Best Bar for Under 30s
The Loving Touch
22634 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-546-3644
It has been a huge year for the Loving Touch, that room next to the WAB that used to be a seedy massage place, happy endings guaranteed. The place has grown into one of the most happening rooms on the music scene thanks to some tremendous shows, many of them free, very cool bar staff and an overall unique and friendly vibe. The bands are right there in your face, and that adds to the ambience. When it’s all done, your ending is still happy, just in a different way.
Best Bar to Hook Up With Someone
22901 Woodward Ave., Ferndale
Boogie Fever is Ferndale’s Mecca of salacious cougars, meandering sugar daddies and armies of bachelorettes equipped with dildos, inflatable penises and pink tiaras. The neon lit dance floor and the bellowing tunes of yesteryear, help troves of drunken lady trains and crooning men to start snagging the night’s fun. What better mix can you ask for when you’re looking for that hook-up?
Best Dive Bar in Wayne County
3930 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-831-3830
The collage of worn military unit patches behind the bar will be the first thing to catch your eye when you take a seat in Old Miami. The great prices and conversations will catch you next, tickling the right senses and making you feel like the “dive” isn’t preparing you for a crash landing. If you go past the stage, which typically holds Detroit’s up and coming indie artists, and go outside, you’ll see the spacious back yard, stylized for the type of lounging that’s usually saved for summer bon fires and late night rendezvous.
Patrick Tierney at Gusoline Alley
Best Dive Bar in Oakland County
Best Bottled Beer Selection in a Bar
309 S. Center St., Royal Oak
The casual nightwalker, tiptoeing on the edge of Royal Oak’s downtown, might stumble their way into Gusoline Alley and become enthralled by its walls of motor city memorabilia and great music from an unrivaled, legendary jukebox that has everything from cherry jazz hits from Thelonious Monk and Dave Brubeck to rebel country from Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. It’s those things, along with decent drinks that range from local brews to ones of the Bavarian kind, that have brought Gusoline back on this list. Add in the exceptional bathroom graffiti and Bartender Patrick Tierney’s sideburns and you have dive bar that not many in Oakland can compete with.
Best Dive Bar in Macomb County
26061 Gratiot Ave., Roseville; 586-772-6750
You know those places where the bartender is condescending, the music is too loud and you get gouged $5 for a Pabst? That’s totally not Club FT. For affordable drinks and quick service, this place is a friendly little oasis.
Best Dive Bar in Washtenaw County
The 8 Ball Saloon
208 S. First St., Ann Arbor
Pleasantly divey little joint just downstairs from the Blind Pig, sort of resembles a Washtenaw County version of the Painted Lady. Just goes to show you that Washtenaw County ain’t all yuppies.
Best Honky-Tonk Bar
Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill
4698 Baldwin Rd., Auburn Hills
At this high-energy country club, you can find live music, “whiskey girls,” even drink out of a real Mason jar, but the menu is surprisingly long and varied for a honky-tonk.
Best Irish Pub
Dick O Dow’s
160 W. Maple Rd., Birmingham
For the past 17 years, Dick O’Dow’s has been Birmingham’s most popular unpretentious watering hole. Created by the late Dick O’Connor, Peter Dow and Mitch Black in the central shopping district on Maple, the dimly lit pub, graced with simple wooden tables and chairs, faded wall murals from the Book of Kells, agricultural paraphernalia and a wide variety of Irish kitsch, is a surprisingly accurate re-creation of a rural local where you can get a pint of plain.
Best Bar for Karaoke in Wayne County
128 Henry St., Detroit; 313-963-6763
Only in the fevered imagination of the giddiest developer could this stretch of Henry Street be called “Midtown.” Across the street from the “murder mart,” behind a door that sits askew the street, is one of the coolest little dive bars in town, with generous pours of whiskey, and one or two nights a week of “Terry-oke,” usually Fridays and Saturdays, call for details.
Best Bar for Karaoke in Oakland County
THREE WAY TIE
On the Rocks
28167 John R Rd., Madison Heights
The Stop Spot
1309 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-548-7771
2140 Hilton Rd., Ferndale; 248-545-5861
It really doesn’t matter where you are. When the lights are low and the music moves you, as you stare into the teleprompter, you might be miles away, deep in the past or staring right into your beloved’s eye for a serenade. One thing’s for certain: Oakland County loves karaoke.
