To begin, I think it’s important to start by explaining what this is not. This isn’t a comprehensive list of all the chintzy St. Patrick’s Days celebrations taking place at countless bars from Ypsilanti to Utica and just about everywhere else in the metro area.
There are plenty of other resources and lists for what drink specials are where and who has the cheapest green beer. This isn’t a guide to where to pound $5 Bud Light tall-boys during the St. Patrick’s Parade along Michigan Avenue. The parade is an honored Detroit tradition, for sure.
However, the fact remains that Sunday, March 12 is not Friday March 17, the day we Americans colloquially refer to as St. Paddy’s Day, thus making it the only true day to celebrate what is unequivocally my favorite holiday of the year.
So what is this? Think of it as a strategic timeline to how to successfully celebrate the actual day, courtesy of Devon Patrick O’Reilly. I will draw on personal experience to give you a concise but complete timeline for a St. Patrick’s Day in Detroit. There are many ways to enjoy this joyous and boozy holiday, this is simply my suggested itinerary that you can stop and start as you will.
As always, drink responsibly. I strongly suggest you plan to use a ride sharing service like Uber or Lyft, or have a designated driver with you or to pick you and your crew up if you’re going to do this and do not live within walking distance of the end of the line like I do. Also, that way no matter where you are if you need to bow out you will be home in no time without incident.
8:00 a.m. – Nancy Whiskey’s: Technically they open at 7:00 a.m. but we’re not heathens here so let’s hold off an hour before we start our imbibing for the day. First thing you’ll need is a proper Irish breakfast to give you a good base and provide you with the necessary fuel for a day of celebration. Luckily this legendary Corktown neighborhood establishment has you covered, along with a shot of Tully and pint of Guinness to wash it down and get you ready for your stroll to Corktown’s central bar district along Michigan Avenue where you’ll appropriately be doing most of your damage on this day.
2644 Harrison Street in Detroit
9:30 a.m. – Bobcat Bonnies: Old school Corktown barflies may have known this place as O’Blivions but the lively gastropub that took its place has quickly become a go-to gathering spot and watering hole, as well as a great place to assemble the stragglers on your drinking team who couldn’t pull it together in time for breakfast.
1800 Michigan Avenue in Detroit
10:30 a.m. – Corktown Tavern: She ain’t much to look at but the drinks will be cheap and the Jameson will be flowing. Be careful though, pacing will be critical today so I would maintain a predominantly Guinness diet at this establishment.
716 Michigan Avenue in Detroit
11:30 a.m. – Mercury Bar: Just a couple blocks walk west down Michigan Avenue I would highly suggest making a stop at Mercury for a beer, if no other reason than to enjoy a cold one outdoors at one of the few patios in Corktown accessible year round. As good as the food here is on any given day here though, don’t fall to temptation just yet because the lunch you’ve been waiting for is just a few steps (or staggers) away.
2163 Michigan Avenue in Detroit
12:30 p.m. – Gaelic League: Decidedly the most important and appropriate stop of the day, suck it up and pay the cover, it’ll be worth it. Live bands, Irish music and dancing, and some of the best corned beef and cabbage you can shake your light-up shamrock glasses at await you at this Detroit staple.
2068 Michigan Avenue in Detroit
2:30 p.m. – McShanes: By now things will be quite lively in Corktown and your crew should have a decent lather of brews and whiskey going. So take a couple hours here to enjoy the two bars, live music, and always entertaining people watching that will be available.
1460 Michigan Avenue in Detroit
4:30 p.m. – Nemo’s: A relic of old Corktown this rustic bar is best known for their shuttles to sporting events these days but they still shine bright on March 17 with an always spirited crowd of revelers mixed with those just getting off work to enjoy their first beer of the holiday.
1384 Michigan Avenue in Detroit
5:30 p.m. – PJ’s Lager House: Let’s be honest. You’re going to feel it at this point. If for some reason you’re not PJ’s is the place to take that final step. There will be music and there will be an eclectic mix of patrons but let me suggest that if you have not yet enjoyed your obligatory Irish Car Bomb of the day, PJ’s should be the place to satisfy the requirement. You have now reached the geographical edge of Corktown but hopefully not the proverbial edge of your limit.
1254 Michigan Avenue in Detroit
Intermission – Somewhere along Michigan Avenue: This is necessary for two reasons; for one, you need to traverse this stretch from Corktown to the downtown business district to reach your next destination. In addition, this mile long walk will separate the weak from the bold and give those who may have had their fill of St. Patrick’s day the chance to bow out and end their night without shame. For you though, dinner awaits.
7:00 p.m.- (Forans) – Grand Trunk: They put up the old sign and for one night Grand Trunk returns to their true roots as an Irish bar. Surrounded by new and trendier bars and restaurants in the ever-changing downtown landscape, Grand Trunk oozes authenticity in much the same way your legendary Forans Sandwich will be oozing swiss cheese and sauerkraut. Did I mention you can get a side of Shepherd’s Pie? Do it.
612 Woodward Avenue, Detroit
9:00 p.m. – Whiskey Parlor: Stumble upstairs and treat yourself to a bevy of Irish whiskeys the likes of which you’ll only find across the pond. Pacing be damned, you’re in the homestretch now.
608 Woodward Avenue, Detroit
10:00 p.m. – Queens Bar: A short shamble away, this spot will provide an ideal final chapter for your hopefully glorious day. A true neighborhood bar in an intimate setting you’ll be able to spend your final couple hours making new friends with the friendly crowd and having substantial and insightful conversations you will absolutely not remember the following day.
35 East Grand River Avenue, Detroit
If you have made this far, send up a cheers to yourself and whoever else is left of your motley crew, for you have conquered St. Patrick’s day in Detroit.