The Detroit drinking matrix
A bar for every purpose under heaven.
Published: February 25, 2014
Divey: When it comes to dive bars with music, Hamtramck is the place. They pack them in for punk and other niche metal shows at New Dodge, the Painted Lady and especially at Small’s, where you can catch local and international acts.
Quirky: One of the more unusual spots in the city is Udetroit Café, in Detroit’s old Harmonie Park, where you can watch live groups strut their stuff. An impressive string of residencies at Detroit’s Northern Lights Lounge make that a popular spot some nights too.
Upscale: Not only is historic Baker’s the oldest continuously operating jazz venue in the world, it also hosts terrific live bands. But it also has a bar that one national magazine declared among the best in the country, with its stylish piano keyboard design.
Posh: The gloriously art deco splendor of Cliff Bell’s recalls the 1930s, smacking of a more sensuous era, when patrons haunted such smoky little cabarets with relish. With their nattily attired staff and live jazz, it’s easy to get lost in the illusion of Detroit’s bustling past.
Divey: Take a date to a dive bar? Well, when the dive bar is in swanky Royal Oak, as Gusoline Alley is, she’ll know you’re unpretentious and enjoy having fun. Between the jukebox, the pinball machines and the busy weekend crowd, Gus’ is a terrific refuge from (and antidote to) Royal Oak’s overheated dining scene.
Quirky: This neighborhood biergarten known as the Berkley Front always has several local brews to choose from, matched up against a genuine selection of German and Belgian ones. The bar also features an uncarbonated pull, which draws cellar-temperature beer into a glass without all the CO2. The bar gets busy, but the booths provide intimacy.
Upscale: Detroit’s Majestic Café is right in the heart of the Majestic entertainment complex. With the theater in the back, the Magic Stick upstairs, the pizza place to the side and Detroit’s oldest bowling alley in the back, the café and bar of the café make a great place to meet, with choices for an entertaining evening all around you.
Posh: The 24 Grille is a beige-and-brown oasis decked out in leather and wood, with cushioned stools and benches all set off with low-key lighting from creative fixtures. The mood is set by the artistic illumination, which includes ribbons of Swarovski crystal. They decorate the bar and play well against the restaurant’s dark, sexy tones.
Divey: Voted by our readers the Best Bar to Hook Up With Someone, Ferndale’s Boogie Fever is Ferndale’s mecca of salacious cougars, meandering sugar daddies and armies of bachelorettes. The neon lit dance floor and the bellowing tunes of yesteryear, help troves of drunken lady trains and crooning men to start snagging the night’s fun. It’s not too divey, but … divey enough.
Quirky: When BlackFinn opened five years ago, our readers named it Best Pick-Up Bar. There were always so many miniskirts and shiny-shirts waiting in the freezing cold in a line on a Thursday night, we knew it wasn’t the fish and chips packing the nightly crowds in. As of March 2014, the joint reopens with a new interior design and an updated menu. But the main draw should be the same.
Upscale: When it opened more than a decade ago, Ferndale’s the Bosco was like that one club with frosted glass and a stylish bar that looked straight out of Brooklyn. On some nights, the place is packed with good-looking twenty- and thirtysomethings mingling in front of the marble-backed bar, spilling out onto the enclosed patio area. Now the Bosco is a classic in the midst of a refreshed dining scene.
Posh: If anybody at Corner Bar is slumming it, it’s the jet-setting celebrities who choose (and can afford) lodging at the plush Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, where a generation of moneyed suburbanites have staked their claim at “urban chic.” With movie theaters, upscale eateries, shops and parks within walking distance, you can get hammered with stylishly dressed people and, perhaps, a celeb or two.
> Email Michael Jackman