From the divine to the dives
A guide on places that are swell, or where you can just swill
Published: October 17, 2012
Fort Street Brewery 1660 Fort St., Lincoln Park; 313-389-9620; fortstreetbeer.com; $$: Brewpub and restaurant with a friendly atmosphere, games, and a large beer list, including house-brewed suds like "Doug's Turbo Sarsaparilla," a root beer-flavored beer. Look out for daily specials like $4 pepperoni pizzas during Monday Night Football.
Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company 3965 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-831-9627; greatlakescoffee.com: More than a coffeehouse, Great Lakes offers Michigan craft beer, organic-type wines and a list of 10 cocktails you won't find anywhere else, as well as coffee-infused beer. Come for the wireless, stay to get wired. Open 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday, closed Sundays. (See our story on P. 32.)
Grizzly Peak Brewing Co. 120 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor; grizzlypeak.net: 734-741-7325: Downtown Ann Arbor's burger- and steak-lovers' go-to spot, Grizzly Peak offers several of its award-winning beers on tap. And, as it winds down for the night, its pub, the Den, rolls out the red carpet for cash-strapped beer connoisseurs. Every night after 11 p.m., the space's massive oak bar, high-topped tables and cozy booths fill with friends who prefer chatting over a pint to getting freaked on. But get there early — this little gem fills up fast!
Goodnite Gracie Jazz & Martini Bar 301 Huron St., Ann Arbor; 734-623-2070; 224 S. Sherman Dr., Royal Oak, 248-584-7400: Though the musical flavorings change throughout the week at both of the Goodnite Gracie lounge locations, they consistently serve up myriad martinis metro Detroiters crave. The original location in Royal Oak serves up their magnificent martinis and all other fantastically fermented beverages at a half-off happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Gusoline Alley 309 S. Center St., Royal Oak; 248-545-2235: A classic dive bar, its regulars are as colorful as witty scribble on bathroom walls; and like any authentic dive, there's real storytelling floating in its narrow room, amid so much bumper-sticker artistry. Even old Buk might've been a regular — or maybe we're just romanticizing the hell out of this place.
Imperial 22828 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-850-8060: Probably known more for its tacos than its bar, Imperial has an ample selection of Mexican beer (at least a dozen different cervezas) as well as a large variety of "regular" beers, including domestic and foreign. Their signature beer is the aptly named "Hillbilly Cooler" which consists of your choice of 32-ounce Corona Familiar or 24-ounce PBR can nestled inside a sturdy brown paper bag filled with ice. (See our story on P. 36.)
Jolly Pumpkin 311 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-913-2730; jollypumpkin.com: While pub-like in atmosphere, the food is a bit more up-to-date. Expect tofu cracklings, French fries flavored with rosemary and truffle salt, and a butcher's snack board of cured meats and more. There is no real entrée menu as such. A small list of daily specials is offered, such as broiled walleye and mushroom risotto. The rest of the list consists of salads, sandwiches and pizza. Children are considered with an entire section of their own. Diners not yet familiar with Jolly Pumpkin beers might want to ease into the experience with something slightly tamer, like a North Peak Amber Ale.
Kuhnhenn 5919 Chicago Rd., Warren; 586-979-8361; kbrewery.com: When it comes to really intense flavor, no place has zoned in on extreme beer geeks like Kuhnhenn, having created such flavorful brews as Wild Blueberry Pancake Ale and Raspberry Eisbock. If that weren't geeky enough, there's a home brew shop right across the parking lot! So, head inside, enjoy the kick-in-the-face flavors of such brews as Solar Eclipse, then, inspired, head over and buy your own homebrew rig.
Library Sports Pub & Grill 42100 Grand River Ave., Novi; 248-349-9110; 6363 Haggerty, West Bloomfield Township; 248-896-0333; librarypub.com: Aiming upscale, this comfortable and family-friendly sports bar has television — lots of it. How much TV? Why, more than two-dozen screens, three of them big ones. Other draws include pool, darts, food and live entertainment. Also, try their "chicken nachos."
LJ's Lounge 2114 Michigan Ave., Detroit, 313-962-0013: Though it's a quiet old-man bar on most days, the spill-over crowd from Slows Bar-BQ and the pre-party crowd from nearby dance shindigs makes it a memorable stop for bar-crawlers in the know. The brews are cheap, but be sure to get the price of that shot before you order it.