Best Bar for Karaoke in Macomb County
Kit Kat Klub
55140 Romeo Plank Rd., Macomb; 586-781-3171
Just a little joint off on the side of a subdivision out by the corner of 25 Mile Road, apparently this is where they whoop it up, karaoke-style, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Look them up online. They have kind of an interesting Google image problem.
Best Bar for Karaoke in Washtenaw County
Best Musical Open-Mic or Jam Session
36 E. Cross St., Ypsilanti
This Ypsi venue has several smaller spaces inside, which makes it kind of ideal for those just beginning to perform. Situated in the heart of Depot Town, just off the train tracks, Woodruff’s has made admirable efforts to foster a regular rotation of engaging weekly programming, including its open-mic and karaoke nights.
Best Happy Hour for Drinks in Wayne County
1128 Washington Blvd., Detroit
The drinks are wonderful, the beer menu is loaded with more flavors than most wine menus, and the interior is stylish and usually crowded with a who’s who of downtown Detroit. But maybe it’s the affordable menu of bar bites that puts happy hour at Roast over the top.
Best Happy Hour for Drinks in Oakland County
Big Rock Chophouse
245 S. Eton St., Birmingham
Big Rock Chophouse oozes northern lodge appeal, with a variety of rooms in which to dine, including an outdoor patio. The lively atmosphere is complemented by skillfully crafted menus. In addition to the restaurant is a large brew house with custom-designed, state-of-the-art equipment.
Best Happy Hour for Drinks in Macomb County
32976 Gratiot Ave., Roseville
Really, Macomb County? Choosing Hooters for Best Happy Hour is like choosing Red Lobster for Best Seafood. Oh, that’s right. You did that last year.
Best Happy Hour for Drinks in Washtenaw County
120 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor
Grizzly Peak has the feel of a restrained hunting lodge that enjoys its own history more than its kills (you’ll find a mounted buck or two, but the exposed brick interior tends to remain neutrally bare). But the award-winning beer is the real centerpiece, featuring several on-tap Weissbiers and ales during the summer months. Some specialty brews go fast — call for detailed offerings.
Best Fetish Party or Fetish Night
Noir Leather’s Hellbound
When it comes to a pedigree in kink, nobody’s runs deeper than Noir Leather’s Keith Howarth. So it only makes sense that his store’s fetish night would be the best bet for the leather set.
Best Club Night in Wayne County
Bass Down Low at the Works on Thursdays
1846 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-961-1742
Brought to you courtesy of those bangin’ people at DetroitDubStep.com, namely DJs Matt Clarke and Jon “Calico” Davis, Bass Down Low serves as both an eclectic night of great music for existing connoisseurs of dubstep and techno, and a fine introduction to what is currently a thriving Detroit scene for curious newbies. Clarke and Davis absolutely know their stuff, and their own sets delve deep into the darkest corners of what dubstep has to offer, while offering up an impressive array of guest DJ’s too.
Best Club Night in Oakland County
Best Electronic Club
15 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac
Elektricity has been an exciting addition to Metro Detroit, while making a substantial mark on the rising popularity of everything EDM. The 18 and up club has been the landing zone for the top international and domestic Electronic music DJs for the last two years. And it also opened its doors for the Redbull Thre3style competition last year, where hip-hop DJs battled and competed to move up the ranks. The club has a future as the hub for weekend fun and DJ’s everywhere.
Best Club Night in Washtenaw County
Factory at Necto on Mondays
516 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor
Mondays at gothic night at Necto, with alternative dance from DJ Jinx, as well as synthpop and industrial, running sometimes back to the 1990s and 1980s, with Nine Inch Nails, Rammstein, etc.
Best Lesbian Bar
1641 Middlebelt Rd., Inkster
If there is any place you plan on going to spread your rainbow wings and get down on the dance floor, Stiletto’s must be it. It has won Best Lesbian Bar for a couple years now, and it’s because the two room bar allows you to mingle and flirt, while also enjoying some of Detroit’s best and fun drag shows. If that’s not worth a gander and a little time, I don’t know what is. And for the straight men or women that may creep in, don’t worry, they have fire escapes.
