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Detroit’s Greatest Hits: Drinks & Desserts

By Meghan McGowan, Ophelia Morey, and Stephanie Swanberg.

As a continuation of our previous dining post, this last Detroit’s Greatest Hits featurette highlights the drinks and sweet treats of Detroit! Be sure to sample some of these local favorites during your time in the city!

Drinks in Detroit

Coffee & Tea

We know you’ll be seeking that early morning coffee, tea, or hot chocolate to start your conference days. There is, of course, a Starbucks conveniently located inside the RenCen, but we recommend one of these local coffee places within walking of the hotel and Huntington Place:

  • The Guardian Coffee (Floor 1 of The Guardian Building, 500 Griswold St). Just one block from the conference center, check out The Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company. It sits inside the glorious lobby of The Guardian Building where you can enjoy the architecture and murals while grabbing a cup to go!
  • Coffee Down Under (607 Shelby St). This coffee shop focuses on espresso-based drinks, but also has tea and hot chocolate on the menu. This place is “Melbourne inspired. Detroit Made” and features an Australian-based roaster, Proud Mary Coffee, and one of Australia’s favorite coffee drinks, the “flat white.”
  • Avalon Cafe and Bakery (1049 Woodward Ave). Avalon is a 14-minute walk from the RenCen, but well worth it! Avalon Breads is a local favorite for homemade bread and their cafe and bakery will become your stop for a quick coffee/tea, baked goods, breakfast, or lunch. Many vegetarian options are available too!

Local “Pop” Culture

If you’ve ever traveled to the Midwest, you’ll know the term for soft drinks around here is “pop.” A trip to Detroit would not be complete without sampling our two iconic pops: Vernors Ginger Ale and Faygo. According to the Detroit Historical Society, Vernors was originally created by Detroit pharmacist James Vernor and has been continually produced since 1866, making it one of the oldest soft drinks in the United States. It has a ginger bite unique from any ginger ale you’ve ever tried and many swear by its medicinal uses. Faygo’s massive line of familiar and unique flavors is a must-try – you won’t find the likes of “Red Pop” (some say it’s just “red”; others say it’s strawberry-like) and “Rock ‘n Rye” (cherry cream) outside of here. In addition, diet versions are available for most flavors making these accessible for those needing sugar-free or low sugar options. You’ll find these in almost any corner store, pharmacy, or grocery in Detroit!

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Breweries, Distilleries, Cocktails, & Mocktails, Oh, My!

With over 350 breweries in the state, Michigan is quickly becoming a top destination in the country for breweries, cideries, brew pubs, and microbreweries. Detroit is an excellent place to start your tasting tour! Our partner, Visit Detroit, has an excellent list of the 15 Favorite Detroit & Metro Detroit Breweries. Closest to the conference center and hotel are Brew Detroit and Batch Brewing Company in Corktown, about a 20-minute walk from Huntington Place or a short Uber ride.

If you’re willing to venture a little farther out, we recommend going to Eastern Market where you’ll find a number of eateries, bars, and shops including Eastern Market Brewing Company and Germack Nuts, selling locally roasted nuts, snack mixes, and more. The local farmer and artisan market is open at Eastern Market on Saturday from 6:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. If distilled spirits are more to your taste, book a tour and/or tasting at Detroit City Distillery or Two James Spirits Distillery. Finally, if you’re just looking for cocktails or mocktails, try these local hot spots:

Candy Bar (1509 Broadway St, Detroit). With exceedingly good vibes and even better drinks, check out the Candy Bar located in the Siren Hotel. Take the People Mover here and get off at the Broadway Stop.

Castalia at Sfumato (3980 2nd Ave Suite E, Detroit). For something surprisingly luxurious, check out this gem where each drink is paired with a light scent for a full sensory experience. In addition to traditional cocktails, this bar also prominently includes mocktails. Located in Midtown in the lower level of the Victorian mansion, Castalia at Sfumato is about a half mile from the Mack stop off the QLine.

