Best of Detroit 2012
Spend the Night - Staff Picks
Our staff picks for nightlife in Metro Detroit
Published: April 25, 2012
Best Art Gallery
Vim and Vigor
1250 Hubbard St., Detroit; firstname.lastname@example.org; whitdelarts.com
Whitdel Arts set out to be a gallery that wouldn't feel too much like a gallery. Yet it's still pretty much a gallery — art will hang on the walls or media will project onto screens or elaborate installations will hang from the ceilings — but this place, run by three esteemed women of the arts, each skilled in her own respective forms, be it photography, printmaking or screenprinting, is the approachable kind of gallery. It's an art space to be sure, but approachable like a community center or, perhaps, a DIY rock venue. There may be wine and cheese, but there's no stuffy art gallery feel here. Whitdel displays established area artists as well as it does up-and-comers — beyond that, it pursues educational programming in the form of various art workshops, also reaching out to DIY artists to inform them on how to be a better self-promoter, how to polish a portfolio, just ... how to do it, the artist's life, in a better, smarter way. Nestled in the first floor of the historic Whitdel Building (a stone's throw from the heart of Mexicantown), this is a humble flower of a local art experiment that bloomed from a branch of the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit — and it's a surprisingly refreshing and enlightening place to spend a Friday evening. Take in some art.
3003 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit; 313-964-2267
Imagine this. It's midnight and baseball fans decked out in silly orange and blue are crowdin' up your favorite downtown liver-picklin' hole. Hungry? Forget it. Slows Bar BQ is out 'cause it's packed with overfed baseball fans from Howell. You could try to hit LJ's Lounge up the street but it's likely crammed with the same jersey and waistline mix waiting for the queue to clear back at Slows. But, there are safe options for the introverted on the outskirts of (down)town. Enter Donovan's Pub, situated about a half mile up from Slows just before you slip into Mexicantown. More, the nearly vacant area bestows upon the place a cool, soundstage-y, desolate feel, just enough to frighten off the 586ers and 248ists. But inside, it's filled with mirth and booze with no shortage of warm receptions from proprietors or bartenders. The patrons range from career drunks, hipsters and barstool Venuses to off-duty cops, Latino pool-hall commandos and Detroit writers and rockstars. It's like this: cheap beer, keen food and no bullshit conversation. Some call that a community.
Best Dive Bar with a Cocktail Menu
The Painted Lady
2930 Jacob St., Hamtramck; 313-874-2991
Hamtramck's Painted Lady bar has lived a long and charmed life. They've poured beer there since the dawn of the 20th century, and the spot attained local fame as a divey punk club named Lili's for more than 30 years. It's still much the same, serving cheap draft beers and shots of jezynowka brandy, and you'll probably want to dress down and not wear your Sunday best. That said, mirthful owner Andrew Dow has definitely improved the quality of hooch behind the bar, putting a bit more effort into the joint's offerings. There's no cognac, but many varieties of vodka, gin and bourbon grace the bar, as well as some local ingredients, such as Perkins' Pickles and brine. But fear not, boozehounds, other than that, it's pretty much like walking into a bar 10 years ago, starring a cast of drinkers, locals and the occasional alt-weekly journo or two.
Woodbridge neighborhood, Detroit; woodbridgerecords.com
Say you're out one night wandering through Woodbridge — maybe on your way to a pal's house, maybe on your way to Woodbridge Tavern — and your ears spot the sounds of edgy folk-rock or hip-hop-inflected guitar jams rising from an otherwise innocuous tin building at the corner of Merrick and Trumbull. You've wandered into the world of the Shack. Run by the folks behind Woodbridge Records (home of rock-adventurous downtown fixture acts Noman, the Summer Pledge and I, Crime, among others), the Shack is both a label clubhouse as well as a wink-and-a-nod-invite live music venue. The place exudes the kind of DIY spirit and artisanal, skilled trades ethic that has come to define the neighborhood — and the label. The joint just hosted a double record release party by Woodbridge Records' the Anonymous and the Summer Pledge. The lovely garden out front, the label folks' participation in the community and the constant stream of non-coke-head comers and goers in the 'hood make it seem like a true and well-integrated good neighbor.
Best Successor to Bohemian Home in Exile
It doesn't have a name yet
1464 Gratiot Ave., Detroit; email@example.com
For a few years, Joel Peterson booked some of Detroit's most adventurous music at the Bohemian National Home on Detroit's west side, from ex-Mothers of Invention to the Sun Ra Arkestra to Human Eye to Nathaniel Mayer. After a less-than-amicable falling out with his associates there, Peterson's Bohemian in Exile series has continued the same free-spirited programming in about a dozen spaces, from the Trumbullplex to the Kerrytown Concert House. After three itinerant years, Peterson and company have a space on Gratiot Avenue in Eastern Market, with plans to open a multipurpose performance room, gallery, café and more. We've heard a lot about building the stage and painting and possible names, but not a firm opening date. Shows on the horizon for May and June include Thollem McDonas with Arrington Dionyso, and separate gigs for free jazz giants Charles Gayle and Joe McPhee — either in exile or the new space.
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