The Loving Touch 22634 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-546-3644: Opened in late-'08, Ferndale's new pool hall-lounge was once a massage parlor of the same name. Neat! Whatever the former's business practices, the new version is one of the best bars for last call in metro Detroit. The Loving Touch is cozy with beautiful woodwork, welcoming atrium and it sports a badass juke, with many local rock stars in rotation. It's lounge-casual, to be sure. What better way to cap a night than with sloppy billiards or in a booth with your pals, glowing from locally brewed beer?
Motor City Brewing Works 470 W. Canfield St., Detroit; 313-832-2700; motorcitybeer.com: Right across the street from Traffic Jam, this brewpub has a quirky tiled interior, with its concrete bar molded in PVC, its Wednesday-night art shows, and its sturdy menu of pizzas and small plates. For less than $10, you can get a pizza made with ingredients from as local as possible. The beers are excellent. Watch out for the high alcohol content of the hard cider and the Pumpkin Ale, if there's any left. These seasonal brews use ingredients from local farms. And those Wednesday night art shows are a tightwad's dream.
New Dodge Lounge 8850 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck; 313-874-5963; newdodgelounge.com: Open from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m., the New Dodge is one of those classic Hamtramck bars that's open all day. In the daytime, you have old-timers and characters gabbing at the bar. At night, an interesting mix that can include punks, metal kids or people with just enough money to buy one drink.
Northern Lights Lounge 660 W. Baltimore St., Detroit; 313-873-1739; $: Northern Lights sprawls throughout a large building that can seat more than 100 diners, offering a variety of environments, including informal chairs up front by the free shuffleboard table, wraparound booths in the moodier main room, simple tables for a tête-à-tête, and even seating along the bar. Northern Lights has a full bar, and the know-how to mix up classics and offbeat, eye-catching concoctions.
The Oakland Art Novelty Company 201 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-291-5295: Sandy and Heather Levine's cocktail lounge was inspired by "speakeasies" on the coasts, which specialized in pre-Prohibition cocktails with quality ingredients. All you have to do is get a seat, put away your phone, talk to your friends, and the bar's incomparable creations will complete the illusion of being miles away from Ferndale. (See our story on P. 38.)
Old Miami 3930 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-831-3830: Like a trusted old friend, the Old Miami comes through in the pinch. It has become home to Detroit's day-rave scene, hosting all-day parties featuring local and international insomniac DJs and dancers. And then there's the urban oasis they've created out back, with an outdoor stage, rustic seating and, in good weather, a little patch of lawn.
One Eyed Betty's 175 W. Troy Ave., Ferndale; 248-808-6633: One Eyed Betty's hasn't even been open a year, but Ferndale residents have not been shy about showing the town's signature craft beer bar some love. With more than 44 different craft beers on draft and 100-plus different beers in a bottle, the hipster crowds that descend upon Betty's with regularity and gusto each weekend can sip their drinks contentedly. (See our story on P. 28.)
Painted Lady Lounge 2930 Jacob St., Hamtramck; 313-874-2991: If you really love those shiny, squeaky-clean bars in Oakland County where you bring your 4-week-old while you enjoy beers on a sun-splashed terrace, stay away. Stay far away. But if you like what dive bars used to be like, places with a small stage where noisy bands thudded out music, where illicit behavior was greeted with a wink, and where you can meet the most creative miscreants, this might be for you.
Palate 449 N. Main St.; 800-685-0909; palateofmilford.com: This brand-new restaurant offers a seasonally changing menu, craft beer flights and an international wine list. As you'd expect from any eatery with a seasonal focus, an emphasis on local ingredients will prevail; in fact, it has spilled over into the rustic interior, which has reclaimed ornaments derived from Michigan's deconstructed barns. (Co-owner Joe Hibbert talks Michigan craft beer in our story on P. 26.)
Park Bar 2040 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-962-2933; parkbardetroit.com: OK, you know and we know this one was a keeper from day one. Firstly for its location on the increasingly dense Park Avenue bar and club scene, secondly for its round bar and enormous picture windows, thirdly for having the only late-night, cool-as-shit Romanian food source (the Bucharest Grill) in town. But perhaps best of all is the house mix of music. How do they do it? Any employee may nix a song off the playlist. So you only get what people don't object to. What's more, there is usually a nice selection of pours on tap.
P.J.'s Lager House 1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-961-4668; pjslagerhouse.com: This rock 'n' roll watering hole has some of the best talent coming to town, but it's also a historic dive. P.J. tells us the place has been a bar since before Prohibition, and was once one of the down-and-out bars when Michigan Avenue was down at the heels. How times change! Now, in addition to the entertainment, you'll find a menu of excellent bar food (you get food every day, from when they open at 11 a.m. until midnight, and the Saturday brunch is especially interesting) and some of the friendliest bartenders in town.