Best Strip Club
20771 W. Eight Mile Rd., Detroit; 313-541-7000
Praised for its service and great food, The Penthouse Club also has gorgeous women. Don’t get us wrong, we love when a waitress can remember our names or bring us back the right amount of singles, or a chef can cook up a mean steak, but the main reason why The Penthouse Club continuously wins in this category is because of their amazing lineup of sexy, smoldering, pole-climbing women. The upscale club reigns over the legion of others on Eight Mile, with the Penthouse stamp and the crew to back it up.
Best Burlesque Troupe
Detroit Dizzy Dames
The things the lovely ladies of Detroit Dizzy Dames can do with a stage, 1930s big band music and glittery nipple tassels is incredible. When the lights dim and the attention is brought to the stage, the slew of sensual, vivacious women, led by the astonishing Lushes LaMoan present carnal fun in ways you don’t need to understand. They bring honor to the burlesque and vaudeville art form, giving Detroit audiences something great to revere.
Best Draft Selection in a Bar
338 S. State St., Ann Arbor; 734-996-9191
See ashleys.comfor Westland location.
Self-identified as “Michigan’s premier multitap,” it’s really no joke. The Ann Arbor location routinely has more than 40 beers on tap, an award-winning beer selection from the four corners of the earth and right here at home. Beers recently on tap included Huma Lupa Licious, Nitro Milk Stout, Soft Parade and Dragonmead Final Absolution. They also have Labatt Blue on tap, so you can bring your less adventurous pals along for the ride. Think you’ve run out of new beers to explore? Better stop in soon.
Best Bar for a Martini
222 Sherman Dr., Royal Oak
Life is good at Gracie’s. The martinis are imaginative and well-executed, rightly priced at happy hour and still worth every penny they charge at any time of day or night. The staff is just as attentive as the crowd is attractive, and when everyone’s snugged tight inside this intimate Royal Oak drink spot, you can really take a moment to reflect on how good life, and a really well-made martini, really is.
Best Bar for a Bloody Mary
Vivio’s Food & Spirits
2460 Market St., Detroit; 313-393-1711
3601 E. 12 Mile Rd., Warren; 586-576-0495
You know you’re doing something right when 26 local retailers are carrying your Bloody Mary mix in their stores. Vivio’s doesn’t play around when it comes to their lauded cocktail, mixed with premium vodka and stirred with a dill pickle spear. It’s something great to be known for, along with tasty burgers and variety of pizzas. And the flavorsome drink doesn’t just have to be an early afternoon hangover cure, head to Vivio’s at night and enjoy it with some of their other specials.
Best Bar for a Classic Cocktail
The Sugar House
2130 Michigan Ave., Detroit
The Sugar House is a pre-Prohibition-style joint tucked somewhat inconspicuously next to that one barbecue joint in Corktown. While there, you might hear a New Orleans jazz duo while you enjoy a couple well-crafted sazeracs or some other adventurous drink that gets lit on fire before being poured. Riding the success of the classic cocktail trend, Detroit’s Sugar House is atmospheric and attractive.
Best Dance Club in Detroit
400 Bagley St., Detroit; 313-962-2300
What’s left to be said about City Club? We all know that it’s a people-watcher’s paradise, that you might walk in wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt and be led out on a leash wearing latex and lycra, that the lights will be dazzling and the electro-industrial beats pumping. City Club continues to do what City Club has done so well for years now, and for that reason we love it. Thank you City Club, for making the weirdest and more wonderful elements of fetish culture the norm on a Detroit weekend.
Best Dance Club in Suburbs
1815 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-589-3344
No matter how much Royal Oak tries to yuppify itself, hotspots of glorious decadence and filthy debauchery remain, like Noir Leather, Gusoline Alley, and, of course, Luna. Like a little suburban City Club, Luna manages to skirt the underbelly of electronic and rock music, crossing boundaries and defying genres, resulting in a cool club to both chill and dance in. The vibe is dark but non-threatening, and the bar staff are super-friendly. You could literally hear anything in here – the DJs will make it all flow.
