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Detroit Dive Bar Tour with Inside Detroit

I happened to be on Twitter on Saturday and mentioned that I love dive bars. A few minutes later I got a tweet back from a friend that there was a Detroit Dive Bar tour the next night, would I be interested? Oh heck yeah!

The tour was organized by Inside Detroit, a non-profit organization that gives public and group tours of Detroit. The founders, Jeanette Pierce and Maureen Kearns, both live in the city of Detroit and are extremely passionate about the city. They not only exude that passion on their tours but also educate others on the history and culture of Detroit.

The Dive Bar Tour group.The tour we were on was specifically put together for couch surfers. Couch surfers are an internet based community of travelers and hosts. The hosts offer free lodging on an extra bed or couch to the travelers. I actually looked into this when I was planning my first trip to the UK; the service was just starting out at that point. For whatever reasons, I decided to go the hotel, hostel, bartenders’ floor, and “man I would eventually marry” route. I’m still interested in couch surfing though, as hotels are cost prohibitive for the budget traveler. The cost isn’t the only benefit of couch surfing; you also get to experience a city through a local’s eye. And that is what we're doing on this tour, experiencing the city from a local's perspective.

The Anchor BarThe first bar on the tour, and our meeting spot, was the Anchor Bar on Fort Street. The Anchor is a dive bar, but it’s a comfortable dive. I could definitely see myself hanging out there. There is sporting memorabilia strewn about the bar and a whole wall is dedicated to hockey and the Red Wings. I’ve been told it is a regular hang out for both WDIV and Joe Louis Arena employees.

Vaughn Derderian, the owner of the Anchor, stopped by our group to say hello and even bought us a round of shots. The regulars were friendly too; I talked to one gentleman at the bar about our Detroit sports teams.

We then travelled to Beaubien Street Saloon in Bricktown. On our walk the tour guide, Jeanette Pierce, pointed out local landmarks and gave us an entertaining history lesson of Detroit. These woman know their city!

Beaubien Street SaloonBeaubien Street is a small, quiet bar. The regulars and the bartender, Tiffany, were very welcoming. In fact, Jeanette told us that there are only two bartenders here and between them they work every shift, 365 days a year. Did I mention there is free popcorn?

Steven's PlaceLastly, we journeyed to Steve’s, or Steven’s Place as the sign denotes. This bar, which is as dive bar as you can get, had a lasting impression on me. It’s right next to Saint Andrew’s but you wouldn’t go in here unless you’ve been in here before. Quite the catch 22, huh?

Steve Francis, his wife Sophia, and the guitar playing dude.Again, the owners were on site, serving up drinks. Steve Francis and his wife Sophia have owned the bar for 32 years, they also live above the bar. They are a cute old couple, hobbling about, adding a charm to this strange room. Steve served up the group shots of peach scnapps and as we clinked glasses my husband said, "Yiamas," which is Greek for cheers. I saw Steve's eyes light up and asked if he was Greek. Yes, he told me he was born in Oregon and raised in Greece. I didn't get a chance to ask how that happened. Oddly, there are old classic lunch boxes above the back bar; The Monkee’s, ET, Charlie Brown, etc. One man sat off to the side, playing his guitar. Other than him and our group, the bar was desolate.

We had a great night out, went to places we wouldn’t have gone to on our own, and met some great people. Jeanette and Maureen of Inside Detroit are what made the tour fun and unique, you can’t help but love Detroit after spending a few hours with them.

Do you have a favorite dive bar? Tell me about it!

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Reader Comments (8)

I remember way back when Gusoline Alley was the Courtesy Lounge. Talk about a dive. You always drank the beer from the bottle because you couldn't be sure the glasses had been cleaned, in fact you could be pretty sure they hadn't. If you ordered a 7&7 you got a water glass full of cheap whiskey (not 7 crown) and a can of 7up.

Unlike the dives in your article the Courtesy was not a good dive!

May 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTim

I used to love the Rathskellar in Royal Oak (before it became Rumors and eventually bit the dust...that's pretty much where Leo's Coney on Main is now).
Then there was the time I visited Marquette. My host for the weekend said there was one place she wouldn't take me...which is exactly where I ended up the first night I was there. Lots of locals at Andy's Bar...and once I bought 2 beers (one for me and one for my ride) we were set for the rest of the night as folks with pitchers kept coming around and refilling glasses.Again..long gone.

May 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDominique

Yes, there is a fine line between dive bars and places I would be scared to have a drink!

I don't have a fave dive bar here in the D yet, except for the ones on the tour. I do have great memories of dive bars in Milwaukee, where I went to college. The Green Tree, Thoma's, and the Why Not II, were some of my favorites.

In Chicago I loved the Nisei Lounge and Tai's till 4, they both had great bartenders and hands on owners. I still visit them when back in Chicago.

May 29, 2009 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

Hey Becks - Love this site. Give Detroit the love it derserves!


May 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBridgette

Aww, I wish I'd have known about this -- I LOVE dive bars!

May 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStacy Lukas

Thanks Bridgette, I'm a fan of your site as well. It's not just useful for those looking to get married in the D, you have some great info on Detroit and a genuine love of the city.

Stacy, I'll let you know if I hear about another dive bar tour. I think there is tons of interest.

May 31, 2009 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

You can always count on Steve's for a warm welcome! When the big shows roll in to town to play at St. Andy's, all the hobb and knobbery goes down at Steve's before and after the show. I've gone YEARS without stopping in, and when I finally get back to town either on a tour or by by own accord, Steve always remembers my name. But the odor-what is that?

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertoke!

I miss Detroit bars! I adore the city of Detroit with all of my heart even though I no longer live there it never leaves me and Go Detroit Lions always!!!

May 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMikel

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