- 1439 Griswold, Detroit, MI, 48226
- Overall User Rating:
- (6 ratings)
- 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Fri. & the last Sat. of every month
- Official Web Site:
Status: Tucked along Griswold, a subdued Detroit side street, former jazz club Café D’Mongo’s Speakeasy sits unobtrusively waiting for the two days of the week when its doors open wide to let metro Detroit’s smooth cats inside.
“There’s a comfortable uniqueness,” says Charley Marcuse, who discovered the covert treasure about a year and a half ago when a dining club he belongs to took a tour around Detroit. Since then, Marcuse and 21-year-old Rochelle Lamacchio have been regulars at Café D’Mongo’s.
Owner Larry Mongo (who bought the one-story building in 1988) shuttered the doors of the former jazz club in 1993 citing the violence in the area. About a year and a half ago, he opened Café D’Mongo’s in the ex-jazz spot “and people just started coming.”
“It takes a lot of nerve to walk into an empty place and stay and say, 'I like it,'” says Mongo, who doesn’t advertise and prefers to think of his clients as business partners of the club.
Three weeks ago, Mongo decided to expose the speakeasy’s laidback appeal on Saturdays as well as Fridays.
Gear: Anything goes, though last Saturday, there were a couple of swanky Detroiters who sported three-piece suits, gold watch chains, bowler hats and floor-length fur coats that fit right in with Café D’Mongo’s elegant retro motif.
Mood: Just moments after walking through the glass-front door, Mongo personally greets you by name with outstretched arms.
“It feels like you’re really at home,” says 26-year-old John Waisanen of Farmington as he sat in a red-leather booth with a forest green, glass-covered tablecloth.
The green color continues up the walls and onto the ceiling where make-shift pianos and microphones hang. The walls, tabletops and any available surface are covered by knick-knacks, which Mongo calls his “Birmingham used-to-bes.”
“I collect a lot of antiques,” says Mongo, who drives up and down searching for discarded treasures. “I grew up in Oak Park. We didn’t throw stuff away.”
One piece, a gold-colored plaque, once hung from the original Book Cadillac building before it closed down more than a quarter of a century ago. Mongo paid $100 for it and removed it from the building himself.
“This place, for me, allows the little boy inside of me to have fun,” Mongo says.
Jeremy Cook of Detroit, who’s been frequenting the club for about a year, says, “This is the greatest place in Detroit. We come here because it’s like ‘Cheers.’ They’re very friendly and Larry’s a great host. Anytime someone comes from out of town, we take them here.”
Pick me up: “There’s restaurant soul food, but this is like grandma’s,” says Lydia Thomas, who lives across the street from Café D’Mongo’s. “We’ve eaten a lot of soul food, and this is good.”
Served over the weekend, ribs and chicken (with three sides for $10.50) are cooked every Thursday on the grill -- in the snow, rain or sunshine. Mongo’s renowned Sloppy Larry’s are served up in aluminum-foiled covered paper containers and a side of chips. Sides of potato salad, macaroni and cheese, collard greens and black-eyed peas are all served up for $3 each.
“When I run out of food, we close it,” says Mongo, who does some of the cooking himself.
Entertainment: Live country rock, blues and jazz.