Best Dance Club in Ann Arbor
516 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor
Enveloped in the sounds of house and drum ‘n’ bass, preppy college students, seedy goths and techno nuts alike come together to melt on the dance floor at Necto. Surprisingly, the event that I speak of, named “Factory,” falls on a Monday night. Necto’s ability to draw people from all over Metro Detroit and bring them to Ann Arbor on a weekday, just shows that their choice of DJ Jinx and Joey P & Sandoe was a good one.
Best Casino Hotel
Greektown Casino Hotel
Best Casino Slots
Best Casino Craps
Best Casino Poker
555 E. Lafayette St., Detroit
Whether it’s gaming or staying the night, our readers agreed that Greektown is a winner.
Best Casino to See a Show
2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit
The Sound Board venue within MotorCity differs slightly to many other big rooms and theaters that casinos often offer because it actually feels like a music venue as opposed to a multi-functional big room in a casino. That’s some achievement. The neon is dazzling and the whole place is pristine but, still, this is a damn fine place to see the likes of Jewel and Morris Day & the Time. There’s actually a radio station broadcasting from within here too, which is pretty cool.
Best Hip-Hop Venue
St. Andrew’s Hall
431 E. Congress St., Detroit
Known all over the country as the spot to hold hip-hop shows in Detroit, St. Andrew’s Hall has never slacked on their love or reverence for the art of hip hop. Local greats like Royce Da 5’9”, Black Milk and Danny Brown have graced the stages and used the venue as a jump-off spot toward bigger things. But even as the artists’ popularity begins to grow, St. Andrew’s Hall and the raw, unmitigated walls of The Shelter below, still hosts their welcome back events. St. Andrew’s Hall is a life vein of Detroit, giving its patrons great shows for little cash.
Best Hip-Hop Night
BlueCollar Gentlemen at the Old Miami
On the first Friday night of every month, Old Miami brings BlueCollar Gentleman, an all access pass to a vast amount of performances, freestyles, cyphers, battles and just random shit talking by Detroit’s underground hip-hop elite. The night can showcase the grimy or the polished, the unproven or the spoken for, depending on the month. But one thing is for sure; BlueCollar Gentleman is one of Detroit’s best proving grounds for those who want respect in the gritty music scene.
Best Rock Club
PJ’s Lager House
1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit
It’s always looked like a dark cavern to me, but maybe that’s what a bar needs to look like for it to hold some of the best and craziest rock shows in Detroit. PJ’s has won this covenant stamp of approval for many years and it has been well deserved. The bar has a steady rotation of local bands, up-and-comers and breakout stars. Not to mention, they’ve also added a record store in their basement, just incase the intensity of sounds and great service upstairs wasn’t enough.
Best Metal Club
Harpos Concert Theatre
14238 Harper Ave., Detroit
People often sneer at the mention of Harpos but the fact remains that few places provide quality metal more consistently and regularly, be it hair metal like Stryper and Ratt, nu-metal like Mushroomhead and Coal Chamber or extreme metal like Napalm Death and Cannibal Corpse. The genre of music might be as cool as your grandma’s church dress but the people who love it are rabid and Harpos serves a valuable purpose. So sneer all you like, but those headbangers deserve a place to mosh.
Best Comedy Club
Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle
310 S. Troy St., Royal Oak
For more than 30 years, Mark Ridley’s has been a destination for some of the hottest comedians to drop in on metro Detroit. Lewis Black, Bob Saget and Dave Attell are but a few of the first-rate national comics who have yukked it up on this stage.
Best Comedy Open-Mic
Joey’s Comedy Club
36071 Plymouth Rd., Livonia
Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle
310 S. Troy St., Royal Oak
Though Mark Ridley’s has handily won this award in the past, evidently some of the walk-on talent at Joey’s was funny enough to garner the Livonia club a hard-won tie.
Best Local Comedian
Detroit-based funnyman Tommy Simon’s résumé shows a guy who’s working hard to share the laughter. A hardworking member of the resident company at Go Comedy! Improv Theatre in Ferndale, he has written for Huffington Post Detroit, and appeared in numerous comedy productions. He also has a more serious side, as writer-in-residence with the InsideOut Literary Arts Project.
