Best of Detroit 2013
Spend the Night - Staff Picks
Our staff picks for nightlife in Metro Detroit
Published: March 20, 2013
Best Local Comedian
Jimmy Doom, a former member of hardcore band the Almighty Lumberjacks of Death, is probably more of a poet than a comedian but let’s not mince words here — the man is fucking hilarious and he deserves his spot in the Best of. Doom has attacked everyone from John Lennon to, well, everyone but he does it with such cack-handed style and drink-addled fury that it’s impossible not to laugh like a buffoon. He’s like Sam Kinison doing the dirty with Allen Ginsberg. Thankfully, we don’t have to see that.
Best Venue Website
10339 Conant St., Hamtramck
The thing about a music venue website is that you really don’t want to have to sift through pages of superfluous fluff, you want the user experience to be easy and enjoyable. Smalls’ site has all of that. It looks great, and the big forthcoming shows are right there on the front page. No surfing required. The brick wallpaper is super-cool but, judging by the Slayer and Ramones-font T-shirts that the venue offers, somebody over there knows a thing or two about design.
Best Bar for Characters
7800 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-581-9777
No, it’s not named for Lewis Cass, or Cass Avenue. It’s named for its cross-street, Casper. The little joint, right next to the coin laundry that ate historic punk venue Graystone Hall, is usually loaded with west side characters that will warm the heart of anybody who truly appreciates a little urban grit. The bartenders are quick with humor too. One time we called and had the temerity to ask if they served cold beer. “No!” the voice on the line yelled, “We only serve hot beer!” If that doesn’t charm your pants off, we can only point you toward Applebee’s and sigh in pity.
Best Bar in Delray
Black Horse Cantina
7844 W. Jefferson Ave., Detroit; 313-849-1495
Some of our friends pointed this place out to us, told us to just take Jefferson west out of downtown and pull into the parking lot after the railroad tracks. We had expected something like Kovac’s or the old Delray Café, but the Black Horse is different. It’s a quiet place that seems to exist outside the law, where men speak Spanish over a table of dominos, or crack balls over a few dusty pool tables. The bartender lady soon had us fumbling through our high school Spanish to order our cervezas, and one old-timer came over to talk in English about the old days of boxing. When a bar starts to feel like the setting of a William Saroyan play, we take note. We’d recommend the place highly, because you’ll feel like a guest, but we would suggest being on your very best behavior while you’re there. Cash only.
Best Bar Worth Saving
10093 W. Seven Mile Rd., Detroit
No bar on the west side is as steeped in history as Tom’s. Founder Tom Lucas bought the building in 1928, back when Prohibition was the law of the land, and when Seven Mile was still a dirt road. The Purples delivered his liquor, machine guns loaded in their cars, asking, “So, Tom, anybody giving you any trouble?” Over the years, the bar has dealt with failed city lighting, break-ins, stolen power hookups, cut gas and water lines, a 1979 fire, a car crash that caved in the front of the tavern and killed a woman on the sidewalk. And then add the onerous fees for city inspections endured by the current management. How does it go on living? It’s because the tavern’s loyal patrons step into the breach whenever the bar is endangered, as volunteers and benefactors. It helps that the tavern has always had a knack for attracting interesting people, and its customers have included celebrity news anchor Bill Bonds and pizza baron Mike Ilitch. Owner Ron Gurdjian, who bought the place from Lucas in 2001, has overseen some radical effort to keep the building preserved. Call on a Friday or Saturday night to see if it’s open, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll be buzzed into one of the most unusual drinking environments ever to exist. To see it to best effect, though, attend the big party they throw around Babe Ruth’s birthday (Feb. 6), when they deck out the walls with Ruth-related quotes and history.
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