Detroit Gets a Second Black-Owned Speakeasy Bar, Willow, Downtown

Behind a golden door at 431 Times Square is a speakeasy bar where the cocktails and spirits shine

Willow is the first Black-owned speakeasy in Downtown Detroit. Photo courtesy of Willow.

Behind a golden door at the 431 Times Square now sits Detroit’s second Black-owned speakeasy, Willow. The first being Cafe D’Mongos, a staple in downtown Detroit.

READ: Hide & Seek: Hidden Bars in Detroit: Detroit Gets a Second Black-Owned Speakeasy Bar, Willow, Downtown

Willow is a cocktail bar that honors Southern hospitality secretly launched last month in the downtown alley next to Savannah Blue, according to the Detroit Free Press. At Willow, the cocktails and spirits are the highlights of the entire gastronomic experience.

The owners of the upscale soul cuisine restaurant Savannah Blue — Ron Scott, J.D. Simpson, and Roger Yopp — hired Andre Sykes for his bartending skills. Sykes formerly oversaw Shelby’s beverage program, which was a finalist for the 2022 James Beard Awards for Outstanding Bar Program. Meanwhile, Savannah Blue was a contender for Outstanding Restauranteur on the 2017 Beards list. The speakeasy’s seated bar atmosphere can accommodate up to 50 people at a time.

Andre Sykes is in charge of Willow’s craft cocktail offerings.

Willow’s maître d’ uses a Ring doorbell to keep an eye on and greet customers through a golden door that leads to the opulent interior and has the image of a willow tree painted on it. Sykes told the Detroit Free Press that he created a menu that uses beverages to convey the tale of the Black experience, using ingredients drawn from his African and West Indian ancestry. For instance, the Jamaican hibiscus drink sorrel is used in Fannie Ward No. 2, a rum-based cocktail that pays homage to the first Fannie Ward, which was invented by Black bartender Tom Bullock. The bar also carries several top-shelf spirits you can order by the shot.

If you want to try out the bar’s unique craft cocktails, Willow is open Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. The menu only includes light snacks to accompany your cocktail orders. You can order a charcuterie board filled with prosciutto, salami, olives, pickles, pickled okra, assorted cheeses, jam and assorted crackers.


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