Best Folk Venue
316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor
It’s crazy that The Ark started as just a coffee shop that gave students in Ann Arbor an opportunity to come together and chill out. But the quaint spot has now become a place that not only draws students from all over the state, but also great musical artists who come to make a mark on the venerated establishment. Handled by a board or directors and a boatload of volunteers, The Ark plans on keeping its doors open for another 47 years, accepting those who want to join its ranks. I mean, c’mon, Lisa Loeb performed there. That alone should allow The Ark to win the category of Best Folk Venue, every year.
Best Jazz Club
2030 Park Ave., Detroit
Ol’ John Clifford Bell would be happy to see his creation strive today, pumping a healthy dose of traditional and new age jazz back into the city of Detroit. The beautiful sounds that come out of Cliff Bell’s can only be matched by the decor that engulfs it. The crimson tone and lacquered wood bar are just a view things that will dazzle you. Every seat is front row when performers jam, placing every listener in the immense cloud of great music.
Best Blues Club
2644 Harrison St., Detroit; 313-962-4247
What makes a great blues bar? Is it super-exquisite decor, a startling range of exotic beers and wines, and suited-up bar staff? Hell no. This is the blues, the music of the downtrodden and ignored, and there ain’t nothing exotic about it. We want to hear the music played by people who care, in a dive bar that looks as if it has seen decades of blood, sweat and tears. Nancy Whiskey offers all that and more. Consistently great music, reasonably priced drinks and food, and all located in a great Corktown neighborhood.
Best Sports Bar
Buffalo Wild Wings
For locations, see buffalowildwings.com
Sure, it’s a winning combination: With beer, chicken and enough large-screen televisions to please even the pickiest sports nut, Buffalo Wild Wings just keeps on expanding. With a new location off Cadillac Square in Detroit, even downtowners can now settle in, watch the game and munch on that Screamin’ Nacho Burger.
Best New Bar Trend
Being a chemist behind the bar makes you a reputable asset. Gone are the days of the simple gin and tonic or the vodka Redbull. Bartenders are rolling up their sleeves tight to bring big drinkers and casual attendees glasses filled with rare liquors and organic and international ingredients that bring flavor and veracity to the simple concoctions we’ve grown to love. Places like The Oakland in Ferndale and the Sugar House in Corktown have built their mark on being able to give people something different to sip on, while also luring them to try bigger, riskier sprits. If you ever do venture down to Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, make sure to try the Japanese Cocktail, created with Chalfonte VSOP, orgeat & ango.
Best Michigan-Made Beer
It seems like just yesterday beer was all the same, sort of like having sex in a canoe. Then came the flavor. And the brewery founded by Larry Bell in 1983 deserves a share of the thanks for that revolution, as the Kalamazoo-based brewery gave us Two-Hearted Ale and sensational seasonals such as Oberon.
Best Michigan-Made Liquor
For their ads, the people at Valentine Vodka have chosen to put a simple picture of a glass of vodka filled with mechanical nuts, accompanied by the phrase, “Surprisingly smooth vodka from a city known for grit.” The winners of best local liquor, once again, couldn’t be more right. Handcrafted with locally grown ingredients, Valentine Vodka’s smooth, yet sweet taste is a great compliment to the unrelenting tenacity of Michigan’s finest city.
Best Michigan-Made Microbrew
Founders is a Michigan brewery with a strong local following, in large part due to its peerless Breakfast Stout. It’s packed with the flavors of a well-balanced breakfast, with an alcoholic kick that will have you canceling your appointments for the day. It’s brewed with flaked oats, bitter and sweetened imported chocolates, and Sumatra and Kona coffee. At the website ratebeer.com, it earned a rating of 100 on a 100-point scale.
The award-winning blended scotch has been around for 104 years, traveling throughout the world, showing up in almost every country. Each blend is matured slightly different, due to the intricacies of the wood, climate and location. So every time you hit your favorite bar in Metro Detroit and order yourself a glass, you’re getting new experience.
With its unique square bottle and bright red wax, Maker Mark stands out definitely. Its full, mellow taste, carefully constructed with red winter wheat, rather than rye, can be mixed into a Manhattan or enjoyed on the rocks. And if consuming this drink from a glass is not enough for you, you can always head to their website and grab one of their Bourbon recipes. We suggest the Morning After Sugar Crusted Marshmallow Pancake Stack with Bourbon Blueberry Compote and Naught Syrup. No better way to start the day.
