Best of Detroit 2013
Spend the Night - Reader's Choice
Reader's choice for nightlife in Metro Detroit
Published: March 20, 2013
Praised for its service and great food, The Penthouse Club also has gorgeous women. Don’t get us wrong, we love when a waitress can remember our names or bring us back the right amount of singles, or a chef can cook up a mean steak, but the main reason why The Penthouse Club continuously wins in this category is because of their amazing lineup of sexy, smoldering, pole-climbing women. The upscale club reigns over the legion of others on Eight Mile, with the Penthouse stamp and the crew to back it up.
Best Burlesque Troupe
Detroit Dizzy Dames
The things the lovely ladies of Detroit Dizzy Dames can do with a stage, 1930s big band music and glittery nipple tassels is incredible. When the lights dim and the attention is brought to the stage, the slew of sensual, vivacious women, led by the astonishing Lushes LaMoan present carnal fun in ways you don’t need to understand. They bring honor to the burlesque and vaudeville art form, giving Detroit audiences something great to revere.
Best Draft Selection in a Bar
338 S. State St., Ann Arbor; 734-996-9191
See ashleys.comfor Westland location.
Self-identified as “Michigan’s premier multitap,” it’s really no joke. The Ann Arbor location routinely has more than 40 beers on tap, an award-winning beer selection from the four corners of the earth and right here at home. Beers recently on tap included Huma Lupa Licious, Nitro Milk Stout, Soft Parade and Dragonmead Final Absolution. They also have Labatt Blue on tap, so you can bring your less adventurous pals along for the ride. Think you’ve run out of new beers to explore? Better stop in soon.
Best Bar for a Martini
222 Sherman Dr., Royal Oak
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, you can really take a moment to reflect on how good life, and a really well-made martini, really is.
Best Bar for a Bloody Mary
Vivio’s Food & Spirits
2460 Market St., Detroit; 313-393-1711
3601 E. 12 Mile Rd., Warren; 586-576-0495
You know you’re doing something right when 26 local retailers are carrying your Bloody Mary mix in their stores. Vivio’s doesn’t play around when it comes to their lauded cocktail, mixed with premium vodka and stirred with a dill pickle spear. It’s something great to be known for, along with tasty burgers and variety of pizzas. And the flavorsome drink doesn’t just have to be an early afternoon hangover cure, head to Vivio’s at night and enjoy it with some of their other specials.
Best Bar for a Classic Cocktail
The Sugar House
2130 Michigan Ave., Detroit
The Sugar House is a pre-Prohibition-style joint tucked somewhat inconspicuously next to that one barbecue joint in Corktown. While there, you might hear a New Orleans jazz duo while you enjoy a couple well-crafted sazeracs or some other adventurous drink that gets lit on fire before being poured. Riding the success of the classic cocktail trend, Detroit’s Sugar House is atmospheric and attractive.
Best Dance Club in Detroit
400 Bagley St., Detroit; 313-962-2300
What’s left to be said about City Club? We all know that it’s a people-watcher’s paradise, that you might walk in wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt and be led out on a leash wearing latex and lycra, that the lights will be dazzling and the electro-industrial beats pumping. City Club continues to do what City Club has done so well for years now, and for that reason we love it. Thank you City Club, for making the weirdest and more wonderful elements of fetish culture the norm on a Detroit weekend.
Best Dance Club in Suburbs
1815 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-589-3344
No matter how much Royal Oak tries to yuppify itself, hotspots of glorious decadence and filthy debauchery remain, like Noir Leather, Gusoline Alley, and, of course, Luna. Like a little suburban City Club, Luna manages to skirt the underbelly of electronic and rock music, crossing boundaries and defying genres, resulting in a cool club to both chill and dance in. The vibe is dark but non-threatening, and the bar staff are super-friendly. You could literally hear anything in here – the DJs will make it all flow.
Best Dance Club in Ann Arbor
516 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor
Enveloped in the sounds of house and drum ‘n’ bass, preppy college students, seedy goths and techno nuts alike come together to melt on the dance floor at Necto. Surprisingly, the event that I speak of, named “Factory,” falls on a Monday night. Necto’s ability to draw people from all over Metro Detroit and bring them to Ann Arbor on a weekday, just shows that their choice of DJ Jinx and Joey P & Sandoe was a good one.
