This time of year can be brutal on the psyche of a Michigander. It’s true that the mitten can be a winter playland replete with all manner of sports and activities, but for those of us city dwellers the ski hills and snowmobile trails of the northern part of the state might as well be Alaska. Not everyone here loves cold weather, and for some it can be downright depressing.
A warm vacation is the most desirable remedy for the winter doldrums but certainly not the most convenient or cost efficient. Thankfully for us wannabee snowbirds, our beloved city of Detroit offers some spectacular options to forget you’re suffering through almost daily winter advisory warnings and temperatures cold enough to induce frostbit in 20 minutes.
At these watering holes the only salt you’ll have to worry about ruining your shoes is the kind falling from your margarita.
There’s a popular song out now about leaving your heart in Havana, but for the majority of us that have yet to experience a night in Cuba, Vicente’s is about as close to the real things as we may get. The food is delicious but the reason you’ll stay and return is the drinks and atmosphere. Their Sangria is spectacular and the myriad or flavored mojitos are the best you’ll find outside of Miami. Add to that the live Salsa dancing every Friday and Saturday night and you’ll soon forget you didn’t even need to hop on a boat to get here.
1250 Library Street in Detroit | Website
2. Rincon Tropical
For starters, “Tropical” is right there in the name! How could you go wrong after that? Fear not, because they more than live up to their name. This exquisitely authentic Puerto Rican eatery has all the local favorites straight from cooks who grew up on the island.
At Rincon Tropical they specialize in authentic Puerto Rican cuisine with original recipes straight from the family cookbook. Roasted pork, stuffed potatoes, and anything with plantains are a few of my favorites but this is a place where exploring the menu is a must. Not to be forgotten there’s a full bar serving any number of drinks including a bevy of fruit and rum cocktails.
6538 Michigan Avenue, Detroit | Facebook Page
3. Mutiny Bar
Detroit’s only true Tiki Bar currently in existence, Mutiny is a relative newcomer to the scene having only opened a couple wintery months ago. From the music and décor, to the Lais draped across every seat at the at the bar, this place goes all in on the Tiki experience.
Speaking of the menu, the drinks are perfectly authentic and heavy on the rum with almost every offering arriving in a unique and kitschy vessel ranging from coconut husk to flaming tiki idol. It may be more enjoyable to go to a bar like this in the colder months as you step out from the blizzard conditions and into what might as well be Tahiti.
4654 Vernor, Detroit | Facebook Page
This one may not give you the south of the border vibe, but Texas is still a lot warmer than Detroit this time of year. With the look and feel of a hip Austin taco & tequila bar Bakersfield takes you away with their warm southwestern décor and array of TV’s consistently playing old western movies. Be sure to sample their interesting selection of tacos ample Tequila and Whiskey menu which is also highlighted in the “shot of the day” a $2 offering of one of the spirits.
3100 Woodward Avenue | Website
5. La Feria
What supposedly started with a group of friends reminiscing about their time in Seville, Spain has become Detroit’s preeminent spot for authentic tapas. The cozy space and atmosphere transports patrons to a warm evening in the Spain and is best enjoyed with a date or small group of friends. There is also a full menu of libations including the eponymous Agua De Sevilla featuring cava, torres orange liqueur, whiskey, and pineapple juice.
4130 Cass, Detroit | Website
6. Kresge Court
I almost hate to keep mentioning this place to people but I’m afraid the secret has already long been out. Although not the tropical feel you may be looking for, Kresge Court offers an impressive glass atrium that lets you soak in the sun from the comfort of 68 degrees and drink in hand.
The space is replete intimate seating arrangements and of course the café on site offers a full bar in addition to coffee, tea, and snacks. It would be very easy to lose yourself in thoughts of Barcelona or Prague while being enveloped by the European gothic architecture towering around you. If you really want to take your experience here to the next level, visit on a Friday night where the museum stays open extra late and features an ever changing offering of live musical acts from around the world.
5200 Woodward, Detroit (in the DIA) | Website
Any one of these establishments would do well to cure your thirst for a vacation during the brutal dead of Michigan winter but my unsolicited advice would be to bundle a few into a single days gallivanting.
After all, how often do you get to globe trot to remote destinations like Havana, Polynesia, and Spain without ever leaving Detroit’s 139 square miles of adventure?