Best of Detroit 2012
Spend the Night - Reader's Choice
Reader's choice for nightlife in Metro Detroit
Published: April 25, 2012
Limelight Sports Bar
30200 Van Dyke Ave., Warren; 586-751-7883; limelightsportsbar.com
The self-proclaimed "Home of Detroit's Longest Happy Hour" which extends from the utterly jubilant hours of 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., the Limelight is the kind of bar that wants to keep you once they get their hands on you. It's an easy enough task with tallboy mugs of cold brew for less than $3. While specials change daily, the clientele does not. Not really. The folks here are on a mission to let loose, and they've been known to belt out a song or two on their way to looseville every Wednesday and Friday from nine till close.
625 N. Huron St., Ypsilanti; 743-484-1484
This is a dart league bar. If you're not sure what that means, leave now. Other than the dart thing, Powell's Pub is an everyman's drinking den, your home away from home. Domestic beers run you the price of a few hours in the parking meter. And each and every Wednesday and Saturday night, when strong Long Islands put you out just six bucks, Washtenaw revelers grab the microphone and sing like their lives depended on it. OK, that's a bit much. But fun — that is, overindulgence in fun — is had nonetheless. First guy to do "Free Bird" gets dick-punched.
Best Happy Hour,
Michael Symon's Roast
1128 Washington Blvd., Detroit; 313-961-2500; roastdetroit.com
Arrive for the spit-roasted beast-of-the-day tacos, or perhaps a "must eat this before you die" bacon-and-egg burger, before rubbing elbows with regional movers, shakers and midday bakers. What's that, Roast has the cure for mega-munchies, you say? We do say. But the beer doth flow at Roast, with Michigan-made pints being a fave among the happy hour crowd. But the real deal comes via the vino, with provocative red and whites from around the world.
Best Happy Hour,
30 E. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-619-9060; konagrill.com
If the words "sushi," "martini," "beer" and "deal" elicit instantaneous positive biological reactions in your brain (and perhaps other body parts), then you are the sort who might discover your happiest hours inside the confines of the Kona Grill. Every single day of the week, Kona boasts two blocks of time dedicated to cheap indulging: from 3 to 7 p.m. and again from 9 to 11 p.m.
Best Happy Hour,
Wiseguy's Bar & Grill
42305 Garfield Rd., Clinton Twp.; 586-263-0300; wiseguysbarandgrill.com
Playing off the well-trod Italian stereotype of being connected to organized crime, the "wiseguys" are all about family; and when you walk through the door, you're welcomed in as such — unless you're a mook. Any time you spend here will likely be time well-spent, but those hours set aside for premier happiness are what put Wiseguys on the map. On Sunday nights, drinks are 50 cents off, on Wednesdays, ladies enjoy a dollar off their drinks, and on Thursdays, there are specials for both sexes on tallboy beers and top-shelf liquor.
Best Happy Hour, Washtenaw County
Sidetrack Bar & Grill
56 E. Cross St., Ypsilanti; 734-483-1490; sidetrackbarandgrill.com
There are all sorts of happy hours going on at Sidetracks. So many, in fact, that there's no surprise this place took home the gold. Dig it: From 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, pints of kind beer run $3.25 and all wine is half-off. Mmmm. Wine. It gets naughtier later in the night: The liquor is half-off from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sundays and Mondays, and from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays, and from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. That's a whole lot of booze for not very little many bucks. Don't get sidetracked, get sloshed at Sidetracks.
Best Bar for
22740 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-591-3466; dinoslounge.com
Abiding by the good ol' Wayne and Garth mantra, Dino's tries to deliver a "Party Time! ... Excellent!" experience every day of the week. And the crowd becomes increasingly boisterous for a Sunday. Fortified by a hearty brunch menu that includes a "French Toasted" breakfast quesadilla, a "Bacon Buttermilk" pancake, and a "Buffalo Chicken" frittata, Dino's customers are known to really indulge in their bottomless Bloody Mary deal. Dino delivers a bevy of ingredients that let you customize your Mary's makeup again and again. Or you might take advantage of the fleet of Mimosa pitchers.
