September 8, 2016

The Grand Trunk Pub in Detroit

photo by: Bernt Rostad/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Patrons at the Grand Trunk Pub can drink their way through 170 varieties of craft brews, most of them local.

Ever wanted to tip back a cocktail in a cavernous space rich with railroad history? At the Grand Trunk Pub in Detroit, partake in the golden age of train travel by imbibing a drink or two in the former ticket office of the Grand Trunk Railway, a company that, in its heyday, traversed two Canadian provinces and six states, including Michigan.

Originally built in 1879 for Traub Bros & Co. jewelers, the four-story building that now houses the pub was purchased by the Grand Trunk Railway in the early 20th century. In 1911, Grand Trunk removed the original second floor and installed a vaulted ceiling—a fashionable style in train stations of the era—to house its ticket office. Detroit’s former Metropole Hotel bought the structure in 1935, turning the former ticket counter into a bar, and the space has been a drinking establishment ever since.

In 2006, local entrepreneurs Timothy and Steve Tharp purchased the Grand Trunk Pub from former owner John Foran, who had added a large sign with his name on it above the front door. (The Tharps removed it, but retained Foran's legacy in the form of the meat-heavy Foran sandwich.) Today, you can enjoy pub fare on the bar’s first floor, or venture up one floor to the Tharp-owned Whiskey Parlor for an Old Fashioned or Whiskey Sour.

Since owning the bar, the Tharp brothers have restored the building's facade, installed replicas of original transom windows, cleaned fixtures, stripped and re-finished the floors, and knocked out part of a shared wall to expand the dining space.

photo by: Fellowship of the Rich/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Grand Trunk Pub is housed in a circa-1879 building.

photo by: BB and HH/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

The pub retains vaulted ceilings, a relic from its days as a railway ticket office.

The Grand Trunk also prides itself on its local brews and food. All of the establishment's draft beers—including Bell’s Brewery’s Two Hearted Ale, New Holland Brewing’s Full Circle, Founders Brewing Company’s All Day IPA, and seasonal favorites like Bell’s Brewery’s summery Oberon—are sourced from Michigan. Including bottled craft brews, Grand Trunk serves over 170 varieties over the course of the year.

“We make everything in-house, like chicken strips and shepherd's pies,” says manager Justin Vesper of the pub's food selection, adding that the staff strives to source food locally as much as possible. The popular Rueben sandwich features house-made sauerkraut, fermented with The Poet stout from New Holland Brewing.

If the Grand Trunk Pub sounds like a stop you need to make on your next trip to the Motor City, here are a few things to know before boarding your train:

Location: 612 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48226

Hours: Weekdays, 11 a.m.-2 a.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m.-2.a.m.

You’re having: A Bell’s Two Hearted Ale with a Bell’s Cherry Stout Brisket Sandwich.

Don’t Miss: Special events, like a Game of Thrones Beer Dinner.

Best Yelp review: “Great food and a nice selection of MI craft beers. A good place to meet up with friends before a baseball game or for a fun dinner.”

Katherine Flynn is a former assistant editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys coffee, record stores, and uncovering the stories behind historic places.

Announcing the 2024 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

See the List