The Apparatus Room (250 W Larned St, Detroit). Featured in our restaurant post, we highlight it again here for the drinks! Located in what was once the Detroit Fire Department headquarters, the Detroit Foundation Hotel’s restaurant is a destination for modern food and classic cocktails alike. The Apparatus Room is about a two-minute walk from Huntington Place.

The Ghostbar at the Whitney (4421 Woodward Ave, Detroit). Though it is rumored to be haunted, Ghostbar is a surprisingly cozy place to enjoy a drink with colleagues and friends. Take the QLine to Canfield, and you can’t miss The Whitney, the roman-esque revival mansion on the corner. Note: reservations are required on Saturdays.

Desserts Detroit

The bakeries, chocolatiers, and creameries of Detroit will satisfy any sweet tooth! Here are our recommendations around the downtown area and in the surrounding neighborhoods:

Milk & Froth (535 Griswold St Ste 112). Only one block from the hotel is a favorite small-batch ice cream spot! We recommend all the flavors, but especially the sea salt butter cake. They also offer vegan options.

Bon Bon Bon (various locations, closest to the conference center: 1435 Farmer St Suite 120). This woman-owned local chocolate shop specializes in luxurious bon bon chocolates. Try Detroit-inspired flavors like “Better Butter Crunch” made with local Better Made Potato Chips and “Bumpy” which imitates a local favorite treat, Sanders Bumpy Cake.

For the Love of Sugar (100 Erskine St). Located in the heart of Downtown Detroit, this is a beautiful place to enjoy specialty desserts, coffee, and tea. They serve vegan and gluten free options, so check in to see what they have available for the day. You may even see their food truck around town!

Good Cakes and Bakes (19363 Livernois). Located on the Avenue of Fashion, this Black women owned bakery has been featured on The Today Show. Everything is made fresh and there are tasty options abound, including vegan treats.

Treat Dreams (4160 Cass Ave). Looking for fun plus ice cream, then Treat Dreams is your place. They have a reputation as a unique ice cream parlor. Their mission is to “provide customers with creative and delicious ice cream options in an environment that contributes to some of life’s best moments.” And they even serve vegan and gluten-free options.

Warda Pâtisserie (70 W Alexandrine St). For exceptional and distinctive pastries, visit James Beard winning Warda Pâtisserie. Warda Bouguettaya’s treats are heavily influenced by her Algerian heritage with a French spin, and everything really is knocks-your-socks-off good.

If you venture out of the immediate downtown Detroit area, you’ll encounter even more sweet things to savor in the various neighborhoods of Detroit!

Sister Pie (8066 Kercheval Ave). In Detroit’s West Village, this bakery is famous for its pies (the salted maple pie is their signature) and cookies but also serves breakfast and lunch. You can also pre-order several days ahead for pick-up.

New Palace Bakery (9833 Joseph Campau Ave, Hamtramck). In our thriving Polish neighborhood, be sure to stop by this famous bakery for a Polish pączki, a cream- or jelly-filled pastry. This is a Detroit legend and traditional indulgence for Fat Tuesday. Also features bread, cookies, and more!

Le Detroit Macaron (2756 Evaline St, Hamtramck). Just down the street from New Palace Bakery, this little gem is known for using a traditional, French method to make their macarons. Most of their signature flavors are gluten-free and they also offer vegan macarons too. Check out their Facebook page for May specials.

Sweet Potato Sensations (17337 Lahser Rd, Detroit). Family owned for 35 years, this uniquely Detroit business offers sweet and savory goods, including mini sweet potato pies and cobblers. While you’re there, you can travel just a mile more to check out Pages Bookshop.

As we wrap up our Detroit’s Greatest Hits series, we hope we’ve inspired you to experience the sights, sounds, and tastes of Detroit while you’re in town for the conference! Be sure to look out for our next post on transportation options for getting to and around Detroit!

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