OK, yeah, we do have a soft spot for places calling themselves speakeasies. Even if they do have websites that clearly post their opening hours, you don't need any kind of password to get in, and there's no chance of the joint being raided by the cops for serving illegal hooch.
Cafe d'Mongo's is thus an extremely approachable speakeasy. It's only open on Fridays from 6 PM to 2 AM, which might account somewhat for the feeling you get while visiting that you and the other patrons are all in on a big friendly secret.
We dragged Ryan and Sara out from Ann Arbor to Detroit on the last Friday we had in town. Yes, this means Detroit posts are almost done! And we've only been in Texas since late October!
Might as well try the "fabulous food", right? The menu is very short, with only barbecued meats and some Southern-style sides.
You know what? The food is not the main reason to come here. Maybe if you've never had barbecue or southern cooking ever in your entire life. It was fine, I suppose. But the atmosphere was where it was at.
The place is filled from stem to stern, top to bottom with jazz memorabilia, Detroitiana, and Prohibition relics. A jazz pianist jammed on the piano and the buzz of the crowd kept Cafe d'Mongo's warm.
I was reminded again of how happy I was that Detroit had passed a smoking ban back in May, because this place would have been eye-stingingly foggy.
We realized we'd been extremely lucky to get a table when we looked up soon after eating.
Like much of Detroit, the cafe was from a different era. It felt very much like the kind of place my grandparents may have visited in the 1940s on a hot date, to have a steak and hear some music. And also like much of Detroit, it's a little hard to uncover, but once you do, it squirms under your skin and makes a little home for itself, kind of like a guinea worm (but not really, because the guinea worm is introduced to your system through drinking infected water and is being stamped out by Jimmy Carter, so the metaphor is far from perfect).
That's my not at all odd way of saying that I liked Cafe d'Mongo's. And we weren't alone, either.
Cafe d'Mongo's Speakeasy is located, as the website says, in the Village-City of Detroit. The exact address is 1439 Griswold Street. You might be lucky enough, if the weather's fine, to see the minyan of the last remaining synagogue in Detroit, the Downtown Synagogue, holding weekly services on the sidewalk.