Best Fetish Party
or Fetish Night
The Dirty Show: International
Erotic Art Exhibition
The Dirty Show is definitively sexy, subversive, and sublime. Every year they draw closet freaks and voyeurs into a private-public arena where exhibitionists mix it up with leashed lovers and suggestive aerial artists, deviant dominatrix and vintage vixen steam punk sluts. Masked faces. Naked bodies. The patrons mirror the art on display, and each year there's no shortage of either. Twelve years into it, and Dirty's eccentricity, its inherent evocativeness, continues to, um, dominate.
Best Sexed-up Waitstaff
1815 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-589-3344;
Novi, Roseville, Sterling Heights, Taylor, Troy;
At Luna, you make your way to a table or bar and acclimate to your new environment — one that consists of lasers and dry ice, Portishead-Prince-Passion Pit mash-ups and stiff drinks — and you realize you're surrounded by a team of totally bangin' beauties. They're the kind that make you want to write a '90s slow jam, remix it, and dance until you're sweaty and hot. At Hooters, on the other hand, the sight of the signature white shirt pulled tight over her body, tucked into a pair of equally taut, high-hip orange short shorts is the brand. Lots of sexual tension for boys (and girls) too. Better than the menu. Sexy and saucy since 1983.
Best Dance Club
Best Club Night,
Best Dance Club
in the Suburbs
1815 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-589-3344;
With a specific set of alluring and affordable music themes and drink specials running Wednesday through Sunday, Luna's wicked ways are fueled by a earnest proclivity for escapist, dance-floor fun. Uptempo electro pop — and up-tempo remixes of downtempo electro pop from yesteryear and yesterday — is at the core of what fuels frolic at Luna. And they've a squadron of sex kitten dancers that'll blow your dirty mind.
Best Bar for a
22901 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-541-1600; boogiefevercafe.com
A perennial, libidinal winner, Boogie Fever has defined itself as a place where mature women prowl for boytoys and a seemingly endless brigade of bachelorette parties swoop in wearing sashes, sucking out of penis straws, shaking their shit when Blondie drops. Some men hover, trying to get noticed or happen upon a dancing partner, a woman who just might be another kind of partner. Not to say there aren't well-intentioned dudes there too. But they're probably DTF just as well.
Best Club Night,
641 Beaubien St., Detroit; 313-962-9548;
Historic Bricktown is a neighborhood we know a thing or two about — and you know what? — it really needed a good kick in the ass. We're happy to see our readers agree that L!V has provided a welcome infusion of nuanced nightlife opportunities. A reputable rotation of DJs (Sicari, Equad) make their way through the week. We've seen DJ battles, one hell of a St. Patty's party, and who could forget the official Fela! afterparty? When the votes came in, it was clear that Thursday's weekly house series Life at L!V is a clear fave. One recent Thursday night, they put on a Prince Party, which was advertised as a mature kind of soiree, a night of debauchery dedicated to Prince. Women got a free "Purple Drink."
Best Club Night,
Score's Ultra Lounge
37722 Van Dyke Ave., Sterling Heights; 586-977-0123
Scores might be super casual, but that doesn't mean they don't get super crazy. They specialize in crazy. They've perfected their pleasure-providing capabilities into something that could be sold for a fortune if only its allusive down-home quality could be captured. Until then (or at least for one more year), it'll stand alone in Macomb as headquarters for the wildest and wisest late night freaks of the east side.
Best Club Night,
Best Dance Club,
516 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-994-5436; necto.com
Necto's incredible drawing power when it comes to pulling in those from outside of Washtenaw County played a big part in this new round of wins for Necto, Ann Arbor's heathen haven. It's a veritable brothel full of DJs and insatiable dance music consumers. Gays, goths and house heads all get a designated night throughout out the week, and Saturday is still the biggest club night per capita in the region. Yo. Party house supreme. VIP services available.
