Berkley Front | 3087 12 Mile Rd., Berkley; 248-547-3331: If there's a reason the Berkley Front is known as a better beer bar, it's because it is. The drafts, mixes, and hand-pulls that go up on the chalkboard week by week are some of the best you can get. It also can accommodate all sorts of guests, with a friendly bar, a wide-open area with pool, or even cozy booths for folks on dates. What's more, this place was there early, before the craze caught on. Reward them.
Bronx Bar | 4476 2nd Ave., Detroit; 313-832-8464: Bronx has the works: a well-rounded jukebox, cheap brunch, an expansive Bloody Mary bar, and no TVs. It may be jam-packed during the weekend, but it's still a quiet place to sit and muse in peace during the week.
Cass Cafe | 4620 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-831-1400; casscafe.com: Just on the outskirts of Wayne State's campus, the Cass Café sits with its unassuming brick façade. However, on the inside, is a very cool place to enjoy a drink with friends and check out local art. The mood is always laid back, so you won't have to scream to hear each other.
Checker Bar & Grill | 124 Cadillac Square, Detroit; 313-961-9249: Now under the ownership of the same people who brought you the revamped Foran's Grand Trunk Pub, bigger changes are in the offing, but the improved beer selection and friendly staff already show a difference.
Cheli's Chili Bar Detroit | 47 E. Adams Ave., Detroit; 313-961-1700; chelischilibar.com: You know by the name that this bar, owned by former Red Wing Chris Chelios, is not for "hockey agnostics." With 36 flat-screen televisions, this half-timbered edifice on Adams, right off Woodward, would seem the perfect place to bask in hockeyness.
Clubhouse BFD | 2265 Crooks Rd., Rochester Hills; 248-289-6093; chbfd.com: Sharing the building with East Side Mario's, BFD's parking lot is usually jammed up by 7 on a weeknight, filled to capacity with people enjoying beer and innovative bar fare like sweet potato tater tots. It's totally family-friendly; in fact you'll likely be dodging tykes left and right as you walk through. But their taps are impressive, and they host beer events, such as the Sour Celebration we atttended in August.
Corktown Tavern | 1716 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-964-5103; corktowntavern.com: Normally when we go by Corktown Tavern, the folks smoking out in front of it are enough to encourage us to keep crawling up Michigan. But when we saw this dive's MySpace page, we knew we had to check them out. Turns out it's a special place for punk and "ear-bursting rock." And much cooler than this blurb, or MySpace, let on.
Delux Bar and Lounge | 350 Monroe Ave., Detroit; 313-962-4200; deluxlounge.com: Smallish downtown bar with a club feel, the after-work crowd can heat things up and often does. Bartender Frankie recently told us that things can get a little bit messy on the weekends. "We find everything, shoes, cell phones, weaves — especially weaves," she says of bar clean-up. Sounds like a hell of a time.
Dooleys Tavern | 27 E. 14 Mile Rd., Clawson; 248-677-6262: Billed as the home of the $1 draft, you can get a good deal on beer at Dooley's, along with trivia nights, beer pong nights, mug nights, ladies' nights and more. It's that appealing suburban mix of sports, entertainment, and casual family dining that packs them in.
Dotte Pub | 116 Oak St., Wyandotte; 734-283-6883: Dotte Pub spent some time as a couple different squalid karaoke bars with crappy drinks and dirty bathrooms, but that's all in the past now. A renovation a few years ago restored this place to the glory it experienced in the '40s when it hosted movie stars that crashed in the adjacent hotel.
Dragonmead | 14600 E. 11 Mile Rd., Warren; 586-776-9428: It doesn't get any grander than Dragonmead. The squat, unpretentious building by the side of a freeway service drive serves some of the best fermented beverages around, including some high-ABV pours, such as Belgian-style ales that can run to 10 percent ABV. A kind of coffeehouse atmosphere prevails in the main dining room, where there's sometimes live entertainment, but there's a bar to one side with televised sports for the guys who just need to watch the game.
Falling Down Beer Company | 2270 E. 10 Mile Rd., Warren; 586-799-BREW; fallingdownbeer.com: There are wonders hidden within this squat, single-story building on East 10 Mile Road that could have been a former Arby's. Falling Down's craft beer offerings are malt-forward, and hew to traditional beermaking recipes. The kitchen doesn't stint on food, either churning out inventive fare like deep-fried Reuben egg rolls and hand-cut fries with "pub cheese."
Garden Bowl | 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700; majesticdetroit.com: Sure, you've been to a local bowling alley with a bar, but none compare to the Garden Bowl. It's a bare bones operation, with affordable booze, pizza within an earshot, and good music usually playing at tolerable volumes.
Green Dot Stables | 2200 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit; 313-962-5588; greendotstables.com: Go for the sliders (the Korean with peanut butter and kim-chi changed our life.). Stay for the beer, mixed drinks, ponies, and classic décor.
Gusoline Alley | 309 S. Center St., Royal Oak; 248-545-2235: If a bar could be a person, Gusoline Alley would be your punk friend from high school that you run into every once in a while and never really know what they're talking about, but you nod along and laugh anyway. After all, it is a charming dive with a kickass jukebox.
Firebird Tavern | 419 Monroe Ave., Detroit; 313-782-4189; firebirdtavern.com: It's not hard to put together the basics of a good tavern, but it's the fine points that are demanding. Firebird Tavern has them covered, with specialty cocktails, dozens of Michigan brews, and a menu to restore you for that drive home.
Gator Jakes Bar Grill Patio | 36863 Van Dyke Ave., Sterling Heights; 586-983-3700; gatorjakes.com: Gator Jakes may be the perfect sort of place to soak up some warmth (or at least some booze) on a snowy Midwestern winter night. The bar is dressed in warm yellows and reds, and you can almost feel the trade winds blow after a few of their Creole-inspired dishes, and some formidable cocktails.
The Hills Bar & Grille | 6810 N. Rochester Rd., Rochester Hills; 248-237-7703; thehillsbar.com: Just off Rochester Road, north of the city's historic downtown, the quaint bar and grill is stylish but homey. The drink menu has the assortment of Michigan beers drinkers have come to demand, but also a solid selection of wines and craft cocktails. Use them to wash down a fortifying menu of burgers, pastas, meatloaf, salads, and steaks.
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