The Final 4: Our Picks for Topping Off an Evening Out in Detroit

OK, so the chant "Go Green, Go White!" will not reverberate around  Ford Field during this weekend's NCAA Men's Basketball Midwest Regional tourney. Bummer. But look at the bright side, Sparty: Michigan State still made the big dance. The re-energized Spartans will face top seeded Memphis (led by Detroiter Chris Douglas-Roberts, by the way) in a Sweet 16 matchup in Houston on Friday.

Back in the D, serious ballers will get the change to see the Kansas Jayhawks, one of the nation's top-ranked teams all season, and Big 10 champs Wisconsin this weekend. (But just between us, we'll be rooting for Villanova and Davidson, and not only because each are nicknamed the Wildcats. Scottie Reynolds of 'nova and Davidson's Stephen Curry are two of the most exciting guards in college basketball, and we happen to like exciting.)

Whether it's March Madness or whatever that brings you to Ford Field, we want to steer you in the direction of enhancing your total urban experience in our fair city. (And if you aren't into the sports, the following work well for a nightcap any night in the city.)

We have our own Final Four picks, and they don't include sports bars recommended by ESPN. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But if this were 1984, we'd be sending you to an authentic first generation house or techno party in someone's backyard over by Cooley High. Or if it were 1994 we'd say go rave the night away at the Packard plant with Richie Hawtin and whoever was in town from Berlin. In 2004? That'd be Oslo, still the best place in town to dance to weird new minimal or old skool maximal beats, produced locally or internationally. That's what we're talking about.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we want to ask you out to a funky, rockin', fun-filled Detroit adventure of a party — the real thing, in other words. You coming?

Start here   

Or start there. Detroit is like that. No real beginning, no easily identifiable end, like a sea of crazy possibilities. Ahoy! Just make sure your basic needs are met: good food and drink and your directional bearings intact should do it. It's a city with a marvelously designed 19th century grid, after all, perfectly engineered for sidewalking. And if you're with a crowd of lovely friends, well, the more good times the merrier.

Our Final Four destinations are intended as pedestrian journeys. That's right, leave the car at home or in garage or lot at Ford Field and start walking.

Let's start with a 12-block hike to Forans Pub, (612 Woodward Avenue. 313-961-3043), an historic spot that once housed the Grand Trunk Railway ticket office (and has 100-year old tile work and other design features to prove it) in the first decade of the last century.

It resembles a long, tall vault with 25-foot high ceilings, brass chandeliers, exposed brick and hardwood floors – perfect for dancing to live entertainment and ripping techno DJs. You're thirsty, of course, so settle in and have a pint of Motor City Brewery's Ghettoblaster, while nibbling on chili cheese fries.

Unpretentious, with style

The night is young, so out we go and up the street to the swanky but friendly Enoteca (660 Woodward Avenue, on the ground floor of the First National Building. 313-784-9783), a newish wine bar  that combines big city sophistication with a cozy neighborhood vibe. Detroiters favor that sort of blending of unpretentiousness and high style. We recommend the wine flights, three two-and-half pours of wine from regions around the grape-growing world. You can get a selection of Pinot Noirs, Cabs, Australians (and others) and snack on bruschetteria, which comes with your choice of 10 different kinds of fruits, veggies or cheeses. There are plenty of other wine and food choices here, well worth a return trip, but we still have places to go and happy people to meet.

The Big Dance, Cuban style

So off we go 'round circular Campus Martius and head north by northeast in the direction of Harmonie Park, which likely will be jumping all weekend much like it did in the historic Paradise Valley days. But first we stop into Vicente's (1250 Library St. 313-962-8800), the downtown hotspot for Cuban comfort foods (admit it, you're still hungry) like tamal Cubano or empanada from the tapas menu, or entrees made from pork, chicken, duck or seafood. There is also a cute bar and scorching tunes, usually Brazilian house and disco or more traditional salsa jams ideal for dirty dancing. Just make sure to eat, and eat well, friend, we still have another few blocks to explore, a few more drinks to imbibe.

In Harmonie
Grand River, one of the most historically grand of all Detroit avenues, is but a narrow lane at its source at the intersection of Madison and Randolph streets in Harmonie Park. We are now walking this stretch from Vicente's to the triangular park and peeking inside Spectacles (230 E. Grand River. 313-963-6886), a boutique with roots in Detroit's techno, house and hip hop culture(s). It's closed at this late hour, but make a point to come back during the day for music, clothes and other street life accessories. Tell owner Zana Smith, a longtime champion and promoter of the city's electronic music scene, that we say hey.

We will end our trek around the corner on Randolph St. with stops inside the Rhino the Rhino (1407 Randolph St. 313-965-9137), where every Friday and Saturday night is party night featuring live or DJ'd house, hip, new soul and R&B. Step up to the bar with us and have a vodka martini, shaken not stirred. Next door, more bodies in motion call us into Lola's (1427 Randolph St. 313-962-0483) so in we go for a nitecap, or maybe  just coffee and dessert. There's a full bar, a nice wine list, a variety of food options and music, sweet soul music, to add an exclamation mark to what has already been a night to remember. But that's only Friday night. Call us about Saturday and we'll have more suggestions. Just don't forget to make the 2 p.m. tip-off for Sunday's finals back at Ford Field. We'll make sure you won't.

Walter Wasacz
is editor of FilterD, and editor-at-large for Model D, where's good off the dribble, can get to the rim, and if there's a techno beat always goes to the Big Dance.


Ford Field

The original early 1900's architecture remain at Forans Pub

Vicente's Cuban Cuisine

Photographs by Marvin Shaouni
Marvin Shaouni is the managing photographer for Metromode & Model D.


Read more articles by Walter Wasacz.

Walter Wasacz is a writer and the former managing editor of Model D. You can find more of his writings here.
Signup for Email Alerts