Best Casino Hotel
Greektown Casino Hotel
Best Casino Slots
Best Casino Craps
Best Casino Poker
555 E. Lafayette St., Detroit
Whether it’s gaming or staying the night, our readers agreed that Greektown is a winner.
Best Casino to See a Show
2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit
The Sound Board venue within MotorCity differs slightly to many other big rooms and theaters that casinos often offer because it actually feels like a music venue as opposed to a multi-functional big room in a casino. That’s some achievement. The neon is dazzling and the whole place is pristine but, still, this is a damn fine place to see the likes of Jewel and Morris Day & the Time. There’s actually a radio station broadcasting from within here too, which is pretty cool.
Best Hip-Hop Venue
St. Andrew’s Hall
431 E. Congress St., Detroit
Known all over the country as the spot to hold hip-hop shows in Detroit, St. Andrew’s Hall has never slacked on their love or reverence for the art of hip hop. Local greats like Royce Da 5’9”, Black Milk and Danny Brown have graced the stages and used the venue as a jump-off spot toward bigger things. But even as the artists’ popularity begins to grow, St. Andrew’s Hall and the raw, unmitigated walls of The Shelter below, still hosts their welcome back events. St. Andrew’s Hall is a life vein of Detroit, giving its patrons great shows for little cash.
Best Hip-Hop Night
BlueCollar Gentlemen at the Old Miami
On the first Friday night of every month, Old Miami brings BlueCollar Gentleman, an all access pass to a vast amount of performances, freestyles, cyphers, battles and just random shit talking by Detroit’s underground hip-hop elite. The night can showcase the grimy or the polished, the unproven or the spoken for, depending on the month. But one thing is for sure; BlueCollar Gentleman is one of Detroit’s best proving grounds for those who want respect in the gritty music scene.
Best Rock Club
PJ’s Lager House
1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit
It’s always looked like a dark cavern to me, but maybe that’s what a bar needs to look like for it to hold some of the best and craziest rock shows in Detroit. PJ’s has won this covenant stamp of approval for many years and it has been well deserved. The bar has a steady rotation of local bands, up-and-comers and breakout stars. Not to mention, they’ve also added a record store in their basement, just incase the intensity of sounds and great service upstairs wasn’t enough.
Best Metal Club
Harpos Concert Theatre
14238 Harper Ave., Detroit
People often sneer at the mention of Harpos but the fact remains that few places provide quality metal more consistently and regularly, be it hair metal like Stryper and Ratt, nu-metal like Mushroomhead and Coal Chamber or extreme metal like Napalm Death and Cannibal Corpse. The genre of music might be as cool as your grandma’s church dress but the people who love it are rabid and Harpos serves a valuable purpose. So sneer all you like, but those headbangers deserve a place to mosh.
Best Comedy Club
Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle
310 S. Troy St., Royal Oak
For more than 30 years, Mark Ridley’s has been a destination for some of the hottest comedians to drop in on metro Detroit. Lewis Black, Bob Saget and Dave Attell are but a few of the first-rate national comics who have yukked it up on this stage.
Best Comedy Open-Mic
Joey’s Comedy Club
36071 Plymouth Rd., Livonia
Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle
310 S. Troy St., Royal Oak
Though Mark Ridley’s has handily won this award in the past, evidently some of the walk-on talent at Joey’s was funny enough to garner the Livonia club a hard-won tie.
Best Local Comedian
Detroit-based funnyman Tommy Simon’s résumé shows a guy who’s working hard to share the laughter. A hardworking member of the resident company at Go Comedy! Improv Theatre in Ferndale, he has written for Huffington Post Detroit, and appeared in numerous comedy productions. He also has a more serious side, as writer-in-residence with the InsideOut Literary Arts Project.
Best Folk Venue
316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor
It’s crazy that The Ark started as just a coffee shop that gave students in Ann Arbor an opportunity to come together and chill out. But the quaint spot has now become a place that not only draws students from all over the state, but also great musical artists who come to make a mark on the venerated establishment. Handled by a board or directors and a boatload of volunteers, The Ark plans on keeping its doors open for another 47 years, accepting those who want to join its ranks. I mean, c’mon, Lisa Loeb performed there. That alone should allow The Ark to win the category of Best Folk Venue, every year.