Originally produced by William Grant & Sons in Girvan, Scotland, Hendrick’s is “an unusual and selected gin with limited production that finds in cucumber and rose the perfect combination.”
Patrón is one of Mexico’s greatest exports and continues to be Detroit’s (and, according to their site, the world’s) favorite tequila drink. With four different flavors, the ultra-premium tequila offers Detroiters multiple ways to start a party or end a night with definite disrobement.
Best Rock Club
4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit
Predictable, maybe, but there are still few better places to watch a rock show in metro Detroit than the Magic Stick. When the place is packed and the crowd is moving, you can practically feel the concern from the people at the Garden Bowl below. Dripping with stories as well as actual sweat, when you consider that the Majestic Theater is connected as well, this complex has all bases covered and it remains a vital part of Detroit’s music scene.
Best Up and Coming Rock ’n’ Roll Hangout
The New Dodge Lounge
8850 Joseph Campau St., Hamtramck
Ham-town still has plenty of great music venues but, after the Belmont transformed itself into a sports bar, the city has been crying out for a hipster hangout — the sort of place that you can go to at the weekend without looking at who’s playing, and be in with a good shout of seeing some awesome local bands as well as the occasional decent out-of-towner. The New Dodge is fast becoming that place. There are still a few longtime regulars hanging onto the bar, but that only adds to the charm of the place. There’s a soundman who knows that he’s doing, and the food is great too. What more do you want?
Best Beer Selection in a Venue
The Berkley Front
3087 12 Mile Rd., Berkley
You can’t just go to the Berkley Front to see some indie rock show and ask for a beer. You have to scour through the veritable atlas of taps and bottles in front of you, taking into account the time of year and how much you ate. There’s a science to buying a drink here, but it’s a science worth spending time getting to know (unlike Physics and shit like that). If you can’t decide, work your way down the menu.
Best Place to Feel a Part of Detroit’s Hip-Hop History
St. Andrew’s Hall - The Shelter
431 E. Congress St., Detroit
It’s one of the first questions that music-loving visitors to Detroit of a certain age will ask: where is that place that Eminem battles in 8 Mile. St. Andrew’s Hall and the downstairs Shelter aren’t museums yet, and they host as many punk and metal shows as anything else, but the walls are dripping with stories, not all of them fit for print, and it’s hard not to get caught up in that when entering the building.
Best Venue to Buy a Record Between Bands
PJ’s Lager House
1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit
The Lager House has been putting on consistent and dazzling shows for years now, but you really have to hand it to PJ for knowing how to expand his business. An impressive menu was recently added, and you can climb the stairs down to the basement and browse through a cool little vinyl store. Brilliant! If you don’t want to watch basketball on mute while the middle band is setting up, go buy some old Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Best Place to See Somebody Who Used to Be Famous Play
2105 S. Boulevard, Auburn Hills
Commander Cody, Mitch Ryder, Wishbone Ash, the Look – the stage at Callahan’s has them all fairly regularly. If a band’s name is synonymous with history, heritage and nostalgia, then this place will welcome it with open arms. Not that that is a bad thing at all. On the contrary, Detroit music lovers appreciate the past as much as the present and will always love and respect old heroes. Callahan’s isn’t so much a rest home as that big, final hurrah!
Best Place to Chill Out While Watching Music
The New Way
23130 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-541-9870
With two big rooms, one fitted with a wall of big TVs, plus a cool stage, a pool table and some super-funny DJs, the New Way isn’t really the place to go dance but it’s the perfect venue to watch a band with your feet up on a chair while eating fries and drinking a beer, one eye on the Red Wings. There’s also something refreshingly old-school about the fact that the waitresses will offer table service, even if there are five customers in the whole building.
Best Venue-Slash-Movie Theater
The Magic Bag
22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale
This place is immaculate. The very front section offers standing room only for those of us who prefer to get tired feet watching music, but there is plenty of seating for those of a more mature vintage. The Bag hosts everything from veteran rockers to comedians to local music showcases, but it is the Brew and View nights, when you can watch a fairly new movie while enjoying an alcoholic beverage, that makes the place unique.