Best Lesbian Bar
1641 Middlebelt Rd., Inkster; 734-729-8980
For several years, Saturday nights have been a draw for hundreds of women who make their way to mix, mingle and make out. But throughout the week, this absolutely fabulous bar offers male and female impersonators, gay and lesbian bands, singers and comedians. Yeah, this Stilletto is one-size-fits-all.
Best Gay Bar
928 W. McNichols Rd., Detroit; 313-863-3934;
Serving it up for Detroit's gay community for more than 35 years, Menjo's never takes a day off, always ensuring there's good space to grind, gallop, giddy-up and get down. The bar attracts more of a mature crowd on weekday nights, and on the weekend, or whenever there's a big dance night, the bar attracts more boys. There's a new sound system and dance floor, and a patio for when it gets too steamy indoors. Menjo's has a killer rep for good times, but given its location it comes with one catch: parking.
Best Strip Club
20771 W. Eight Mile Rd., Detroit; 313-541-7000; penthousegentlemenclub.com
The undisputed king of the Eight Mile strip, the brand-name power behind the Penthouse Club catapulted it to the throne shortly after it opened. Known for attentive service, cleanliness and very good food, it's really the roster of voluptuous and tempestuous women that maintain the club's excellent reputation. The Penthouse is more fancy than it is freaknik, but driven by primordial lust all the same.
Detroit Dizzy Dames
Lushes LaMoan, the Hardest Working Showgirl in Detroit, is the maven who leads the Detroit Dizzy Dames, a group known to pop up all over town with their fiery brand of attention-grabbing burlesque. The other seven or so dames do the damn thing with cutesy restraint and devilish satisfaction. What sets them apart is their respect for the tradition of the craft. Real burlesque ain't easy. But watching it is! That they prove every time the lights go low and these lovely ladies take to the stage.
Best Jazz Club
Best Blues Club
2030 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-961-2543; cliffbells.com
Regular jazz had been conspicuously absent from downtown for years when new owners — Paul Howard, Scott Lowell and Carolyn Howard — restored and reopened this classy spot in 2005. (It had been dormant for three decades, and it was hard to tell whether the club had been transported to the present or you'd gone back in time.) They quickly found a winning synergy between a classy art deco setting, superior food and drink offerings ... and jazz. Not just any jazz — the quality stays high — but a wide variety of sounds finds a home here, from the sometimes twisted (next month, for instance, there's Imaginary Homeland out of New York, which bills itself as "African fiddles, talking drums and jazz") to the more straight ahead (RJ Spangler with an organ jam, saxophonist Mike Monford, singer Jarrod Champion and pianist-bandleader Scott Gwinnell are weekly-to-monthly roster names). We're guessing that the blues vote is driven mainly by the hip-factor of the jazz and club in general. That's not to discount Spangler's regular forays into various shades and derivations of blues for his organ jam nights, or a big blues shindig next month.
Best Musical Open-Mic
or Jam Session
Black Lotus Brewery
1 E. 14 Mile Rd., Clawson; 248-577-1878
When it comes to a good jam, our readers put the entertainment at this Clawson microbrewery over the top. Past acts on the stage have included the Brothers Groove, Black Bottom Collective, Sean Blackman and more. In addition to hosting various entertainers some Friday and Saturday nights, Black Lotus has a popular Monday Night open mic, run by local recording artist Nadir and audio guru Steve Szajna. Or drop in Tuesday nights around 9:30 for regular performances by "world groove project" Zap Toro.
Best Bottled Beer Selection in a Bar
Selection in a Bar
175 W. Troy Ave., Ferndale; 248-808-6633; oneyedbettys.com
Congrats, Betty! What a momentous, game-changing award for One-Eyed Betty's, a fresh and welcome addition to Detroit's ever-evolving beer and live music scene: a tasteful and unpretentious beer house, where you can enjoy brews from around the state and around the world. The service is solid, and the food is a step above your average bar. Let's do the numbers: She carries 44 beers on draft, 74 in the bottle and two in the can. Betty is far from average. She's a total babe.
