Hazel Park

Out on the town: Hazel Park’s nightlife continues to develop while staying true to its roots

True to the spirit of the speakeasy, the Irish Viking, Hazel Park’s latest entrant into its nightlife community, isn’t obvious from the street; it takes a little effort to find it. Tucked to the side of House of Shamrocks – what with its wraparound green awning, digital sign updating passers-by on specials and the next big game, and outdoor patio that cozies up right to the sidewalk, where the in-house music and laughs of customers sometimes float onto the street – the Irish Viking is a much more subdued affair than its sister business. House of Shamrocks owner Michael Wilds opened Irish Viking in the waning days of summer earlier this year.

House of Shamrocks is located at 23420 John R Rd. in Hazel Park.Where House of Shamrocks is bold and direct, the Irish Viking is understated, intimate. There’s a yin and a yang there; to borrow the definition from Wikipedia, the two bars could be seen as “opposite but interconnected, mutually perpetuating forces.” There’s House of Shamrocks, the shot-and-a-beer neighborhood tavern, and Irish Viking, the high-concept speakeasy serving thoughtfully crafted cocktails. Different, but attached at the hip. It couldn’t be more Hazel Park, ca. 2023.

It’s probably too easy to put Hazel Park nightlife into two distinct categories: old-school dives vs. high-concept upstarts. Bars for the working class and bars for the hipsters that are quickly becoming their neighbors. But, yeah, that’s definitely too easy. Heck, House of Shamrocks and Irish Viking are owned by the same person even.

Hazel Park contains multitudes.

Inside the Key West-inspired Eastern Palace Club.

Those multitudes are on full display when out for a night on the town here. And that’s how Hazel Park has been able to maintain its character, its charm; by residents and visitors supporting both its no-muss-no-fuss neighborhood pubs and taverns while also enjoying the new speakeasy, or new tiki bar, that opened just blocks away. You don’t want to lose one for the sake of the other in the face of rising property values and levels of “hipness.” Development giveth and it taketh away.

Sports are a main attraction at House of Shamrocks.

With House of Shamrocks and now Irish Viking located just north of City Hall and the intersection of John R and 9 Mile roads, the two bars are basically at the center of town. Travel north and you’ll find the Starting Gate, one of those long-standing neighborhood pubs that still carries a name that references a big part of the city’s past: Hazel Park Raceway, a horse race track that lended Hazel Park much of its identity since its opening in 1949. The classic horse racing facility sadly closed in 2018 and was demolished thereafter; a light industrial complex, anchored by an Amazon Fulfillment Center Warehouse, now occupies its space.

Framebar is located at 23839 John R Rd. in Hazel Park.Travel further north, past Mabel Gray, the award-winning restaurant from renowned chef James Rigatoni, and FRAMEbar, a fun, forward-thinking restaurant — and neighborhood pub in its own right — and turn left onto Woodward Heights. Travel over the overpass and hang a left onto the I-75 service drive and, after a few blocks, you’ll fine Connie’s Finish Line, akin to the Starting Gate in name and spirit. Both the Starting Gate and Finish Line offer standard pub fare in addition to drinks and a deep-rooted sense of community.

The Finish Line is especially idiosyncratic given just how difficult it is to get here; along a one-way service drive with no easy access point. It’s hard to stumble upon the Finish Line, and you kind of have to end up here on purpose. That’s especially true since the most recent construction project along I-75, the results of which included the construction of new highway noise barriers that, while no doubt nice for the residents living along the freeway, completely block the Finish Line sign from the freeway, making the neighborhood bar that much more difficult to learn about. Inside though, you’ll find long-time Hazel Park residents mixing it up with the younger people that are becoming their neighbors, playing pool or singing karaoke, and enjoying a bar found off the beaten path.
Kozy Lounge is located at 150 E. 10 Mile Rd. in Hazel Park.
Along the city’s northern border, 10 Mile Road, you can find two more of Hazel Park’s most venerable institutions: Kozy Lounge and Max Dugan’s Saloon. The former received a shot in the arm under new ownership a few years ago yet still managed to retain its true-blue Hazel Park character — a great lesson for the young upstarts looking to open up shop here.

And Max Dugan’s continues to be an excellent place for local and live music, drawing some of the area’s top blues and bar bands while serving up some sneaky good food. Both being situated along 10 Mile, nestled between the neighborhood and a stretch of light industrial businesses, Kozy Lounge and Max Dugan’s offer a sense of the space that Hazel Park holds in our collective imagination, and in the best ways possible.

Eastern Palace Club is located at 21509 John R Rd. in Hazel Park.All of these places are found north of 9 Mile Road, and, for now, there’s just one nightspot found between 9 and 8 Mile: Eastern Palace Club. Here, the name of the game is Fun with a capital F — for Florida. Eastern Palace draws its inspiration from Key West, a tiki-adjacent bar that’s quickly established itself as a destination since opening in January 2023. Live music, DJs, and all sorts of gatherings and events are hosted here, and the ownership group is intent on establishing the South End of Hazel Park as a destination unto itself. They’ve already organized street festivals and block parties in the short time that they’ve been open, and they promise even more in the future.

A 24-hour solution to your post-bar needs: Bray’z Hamburger is located at 22941 Dequindre Rd. in Hazel Park.

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Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.