As beverage director, bartender, and an owner of Grey Ghost and Second Best in Detroit’s Brush Park neighborhood, Will Lee oversees both beverage programs and also serves up a myriad of creative cocktails. His background in illustration and graphic design has shaped the way he approaches his craft with an artistic flair.
“I incorporate a lot of the systems and processes [I learned] into everything I do today,” Lee says, “from cocktail ideation and menu concepting to event development and staff training.”
After 19 years in the bar industry, with the last eight spent working in Detroit, Lee has learned a thing or two about where to go to experience the best that the city has to offer.
“I can say with absolute confidence that there is no other city I would rather be bartending in,” he explains. “The camaraderie and support from industry peers are incredible. The desire for everyone to succeed and excel is what separates our market from any other market I have experienced.”
For a perfect 24 hours in Detroit, here are the top locations Lee recommends visiting.
Breakfast at Dime Store - 8 a.m.
Serving breakfast, brunch, and lunch, Detroit’s Dime Store has an array of creative plates that include both sweet and savory food. From cold-smoked salmon eggs benedict to brioche french toast, there’s something for all palettes at this cozy restaurant nestled in the Chrysler House. Lee recommends the housemade sausage hash, ideal for both breakfast and brunch.
Latte break at Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters - 9 a.m.
To fuel up even more, Lee recommends a visit to the nearby Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters. “I love what the guys at Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters are doing,” he explains, especially their vanilla latte with almond milk. Reminiscent to his work at Grey Ghost, “They make all of their ingredients and syrups from scratch. They approach their craft with a similar mindset.”
Grocery shopping at Eastern Market - 10 a.m.
Detroit’s famous open air market attracts shoppers both local and from the suburbs who visit the historic location for fresh produce, meats and Detroit-made artisan goods. After ordering his coffee, Lee likes to check out the market to pick up items for the coming week. “Growing up, my parents owned restaurants in Detroit,” he says. “On the weekends they did their shopping at the market, where they would bring me along as they talked with all of the farmers and purveyors.”
Kresge Court at the Detroit Institute of Arts
Recharging at the Detroit Institute of Arts - 12 p.m.
“Going to school behind the Detroit Institute of Arts, I spent most of my breaks in college at the DIA getting inspiration or lunch,” Lee describes of his years at the College for Creative Studies. Go to reset and enjoy an hour or two browsing the iconic art collections, or grab a quick bite to eat at Kresge Court. “It houses so much from so many cultures and eras, there is no way you can leave the place uninspired.”
Late lunch at Chartreuse - 2 p.m.
Around the corner from the Detroit Institute of Arts is Chartreuse, a unique dining experience in an ambient restaurant where the decor is just as good as the food. Featuring a rotating menu, Chartreuse offers a variety of dishes ranging from small plates to shareable main courses. Lee always orders the twice-cooked egg, a menu staple since the restaurant’s early days.
Lee likes to escape to Belle Isle to "enjoy the city in a less city-like space."
A breath of fresh air at Belle Isle - 3 p.m.
A slice of Detroit largely untouched, Belle Isle is a perfect escape to nature within the Motor City. Locals and visitors alike can “enjoy the city in a less city-like space,” Lee says, and can bring a snack or meal to enjoy while experiencing the island’s tranquil beaches, trails, and scenery.
Dinner at Selden Standard - 7 p.m.
“The food and beverage scene is among the best in the country right now, featuring progressive cocktail bars to nationally recognized restaurants,” Lee says of Detroit. One of the city’s most recognizable newer names is Selden Standard, a small plates restaurant in Midtown known for its rustic-style, locally sourced food, and craft cocktails and Lee’s old stomping grounds.
Marble Bar is one of Lee's go-to spots for live music in Detroit.
Live music across Detroit - 9 p.m.
If there’s one thing Detroit has no shortage of, it’s live music. The Majestic, TV Lounge, Marble Bar, and Deluxx Fluxx are some of Lee’s favorites, which offer everything from dance music to hip-hop and punk rock shows. “With live music venues like [these] to finish out the night, I think that would make for a pretty unique day in the city,” he says.
Late night snack at Honest John’s - 12 a.m.
Serving food late into the night, Honest John’s is one of Lee’s favorite places for a midnight snack. “This was my late-night go-to when I was working across the street at Selden Standard,” he says. “We would always run into other industry friends just getting off work and grabbing a drink and a bite as well.” Lee’s recommended order: a cheesesteak sandwich with tater tots.