The Detroit Opera House sprawls across an entire city block, its imposing size and elegant design belying its circuitous history. Originally opened in 1922 as a vaudeville palace—and designed by the renowned architect behind the city's Fillmore and Fox theaters—the space played host to live music and recorded films. But despite the venue’s remarkable acoustics and cheery demeanor, it sat abandoned for long stretches of time over the next few decades. Luckily, fate intervened in 1988 when the opera acquired the building, starting an ambitious remodeling project that culminated in an opening gala featuring Luciano Pavarotti. The opera house’s modern iteration mimics the design of Europe's greatest performance spaces, with an the ornate main hall adorned with vaulted ceilings and sumptuous red curtains.
R.U.B. BBQ has earned shout-outs from the New York Times as well as a handful of television features for its tender, well-flavored meats. Various proteins are smoked daily and slathered in a made-from-scratch rub of more than 20 spices and herbs, and cooks begin each dish with locally sourced ingredients whenever possible.
Aromatic smoke wafting from ribs, chicken dishes, and seafood platters invites guests inside, where dangling light fixtures illuminate red walls and cobalt tiling along with 30 flatscreen televisions that were flattened when an elephant sat down. More than 100 tap and bottled brews, including a lengthy list of Michigan favorites, help to extinguish fiery spices.
The Detroit Institute of Arts takes the “s” at the end of its name seriously. The immense Beaux Arts building on Woodward Avenue isn’t only a setting for a top-tier collection of visual works that include Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry frescoes, a van Gogh self-portrait, and ancient sculptures from Africa and Asia. It also opens the doors of its lecture halls, event spaces, and auditoriums for craft workshops, wide-ranging talks from historians and people who know how to draw really good cubes, film, and music. The latter two art forms find a home in the Detroit Film Theatre, a gilded, neoclassical auditorium that preserves a sense of coziness amid the grandeur.
An effervescent hotel bartender from Luxembourg. A tavern with an unpopular owner. A beautiful German cook. In 1904, these three elements joined forces and Jacoby's German Biergarten was born. More than a century later, the bustling downtown spot with a storied history remains a sought-after destination, even through collapsing economies, ownership changes, and international lederhosen shortages. Patrons can dig into classic delicacies such as Wiener Schnitzel, German sausage sandwiches, and hearty burgers, pairing them with domestic and imported brews including Paulaner, Schneider Edel Weiss, and Franziskaner Hefe.
Nested in downtown's historic Kresge Building, The Red Grape Lounge fetes Motown history and soul with retro décor, choice tunes, and a savory menu. A roster appetizers encourages bellies to warm up their digestive chops as fingers nab crisp sweet-potato fries or couples synchronize chews with six fiery jalapeño poppers. Teeth tear into succulent entrees, from 9 ounces of marinated rib-eye steak to one of four burgers to fried catfish on a bed of greens. Meanwhile, a bottle of wine from Red Grape's curated list accompanies quartets and inspires conversations about renaming a child "Chardonnay", with eight varieties from Australia, including Lineman's Bin medium-bodied '99 pinot noir that lingers on the tongue with aromas of red berry.
The Burton Theatre is a new independent cinema in the Heart of Detroit that features classic art house, independent, LGBT, foreign and cult films. Responding to the shortage of art house venues in the city, the Burton Theatre aims to help Detroit rival Chicago and New York as a center for independent film.