Dating in the D: Raising the Bar

Photos by Lauren Church

In Detroit, there are several types of different bars. Sometimes they can be a bit more highfalutin, and sometimes they’re your run of the mill dive bar, where you pull up a stool and have a chat over a beer. Both ends of the spectrum have their merits and are a great place to take your date. Here’s two solid options to consider the next time you’re looking to have a night on the town.

Townhouse - 500 Woodward - Detroit, MI 48226

Townhouse opened last summer and has been providing eager patrons with well crafted cocktails you can pair with a diverse array of menu items. You’ll be sure to wow your date with a legit night out.

In a newly opened space in the One Detroit Center building, Townhouse is a lovely space including an atrium area with large windows, teeming with plants everywhere. It has a thoughtfully styled aesthetic. I should note, though, it is not a spur of the moment “hey, let’s go out for dinner” spot. When we arrived in the early evening we were informed our wait would be an hour and a half, unless we wanted to sit at the bar. The bar has food service, but still, maybe not the date experience you might have in mind. They do take reservations on their website.

Townhouse is first and foremost an outstanding bar. Boasting a crazy 30+ page bar menu they refer to as their “Library of Libations”, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. I ordered a Moscow Mule. Moscow Mules are having a moment in the cocktail community right now and they’re on the menu of many bars. A great balance of ginger, lime, and vodka traditionally served in a copper mug, Moscow Mules are my benchmark for if a bar is quality or not. It was very tasty.

My date enjoys cocktails that are off the beaten path, so when he saw an uncommon drink called a Sazerac on the menu, he leapt at the chance to enjoy one. I’d also recommend the Basil Smash, which is really refreshing!

There are several solid options for appetizers and entrees that span what is typically regarded as American style food, though executed with an artisanal flair. It’s not just a cheeseburger, it’s a dry aged steak ground and hand formed with white cheddar cheese and bourbon glazed onions. It’s not just french fries, it’s truffle fries with a garlic aioli dipping sauce. Both of which were very, very tasty, though the burger was overdone a bit.

Now, surprisingly, Townhouse is also home to a sushi menu. Not what you’d expect, but they seem to enjoy eliciting surprise in their guests. You might think to yourself, “I don’t think I’d want to have, say, mac and cheese along side of a sushi roll.” Well, after a cocktail, you just might.

The mac and cheese is almost an alfredo style white sauce that was tasty and buttery. My sushi roll was the Torched Alaska, which includes crab, salmon, and avocado. While I enjoyed it, I can’t say it knocked my socks off. Just kind of regular sushi fare, though other rolls do seem a bit more adventurous.

There are a couple other considerations. It is pricy. Drinks and dinner for two was over $100. It was also pretty loud. The din of the voices of everyone enjoying their night out along with the thumping beats of the latest pop music was a little intense. Go in expecting a tasty experience and not a candlelit dinner and you’ll be very pleased.

Third Street Bar - 4626 3rd Street - Detroit, MI 48201

It’s possible you might not know what a dive bar is. Dive bars are typically a pretty no nonsense bar experience. They have a few beers on tap, a few more in cans or bottles, and basic liquor offerings. There’s no cocktails really to be had. Your standard dive usually has a few large TVs for watching sports, some dart boards, and basic seating peppered throughout. Third Street Bar in Midtown is no exception to these descriptors, but it stands out for a few reasons.

First, the waitstaff are just nice and knowledgeable, which goes a long way at places like this. Sometimes dive bar staff can be a bit surly. When I asked what shandy beers they had, my bartender let me know they didn’t have any yet because it was too early in the year. But she was able to make some suggestions knowing that I enjoyed them.

We visited on a Friday night after the Wings were kicked out of the playoffs, which made for a pretty quiet evening here, with lots of seating available. The jukebox was on shuffle but seemed to have a thing for 90s hiphop. There’s a shuffleboard table along one wall, and a little cozy area with couches near a fireplace, though it wasn’t lit when we were there. The best indicator that Third Street is a dive bar is that they have two skeeball machines, which add a kitschy charm to the place... but neither of them work.

Probably my favorite thing about Third Street, though, is that there’s a pie shop in the back. Yeah. A pie shop in the back of the bar. That’s some Harry Potter type magicalness right there. Dangerously Delicious Pies rents out the back room and sells pies, both savory and sweet, by the slice until 2 a.m. Place your order and the staff will run a couple slices out to you. I enjoyed a bottle of Founders Brewery’s Rübæus, a raspberry ale, alongside a slice of Strawberry Apple Crumble. Beer and pie! Isn’t Detroit grand?

Depending on your date you might opt for one side of the spectrum or the other. Some of the best conversations I’ve had were just hanging out at a little hole in the wall place where everybody knew my name. There’s something to be said, too, for a place that can stand out in a sea of overhyped hipster cocktail bar nonsense with solid, enjoyable drinks. Regardless of how you decide to take out your beau, there’s a good night ahead if you pick out either of these spots. Cheers to you and your future date night in the D!

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