Neighborhood Crawl: Cass Corridor

Detroit, Michigan

Detroit's Urban Soul

A quick bit of investigation into Detroit’s Cass Corridor quickly returns phrases like “Detroit’s Skid Row” in describing the sometimes notorious reputation of the area centered around Cass Avenue just north of Detroit’s urban core. Decades of change have ebbed and flowed here, its rough reputation well-earned through years of rotating storefronts, housing turnover and civil unrest that has unfolded nearby. Today, Detroit’s resurgence is well-documented, but has left great chunks of the city largely untouched, allowing some of the city’s best dive bars to survive and endure as they have for so long.

Sure, there are new touches like breweries taking over rustic, ancient buildings, but some of the longest-standing and most authentic places to grab a drink still call Cass Corridor home. And because that level of authenticity still exists here, businesses that do choose Cass Avenue as home do so with a level of reverence and determination to fit the neighborhood rather than replace it. In many ways, Cass Corridor embodies Detroit in the purest sense, a neighborhood that might not have had all glory days all the time, but has nonetheless endured.

And if that wasn’t lofty enough to convince you to grab a dive bar beer and some chicken & waffles down the street, I may need to put some work into my persuasive writing abilities. This crawl begins with one of the great dive bars in all of Detroit, the perfect jumping off point for all points south along Cass Avenue and its surrounding area.

The Stops

1. The Old Miami

3930 Cass Ave, Detroit, MI 48201
Opened in 1980 after a Vietnam veteran bought the husk of a burned out building a year prior, The Old Miami is the dive bar king of the Cass Corridor. Veteran appreciation has long been the foundation of the bar, a fact clear from the patches, flags, framed newspapers and even military uniforms on display throughout The Old Miami. The bar in back has hosted a range of bands from The White Strips to the Allman Brothers, making live music-infused, veteran-friendly The Old Miami a must-visit first stop on any visit near Cass Avenue.

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2. Honest John’s Bar & Grill

488 Selden St, Detroit, MI 48201
A breakfast-served-all-day menu is fairly common, but it’s not everyday that a brunch-served-all-day menu pops up. Honest John’s not only serves breakfast and lunch favorites all day, the spot is open until 2 AM (food until 1 AM), making this an inviting stop as a pre-game or post-game activity during a tour of the Cass Corridor’s dive bars. Ruebens, burgers, chicken & waffles, even a Monte Cristo available late night when that deep fried sandwich craving hits.

3. Jumbo’s Bar

3736 3rd Ave, Detroit, MI 48201
Rounding the corner from Honest John’s onto 3rd Avenue, it would be hard to miss the bright green shoebox of a building a few blocks south. Jumbo’s Bar opened in 1940, the endeavor of a man, you guessed it, nicknamed Jumbo, father of the current owner of the dive bar. Jumbo gained the name not because of his stature (5’5”) but his temper and standing as ‘mayor’ of the neighborhood. The sensation of stepping a few steps down from the bar’s main entrance underscores the vibe here as your fun uncle’s basement, a long bar and a string of bar games opposite, a classic experience fitting its 1940s heritage.

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4. Bill’s Recreation

3525 3rd Ave, Detroit, MI 48201
For a city as rich in history as Detroit, it comes as a bit of a shock that Bill’s Recreation lays claim to surviving as the last pure pool hall in the city. Just a few feet away from Jumbo’s Bar, the signage is worth the walk alone, a simple inscription of the bar’s name atop a series of windows with metal grates attached. Revamped and expanded in the 1960’s, the interior displays its many decades, a tribute to a time when pool halls were numerous not just in Detroit but on this very block. Inside you’ll find a vintage jukebox, an open floor plan and a host of pool tables catering to locals that have kept Bill’s Recreation afloat over the years.

5. Detroit Shipping Company

474 Peterboro St, Detroit, MI 48201
Not every dive bar-focused neighborhood crawl has to keep to buildings erected circa World War II and if an exception were to be made in the Cass Corridor area, Detroit Shipping Company’s open-air beer hall isn’t the worst choice. Trending, shipping container-based food courts have popped up in cities around the country, Detroit’s offering no different in its offering of multiple food vendors and ample drinking space. Notable is the collective’s Cold Muggin Club, a cold weather, outdoor drinking-support mug club offering discounts with paid annual membership. After a string of dive bars and pool hall visits, a little fusion food in a beer garden seems acceptable.

6. Temple Bar

2906 Cass Ave, Detroit, MI 48201
Finally, on the edge of Cass Corridor just north of the gentrification sparked by the construction of nearby Little Caesars Arena, Temple Bar remains a mostly unchanged stalwart, opened in 1927 by the father of the current owner. At its core, Temple Bar has long stood for inclusion and a welcoming atmosphere, catering to the ever-changing clientele on a street that has seen its fair share of struggle, change and evolution of the decades. The bar was so well-loved by the family of the original owner, a sale outside of the family was quickly remedied as the second generation owners purchased the site back. If your crawl ends just late enough, you might find some house music emanating from the small dance floor inside.

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Reviews Along This Route

Pete's Bar - Jacksonville Dive Bar - Neon Sign

The Old Miami

Live music veteran-friendly dive.
Ginger's Place - Jacksonville Dive Bar - Outside

Jumbo's Bar

Detroit's green dive bar shoebox.
Harbor Tavern - Jacksonville Dive Bar - Outside

Temple Bar

Inclusive, faded, open since 1927.

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