with a show by Varvatos’s friend and fellow Detroit native, Alice Cooper.)
Détroit is the New Black
1426 Woodward Ave., Downtown
Roslyn Karamoko started gifting T-shirts that said "Détroit is the New Black" to friends and family before turning it into her full-time job—and a retail concept. (The accent over the “e” is a nod to Detroit’s French origins.) She opened the hybrid boutique and art gallery on a rapidly developing stretch of Downtown in July 2016, selling everything from DITNB emblazoned T-shirts, tote bags, and sweatshirts, plus dresses from Tracey Reese, leather goods from Douglas & Co., and cotton T-shirts from Lazlo. There’s artwork too—an installation by local artist Leon Dickey is currently on view, and the space hosts a rotating roster of cultural events like poetry night and group art exhibitions meant for visitors and the local community alike.
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.