What is left to say about Detroit? By now, you’ll have heard the boom and bust stories, the tales of failure and recovery. It’s old (and frankly rather boring) news—let’s just agree that Detroit is back.
Instead, let’s talk about how cool Detroit is. It has famous sons and daughters, from superstars like Madonna and Eminem to, well, Kid Rock. It’s the home of Motown, the birthplace of techno, and the den of oft-beleaguered Tigers and Lions.
And Detroit's coffee scene is booming. Brand new cafes open seemingly every week, in monied suburbs and trendy urban neighborhoods. Detroit’s sprawling size—San Francisco, Manhattan, and Boston could all fit within the city’s 139 square miles—means there’s plenty of scope for new businesses to begin, expand and grow.
Here are ten of the best, both new and established.
The Red Hook Detroit
Originally based in the suburb of Ferndale, The Red Hook has since expanded to Detroit proper with this charming neighborhood space. The rotating roaster lineup is a mixture of star coffee names such as Parlor Coffee and Stumptown Coffee Roasters, as well as more local representation from Astro Coffee, all made via batch brew, Hario V60, or a white La Marzocco FB80.
In-house baked goods round out the menu, while plants and colorful murals make the cafe feel lively and welcoming. Its location in the heart of West Village makes it a local favorite, as well as a perfect spot for dog-watching if my time spent there is any indication.
To downtown now, and Populace’s lobby cafe inside The Siren Hotel on Broadway. I’ve written about this space before, and it bears repeating that the regal opulence of the interior is a sight to see. Heavy curtains, antique furniture, and just so much marble make sitting in the lobby and drinking a latte a distinctly fancy experience.
Populace roasts out of Bay City, Michigan, where its original cafe also resides, but this expansion to Detroit is another sign that the city’s coffee scene is flourishing, and still welcoming new players.
Ashe Supply Company
On the same block of Broadway, a couple of buildings up from Populace, sits Ashe Supply Company, a self-styled “Lifestyle Brand” that combines clothing, artwork, prints, and coffee. Started by two Detroit natives, the cafe features industrial-chic interior design, with a curved bar clad in wood, hand-written signs, and pieces of Detroit ephemera dotted around.
Part of the space is dedicated to coffee roasting, while the rest is filled with community tables and cozy nooks, from which to gaze through the big glass windows at the comings and goings from the Detroit Opera House across the street.
Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters
Another downtown expansion for another Detroit suburb stalwart, Dessert Oasis opened this second location after beginning life 26 miles north in Rochester.
The downtown space is big and softly lit, with high ceilings, exposed ductwork and light fixtures—in fact, if it feels a bit like a music venue then that’s because it sort of is. Dessert Oasis started life as a dessert- and music-focused cafe, before adjusting its focus to include more of the coffee side of the business.
The cafes still host regular gigs, with both local and national acts passing through most weekends.
The big octagonal bar sits in the middle of the space, featuring a pour-over station and Slayer espresso machine, as well as a refrigerated display case for all the house-made cakes (dessert is in the name, after all).
Started by a couple who met while working at Monmouth Coffee Company in London, Astro is regarded by many as the center of Detroit’s coffee scene. Since 2011, Astro has offered a distinctive take on specialty coffee alongside an expansive menu of house-made goodies (plus they make their own nut milk, always a bonus).
A rotating selection of US and international guest coffee is available (Heart Roasters from Oregon and Bonanza Coffee Roasters from Germany are two recent offerings), in addition to Astro’s own roasting program, which they set up just last year.
The cafe itself is cozy and welcoming, with mural-covered chalkboard walls, plenty of seating, and a busy, community-minded feel.
A brand new cafe above a barbershop a block down from Astro on Michigan Ave, Lucky has the feel of a laid-back saloon. Interior design is big on dark wood, exposed brick and plenty of antiques (not to mention a moose head on one wall), and a huge three-part mirror behind the reclaimed butcher-block bar.
A La Marzocco Linea Mini serves espresso drinks, while manual and batch brews are also available, all made with coffee from Populace. Lucky is the ideal place to grab a coffee, relax on a comfy sofa while gazing upon the puzzled visage of a flag-draped moose, and await your turn in the barber’s chair.
Previously located within the Pony Ride business incubator in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, Anthology’s roastery and cafe has been a Detroit favorite since 2012. The new space at the Eastern Market retains an open plan and communal feel, with the roastery on one side and a semi-floating coffee bar featuring a striking Mahlkönig EKK43 grinder and full Modbar system on the other. Everything is arranged to give the customer maximum interaction with their coffee as it is roasted and brewed.
Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company
Another of Detroit’s coffee elders, Great Lakes Coffee has been wholesale roasting since 1994 and serving coffee at its flagship location on Woodward Ave in Midtown since 2012. A big, light-filled space, utilizing wood reclaimed from two demolished Hamtramck houses, Great Lakes combines a full coffee service with an extensive alcohol menu and inventive food lineup.
One part of the enormous bar features a La Marzocco GB5, Mazzer grinders, and a Hario V60 pour-over station for all your coffee needs, while another hosts a rotating selection of wines, draught beers, and specialty cocktails. It’s a harmonious blend, keeping the communal tables and bar stools that fill out the rest of the space in constant demand.
On the outskirts of the bustling Eastern Market, tucked discreetly at the back of a retail shop, sits Cairo Coffee, a multi-roaster cafe anchored by North Carolina’s Counter Culture. Whether you happen upon it by chance or hear about it through word of mouth, visiting Cairo feels like visiting the kitchen of an old friend who just happens to have made a pot of coffee.
The cafe might be small, with space for just a few tables, but the coffee experience is taken very seriously, with a La Marzocco GS3 and Mazzer Major taking up most of the counter, and rotating guest coffees supplementing the ever-present Counter Culture (most recently Máquina Coffee Roasters from Pennsylvania).
In a nod to community engagement, the cafe also hosts the Library of Cairo, encouraging visitors to borrow (and hopefully return) a variety of books from the shelves below the counter.
Bikes & Coffee
Another Detroit coffee newbie, having only opened in late October and located across Trumbull Ave from Wayne State University’s athletic complex, Bikes & Coffee focuses on, well, you can probably guess. The bar, big and rectangular, sits in the middle of the space, while the walls showcase bicycle paraphernalia for sale and the back of the space houses the already busy repair shop.
There seems to be a natural intersection between bicycle people and coffee people, making it the perfect niche for Bikes & Coffee to exploit.