Renshaw Lounge 210 E. 14 Mile Rd., Clawson; 248-616-3016: For years, the Renshaw was a little dive whose slogan was "Warm beer, lousy food." Now it has been expanded, going from little dive to up-to-date sports bar. (See our story on P. 30.)
The Rockery 1175 Eureka Rd., Wyandotte; 734-281-4629; rockerywyandotte.com; $$: Specializing in Michigan brews, beer nuts can expect suds from everyplace from Arbor Brewing to Short's, as well as cider from J.K.'s Scrumpy and meads from B. Nektar Meadery. The four taps all pour Michigan beer, and there are more than 90 Michigan bottles to choose from. Burgers, chicken strips and other finger foods will help bring you back from the brink.
Rosie O'Grady's Irish Pub 279 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-591-9163; see rosieogradysirishpub.com for more locations: When you go to the bar to catch the big game with your best bros, there's a good chance there are a few other games, matches, meets, etc., you'd also like to follow, however casually or seriously. With more than 100 TVs throughout the joint, including a small flat-screen in each booth, all broadcasting the game, it's a sensory overload of sports. Game on!
Seven Brothers 11831 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck; 313-365-6576: "The Brothers" caters to Detroit's smallish but incredibly vibrant theater community, with every square inch of space coated in head shots, cast posters and press clippings. On a busy night, these off-off-off-off-off-Broadway stars-in-the-making can lend the place a uniquely spirited and entertaining atmosphere.
Slingers Bar & Grill 11791 Farmington Rd., Livonia; 734-421-6070: Though Madonna University and Schoolcraft College are both in city limits, Livonia isn't really some wild college town. It'll never be one of those. But that's not stopping Slingers Bar & Grill (formerly PY Stix) from attempting to tap into campus-approved, liquor-fueled folly, such as beer pong. We're talking cheap drinks, like on their Thirsty Thursdays, which feature $2 beers from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
The Sugar House 2130 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-962-0123; sugarhousedetroit.com: On a night out at the Sugar House — a Prohibition-style "speakeasy" tucked somewhat inconspicuously next to that one barbecue joint in Corktown — you might enjoy a few well-crafted sazeracs or something else that's lit on fire before being poured. Blending an East Coast trend for pre-Prohibition cocktails and a West Coast tendency toward fresh ingredients, guests get all the best. The prices, however, reflect the quality.
Tap inside MGM Grand Detroit, 1777 Third St., Detroit; 877-888-2121: What's the story with Detroit's newest sports bar? It's done up in grand style, with original memorabilia from Lindell A.C., hearty pub fare and an emphasis on Michigan craft beers. (See our story on P. 27.)
The Tap Room 201 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti; 734-482-5320; taproomypsi.com: We know the cliché, but many regulars here say this bar really is like downtown Ypsi's own version of Cheers. Maybe it's because co-owners Lisa and Brian Brickley and their staff are down-to-earth folks who'll chat with you even after you've tossed down your seventh shot of Jack. Or maybe it's because most of the staff were regulars before they started getting paid to serve. (Hiring from within! Cool.) Either way, it makes for one drunk, happy family down in old Ypsi-town.
Three Nicks Tap Room 14594 Eureka Rd., Southgate; 734-282-7722; 3nicksbars.com; $: Ever wonder what a solar-powered bar would be like? Or how it would feel to knock them back in an establishment that cares about stuff like LEED certification? Check out the tap room, with its solar reflective roof system and solar panel electrical system. And enjoy the bar's large plasma televisions and daily drink and food specials with a slightly cleaner conscience.
Tipsy McStaggers 7280 E. 12 Mile Rd., Warren; 586-806-4481: I couldn't help but ask the bartender lady, "Do you think the name Tipsy McStaggers promotes responsible drinking?" She didn't miss a beat and replied, "I'm going to say, 'Yes.'" That's the sort of unflappable service that has helped Tipsy McStaggers along since it opened about two years ago, right across the road from the GM Technical Center. Inside, it's a nice Irish-looking bar with such updates as an Internet jukebox and Golden Tee golf machines.
Tom's Tavern 10093 W. Seven Mile Rd., Detroit; 313-862-9768: Meant, as always, in the most loving sense of the word, Tom's is a true dive. Open mostly on weekends, the old "house bar" opened when 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. An astonishing 81 years later, Tom's survives, despite a lot of problems. Over the years, the bar has been built and rebuilt so many times that it's uneven enough to make you feel you're drunker than you are.
