Continuing my birthday celebrations from last week into Saturday, some friends and I met for a pre-dinner drink at Standby, a cool little bar tucked away in The Belt. In case you, like me before Saturday, have never encountered The Belt, it’s this vibrant alley space located between Broadway and Library streets downtown. Strings of lightbulbs, graffiti artwork, and other displays of creativity brighten this corridor between buildings. It’s an area meant to promote artists and engage the public with their work, according to Standby’s website. It’s also characteristically modern Detroit – another facet of its magical rebirth phase.
Standby’s entrance within this busy alleyway was initially unrecognizable to us – until we spotted the small carved wooden sign to the right of a metal door just beyond a massive artwork display of a man’s face.
The discreet nature of the bar’s storefront is intentional, according to its website. It wants to feel hidden away, so that those who visit feel like they are hiding away, too. That appeals to me. I get that urge to escape sometimes, to be somewhere where no one in my life knows where I am.
Carrying though this intention, Standby’s interior is small and intimate, dim, mysterious. There’s a tiny bar rail, dark wood, contemporary artwork on the walls. There’s a food menu containing what appears to be a few small plates (beets with ricotta; brussels sprouts; shrimp escabeche, to name several), a few entrees (including a cheeseburger and curry-braised lamb) and two desserts (du jour ice cream and chocolate selections). And there’s the drink menu, consisting of some very classy – and very strong – craft cocktails.
Said cocktails are also quite pricey – but they are a value considering how much liquor they contain! My legs were boozy-numb after only a few sips of my Dowager Empress, a gin, Chrysanthemum syrup, rosewater and bitters-infused concoction served in a tumbler with a grapefruit peel and one of those big square ice cubes. It was a drink that demanded to be savored.
225 Gratiot Ave.
Detroit, MI 48226