Three-month-old downtown Detroit food hall Fort Street Galley is giving its in-house bar a refresh and a new identity. The bar will transform next week into Magpie, a cocktail lounge that compliments the food hall by day and transforms into a more intimate bar at night after the restaurants have closed.
Bar manager Marlowe Johnson is spearheading the project, which will include an updated cocktail menu unlike any the Fort Street Galley developer Galley Group has introduced before. “This was definitely one of Galley’s most ambitious bars, so it didn’t really make sense for it to just be the supporting character to the restaurants as much as it made sense for it to be a character in its own right,” Johnson, a veteran of some of Detroit’s top cocktail bars including Standby and Candy Bar, tells Eater. Other Galley bars are typically smaller and less focused on cocktails, he says.
Under its new name, Magpie will open daily during food hall hours and stay open until midnight on weeknights and 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays to compete with other drinking establishments in the city. Fort Street is also installing curtains around the bar to give Magpie a more intimate feel during hours when the restaurants aren’t operating.
Johnson says he’s always had a fascination with birds and even had the nickname “bird” growing up. When exploring possible names for the bar, he felt that magpie was a fitting description of the work of being a bartender. The birds are known for collecting shiny objects for their nests. “A magpie is really the thief bird and I think as bartenders we’re a little bit thieves of experience, we’re thieves of time, and thieves of stories and history,” he says.
Magpie’s menu will offer a wide selection of draft cocktails encompassing low ABV mixer drinks and Galley Group’s charity cocktails. Johnson is also adding two higher ABV cocktails to the list — a drink called Ultralight Beam made with sake, aloe, absinthe, lime acid, and simple syrup and a Toasted Rice Highball with honey foam that “sinks into the drink and makes like this Japanese-style sweet tea.”
Customers can look out for a variety of cocktails made on the spot alongside beer and wine. Expect options such as the Text My Ex with Redemption High Rye bourbon, Hamilton 151 rum, vanilla-date syrup, cocchi rosa; the Monotype made with African rooibos tea, milk-washed reposado tequila, Moroccan preserved limes, tamarind, grapefruit, and lime; and a riff on a negroni called White Butterfly with Watershed Four Peel gin, Chinese bitter melon syrup, Salers aperitif, Cocci Americano, orange blossom water, and a cucumber snake.
The cocktail lounge will preserve some of what has been working at the bar including the popular happy hour Chinese dice game where customers roll for a random pairing of two drinks at a fixed price. That offer will be extended all-day under the new format. The bar’s happy hour will accordingly be expanded to an early evening and a late-night reverse happy hour with discounts on draft cocktails and $5 glasses of wine. For now, the happy hour will continue to run from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. The bar also plans to host DJs regularly.
Magpie is expected to debut on Friday, March 15. Stay tuned for more updates.
Update: This story has been updated with clarification about happy hour.