Town Pump Tavern 100 W. Montcalm, Detroit; 313-961-1929; thetownpumptavern.com: Located behind Hockeytown Café and Fox Theatre, this is a nice pub stop if you're planning on hitting up downtown. The bar almost makes you feel like you're in London with its ivy-covered windows, wooden interior and small (fake) library with couches in the corner. Daily specials include a half pound burger and fries with a pint of Miller Lite or Molson for $6 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., excluding game days.
Traffic Jam & Snug 511 W. Canfield St.; 313-831-9470; trafficjamdetroit.com: Get a twofer of English-style ales by visiting the little snug bar, with its backlit nature scenes and dormant fireplace. Or enjoy them with a meal in the restaurant: Traffic Jam makes almost everything in-house, including beer, bread and ice cream. Their award-winning cheeses are also worth a try — one popular lunchtime choice is the cheese platter, consisting of three Traffic Jam cheeses, served with premium crackers, fresh berries, and house-made honey dijon mustard.
Union Street 4145 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-831-3965; unionstreetdetroit.com: Besides a very tasty menu, Union Street's bar has a nice selection for all drinkers: 100 different bottled beers, 15 beers on tap, 32 premium bottles of wine available by the glass as well as a variety to choose from. Their 1920s bar is damn impressive.
Valentine Vodka Tasting Room 161 Vester St., Ferndale; 248-629-9951; valentinevodka.com: More a cocktail lounge than a tasting room, an atmospheric front room is filled with couches, high tops and a gorgeous copper bar, with views into the distillery. Specializes in quality cocktails with fresh ingredients. Open 4:30-11 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 4:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday-Saturday. (See our story on P. 27.)
Whiskey in the Jar 2741 Yemans St., Hamtramck; 313-873-4154: Tiny bar packs it all in somehow — pool table, seating area, bar, TVs, jukebox — with a patio that spills outside for smokers and jokers. A longtime Hamtramck classic endures due to an assortment of regulars and some friendly bartenders who've seen it all.
Woodbridge Pub 5169 Trumbull St., Detroit; 313-833-2701; woodbridgepub.com: The Pub is open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day, and the most popular items on the menu (as on all menus) are the burgers. They're a succulent half-pound of certified Angus, dressed up with white cheddar or goat cheese or caramelized bacon or portobellos, delivered rare if you ask for rare. Other sandwiches are equally wonderful, as well as ultra-thin white pizzas and four pastas, cavatappi and fettuccine, also with tons of cheese. The brunch menu features bottomless mimosas on Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. for $11.
Woodward Avenue Brewers 22646 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-546-3696; thewabsite.com: If beer were a delicious tasting pop, it would be Raspberry Blonde. The WAB is a laid-back brewery that features their popular light-bodied blonde ale to the dark and hoppy vanilla porter. Specials include $2 pints on Sundays and half off food on Mondays.
Ye Olde Saloon 1023 S. Main St.,. Royal Oak; 248-542-5900; yeoldesaloon.com: When we dropped in two Saturdays ago, a beer stroll was in progress, dropping in at 14 different bars. The manager, Donna, took a break from handing out miniature sandwiches to chat with us over some $1.50 Pabsts. She said it's been Ye Olde since 1975. It's so old, she says, that it's just a dirt floor under the tiles. In the back room, the walls are decorated to resemble horse stables, with various amusingly drawn horses in their stalls. The front wall is plastered with sketches that were drawn by some guy who just sketched the customers between 1976 and 1978. There's even an AC/DC pinball machine. People were very friendly, perhaps due to the bar crawl. We even met a few Royal Oak gals, including Paige, who seemed pleasantly snockered and very friendly, at least before her friends spirit her away from us.
Ye Olde Tap Room 14915 Charlevoix, Detroit; 313-824-1030: Hands down, this is one of the best beer bars in metro Detroit. More than 280 fine lagers from the world over, a stellar selection of fine scotch — single-grain, single-malt, vatted (pure) malt or blended, well-aged at 10, 12, 16 or 18 years, on the rocks or straight up — all get served minus the pretension. Adding to the ambience is the bar's notorious history of serving booze before, during and after Prohibition; its surreptitious speakeasy roots suggest the naughty and clandestine revelry of the jazz-baby '20s, a decade for which we were, unfortunately, born too late.
Special thanks to editorial intern Emily Riopelle for her help compiling this column.
See any errors or omissions? (Remember, this isn't a complete listing of all bars, just some doozies.) Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 313-202-8043.
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