Best Bar for a Martini
222 S. Sherman Dr., Royal Oak; 248-544-7490; goodnitegracie-ro.com
Life is good at Gracie's. The martinis are imaginative and well-executed, rightly priced at happy hour and still worth every penny they charge at any time of day or night. The staff is just as attentive as the crowd is attractive, and when everyone's snugged tight inside this intimate Royal Oak drink spot, with a soundtrack provided by expert providers such as DJ Joshua Adams, you can really take a moment to reflect on how good life, and a really well-made martini, really is.
Best Bar for
Vivio's Food & Spirits
2460 Market St., Detroit; 313;393-1711; viviosbloodymary.com
Eastern Market's venerable dive bar, Vivio's takes booze just as seriously as they do burgers. But Bloody Marys are their booze-infused speciality. Is it the sidecar of cold pilsner accompaniment that makes it so good? Is it the spicy house-made mix? Is it the top-shelf vodka? It's all three and you know it. You love it! And you want more of it!
Best Bar for a
The Oakland, Ferndale
201 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-291-5295;
Classic cocktails in dimly lit, well-designed bars are all the rage right now, and while the Sugar House holds it down in Corktown, the Oakland in Ferndale is a nighttime favorite for the movers and shakers who like to mix it up in pre-Prohibition style. Don't let the sign on the door fool you, the Art Novelty Company is the Oakland, and their master craft is the highly complex and considerable cocktail we bet you'll come to love.
309 S. Center St., Royal Oak; 248-545-2235
Dirty, gritty, goes-good-with-drinkin' jazz and blues gets mixed up with punk, funk, country and early grunge from the likes of Neil Young and Sonic Youth. Tom Waits lives next to Wilco and Howlin' Wolf, while Muddy Waters rubs elbows with Elvis Costello and James Brown. Feed the juke; you only get out of it what you put into it!
Best Bar for Trivia Night
5169 Trumbull St., Detroit; 313-833-2701; woodbridgepub.com
If you thought handcrafted cocktails were a popular bar fad, you haven't been paying attention to the swarming, sloshing popularity of bar trivia. You bring your friends, we bring our friends, they bring their friends and we get together in small groups, drink copiously and compete against gangs of strangers, answering questions about music, film, history and sports. Drinking's fun. Drinking and racking your trivia-laden brain is funner. Woodbridge is your premier place for booze-infused trivia throwdowns.
Best Casino Slots
Best Casino Craps
Best Casino Poker
1777 3rd St., Detroit; 313-465-1777; mgmgranddetroit.com
Talk about a sure bet! Wow! Just about sweeping the casino categories, taking the top prize for guaranteed fun and potentially lucrative slots, craps, and poker tables, MGM Grand, with its amazing restaurants and dance clubs, is far and away Detroit's favorite casino.
Best Casino to See a Show
Motor City Casino
2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-237-7711; motorcitycasino.com
Sound Board is an increasingly popular venue inside the Motor City Casino, hosting the likes of Hall and Oates, Boys II Men, Steve Martin, and epic throwback shows such as this summer's Summerland concert, which, for one night, will take us back to 1998 with Everclear, SugarRay, the Gin Blossoms, Lit and Marcy Playground sharing the stage. A big room with big sound, odds are a Sound Board show delivers icons you adore for prices you appreciate.
Best Hip-Hop Venue
St. Andrew's Hall
431 E. Congress St., Detroit; 313-961-8137; standrewsdetroit.com
The Shelter is the bunker beneath St. Andrew's Hall where, at one point or another, every emcee and DJ in Detroit gets the chance to prove themselves in front of a bunch of rap-devoted Detroiters, many of whom help recognize the hip-hop elite and then do whatever it takes to support and grow a greater rap community. Rap battles still go down on the regular. If you don't know, know you know. It's bigger than hip-hop. It's an institution.
