7 must-visit spots on the Detroit border

At Model D and our sister publication Metromode, which covers Detroit's suburbs, we're always looking for ways to showcase efforts at regionalism. We recognize that metro Detroit is stronger when the connectivity between city and suburbs is stronger too. 

That's why we wanted to highlight some of the bars, clubs, theaters, and public spaces that are situated right on the border, and which are regularly visited by Detroiters and suburbanites alike. These places, we've noticed, tend to be consciously unhip and imbued with history. The newest business on our list was opened in 2009, but built on the same location and in honor of the business that preceded it. 

Even if you're not located near Detroit's border, you'll still feel welcome in these places. So be sure to check them out the next chance you get, and help grow regionalism in metro Detroit. 

Baker's Keyboard Lounge

Border: Ferndale at Livernois Avenue and 8 Mile Road

So much has been written about this classic Detroit establishment, which some say is the longest running jazz club in the world. It's a true regional landmark that's been bringing Detroiters and suburbanites together since it opened in 1933 and began booking acts in 1939. 

Who's played at Baker's over the years? Oh, just some of the most notable jazz acts of all time: Art Tatum, Dave Brubeck, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, Nat "King" Cole, to name a few. 

It's also been designated as a Historic Site by the Michigan Historic Preservation Office and was granted historic designation by Detroit City Council, which "prevents whoever owns the building from demolishing it or altering its exterior without permission from the Detroit Historic District Commission."


Border: Grosse Pointe at Mack Avenue

What's the "z" for in Bogart'z? Our (extremely cursory internet) search yielded no clear answers. But who cares. Because we agree with this review in the Metro Times, which states that the bar has "been a watering hole for Grosse Pointers and Detroiters alike" since it opened in 2005—a true meeting place between city and suburbs. 

The menu at Bogart'z is affordable and unpretentious, but of surprisingly high quality. In fact, the place has made an effort in recent years to up their food game beyond the standard bar fare. It even sells the Impossible Burger, a vegetarian patty known for tasting a lot like a beef burger. 

Despite being gussed up a little bit, this place will always be a neighborhood bar—patronized largely by nearby residents in Detroit and Grosse Pointe. 

Rouge Park / Eliza Howell Park

Photo by Nick Hagen

Border: Dearborn Heights and Redford along W. Parkway Street and Telegraph Road

Probably two of the most under-appreciated assets in the city of Detroit, the Rouge and Eliza Howell parks span over 1,250 surprisingly beautiful acres, their western borders kissing the suburbs. 

The land is accessible and pretty, with the Rouge River snaking its way through both. There's walking, biking, and nature trails that are maintained well enough, an urban farm and tree nursery, places to picnic, and a contingent of model airplane enthusiasts regularly piloting their planes by remote control. 

The area is also heavily wooded, which makes for particularly stunning visits during the fall. 

Joe Dumars Fieldhouse

Border:  Ferndale off Woodward Avenue near 8 Mile Road

Before Meijer and the other chain establishments were constructed on the old Michigan State Fairground, there was the Joe Dumars Fieldhouse. The Detroit fieldhouse (there's another in Shelby), is a classic gym—like the Intramural Building on the University of Michigan's campus. It's got tall ceilings and is dedicated more or less to one function: basketball. 

You can reserve a court, participate in a league, or just play some pickup games. And it's open seven days a week.

The State Fairgrounds itself might make this list in a few years, as it's set for a major transformation based on plans that were released last year featuring commercial buildings with wide promenades and plenty of green space.

Ford Drive In

Photo by Doug Coombe

Border: Dearborn at Ford Road and Wyoming Avenue

Is this America's largest drive-in theater? When it formerly had nine screens, there was no question about it. Since then it's scaled back to five and another theater in Ft. Lauderdale wants to claim the title. But we say, with 2,500 parking spots, the Ford Drive In still wins. 

If you've never been, you have to try the Ford Drive In at least once. Each screen shows a double feature, so your ticket goes twice as far. It's still a charming date-night activity during a warm night. And as the area's last drive-in theater, and only one of nine left in the state, you should get out there and support it. 

It's also got a classic red-and-blue striped facade that looked retro when it was originally constructed and is fading in an oddly alluring way. 

Bel Air Luxury Cinema

Border: Warren at 8 Mile Road

As Detroit's only first-run movie theater, Detroiters certainly patronize Bel Air Luxury Cinema. But since there are no other theaters within a 10-mile radius, it actually serves a sizable swath of the eastside of Detroit and its northern suburbs of Warren, Eastpointe, and others. 

Formerly a drive-in and reopened as an indoor theater in 2009, Bel Air has improved its viewing experience in recent years by renovating its decor and upgrading to leather, reclining chairs. It also won a $100,000 NEIdeas grant in 2017 to expand its commercial kitchen and build a bar to serve more food options and serve alcoholic beverages. 

Ye Olde Tap Room

Border: Grosse Pointe at Alter and Charlevoix

It’s small, it’s dark, the floors are covered in peanut shells, and it’s full of regulars. Oh, and it has more than 250 international beers and a single-malt whiskey menu that will transport you to the Scottish Highlands. 

Opened in 1915, a year before Prohibition hit, (it rode out those years as an underground speakeasy), Ye Olde Tap room hasn’t changed much in the past century. It is, quite simply, a place to drink. And barring the night before Thanksgiving, when generations of 20-and 30-something Grosse Pointe North and South expats carouse the Cabbage Patch neighborhood of Grosse Pointe Park, it’s mainly a comfortable and quiet place to enjoy a high quality beverage, a quintessential neighborhood bar in one of the most historic neighborhoods in the region outside of the city of Detroit.  

Read more articles by Aaron Mondry.

Aaron Mondry is the managing editor of Model D and a Detroit-based freelance writer. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter @AaronMondry.
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