Royal Oak, north of downtown Detroit, is a neighborhood that once existed on the fringes but has since gone a bit upscale, drawing in new investment and more affluent residents. That shift has affected places like Gusoline Alley, the neighborhood’s unquestioned dive bar king and one of Detroit’s finest offerings. The timeless jukebox that once graced the vaunted institution was replaced by a digital model, the bathrooms were upgraded and a few surfaces were refinished, adding a layer of ‘new’ on top of the ‘old’ that has been around since 1985.
Unchanged, however, is the vibe inside, a community-driven dive bar feeling that permeates the ample gas station-themed décor. Outside, Gusoline Alley resembles a stone hut cobbled together with unmatched stones, exactly the kind of exterior a good dive bar can pull off. Wood paneling stretches the length of the long space famously referred to by Gusoline Alley as a space that can handle 100 beer varieties but only 50 seats. The better part of a car hood extends from the wall in one spot, putting an exclamation point on the Detroit-appropriate automobile-themed surroundings.