Best Hip-Hop Night
Blue Collar Gentleman, Old Miami
3930 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-831-3830
All kinds of rhyme-prone characters show up to Blue Collar Gentlemen parties. It's an event where the underground rears its ugly head and everyone who's paying attention pays their respects. From time to time, there's some unexpected cameo, and the night gets becomes fleeting folklore. You never know who's going to bless the Blue Collar microphone, but you can bet your blunt that multiple rappers rapping in multiple styles will go toe to toe until someone lights that mic da fuck up. If you're looking for solid, non-shiesty-ass dudes in regional rap, this is where you need to be. It's like that.
Best Rock Club
PJ's Lager House
1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-961-4668;
Spending regular time at PJ's Lager House would lead you to believe that upstanding and locally focused American rock clubs are alive and well. We're spoiled and we know it: It's one of the few perks of being a Detoiter. And PJ has done one hell of a job making sure that the Lager's legacy remains intact. Knowing they had to be as badass as any of Detroit's badass rock 'n' roll bands, the Black Keys used to travel up from Akron just to cut their teeth on that stage. Here's to Detroit!
Best Comedy Club
Best Comedy Open-Mic
Go! Comedy Improv
261 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-327-0575;
The entire Go! Comedy team meshes in a way that makes for the potentially gut-busting funny times that sardonic siblings often provide. To re-create that magic, metro Detroiters make their way to Ferndale's Go! Comedy, the new home of improv around these here parts. Go! also offers programs and workshops through the Improv Academy. Each week, two improv teams go head-to-head in an improv battle; the audience decides which team moves on. And the Soapbox events blend improv and storytelling. There's a lot going on. All of it awesome.
Best Folk Venue
316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-761-1800; theark.org
The Ark has to be one of the most intimate of all internationally known music venues. It's like the folk version of the Apollo. Not only does everyone play here, but everyone plays better. The Ark is a nonprofit organization that has set out to enrich our spirits through the preservation, education and presentation of folk, roots and culturally ethnic music and arts. And the venue succeeds with organic grace and folkie panache.
Best Sports Bar
Rosie O' Grady's
Chesterfield, Ferndale, Sterling Heights; rosieogradysirishpub.com
Finally, a sports bar that presents every game from every sport around the world on at least one of their fleet of TVs (the televisions at the Ferndale location numbers in the hundreds; each booth comes with its own built-in flat-screen). Grady's has become quite the spot to gather as many friends as you'd ever want to, throw back pitchers of beer, split nachos, pizzas, wings or whatever else you might want to consume, and watch the home team kick ass. Arrrgh! Sports!
Best Local Beer
Atwater Block Brewery
237 Joseph Campau St., Detroit; 313-877-9205; atwaterbeer.com
Offering all sorts of provocative yet well-balanced beers that finish incredibly clean every time, Atwater offers quality in an era where craft beer can be ... overhyped? More than a handful of their beers approach perfection. Their cornerstone beer is the Vanilla Java Porter, and new eye-wideners include the Decadent Dark Chocolate Ale and the Voodoo Vator Doppelbock.
Bell's Brewery / Bell's Oberon
8938 Krum Ave., Galesburg; 269-382-2338; bellsbeer.com
When Larry Bell got his brewery up and running in the '80s, did he know what an institution it would become? How many beer drinkers thought Blue Moon, Killian's and Newcastle were as far outside the vast landscape of domestic lager we were allowed to travel? Then someone introduced you to a bottle or bought you a pint of Oberon, Two Hearted, or Third Coast Old Ale. We cannot get enough of Two Hearted's crisp cascade of hoppy IPA perfection, and the profile of the Third Coast barley wine still blows our mind. But as Detroiters and Michiganders, the adoration out there for the cloudy golden nectar that is Oberon makes it the undisputed favorite.
Best Local Liquor
161 Vester St., Ferndale; 248-629-9951; valentinevodka.com
Who would've guessed that vodka would have turned out to be such a lucrative venture in a down economy? A guy who worked on Wall Street and then moved back to his native state with the mission of perfecting the ancient art of vodka distillation, a process he feels the big booze corporations have lost sight of. Straight outta Ferndale, he's reminding us just how smooth a vodka drink is. Visit their tasting room and learn how Valentine's natural friendship with McClure's pickles makes for an out-of-this-world Motor City Mary.
