- 2030 Park, Detroit, MI, 48226
- Overall User Rating:
- (13 ratings)
- 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Tue.-Fri., 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Sat., 11 a.m.-midnight Sun.
- Official Web Site:
Status: Every place has a history, and the one surrounding the tastefully-styled Cliff Bell’s on Park Street is one that stems back more than seven decades.
“We don’t know what the original entertainment calendar was ever like, so that stuff is different,” says Paul Howard, who reopened the club with the help of family and friends three years ago. ”The menu is similar, and the layout -- we’ve done the best we could from old photos to restore it. We just try and stay in tune with the spirit of the old club.”
Designed by Albert Kahn and built by Joseph Campau, the original 1935 spot was founded by Cliff Bell, who ran the club until his retirement in 1958. Some may have known it as the Winery, La Cave or AJ’s on the Park until it closed in 1985, but Cliff Bell’s reclaimed its original name when it opened its mahogany-and-brass doors to the world once again in February 2006 thanks to Howard, his sister Carolyn and her husband Scott Lowell.
“We get a real nice mix of people,” says Howard. “It’s very nice, but not pretentious.”
Gear: The dress code is easy like Sunday morning with most going the more comfortable route with a touch of business casual thrown in for good measure.
Mood: A warm, wood exterior with a circular entrance welcomes you into Cliff Bell’s where two rooms, topped off by a curved-wood ceiling are separated by a double-sided bar.
“I love the whole jazz-club vibe,” says 24-year-old Nik Drankoski of Eastpointe.
The stage at the far end of the club is lit with soft indigo, pink and red mood lighting, and the musicians (the Detroit Tenors Saturday night) effortlessly pay homage to one of Detroit’s oldest jazz clubs with the smooth sounds reverberating from the saxophones, piano and drums.
“We not going after any particular crowd,” says Howard, adding that it’s not unusual to see three generations in the club at the same time. “When you can bring your parents and grandparents to a club and still have a good time that says something nice about the place.”
Self-proclaimed “jazz people” Detroiters Ernie and Gail Redden stopped by Cliff Bell’s for the first time Saturday and say they would definitely recommend it to friends.
Pick me up: “The kitchen is new, and that’s something that we’re really proud of,” says Howard, who adds that crowd favorites seem to be the mac and cheese ($6), shrimp and grits with roasted chili ($12) and frog legs ($10).
The state-of-the-art kitchen, run by chef Matt Baldridge, also cooks up other French-inspired classic Americana fair like three-bean casserole ($5), fried brussel sprouts with bacon and balsamic ($5) and sausage skewer du jour ($14).
Baldridge says the pork belly with applesauce ($13), steamed mussels with fennel ($10) and oxtail soup ($5) haven’t been doing so bad either.
Bartender Lola Gegovic recommends one of 10 speciality martinis, including the french toast, which has dark rum and maple syrup in a cinnamon-and-sugar-rimmed martini glass. Most martinis are between $9 and $11.
Entertainment: Though almsot exclusively jazz, Cliff Bell’s has hosted burlesque, fashion and vaudeville-styled variety shows on its stage. There’s only a cover ($5-10) when there’s a show, which is typically on the weekends.