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.
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.
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.
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.