Dream bar crawl
Some better bars, for beer, lore and more
Published: October 19, 2011
The Biergarten 22184 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-561-7711: Part of a rapidly changing strip of Michigan Avenue on the west side of Dearborn, this family-style corner bar has a great beer selection for those brew mavens who investigate beyond what's on tap, including a good selection of bottles from Michigan. Expect beer specials and a chance to shoot some pool.
BlackFinn Restaurant & Saloon 530 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-582-9460; blackfinnroyaloak.com: Though we voted this Royal Oak hot spot "Best Pick-Up Bar" back in 2009, we weren't sure what to make of BlackFinn when its doors first opened; was it a sports bar or a family restaurant with a dance floor? Was it a swingers club? Though you may pick up something other than a drink, they have happy hour specials from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday.
The Bronx Bar 4476 Second Ave., Detroit; 313-832-8464: This hip, student-packed venue, which was once an underappreciated dive bar, is a good place to hit up to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. Expect to hear some early '80s post-punk, classic hip hop, deep soul, indie-rock favorites, and a slew of Detroit bands make up a dumbfounding roster of lovable non-hits. You might spend more on their two jukeboxes (yeah, there are two) than on drinks.
Cadieux Café 4300 Cadieux Rd., Detroit; 313-882-8560; cadieuxcafe.com: Feather bowling is not the only draw to this Belgian cultural hub. Cadieux Cafe combines European flair with a unique menu, and the current owners have furthered the popularity by bringing in live musical acts and staying open until 2 a.m. daily. So whether you are in the mood for steamed mussels, Belgian beer or Elvis impersonators (sometimes), this is the place for you.
Cass Cafe 4620 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-831-1400; casscafe.com: As if the vintage bicycles chained up outside weren't a clue. Then the walls tell the story. The music backs it up. Look over the shoulder of any messenger-bag-wielding patron and you're likely to find them — assuming they're not chomping into a turkey burger or sipping a pint— sketching, reading, knitting, writing, perhaps focused on a MacBook. Pretentious? Nah. OK, maybe sometimes, but how can art exist without that? Cass Cafe is the unofficial meeting place for Detroit painters, poets, musicians, etc. The crowd's a boho and blue-collar blend, fairly reflective of the creative community as such. And the place is as much an art gallery as a café; its walls adorned with local fine art — mostly paintings and installation pieces — that's usually engaging.
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 — it 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.
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: Not many Detroit restaurants have been around for more than 70 years. Even fewer have been owned and operated by the same family for as long. The Dakota Inn Rathskeller can claim both, even if the quiet neighborhood at the crossroads of John R and McNichols isn't exactly a hot spot for the dining crowd. The scene is completely different at seven on a Saturday night. Then the adjacent fenced parking lot will likely be full, with overflow spilling across John R and down side streets. 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.
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. As many as 250 patrons could squeeze into the long narrow rooms, which include a spacious second floor for those who prefer an elevated view of Broadway. 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: Owners Larry Channell, Bill Wrobel and Earl Scherbarth founded the brewery in 1997. Scherbarth had been a metal worker at Ford, Wrobel a sales and marketing person at Chrysler, where Channell also worked, re-engineering business processes. After the three spent years trying to think of a business idea that would lead them to independence, Channell, an active home brewer, suggested opening a microbrewery. "I think we all thought we were nuts at that point, and that that was the stupidest idea of all," Channell recalls with a dry laugh. "It took us a while to realize we could find a long-lasting niche." And it's a pleasant space, tucked away in an industrial-looking building on I-696's service drive, its ocher walls 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, who mostly hold the baseball man-cry in — at least until those bottom-of-the-ninth comeback homers. 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).
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