History

Telephone BoothThe Dakota Inn Rathskeller was opened on August 1, 1933 by Karl Kurz, the Grandfather of Karl E. Kurz, the present owner.  EIGHTY ONE years later, Detroit’s only authentic German bar is still going strong!

While Grandfather Kurz worked at Mr. Ford’s Highland Park auto factory, he dreamed of opening his own business. He bought the old dilapidated Chinese hand laundry on John R near Dakota, in the heart of Detroit’s German community.

At night and on the weekends, Karl worked at renovating the building into a German style Rathskeller, just like the ones he remembered from his native Wiekersheim, Germany.

On August 1, 1933, he opened a tiny, three stool Rathskeller. For three generations the Kurz family have worked serving their customers and expanding the original building into the colorful and antique-filled treasure it is today.

On April 2, 1935 Karl Kurz organized a group of regular customers and called them the Just Right Club. The purpose of the Just Right Club is to bring together regular male Dakota Inn Rathskeller patrons in a social atmosphere of friendship and Gemutlichkeit. The German word “Gemutlichkeit” means to “enjoy fully ones friends in a pleasant atmosphere.”

Third generation, Karl E. Kurz is actively running the restaurant. The restaurant has been in the same family for 80 years.

The restaurant seats 145 and is just over 2000 square feet. The restaurant is filled with German beer steins, trophy animal heads taken on family hunting trips and family pictures. The restaurant has that authentic “old-world” feeling that comes from the polished dark wood furniture and wall paneling, hand-painted German scenes from Grandfather Kurz’s childhood and servers decked out in traditional German style clothing.

Once a year, the Dakota Inn Rathskeller pitches its yellow-and-white striped tent and has Detroit’s only authentic German beer garden complete with oompah bands and polka contests. For the entire month of October, the Dakota Inn Rathskeller celebrates ‘Germany’s traditional fall Oktoberfest” in the main hall.

The Dakota has a downstairs banquet room called the Rathskeller for private parties up to 50 people. We kick off the Holiday season on Thanksgiving weekend and bring the season alive with our weekly sing-along of Christmas carols.

The Inn also offers off-premise catering, specializing in Oktoberfest parties.

The Dakota Inn Rathskeller was listed in the State Register of Historic Sites, on June 30,1988, by the Michigan Historical Commission.

Frequently-Asked Questions

What is a schnitzelbank?
A Schnitzelbank is actually a woodworker’s bench. One of the great Dakota Inn traditions includes a sing-along about the Schnitzelbank. This is a classic German drinking song. Every night, someone leads the crowd in a song that uses the Schnitzelbank as its centerpiece.

Which part of Germany influenced the architecture of the Dakota?
Grandfather Karl Kurz came from Bavaria. The Dakota Inn was created in the same architecture that he knew and loved in Bavaria.

Has the Dakota been in the Kurz family since it was founded?
Yes. The Dakota was founded by Karl Kurz in 1933. The tradition was carried on by his son, Edward, and now grandson, Karl.

How old is the piano?
That depends on which piano you mean! Karl estimates that the current piano is eighty years old. Due to the heavy workout each piano gets from the Dakota’s sing-alongs, pianos need to be tuned once a year and replaced every 3-4 years. Karl’s piano player helped convince Karl to buy and rebuild the current classic Grinnel piano.