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An IPA in a pint glass and a plastic cup with purple jezynowka sitting on the edge of a pool table
Whiskey in the Jar in Hamtramck.
Michelle Gerard

17 Essential Detroit Dive Bars

Lovable bars with dim lighting and stiff drinks

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Whiskey in the Jar in Hamtramck.
| Michelle Gerard

What Detroiters need now is a good stiff drink in a dimly lit room, resting their elbows on a well-worn wooden bar top and sharing some trivial gossip.

Detroit’s dive bars run the gamut from cozy, wood-paneled family gathering spots to more edgy punk joints. They’re a celebration of simple pleasures, laid-back vibes, and ice cold beer. Whiling away a Friday afternoon or Tuesday night in any one of these dives counts as time well spent. Relaxed, affordable, and filled with character, here are 17 of Detroit’s classic dive bars.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Abick's Bar

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Abick’s has been owned and operated by the same family since 1907 and has the ancient cash register to prove it. The Southwest Detroit neighborhood hangout is cash-only and doesn’t have an ATM on site, so stock up ahead of time. Summer nights at Abick’s mean backyard BBQ cookouts and firepits in the fenced back lot.

Donovan's Pub

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No windows, no frills, and away from the hustle and bustle of Michigan Avenue, Donovan’s is the perfect retreat for Detroiters looking to relax. It’s tucked into a corner of Vernor Avenue with stellar views of the Ambassador Bridge and Michigan Central Station. Most nights see a mellow crowd of regulars shooting pool, but occasional DJ nights and live bands pop up.

The exterior of Donovan’s features a brick building with the bar’s name written in white Olde English style lettering across a dark green awning on a sunny day with clear blue skies. Brenna Houck

LJ's Lounge

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While upscale cocktail bars and restaurants abound on Michigan Avenue, this Corktown hangout keeps the visitors to the neighborhood supplied with affordable drinks. Wood paneling and a red awning gives way to even more ‘70s paneling in the interior with a mirrored back bar. The drink selection here is relatively simple with shots (including Jello shots) and domestic beers — the perfect recipe for a boilermaker and a good time.

Nancy Whiskey's Pub

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A patio revamp a couple of years ago tripled the space at “Detroit’s Oldest Party.” Nancy’s has been holding down an otherwise quiet corner of Corktown since 1902, thanks in large part to its Irish hospitality and large selection of Irish whiskies. Even a devastating 2007 fire couldn’t stop the good times.

Bronx Bar

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The Bronx Bar teeters on the brink of respectability these days, as the Midtown transformations creep into this traditional dive. Once the domain of longtime bartender Charleen, Queen of the Bronx, and her subjects, the Bronx now hosts an eclectic mix of college kids, aging hipsters and locals of all stripes. The burgers remain stellar.

Jumbo's Bar

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Holding firm against waves of change in the Cass Corridor, the green brick cube in the Cass Corridor is an old-school dive. Expect cheap drinks, a solid jukebox and a unique, if not truly weird, cast of characters. Saturdays are typically more rowdy — but almost always a good time.

The exterior of Jumbo’s Bar on a sunny day. Jumbo’s is painted bright green with a mural featuring roses being tied together by a hand with red manicured nails Brenna Houck

Kwicky Bar

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This concrete bunker of a bar is the perfect platonic ideal of a dive: nondescript, perennially unfussy and full of friendly regulars. Situated on the Detroit-Warren border along a busy strip of 8 Mile Road, Kwicky Bar serves up cheap shots, cheaper bottled beer, and a karaoke night packed with talent.

Old Miami

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The Old Miami celebrated its 40th anniversary recently, and the bar touts a rich history. Founded as a haven for Vietnam veterans in the 1970s, the spot has become legendary as a music venue, hosting live DJs and bands, and record swap nights. The homey interior and relaxed backyard dotted with seating arrangements are perfect for meeting up with old friends.

The green awning for Old Miami is lit up at night with a motorcycle parked out front. Brenna Houck

Whiskey In The Jar

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Whiskey in the Jar may have craft beers and a Detroit City FC banner, but it maintains a quintessential Hamtramck dive bar feel with a pool table, plenty of mirrored beer signs, and old-school movies playing on the television. Drink a shot of Jezy (Polish blackberry brandy) to become an instant regular.

Temple Bar

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As one of the city’s longest-serving bartenders, owner George Boukas has seen his fair share of raucousness. He’s been pouring drinks in Cass Corridor for decades at his LGBTQ-friendly bar, and has become a genial mentor to generations of Detroiters — including the cast of Detroiters, where several episodes were filmed.

