Detroit, Tom’s Tavern

Evening in Detroit, I first went to an old Jazz bar, the Keyboard Lounge, (they say the oldest in the world) to hear The Blackbyrds, the club was cool but everyone was dressed way up and it was packed tight and loud, I did not fit in with the crowd in any way at all but everyone was friendly and smiley just the same. I am usually fine travelling alone and being alone in a quiet bar is totally fine, alone in a loud nightclub however is the most depressing thing I can think of so I moved on.

Back in the car I googled “quiet bar detroit” and was directed to Tom’s Tavern, I drove there and the place was totally dark with one car in the lot, I went around the block a time or two and finally parked in the snowy lot next to the other car. I couldn’t even see how to enter, walked around the outside a few times and tentatively pushed on the wooden cellar door after some serious summoning of nerves.

Down three steps into an old basement I saw an empty, incredibly rundown bar with two old guys at one table. I quietly squeaked “Are you open?”, the man in the blue shirt replied “Well, I guess we are now, sit down”.

I sat at the bar and ordered a rum and coke from the man in the blue shirt, Bob “I’m not a bartender!”. Bob is amazing, he spent 30 years as a local journalist and now helps his friend who owns Tom’s out with running the place. Bob gave me the century plus history of the tavern and told me about his history with the city over a few more drinks.

There weren’t any other customers at this point, Bob asked if I was hungry, I said I was and he replied that they don’t have a food license but if I wanted he could heat me up a can of chunky soup for free, how awesome that? Soup was great.

A few regulars started to trickle in around 10:30 and eventually there were 6-8 people there telling me about the city and asking why I was there while taking turns picking from the jukebox.

I left around midnight after sobering up enough to drive, this has been one of the best evenings in years, possibly the best evening with only strangers that I can ever remember. If you end up in Detroit for any reason I cannot recommend highly enough taking time to visit Tom’s, it is unlike anything you have been to before.

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