From the divine to the dives
A guide on places that are swell, or where you can just swill
Published: October 17, 2012
Cliff Bell's 2030 Park Ave.; 313-961-2543; cliffbells.com: Cliff Bell's honcho Paul Howard will tell you jazz is "the best music to see live — especially in small setting." And although there's more than jazz to be seen and heard in this art deco temple — other musical genres, burlesque, poetry and the Moth story-telling sessions, for instance. Cliff Bell's has built a stable of top-notch local swinging regulars, semi-regulars and occasionals — including the Hot Club of Detroit, Gerard Gibbs and Wendell Harrison's Swing Ensemble — and such out-of-towners as Dr. Lonnie Smith and France's Moutin Reunion. It can get rather noisy for listening, but it's also got class galore and great small-plates dining.
Cloverleaf Bar 12625 Dix Toledo Rd., Southgate; 734-284-7211; $: It's an unassuming, boxy building from the outside, with just a green metal door under a goose-neck lamp. But walk in and you'll find an old-fashioned shot-and-beer bar with character to spare. The bar is in the actual shape of three-leafed clover, all under a scooped-out ceiling — a la the Bronx Bar. It sort of looks like a hipster bar without hipsters, or as our co-drinker joked, "a Downriver Donovan's."
Corktown Tavern 1716 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-964-5103; corktowntavern.com: Legendary venue has a bar downstairs, and a stage and another small bar upstairs. Events range from parties to punk shows, all with a lawless dive feel — and we mean that in the best way possible.
The Corner Brewery 720 Norris St., Ypsilanti; 734-480-2739; arborbrewing.com/brewery: Operating on the "reverse mullet" premise (i.e. party in the front, business in the back), CB is a cozy microbrewery equipped with a beer garden and a special tasting room. They'll open at noon, and you can kick back with a pint of one of usually eight beers on tap, including Sacred Cow or Phat Abbot Tripel.
The Dakota Inn Rathskeller 17324 John R St., Detroit; 313-867-9722; dakota-inn.com: Owned and operated by the same family for more than 70 years, the Dakota Inn Rathskeller can get boisterous at 7 on a Saturday night. Inside and through the heavy wooden doors is the din of mirth as friends and families assemble to celebrate birthdays and other life events, or just grab a beer and sausage.
Danny's Irish Pub 22824 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-546-8331: Danny's is a cozy pub adorned with shamrocks and green decor. You can't miss the Irish colors it's decked out in, right on Woodward. It's also one of the biggest destinations when it comes to St. Patty's Day partying. They usually start at 7 a.m., with generous drink specials on Irish whiskey.
Derby's 22031 Dequindre Rd., Hazel Park; 248-544-8040: Cinderblock shot-and-a-beer bar where the waitresses wear bikinis. George, the handyman, says, "It's pretty nice inside, for a neighborhood bar. We've got a jukebox, a pool table, dart machines, golf machines. We have a karaoke DJ on the weekends — and cheap beer: $1.75 until 8 p.m. any bottle. Or $1 bottled beer for the Lions game, and $1 bottles for many college football and NFL games. We have a $3 hamburger and fries lunch special 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. And Wednesday is bikini night. The ladies wear bikinis and drinks are $1 a bottle and $2 a shot."
Detroit Beer Co. 1529 Broadway St., Detroit; 313-962-1529; detroitbeerco.com: DBC seems like a little bit of upscale Royal Oak dropped in the thick of downtown Detroit. Their renovation of the century-old Hartz Building, with its tin ceilings and brick walls, looks especially attractive. Added attractions are the sweet smells of brew emanating from the basement, and, oh yeah, beers such as Detroit Dwarf, Detroit Red and usually several appealing seasonal brews.
Dragonmead 14600 E. 11 Mile Rd., Warren; 586-776-9428; dragonmead.com: Tucked away in an industrial-looking building on I-696's service drive, Dragonmead's ocher walls are festooned with flags and the company's many awards. It aspires to a level of sophistication, a nice mix of relaxed couples and cap-and-T guys out for a few. Clearly, it's the sort of relaxed, friendly and affordable evening out more people are willing to splurge on. And some of Dragonmead's Belgian-style ales, including the Final Absolution Trippel, can run to 10 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).
Elmhurst Tap Room 22057 W. Outer Dr., Dearborn; 313-277-4041; elmhursttaproom.com: In this frosted-glass, track-lighting, martini-menu world, it's such a relief that the stained-glass-and-wood Elmhurst endures. The bar is up-to-date, but the interiors are dark, cool, plush and anachronistic. By day, this Outer Drive haunt is frequented by regulars who look as if they haven't relinquished their stools for a few generations, making it seem a likely bet for a quiet day drink.
Foran's Grand Trunk Pub 612 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-3043; grandtrunkpub.com: It's Saturday morning — you're looking for good grub and drink that's not OJ. What to do? It's easy: Head to downtown Detroit to the Grand Trunk (formerly just "Foran's"), where brunch and booze ain't no joke. The funky, compact bar sits inside the old Detroit Grand Trunk ticketing station. The House pop is Faygo and the bread's from Avalon Bakery, the produce is from Eastern Market, and the taps boast 14 various Michigan brews.
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