So much of a good date depends on furniture. There was a moment in our history, a confluence of events, when the Big Three were turning out cars with front seats that rivaled small couches. It was prime movie-watching furniture, allowing dates to stretch out a bit, as it were. Our automakers lost sight of this somehow when they phased out the bench seat in favor of the bucket seat -- a fine place to sit, sure, but a lousy way to spend an evening at the drive-in.
Still, the drive-in remains a great date night destination, and the west side's Ford Drive-In
is one of the best places for a date in the city. Okay, it's technically
not in the city (it's in Dearborn, just a stones-throw from the Detroit city limits), but spend an evening at the Ford Drive-In and it's easy to see that it's an unofficial extension of the city. Detroiters have been going to the Ford Drive-In since 1951, so long that we still call it by its old name, the Ford-Wyoming.
Marquee at the Ford-Wyoming Drive-In
I last visited the Ford-Wyoming, one of the largest drive-in theaters in the world, on a Friday in early August. It was cooler than typical for that time of year, though not necessarily a bad thing at the drive-in. The place was packed with people young and old from city and suburbs. Families with lawn chairs parked up front and quiet vans with shades drawn parked in the back. Some sat on top of their cars, others lay picnic blankets on the ground. Some headed straight for the back seat, of course. Someone even brought a sofa in the back of a truck.
At the Ford-Wyoming, you can do just about anything you want as long as you're not bothering anyone else.
And that's one of the reasons the Ford-Wyoming is so great, especially for a date. Bring your own snacks and a bottle of wine and nobody cares. And it's open year-round -- rain, snow, or shine.
Find love on Livernois
Of course, any mention of Detroit, good dates, and furniture has to include Baker's Keyboard Lounge
. Opened in 1933, there probably isn't a business in this city that has led to more couplings than Baker's.
There are many reasons for this, starting with its legacy as the world's oldest jazz club. Patrons of Baker's have seen some of the world's best jazz artists come through its doors. Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Ella Fitzgerald have all performed there. So have Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, and Fats Waller. And Charles Mingus. Even Barbara Streisand. It would be unseemly to keep going, but it's easy to marvel at Baker's legacy, especially when considering the intimate size of the place.
The stage at Baker's Keyboard Lounge
Tickling ivories at Baker's Keyboard Lounge
In addition to hosting live music every night, Baker's is also a restaurant featuring southern-style home cooking. Its new owners have been working to reinvigorate the menu with their take on classic comfort food.
For all its atmosphere, live entertainment, food, and drinks, where Baker's succeeds most is in its booths. If you get a good host -- and most likely you will -- you and your date will be seated in the row of booths right in front of the stage. The booths are two-seaters, a curved bench that has you and your date sitting next to one another. There's a reason this place has been in business for over 80 years.
Samantha and Kellan Winborne in the love seats at Baker's Keyboard Lounge
Of course, Baker's isn't the only spot on Livernois to catch live music over drinks.
The Locker Room Lounge (18290 Livernois, between Seven Mile and McNichols roads) is a great spot to grab a drink, especially on Sunday nights when David Brandon is hosting his open jams. Brandon leads a rotating cast of some of the finest R&B and funk players in town. He's a guy in control of the stage and the crowd, deciding who plays what, when, and where. He'll coax an audience member to come up and sing a song and, after demurely making their way to the stage, they quickly blow your mind.
David Brandon and the Allstars at the Locker Room
Jamming at the Locker Room
If you're looking for a quieter setting for conversation on Livernois, there's 1917 American Bistro
, a well-respected restaurant that specializes in Cajun and Creole cuisine. And a few miles to the south, just past Michigan Avenue, turn right on Dennis Street, and you will find Abick's
, a corner bar in the middle of a quiet neighborhood that's been open since 1907. And if you've a hankering for a game of pool and Abick's table is in use, Tommy T's Pub is two blocks west at Dennis and Clippert Streets. What Tommy T's lacks in decor it makes up in pool tables and friendly bartenders.
The pool table at Abick's Bar
Dates for all seasons
What makes for a better date than falling on your ass? As the weather gets cold, the city has a couple of options for outdoor ice skating, a classic winter date. There's the Campus Martius rink
in the heart of downtown (officially opening on Nov. 21), from where your post-skate entertainment options are many, and then there's the rink in Clark Park
on Detroit's southwest side, which hosts the occasional open skate. Of the many businesses within walking distance from Clark Park, the coffee shop Cafe con Leche, which faces the park on its northern edge, is one of the friendliest cafes in the city.
Once the weather warms, the Detroit River Sports
-led kayak tours of the east side canals are a great option for a date. It's a fun, active trip on calm water, perfect for beginners. It's the type of thing that calls for a beer afterwards, and, fortunately, Marshall's is right there on Jefferson. It's a fine little dive -- in the most affectionate sense of the word -- that, as legend has it, would receive nighttime shipments of Prohibition-era booze by way of the canal that runs behind the bar.
While they're not the most comfortable bar stools in the city, but if you're on a good date, I don't think you'll even notice.
Got any recommendations for classic Detroit date spots? Tweet them to @modeld using the hashtag #DetroitDateNight.
MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.