Inside JoJo’s Shake Bar, opening Saturday in downtown Detroit

Shakes, fries and good vibes.

That’s the motto at the new JoJo’s Shake Bar, a Great Lakes-region chain that specializes in stacked milkshakes, colorful cocktails garnished with marshmallows and cotton candy, ice cream floats and casual grub like the walking taco, chicken pot pie, fish and chips and fries loaded like a baked potato.

Opening to the public Saturday on Columbia street just steps away from the Fox Theatre, JoJo’s has a lot of neon and colorful lights, a few sit-down Ms. Pac-Man arcade games, a bar trimmed with color-changing milk bottles and televisions playing movies from the 1980s and ‘90s. The bathrooms are covered in magazine covers from the same era, which can be a shot if you haven’t seen an issue of Bop Magazine or Teen Beat in 30 years.

The dining room is split into two sections, with booths along the wall and high-top tables in one area and the square-shaped bar on the other side. Out front, a few dozen mint-green tables and chairs offer al fresco dining.

Compared to another new over-the-top bar and restaurant chain that just opened, the celebrity-fueled Sugar Factory near Campus Martius, JoJo’s is more Midwest and rooted in nostalgia. While sugar is the focus at the Factory, JoJo’s main attraction is dairy, with a menu of milkshakes named “Wonder Years,” “Chocolate Nirvana” and “Rocky IV” (there’s also a dairy-free vegan shake). Each come with an option to add a shot of liquor. Like the sign on the door says, “this is no place for a diet.”

Jojo's Shake Bar creations on display. (L-R) Rocky IV, Girl Scout and Gold Digger.

JoJo’s has plenty of nods to the Windy City’s culture — mini Chicago-style hot dogs, Old Style beer and the aggressively herbal liqueur Malört — but this new location naturally pays plenty of homage to Detroit’s stars, including Eminem, Diana Ross, Madonna and Faygo.

Robbie Schloss of Castle Hospitality, which oversees JoJo’s Shake Bar and Chicago’s Shore Club, is in town for the restaurant’s opening week. This included a VIP preview Thursday evening where members of the media, Detroit politicians, fans of the brand and even a newborn baby named JoJo were given a first look at the colorful menu, sweet treats, smash burgers, cocktails and the throwback, turn-of-the-century soundtrack.

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