The Painted Lady

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The Painted Lady is in an ancient Victorian building, and oozes character from its hot pink trim and floor to the gorgeous wooden backbar. It’s pretty full of characters, too, with Hamtramck regulars rubbing elbows with suburbanites on a pilgrimage to one of southeast Michigan’ best whiskey selections.

Nick's Gaslight

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A word of warning: if Savas, the owner, is there and in a good mood, he will regale guests with fabulous stories and might even offer a tot of his homemade ouzo. If he’s not, well, at least there’s the ambiance of this magical time capsule from the 60s. Its white pleather banquettes and wood paneling will transport drinkers to the three-martini lunch days of old downtown.

Outer Limits Lounge

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Outer Limits slunk into the Hamtramck music scene in 2017 with little fanfare and a sufficiency of mellow, low-key cool. The bar on the border of Hamtramck and Detroit features record nights and bands from honky tonk to punk.

Two Way Inn

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Detroit’s oldest saloon has a “family dive” vibe. Home-cooked meals on Wednesdays and Thursdays regularly sell out, and the 90s-vibing playlists add a nostalgic air to the gleaming wood-paneled saloon. Whenever a guest rings the bell above the bar, it means they’ve just bought a round for everyone there and secured their name on the bar’s VIP chalkboard.

Cutter’s Bar & Grill

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Go for the burgers, stay for the Bloody Mary and cheap beer. Eastern Market pros know that Cutter’s has some of the best burgers in town. The spot is popular for post-shopping gatherings and happy hour specials.

A burger with two thick patties and three buns, is held together with a steak knife and surrounded by french fries on a plate.
Cutter’s
Gerard + Belevender

My Dad's Bar

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Given the name, it’s fitting that this Detroit dive feels like a family basement — complete with 70s furniture and wood paneling. Tucked into a corner on the far east side, a stop at My Dad’s is the perfect end (or beginning) to a city-wide dive bar crawl. The location is surreptitious — look for the massive “Smile, your Dad’s from Detroit” mural.

Marshall's Bar

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The fancy script on the front wall is a bit of a misnomer because this Jefferson-Chalmers hangout is indeed a classic dive. Drop ceiling tiles? Check. Jukebox full of classic tunes? Check. Bathroom that looks like it might sink into the floor at any moment? Absolutely. The backyard is a hidden gem, featuring a fire pit and a front row seat to the Fox Creek canal.

The front of Marshall’s Bar at night features signs for Miller Lite and the Detroit Tigers as well as a neon open sign and the sign for the bar written in cursive script. Brenna Houck

Abick's Bar

Abick’s has been owned and operated by the same family since 1907 and has the ancient cash register to prove it. The Southwest Detroit neighborhood hangout is cash-only and doesn’t have an ATM on site, so stock up ahead of time. Summer nights at Abick’s mean backyard BBQ cookouts and firepits in the fenced back lot.

Donovan's Pub

No windows, no frills, and away from the hustle and bustle of Michigan Avenue, Donovan’s is the perfect retreat for Detroiters looking to relax. It’s tucked into a corner of Vernor Avenue with stellar views of the Ambassador Bridge and Michigan Central Station. Most nights see a mellow crowd of regulars shooting pool, but occasional DJ nights and live bands pop up.

The exterior of Donovan’s features a brick building with the bar’s name written in white Olde English style lettering across a dark green awning on a sunny day with clear blue skies. Brenna Houck

LJ's Lounge

While upscale cocktail bars and restaurants abound on Michigan Avenue, this Corktown hangout keeps the visitors to the neighborhood supplied with affordable drinks. Wood paneling and a red awning gives way to even more ‘70s paneling in the interior with a mirrored back bar. The drink selection here is relatively simple with shots (including Jello shots) and domestic beers — the perfect recipe for a boilermaker and a good time.

Nancy Whiskey's Pub

A patio revamp a couple of years ago tripled the space at “Detroit’s Oldest Party.” Nancy’s has been holding down an otherwise quiet corner of Corktown since 1902, thanks in large part to its Irish hospitality and large selection of Irish whiskies. Even a devastating 2007 fire couldn’t stop the good times.

Bronx Bar

The Bronx Bar teeters on the brink of respectability these days, as the Midtown transformations creep into this traditional dive. Once the domain of longtime bartender Charleen, Queen of the Bronx, and her subjects, the Bronx now hosts an eclectic mix of college kids, aging hipsters and locals of all stripes. The burgers remain stellar.

