Even in COVID-19 recovery mode, Greektown Casino-Hotel in downtown Detroit is already recapturing the lively feel of the surrounding Greektown Historic District for which the facility is named.
Perhaps one of the most important facets as an entertainment venue is to go one of two ways with your general vibe. You either want to stick out from the crowd of where you are, so to speak, or you want to lean in to your surroundings.
This casino, on East Lafayette Street, already had most of that feel back when I made my early July visit on a recent trip to Detroit. And even though not every amenity was at my fingertips during my brief stay — a running theme in my treks through the other two city-of-Detroit casinos as well — enough options and features had returned to put a little pep in my step as I closed my journey down.
Editor’s note: In a swiftly evolving COVID-19 recovery environment, hotel services and features are subject to change. This report reflects available amenities, hours and price ranges at the time of the author’s visit.
Greektown Casino ambience
It was later in the day than I had anticipated when I made my arrival into the Greektown area (a first-round weather delay at the PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic was the culprit). At around 7:30 p.m. when I pulled up to the front entrance, I was told that valet parking spaces for hotel guests had been filled.
The parking structures at Detroit’s casinos have been one of the first signs of a not-quite-yet-normal atmosphere, as in reality there were plenty of spaces available in the valet wing. But most of the area was closed off, period. A decidedly minor issue, to be sure, but one that was at least worth mentioning given the appearances kept up at the main entryway to the hotel.
Once I found suitable parking on the sixth floor of another structure, I checked in through the main lobby, which itself is about to undergo significant upgrades. The friendly concierge told me that an accompanying restaurant and the current lobby space were going to be given makeovers over the course of an entire year, and the check-in services were soon to be moving to another floor as work begins.
I received my own immediate upgrade, however, as my room was chosen for a blind bump up to a 28th-floor executive abode, complete with kitchenette, soak tub and a crackling vista of downtown.
As much as that setup may have wanted to keep me cozy indoors after a long day on my feet, venturing across a skybridge toward the casino area lent its own energy.
Food and beverage scene
Upon entering the casino, I saw signs for Greektown’s signature restaurant, Prism. I was worried that my dressier jeans and polo might not be enough to accommodate a business casual dress code, but a late seating — last admissions were at around 9:30 p.m. — helped ensure there was plenty of space and a willing maître d.
If you want an upscale experience, Prism provides the goods even under still-reopening conditions. Spacious and classy with breezy service, the seafood/steakhouse specialty perfected my salmon and asparagus dish before presenting a chocolate cake that hit the spot.
Otherwise, if a more relaxed environment fits your fancy, the food court outside the casino grounds offers multiple options daily. On Thursday evening, the 313 Burger Bar and Basil Leaf Pizza were the best options. (Spoiler alert: They serve what they say.)
The court’s Noodle Bar, as of this writing, was open only on Fridays through Sundays. The burger bar also served a simple breakfast that I devoured before my Friday morning departure.
Or, if the pub and sports bar feel is what you’re after, the Barstool Sportsbook inside the proper casino will fill all those needs. But more on that later.
Greektown Casino floor
As someone who routinely gets turned around on casino floors (almost certainly by hoteliers’ designs), I have a profound respect for the two-floor Greektown layout. Within 10 or 15 minutes, I feel like I knew where everything was and could take an investigatory lap around the premises without a mental compass.
The hour was nearing 10 p.m. and on a Thursday night before a holiday weekend. So perhaps it should not have surprised me that the casino felt a little quieter than usual. I’d estimate between a quarter and a third full was the feel of the place.
The games that were popular were almost unapproachable for the evening. The large-screen Dragon Link slot had all eight stations taken both times I passed by the upper area. Same goes on the lower floor for all seven Buffalo Grand slots. The Lightning Link games were on that next tier of buzz.
One item of note among the slot portion of the casino: The vast majority of pandemic-installed dividers between seats are gone.
Those same dividers still remained for all dealer-based and other table game, however. The most popular on my Thursday visit were a dozen tables of blackjack, along with ultimate hold ‘em, three-card poker and a royal flush variant. A pair of live craps tables rounded out that experience, and about half the seats at the electronic craps and blackjack areas were occupied, too.
Also of interest on the lower floor: All electronic blackjack machines had more favorable minimum bets on non-weekend days. If you are at the casino from 6 p.m. Friday through 6 p.m. Monday, be prepared for a $5 hand minimum.
Lastly, Greektown’s poker room provided an odd side. The oblong shape resembled a Tetris piece, or a pattern from the Snake game on your telephone come to life. The room was bordered by foggy glass, but I peered around the corner to see only two of a possible 10 or so tables occupied with live play.
However, of all three downtown Detroit casino poker rooms, Greektown’s remained the most safety-conscious, with extensive dividers between each seat.
The Barstool brand, which leans heavily on consumer recognition and customer loyalty, is present throughout the Greektown property on some signage outside the casino. But the sportsbook itself is the main haven for Stoolies and sports fans to gather.
The TV wall, which measures 30 feet in length, was a dream setup for those seated at the bar. I’d say the book had about 40 or so people inside on another Eastern Conference Finals game night. An extensive if unimaginative food menu accompanies your trip inside to watch sports to your heart’s content.
For actually making bets, plenty of outside kiosks remain for non-app users. In a small surprise, I noticed half a dozen kiosks occupied for betting, which was a high among all three of my Detroit casino visits.
And for the most plugged-in of fans, 14 giant leather chairs sit in front of the secondary TV area where five of the largest screens are located. The chairs weren’t at full capacity, but 10 of them had occupants who were boisterously reacting to every basket, foul and turnover.
From the inviting layout to the upscale food, and from the high-energy service staff to the high-octane ability to watch sports in real-time, Greektown Casino Hotel passes the test for just enough luxury and just enough liveliness in a vibrant neighborhood in downtown Detroit.
A perfect parting gift for my stay was the front-desk concierge allowing me to sneak off into a quasi-under construction meeting hall to help me finish my note-taking on the trip. I was truly treated like a valued guest (and at a reasonable price range of $160 for the room stay), which was a welcome sign in these days of ever-present tension.
So, Greektown is mostly open for business. And if you can get lucky enough to pop onto one of those top-floor rooms, stop and look down on the city’s downtown. It’s a unique experience worth soaking in.