What makes a bar a good Detroit dive bar? Is it the aging decor? Cheap booze? Sense that no one cares who you are or how buzzed you get? An occasional cigarette that gets smoked indoors? No matter how you describe a “dive bar” we all know ‘em and love ‘em so in honor of National Dive Bar Day we’re shouting out our fave dive bars:
First on the list is the oldest bar in Detroit, Two Way Inn. Operating since 1876, both legally and illegally, it has endured several changes in ownership. Once owned by her father, Harry Malak, Mary Aganowski has worked at Two Way since she was 17 years old. After her father’s passing, she took ownership, still tending bar and cooking on select days. Serving respectably priced liquor, cans and bottles of not only national but local and craft beer. Two Way Inn is located at Mt. Elliott and Nevada north of Hamtramck. If you haven’t been YOU NEED TO GO.
My Dad’s Bar reminds us of your typical Dad’s garage or shed bar, smelling of stale smoke and good times. Dad’s is loaded with mismatched tables and chairs from a number of now defunct and remodeled bars from ‘70s and earlier. The walls are decorated with all sorts of cool old stuff from alcohol signage to license plates, and photos from it’s younger days. They have a massive patio to get your summer day drinking on! My Dad’s Bar is located at Kercheval and Alter at the border of Detroit and Grosse Pointe.
Marshall’s Bar located just down the street from My Dad’s Bar on Jefferson in the Jefferson - Chalmers neighborhood is a classic dive. From the gaming systems that no longer work and are only there to take up space to the ceiling tiles painted by regulars, this place is home. Ok, maybe the home of your Uncle who was divorced a few years back and never got his place spruced up, but he loves you more than anything. They have a wide variety of bottled and canned beers and cheap priced shots of decent enough liquor. Play a game of pool, crank some old rock on the jukebox and if you need fresh air (you might after you happily get stuck there for hours) step outback and enjoy the creek that runs through the patio.
LJ’s Lounge located in Corktown on Michigan Ave. Never been? Well next time you find yourself waiting for a seat at Sugar House or Slows BBQ, swing down just a couple of buildings and check it out. They have cheap mixed drinks and an old school jukebox that will remind you of all the artists you may have forgotten about since the 90’s and earlier. Crank that Michael Jackson Thriller album whilst playing a game of billiards and eating chips from the vending machine. The bartenders are nice and if you are nice to them they may even introduce you to the fish in their tank above the bar.
Honest John’s on Selden between 2nd Ave and Cass in Midtown is a longtime fave. They have a large selection of great liquor and craft and domestic beers. Honest John’s falls under the Detroit Optimist Society umbrella along with Sugar House, Wright & Co, Mutiny Bar and a few others, so feel free to order a “fancy” cocktail, without the $14 price tag. One of the best things about Honest John’s is their food. They serve standard and somewhat outside the box breakfast food along with classic bar staples like wings, sandwiches, burgers and more! Food (and booze) from 7 am until 2 am, this is the ideal place to go both before and after a game or show.
Donovan’s Pub is an Irish bar located in Southwest Detroit with cheap booze, tiled floors, drop ceilings, it’s pretty much your quintessential dive. When you realize there are no windows in the joint you understand this is probably the diviest dive on our list and in Detroit. Who needs windows to remind you that you’ve been at a pub drinking with your closest friends all day? I DON’T. People don’t need that kind of negativity in their lives.
Our hometown favorite will always be the Wagon Wheel in Northville, located right on Main Street. This place really puts the happy in happy hour and it’s super easy to park nearby (especially for downtown). They offer an eclectic menu of drinks as well as your typical craft and domestic options.
Happy National Dive Bar Day! Remember to always enjoy responsibly!
Candice Simons, j’adore Detroit