Jumbo's Bar

Holding firm against waves of change in the Cass Corridor, the green brick cube in the Cass Corridor is an old-school dive. Expect cheap drinks, a solid jukebox and a unique, if not truly weird, cast of characters. Saturdays are typically more rowdy — but almost always a good time.

The exterior of Jumbo’s Bar on a sunny day. Jumbo’s is painted bright green with a mural featuring roses being tied together by a hand with red manicured nails Brenna Houck

Kwicky Bar

This concrete bunker of a bar is the perfect platonic ideal of a dive: nondescript, perennially unfussy and full of friendly regulars. Situated on the Detroit-Warren border along a busy strip of 8 Mile Road, Kwicky Bar serves up cheap shots, cheaper bottled beer, and a karaoke night packed with talent.

Old Miami

The Old Miami celebrated its 40th anniversary recently, and the bar touts a rich history. Founded as a haven for Vietnam veterans in the 1970s, the spot has become legendary as a music venue, hosting live DJs and bands, and record swap nights. The homey interior and relaxed backyard dotted with seating arrangements are perfect for meeting up with old friends.

The green awning for Old Miami is lit up at night with a motorcycle parked out front. Brenna Houck

Whiskey In The Jar

Whiskey in the Jar may have craft beers and a Detroit City FC banner, but it maintains a quintessential Hamtramck dive bar feel with a pool table, plenty of mirrored beer signs, and old-school movies playing on the television. Drink a shot of Jezy (Polish blackberry brandy) to become an instant regular.

Temple Bar

As one of the city’s longest-serving bartenders, owner George Boukas has seen his fair share of raucousness. He’s been pouring drinks in Cass Corridor for decades at his LGBTQ-friendly bar, and has become a genial mentor to generations of Detroiters — including the cast of Detroiters, where several episodes were filmed.

The Painted Lady

The Painted Lady is in an ancient Victorian building, and oozes character from its hot pink trim and floor to the gorgeous wooden backbar. It’s pretty full of characters, too, with Hamtramck regulars rubbing elbows with suburbanites on a pilgrimage to one of southeast Michigan’ best whiskey selections.

Nick's Gaslight

A word of warning: if Savas, the owner, is there and in a good mood, he will regale guests with fabulous stories and might even offer a tot of his homemade ouzo. If he’s not, well, at least there’s the ambiance of this magical time capsule from the 60s. Its white pleather banquettes and wood paneling will transport drinkers to the three-martini lunch days of old downtown.

Outer Limits Lounge

Outer Limits slunk into the Hamtramck music scene in 2017 with little fanfare and a sufficiency of mellow, low-key cool. The bar on the border of Hamtramck and Detroit features record nights and bands from honky tonk to punk.

Two Way Inn

Detroit’s oldest saloon has a “family dive” vibe. Home-cooked meals on Wednesdays and Thursdays regularly sell out, and the 90s-vibing playlists add a nostalgic air to the gleaming wood-paneled saloon. Whenever a guest rings the bell above the bar, it means they’ve just bought a round for everyone there and secured their name on the bar’s VIP chalkboard.

Cutter’s Bar & Grill

Go for the burgers, stay for the Bloody Mary and cheap beer. Eastern Market pros know that Cutter’s has some of the best burgers in town. The spot is popular for post-shopping gatherings and happy hour specials.

A burger with two thick patties and three buns, is held together with a steak knife and surrounded by french fries on a plate.
Cutter’s
Gerard + Belevender

Related Maps

My Dad's Bar

Given the name, it’s fitting that this Detroit dive feels like a family basement — complete with 70s furniture and wood paneling. Tucked into a corner on the far east side, a stop at My Dad’s is the perfect end (or beginning) to a city-wide dive bar crawl. The location is surreptitious — look for the massive “Smile, your Dad’s from Detroit” mural.

Marshall's Bar

The fancy script on the front wall is a bit of a misnomer because this Jefferson-Chalmers hangout is indeed a classic dive. Drop ceiling tiles? Check. Jukebox full of classic tunes? Check. Bathroom that looks like it might sink into the floor at any moment? Absolutely. The backyard is a hidden gem, featuring a fire pit and a front row seat to the Fox Creek canal.

The front of Marshall’s Bar at night features signs for Miller Lite and the Detroit Tigers as well as a neon open sign and the sign for the bar written in cursive script. Brenna Houck

Related Maps