Best Last-Call Bar in Hamtramck
The Painted Lady
2930 Jacob St., Hamtramck; 313-874-2991
Well, for starters, it’s really the best dive bar in metro Detroit, although owner Andy Dow insists on calling it a “cocktail lounge.” (“It says so on the front of the building in neon!” he protests.) And it does have a pretty darn good booze selection, and a few competent bartenders, such as Evan Bradish, who mix it up. And the locals who populate the place are the salt of the earth. And, sure, it’ll get taken over by metal kids, punks, and the occasional noisy show promoted by Wednesday night bartender and taquerista Timmy Vulgar. But sometimes you’ll sit there all night and it’s quiet. Just you and the jukebox and the bartender, unless somebody puts on a movie. For hours, it will be just like this. And then, at 12:30 a.m., just when the bartender is thinking about closing early, the door will burst open with people rushing in for last call from every other bar in town. For a brief hour, it will be the coolest place in town, until everybody coordinates the afterparty and the crowd drifts off into the night.
Best Local Comedian
Jimmy Doom, a former member of hardcore band the Almighty Lumberjacks of Death, is probably more of a poet than a comedian but let’s not mince words here — the man is fucking hilarious and he deserves his spot in the Best of. Doom has attacked everyone from John Lennon to, well, everyone but he does it with such cack-handed style and drink-addled fury that it’s impossible not to laugh like a buffoon. He’s like Sam Kinison doing the dirty with Allen Ginsberg. Thankfully, we don’t have to see that.
Best Venue Website
10339 Conant St., Hamtramck
The thing about a music venue website is that you really don’t want to have to sift through pages of superfluous fluff, you want the user experience to be easy and enjoyable. Smalls’ site has all of that. It looks great, and the big forthcoming shows are right there on the front page. No surfing required. The brick wallpaper is super-cool but, judging by the Slayer and Ramones-font T-shirts that the venue offers, somebody over there knows a thing or two about design.
Best Bar for Characters
7800 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-581-9777
No, it’s not named for Lewis Cass, or Cass Avenue. It’s named for its cross-street, Casper. The little joint, right next to the coin laundry that ate historic punk venue Graystone Hall, is usually loaded with west side characters that will warm the heart of anybody who truly appreciates a little urban grit. The bartenders are quick with humor too. One time we called and had the temerity to ask if they served cold beer. “No!” the voice on the line yelled, “We only serve hot beer!” If that doesn’t charm your pants off, we can only point you toward Applebee’s and sigh in pity.
Best Bar in Delray
Black Horse Cantina
7844 W. Jefferson Ave., Detroit; 313-849-1495
Some of our friends pointed this place out to us, told us to just take Jefferson west out of downtown and pull into the parking lot after the railroad tracks. We had expected something like Kovac’s or the old Delray Café, but the Black Horse is different. It’s a quiet place that seems to exist outside the law, where men speak Spanish over a table of dominos, or crack balls over a few dusty pool tables. The bartender lady soon had us fumbling through our high school Spanish to order our cervezas, and one old-timer came over to talk in English about the old days of boxing. When a bar starts to feel like the setting of a William Saroyan play, we take note. We’d recommend the place highly, because you’ll feel like a guest, but we would suggest being on your very best behavior while you’re there. Cash only.
Best Bar Worth Saving
10093 W. Seven Mile Rd., Detroit
No bar on the west side is as steeped in history as Tom’s. 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. The Purples delivered his liquor, machine guns loaded in their cars, asking, “So, Tom, anybody giving you any trouble?” Over the years, the bar has dealt with failed city lighting, break-ins, stolen power hookups, cut gas and water lines, a 1979 fire, a car crash that caved in the front of the tavern and killed a woman on the sidewalk. And then add the onerous fees for city inspections endured by the current management. How does it go on living? It’s because the tavern’s loyal patrons step into the breach whenever the bar is endangered, as volunteers and benefactors. It helps that the tavern has always had a knack for attracting interesting people, and its customers have included celebrity news anchor Bill Bonds and pizza baron Mike Ilitch. Owner Ron Gurdjian, who bought the place from Lucas in 2001, has overseen some radical effort to keep the building preserved. Call on a Friday or Saturday night to see if it’s open, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll be buzzed into one of the most unusual drinking environments ever to exist. To see it to best effect, though, attend the big party they throw around Babe Ruth’s birthday (Feb. 6), when they deck out the walls with Ruth-related quotes and history.