Iconic Eateries: A Taste Of Nostalgia

January 19, 2024
older black and white photograph of the exterior of Cadieux Cafe - iconic eateries

Photo courtesy of Cadieux Cafe

Metro Detroit restaurants are filled with history, from family-owned places passing through the generations or buildings that have survived different eras. From the elegantly restored Victorian mansions to the charm of historic buildings, these spots are not just architectural marvels but also custodians of tales from a bygone era. They serve not only as venues for special dining experiences but also as time capsules, preserving the essence of Metro Detroit’s rich heritage. In these spaces, historical significance meets modern culinary innovation, offering a dining experience that is both nostalgic and avant-garde. Let’s dive into the history behind these iconic eateries.


43271 Crescent Boulevard, Novi

In its 70th year, Diamond Jim Brady’s Bistro Bar is a landmark spot with bistro fare and classic cocktails. “Diamond Jim Brady’s Bistro Bar since 1954, originally in Detroit, now nestled in Novi, [features] all the charm of a bistro with the neighborhood feel of your local bar,” shares Chef/Owner Sharon Juergens. Juergens tells us she, “serves casual, trendy food in a relaxed atmosphere. Enjoy potato-crusted whitefish, crispy flatbread with chèvre cheese and prosciutto, a big pot of spicy mussels, or our famous Big DJB burger… and handcrafted cocktails, Michigan draft beer, and an affordable eclectic wine list round out the Bistro experience.” For extra variety, check out the chalkboard features for changing specials at Diamond Jim Brady’s Bistro Bar. 

trailblazer field

From soccer practice to grocery runs, the Chevy Trailblazer is designed to make your everyday outings a breeze.


155 West Congress Street, Detroit

Established in 1938, this classically elegant steakhouse and cigar lounge had to make this list of iconic eateries. London Chop House won repeated awards throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s and served celebrities and guests of all kinds. After changing ownership, London Chop House closed in 1991 but was revived in 2013 and has stuck since. Now, enjoy the elegance of the restaurant along with your meal, whether you choose lamb chops, sea bass, filet mignon, or another impressive dish. Order a classic cocktail or a glass from the extensive wine list, and enjoy your dish while experiencing live music. 


4300 Cadieux Road, Detroit

Cadieux Cafe has been representing the Eastside since 1933 as a social hub since its time during the Prohibition era. This spot celebrates Belgian culture but certainly welcomes everyone to enjoy its traditions. You can find, “…Feather bowling, steamed mussels, and other Belgian specialties, burgers, sandwiches, and pommes frites, live music, and more than three dozen beers from Belgium,” shares co-owner John Rutherford. The atmosphere still holds its old-world charm but is also known for its late-night availability throughout the week (if you want more late-night eateries, check these spots out). Rutherford also tells us, “With the addition of a 5,000 square foot outdoor biergarten (Mussel Beach), stage with projection screen, and outdoor bar (The Garage Bar), the Cadieux Cafe is the perfect location to host a variety of events!”

exterior of Cadieux Cafe with the Cadieux street sign
Photo courtesy of Joe Galli – Camera Jesus


4421 Woodward Avenue, Detroit

The Whitney provides a fine dining experience inside an iconic mansion completed in 1894. Originally the home of lumber baron David Whitney Jr., the restaurant came to be in 1986 after a lengthy restoration and passing hands throughout the years. Now, you can experience tea service alongside antiques, dinner around stunning woodwork, and private dining for small group functions within The Whitney. The mansion also features The Ghostbar on the third floor, named after tales of Whitney’s ghost haunting the building, as well as beautiful gardens perfect for strolling in nicer weather.


2030 Park Avenue, Detroit

Cliff Bell was a Detroit icon in the late 1920s during the Prohibition era, opening many speakeasies and clubs through 1935 when Cliff Bell’s was created. Set out to be ‘the finest restaurant in America,’ this spot had gold leaf adorned dome ceilings, state-of-the-art mechanical refrigeration, air conditioning, and more, Cliff Bell’s was the place to be from the 30s to the 50s. Cliff Bell’s was closed for more than 20 years before reopening in 2006 as with its original name. Now, Cliff Bell’s is among the world’s premier jazz clubs, featuring fine dining menus and extensive bar selections. 


330 Oakwood, Detroit

This old-school restaurant isn’t that old, established in 1968 as Giovanni’s Pizza Parlor, but it has a great history behind it. Giovanni’s Ristorante was transformed into an elegant dining space by descendants of Italian immigrant Giovanni Cannars, aptly naming the spot after their father and grandfather when visited by Frank Sinatra. Visit and enjoy the Italian fare, a glass of wine, and a welcoming ambiance. Experience the main dining room, the Wine room perfect for a romantic dinner, the Godfather room for a business meeting, or the speakeasy for a private party. 


3401 Riopelle Street, Detroit

Amore da Roma is one of Detroit’s oldest Italian spots, originally named Roma Cafe when opened in 1890. It has been passed between families, once in 1918 and more recently, in 2017 when Executive Chef Guy Pelino revitalized the space and re-opened it as what it is today. It has retained its charm and history throughout the years. This family-friendly restaurant specializes in comforting Italian dishes in a home-like atmosphere everyone can enjoy with several dining rooms available. 


624 Brush Street, Detroit

Jacoby’s is an old-world beer garden, known for its classic German menu and extensive beer list since opening in 1904. It was run through four generations of the Jacoby family before being sold in 1995 and once again in 2006. You can find bar fare, authentic German dishes, drafts, and craft brews. Take a seat at the bar or reserve the upstairs for a private party in one of Detroit’s oldest standing bars. If you have other plans downtown, Jacoby’s also has a courtesy shuttle for pick-ups and drop-offs around the city.


114 West Lafayette Boulevard, Detroit

Founded in 1917 by Gust Keros, American Coney Island has been family-owned and operated in the same location on Lafayette for 107 years. Coney dogs are a Detroit staple, which certainly can be partially credited to American Coney Island. The menu is simple here, with classic coney dogs, gyro sandwiches, chili cheese fries, and more. 


118 West Lafayette Boulevard, Detroit

Located right next door, Lafayette was opened in 1924 by Bill Keros, brother of Gust Keros, just a few years later. Lafayette Coney Island is also famed for its coney dogs with chili, mustard, and onions. The adjoined spots represent the age-old rivalry between the two restaurants on which one offers the best coney dog. Open daily, you can find cuisine that resonates with Metro Detroiters – coney dogs, fries, and more. You really can’t have a list of iconic eateries without these Coney Islands included.


17324 John R Street, Detroit

This Bavarian-style pub offers German fare along with entertainment weekly on the piano. Opened in 1933 and now in the ownership of the third generation of the Kurz family, you can still find sing-alongs of a classic German drinking song nightly at Dakota Inn Rathskeller. Order some kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), bratwurst, or one of the schnitzels available. Visit and surround yourself with German beer steins, family pictures, and a feeling of Bavaria while you’re there. 

This article has been updated to include new information. The original article was published on January 24, 2020, and was authored by Karen Dybis.