Nothing but brick outside, nothing but perfection inside.
Six generations of the same family have built, owned and operated Abick’s Bar, one of Detroit’s oldest dive bars having opened its doors in 1907. There is considerable history to cover related to a dive bar of that age, but first and foremost, the ambiance found inside the otherwise nondescript location results in the best dive bar experience in Detroit, hands down. The weight of the bar’s history adds to the setting, of course, but history alone doesn’t quite capture the appeal of a space as beautiful as any dive bar in America.
To begin to address Abrick’s Bar history, an uncle of the family, John Benske, emigrated from Poland built the Abick’s Bar building and the adjacent residences. Ownership passed to Benske from original owner John Wasielewski who had secured the initial liquor license for the space. The name “Abick’s” was first attached to the space in 1919 after its purchase by family member George Abick. Eventually, operations fell to Manya Abick, who along with her mother helmed Abick’s Bar while the male members of the family were deployed in World War II. Manya sadly passed away in 2014, leaving ownership to her grandson, Eric Lakeman.
The beer selection is a bit more diverse than the set in 1907 when financial backing for the opening of the bar from Stroh’s Brewing meant that Stroh’s was sold exclusively. One expedition into the walls at Abick’s Bar resulted in the discovery of Prohibition-era bottles, a hint at the likely usage of the building as a speakeasy during that period. Photos throughout the space provide a glimpse of the dive bar’s rich past and family members.
Abick’s Bar takes advantage of its history well, some of the screens scattered throughout the space displaying a rotating slideshow depicting the timeline of the bar’s existence with historical photos attached to prominent milestones. An original tin ceiling presides over the main space with a secondary room in back that serves as overflow room during busy evenings or private space for reserved events. The building shares frontage with a space that used to be a barber shop and is today part of a cigar lounge that has sprouted to the side of Abick’s Bar proper.
The signature feature here is no doubt the dazzling bar itself, a combination of vintage stained-glass windows, mirrors and community business cards wedged into the just-the-right-size bar back pillars. A 1911 cash register sits behind the bar, stuck on the price of the last item it rang up (55 cents). Drinking at Abick’s Bar feels a bit like drinking in a grandfather’s living room, down to the couches and what looks to be a vintage wooden filing cabinet.
The combination of string lights, stained glass and illuminated liquor bottles mixes well with the faint suggestion of exterior light softened up by the colored windows. Wood paneling runs floor to ceiling throughout each Abick’s Bar space, most of the wall space taken up by classic mirrored, framed beer signs. During the holidays, these surfaces are all given a fresh layer of tinsel, lighting and decoration, providing a fresh reason to visit the glowing space during the winter months.
There are beautiful dive bars, there are historical dive bars and in rare instances, those two Venn diagram circles overlap. Abick’s Bar is one such space, the most beautiful dive bar space in Detroit and one of the finest combinations of old-world style, deep roots and a welcoming atmosphere in the country. That the drinks are also affordable seems almost unfair, adding to the appeal of an absolute must-visit dive bar experience.