Dream bar crawl
Some better bars, for beer, lore and more
Published: October 19, 2011
Elmhurst Tap Room 22057 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. Dark, cool, plush and anachronistic, 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 "bar night" evening.
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.
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; goodnitegracie-ro.com: Though the musical flavorings change throughout the week at both of the Goodnite Gracie lounge locations — bringing in jazz, reggaeton, funk, blues, live music and DJs — 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. Note: You'd be doing yourself a favor to make the attached Italian bistro, D'Amato's, your dinner destination.
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.
Hard Luck Lounge 15412 Mack Ave., Grosse Pointe Park; 313-884-5825; hardlucklounge.com: The real reason to frequent this high-class dive bar is for their 50 variations of candy-flavored cocktails. Of particular note is the Red Fish, which tastes exactly like Swedish Fish candy, those delectably chewy gummy fish with the off-putting motto "A Friend You Can Eat!" It has the flavor, but none of the teeth-sticking side effects. Plus, it's alcoholic! So popular are their sweet-tasting libations that Hard Luck launched its own brand of 70-proof, candy-infused vodka, Hard Luck Candy. Current flavors include Red Fish and Root Beer Barrel, which make for dandy candy booze, indeed.
Ivanhoe Cafe (the Polish Yacht Club) 5249 Joseph Campau, Detroit; 313-925-5335; ivanhoecafe-pyc.com: The homely redbrick building housing the club is in an especially desolate area of Detroit. There is, however, a security guard who stands watch over patrons' cars during the brief business hours — 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, with last-call for dinner at 7:15. Legend has it that the club was invented in 1961 so that reprobate husbands could tell their wives they were attending an important meeting rather than merely swilling boombas of beer at a tavern. And the owners have maintained the fiction by lining the walls with photos of commodores of the club, along with autographed glossies of historic local celebrities.
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. And, of course, there is the beer. 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. But hardcore fans will likely find the Cask Ale to be the liquid they want in their glass. Along with a few Michigan wines and spirits, and a list of non-alcoholic cocktails, there's a drink for everyone.
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. Sometimes, even on a cool day, you'll see some enthusiasts outside, boiling wort.
Library Sports Pub & Grill 42100 Grand River Ave., Novi; 248-349-9110; 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. Their draft beer special is pretty unusual: order a pitcher and you'll get two free full mugs of beer with it. Also, try their "chicken nachos."
Lions, Tigers and Beers 2929 Biddle Ave., Wyandotte; 734-282-1200; lionstigersbeers.com: Looking to entertain yourself in a sports club filled with lively, good-looking people? This Wyandotte bar is your place. They have surprisingly good food, gracious service and nice, cold beer.
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? The LT has free pool on Sundays and Monday movie nights with Nintendo tournaments.
Motor City Brewing Works 470 W. Canfield St., Detroit; 313-832-2700; motorcitybrew.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, or a cheese, baguette and salametti plate with your choice of mustard. 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, adding for a fresh finish. And those Wednesday night art shows are a tightwad's dream, offering work from experimental, established and ex nihil artists, often hanging work that goes for as little as $15. Have a pizza, drain a craft brew or two, and invest in a work of art for a little more.
Old Miami 3930 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-831-3830: This charming dive began as the New Miami back in the hazy Cass Corridor daze. Then, to screw with the heads of Midtown gentrifiers, it changed to its current name. And, 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.
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 mix 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.
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. Ferndale's Rosie O'Grady's Irish Pub is your favorite bar to do just that. 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, but that's why some people dig it. Game on!
Seven Brothers 11831 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck; 313-365-6576: In a churning sea of jaded hipster joints and seedy old-man dens, it takes something special to get noticed, but the regular patrons of this glorious Hamtramck hovel have no trouble grabbing spotlight. "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, and with every square foot packed with actors, writers, directors and various backstage types battling for elbow room at the bar. These off-off-off-off-off-Broadway stars-in-the-making lend the place a uniquely spirited and entertaining atmosphere, with spontaneous sing-alongs and dance-offs a distinct possibility at a moment's notice. What's more, the whole bar has gotten a serious makeover, exposing its original tin ceilings.
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.
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. The roof's ridgepole sags into a bow. Gaps in the old brick-face siding show wood beneath. Owner Ron Gurdjian, who bought the place from Lucas in 2001, has overseen some radical effort to keep the building safe, and says, after almost a decade of work, it's "almost ready for bad weather."
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.
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 of rails to choose from. Their 1920s bar is damn impressive.
Ye Olde Tap Room 14915 Charlevoix, Detroit; 313-824-1030; yeoldetaproom.com: 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. There's something sexy — and a bit dirty — about Ye Olde: The aged bar, sleek from years of use, the red brothel lights that glow softly, the midnight-dark corners that summon unclean thoughts make us want to slap on some red lipstick and get downright saucy.
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. This deal is recommended for walkers only.
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.
Special thanks to editorial intern Rachelle Damico for her assistance compiling this column. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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