Best Jazz Club
2030 Park Ave., Detroit
Ol’ John Clifford Bell would be happy to see his creation strive today, pumping a healthy dose of traditional and new age jazz back into the city of Detroit. The beautiful sounds that come out of Cliff Bell’s can only be matched by the decor that engulfs it. The crimson tone and lacquered wood bar are just a view things that will dazzle you. Every seat is front row when performers jam, placing every listener in the immense cloud of great music.
Best Blues Club
2644 Harrison St., Detroit; 313-962-4247
What makes a great blues bar? Is it super-exquisite decor, a startling range of exotic beers and wines, and suited-up bar staff? Hell no. This is the blues, the music of the downtrodden and ignored, and there ain’t nothing exotic about it. We want to hear the music played by people who care, in a dive bar that looks as if it has seen decades of blood, sweat and tears. Nancy Whiskey offers all that and more. Consistently great music, reasonably priced drinks and food, and all located in a great Corktown neighborhood.
Best Sports Bar
Buffalo Wild Wings
For locations, see buffalowildwings.com
Sure, it’s a winning combination: With beer, chicken and enough large-screen televisions to please even the pickiest sports nut, Buffalo Wild Wings just keeps on expanding. With a new location off Cadillac Square in Detroit, even downtowners can now settle in, watch the game and munch on that Screamin’ Nacho Burger.
Best New Bar Trend
Being a chemist behind the bar makes you a reputable asset. Gone are the days of the simple gin and tonic or the vodka Redbull. Bartenders are rolling up their sleeves tight to bring big drinkers and casual attendees glasses filled with rare liquors and organic and international ingredients that bring flavor and veracity to the simple concoctions we’ve grown to love. Places like The Oakland in Ferndale and the Sugar House in Corktown have built their mark on being able to give people something different to sip on, while also luring them to try bigger, riskier sprits. If you ever do venture down to Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, make sure to try the Japanese Cocktail, created with Chalfonte VSOP, orgeat & ango.
Best Michigan-Made Beer
It seems like just yesterday beer was all the same, sort of like having sex in a canoe. Then came the flavor. And the brewery founded by Larry Bell in 1983 deserves a share of the thanks for that revolution, as the Kalamazoo-based brewery gave us Two-Hearted Ale and sensational seasonals such as Oberon.
Best Michigan-Made Liquor
For their ads, the people at Valentine Vodka have chosen to put a simple picture of a glass of vodka filled with mechanical nuts, accompanied by the phrase, “Surprisingly smooth vodka from a city known for grit.” The winners of best local liquor, once again, couldn’t be more right. Handcrafted with locally grown ingredients, Valentine Vodka’s smooth, yet sweet taste is a great compliment to the unrelenting tenacity of Michigan’s finest city.
Best Michigan-Made Microbrew
Founders is a Michigan brewery with a strong local following, in large part due to its peerless Breakfast Stout. It’s packed with the flavors of a well-balanced breakfast, with an alcoholic kick that will have you canceling your appointments for the day. It’s brewed with flaked oats, bitter and sweetened imported chocolates, and Sumatra and Kona coffee. At the website ratebeer.com, it earned a rating of 100 on a 100-point scale.
The award-winning blended scotch has been around for 104 years, traveling throughout the world, showing up in almost every country. Each blend is matured slightly different, due to the intricacies of the wood, climate and location. So every time you hit your favorite bar in Metro Detroit and order yourself a glass, you’re getting new experience.
With its unique square bottle and bright red wax, Maker Mark stands out definitely. Its full, mellow taste, carefully constructed with red winter wheat, rather than rye, can be mixed into a Manhattan or enjoyed on the rocks. And if consuming this drink from a glass is not enough for you, you can always head to their website and grab one of their Bourbon recipes. We suggest the Morning After Sugar Crusted Marshmallow Pancake Stack with Bourbon Blueberry Compote and Naught Syrup. No better way to start the day.
Originally produced by William Grant & Sons in Girvan, Scotland, Hendrick’s is “an unusual and selected gin with limited production that finds in cucumber and rose the perfect combination.”
Patrón is one of Mexico’s greatest exports and continues to be Detroit’s (and, according to their site, the world’s) favorite tequila drink. With four different flavors, the ultra-premium tequila offers Detroiters multiple ways to start a party or end a night with definite disrobement.
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