[Historic Bars] The Dakota Inn Rathskeller in Detroit, Michigan

Posted on: July 17th, 2014 by Katherine Flynn

PreservationNation continues its historic bars series with America’s takes on the beer-brewing bodegas that originally sprouted in the Fatherland. Today's stop: Detroit.

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The Dakota Inn Rathskeller was founded by German immigrant Karl Kurz in 1933.

When is the absolute best time to pay a visit to the Dakota Inn Rathskeller in Detroit? That’s a tough one.

It could quite possibly be on Friday and Saturday nights, when the rafters shake with the sounds of diners belting traditional German tunes, backed by a live band or piano; or maybe it’s during the restaurant’s annual spring Maifest celebration, when Weissbier flows freely amid impromptu conga lines. It could even be in the summer, when the Inn hosts a chili cook-off in the backyard biergarten.

Whenever you decide to stop by, though, you should plan your visit well in advance -- the famous local joint is only open Wednesday through Saturday nights, and closes for several weeks every July and August so the owner can enjoy a much-deserved vacation.

Good times and good food are the common threads that connect the present-day Dakota Inn Rathskeller to its 81-year history. It was founded in 1933 by Karl Kurz, a Bavarian immigrant and grandfather of the current owner, who dreamed of opening a restaurant that served the food and drink of his homeland while working long days at Detroit’s Highland Park Ford factory.

When he finally scraped together enough money to buy a ramshackle Chinese hand laundry store and fix it up, he proudly opened the three-stool Rathskeller, or beer hall, that over the years expanded into the 2,000-square-foot, 145-seat institution that Detroiters know and love today.

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Patrons love the Inn's authentic Bavarian charm, as well as the nine beers on tap.

So much great history can be overwhelming, so we’ve broken down what you need to know below:

Location: 17324 John R St., Detroit, MI 48203

Sample menu item: The popular Combo Plate features one bratwurst and one knackwurst, served with hot German potato salad and homemade sauerkraut.

If you just can’t decide, you can split a plate of knackwurst, schnitzel, bratwurst, rouladen, German potato salad, red kraut, and sauerkraut with a minimum of three other people, for a taste of everything great that the Dakota Inn has to offer.

Best Yelp reviews: “If you are not the type to sing along, laugh out loud, join in the ‘conga line,’ or wear a felt chicken hat made by the waitstaff, then go somewhere else.”

"If you live in the Detroit metro, you have to eat here at least once."

Decor highlights: Taxidermy deer, painted murals, and plenty of decorative beer steins.

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Taxidermy deer lining the walls are always decorated for holidays like Christmas and St. Patrick's Day.

Check out this local news piece for even more on the Rathskeller's history and an interview with the third-generation owner, Karl E. Kurz.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Katherine Flynn

Katherine Flynn

Katherine Flynn is an assistant editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys coffee, record stores and uncovering the stories behind historic places. Follow her on Twitter at @kateallthetime.

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