Honest John's building seen on a sunny clear day
Honest John's

Midtown restaurant thrills with a unique menu and edgy décor.

Stefani Chudnow Special to the Jewish News

What makes a good bar? Is it the welcoming bartenders and a warm, unique environment? Or is it the creative drinks, a wide variety of draft beers and tasty appetizers to go on the side? To be honest, a good bar is all the above.

Honest John’s is not a good bar. It’s a great bar for one reason: It’s not only a bar; it’s an experience.

Located on the west side of Midtown Detroit, Honest John’s is a bar and restaurant popular with locals as well as visitors. The original Honest John’s, located by the Belle Isle Bridge, was demolished 15 years ago. The new one is owned by businessmen Dave and John Kwiatkowski. Honest John’s is the type of place to bring your family; however, it’s probably best for date night or a night out with friends. Though its menu reads like a diner, the atmosphere is bar-like.

Honest John's restaurant inside with hanging christmas lights.
Honest John’s Stefani Chudnow

The moment you pass through the saloon doors into Honest John’s, it’s like you’re in a different universe. Multicolored Christmas lights dangle from the ceiling and edgy neon signs (such as “Men Lie,” “Sobriety Sucks,” among others) adorn the walls. Its unique atmosphere even extends into the restrooms, which are covered in so much customer graffiti that you can barely see the walls.

As for dinner, fellow Michigan State grad Emma Morris and I decided on a Caesar salad, chicken tenders and the Impossible Burger (a vegan burger that tastes like a real hamburger) to split. Though this seems relatively basic, Honest John’s menu is anything but. From Fruity Pebble French toast to classic bar fare like fish and chips, Honest John’s extensive menu will delight anyone who walks through its swinging doors.

Honest John's Impossible Burger seen on a tin with two pickles and a side of fires
Honest John’s Impossible Burger | Detroit Jewish News

Though it took our waiter a long 20 minutes to tell us the Impossible Burger was sold out, he made up for it by offering us a black bean burger on the house. Crunchy and refreshing, I have no doubt it was one of the best black bean burgers I’ve ever had. The Caesar salad, chicken tenders and fries were also yummy, but pretty much what you’d expect from a bar. If you visit Honest John’s, I’d recommend getting something you can’t get anywhere else. The memory of the Fruity Pebble French toast is still floating around in my head and enticing me to go back.

Even if you’re not in the mood to drink, I recommend sitting at the bar during your visit to Honest John’s. Although our waiter wasn’t in the best groove, our bartenders Jeremy and Maxwell more than made up for it with their great service. Maxwell whipped us up a Spanish Coffee, the most popular drink, using fire, coffee liqueur, brandy, Cointreau, RumChata, whipped cream and a blend of cinnamon and sugar. Normally I’m not a fan of this type of alcohol, but this delicacy smelled like a cinnamon roll, tasted scrumptious and was super fun to watch him create.

Honest John's Spanish Coffee in a wine glass at the bar.
Honest John’s Spanish Coffee Stefani Chudnow

My experience at Honest John’s came with some bumps along the way, but it is definitely worth at least one visit, if not more, so you can try its intriguing menu items.

While I might not go for their Oink Omelet, I’d go back for the Spanish Coffee and the Fruity Pebble French toast alone.

Honest John’s
488 Selden St., Detroit
(313) 832-5646

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