Johnnie Walker Black
Selling more than 130 million bottles of Johnnie Walker a year, this isn't only Detroit's favorite scotch, but the entire world's as well. An 80-proof blend of 40 whiskies aged for 12 years, the recipe is doctrine for blended scotch since 1909. It's smoky, classy and just complicated enough to love.
Maker's Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon
The first bottle of Maker's Mark featured the brand's distinctive red wax seal when it was produced in 1958. Every bottle since gets the dip so you know it's legit. No other liquor is allowed by law of copyright. It's that handcrafted quality, too, that makes Maker's Mark such a special bourbon. The original is a regional favorite, but if you ever have the opportunity to try Maker's Mark 46, do so! It's aged longer than normal along with toasted French Oak staves.
Tanqueray Ultra Premium London Dry Gin
Drinkers love a good story. And obviously they appreciate a good drink. When the two come together, it's brilliant. The Tanqueray London Dry Gin made today is absolutely the same as the original product launched in 1830. Made from a signature blend of botanicals (juniper, coriander and angelica root) its well-matched with tonic or in a martini, but we suggest a gimlet.
What do contemporary country singers and rappers (and Sammy Hagar) have in common? They absolutely love tequila. Can you really blame them? So sweet and spicy, that stuff really puts a kick in your night. In the last few years, Patrón has become a favorite party-inducer and broken-heart bandage.
15 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac; 248-599-2212; elektricitymusic.com
There's simply no denying that Amir Daiza knows how to run a good club and make it successful. The dude has his finger on the pulse of what's happening musically in Detroit at any given time, and he's mad skilled at creating prime venues for those genres. In the early '80s, Daiza owned the notorious Bookies club, Detroit's own answer to CBGB. He was also responsible for bringing such punk and new wave legends as the Police, Ultravox, the Damned, John Cale and Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers to the Midwest for the first time, while local bands like the Romantics, Destroy All Monsters and Sonic's Rendezvous Band were all Bookies regulars. Daiza went on to have more success with Clutch Cargo's at the City Club, and later still with St. Andrew's. He still owns Clutch Cargo's, and his latest project is Elektricity, best electronic club, both located in Pontiac.
Elektricity — an all-electronic music venue that's already an international stop for top DJs — opened Nov. 18 last year, a kind of visionary move when one considers the sudden rise in the popularity of electronic music.
Daiza says that, since '81, his forte has been developing new music in the city, discovering new artists and developing them in this market. "That same philosophy we took with electronic dance music," he says. "That genre of music is, to me, the newest and probably the fastest-growing type of music out there. I'm basically using the same philosophy that we had with rock bands to DJs and electronic music. We're featuring the best of electronic music here at Elektricity."
Despite being widely known for his rock 'n' roll clubs, Daiza is no stranger to electronic music.
"I was there when it first happened," he says. "Richie Hawtin [aka Plastikman] I found when he was 17 years old. He won a DJ contest that we put together. ... By winning the contest, he became my intern for about three years at the Shelter. I used to have a club on Broadway called the Asylum. Directly across the street, a new club opened called the Music Institute. That was started by Derek May and Kevin Saunderson. The English artists I had playing at St. Andrew's would hang out, and they would see this club across the street, playing techno. They'd go back to Europe and tell people about it. The NME and Melody Maker sent writers over. That was kind of the springboard. So I was there at the beginning. I've always had a liking for that type of music."
Music is one thing, running a club is another. Daiza says that there are many elements to making a good club. "It's not one thing," he says. "Really, to have a good club, the people that come there are most important. They come together and bond because of the music. Music is the key ingredient."
After more than 30 years and many different clubs and events, what keeps Daiza going? What drives him to want to open yet another club with all of the attendant headaches and sleepless nights that inevitably come with it, especially in this town and in this economic climate?
"The evolution of new ideas and new music," he says. "It excites me. New creative ideas and new music — that's really my inspiration. I get bored of things real easy, so that's the extent of it. I'm always looking for new things."
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