1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-961-4668; pjslagerhouse.com
Kudos to Paul "PJ" Ryder for his work reimagining the Lager House. Only a few years after Ryder acquired the rock 'n' roll haunt, Michigan rolled out its smoking ban — which could have been a deathblow to the dive. Ryder realized he'd need to try something different to stay current, and fortunately for the rest of us he decided to invest in a new kitchen. The new Lager House boasts an inventive menu that includes some excellent vegan and vegetarian dishes, such as vegan biscuits and gravy.
24420 Jefferson Ave., St. Clair Shores; 586-778-8330; tinfishrestaurants.com
Who doesn't enjoy a nice meal along the water? It almost always makes for a pleasant experience. What Tin Fish delivers on views, they also do on their fare. Located off Jefferson Beach, Tin Fish's homemade fettuccine alfredo, NY-strip char-grilled steak with fresh gorgonzola, and Grand Traverse Lake Superior Whitefish all deserve a nod of approval.
419 Monroe St., Detroit; 313-782-4189; firebirdtavern.com
With this year's winner for best male bartender working behind their bar, it's no wonder Firebird Tavern is also dear to our readers' hearts. The two-story Greektown bar offers great cocktails, a smattering of craft beers, tavern-style fare (including meatloaf!), and a close proximity to Campus Martius and downtown.
401 S. Lafayette Ave., Royal Oak; 248-542-0082; sabrageroyaloak.com
Royal Oak must be so stoked about Sabrage, a space that once housed Sangria's Sky Club but then underwent an extensive and pricey makeover. Classy, sophisticated, and a lot of fun, this is where you go to shake it to top notch acts such as Fat Man Scoop and the Ying-Yang Twins. That sound system is off the hook!
23810 Woodward Ave., Pleasant Ridge; 248-544-2675; corkwinepub.org
Sure, Cork has a great wine selection, but that's not even the best part about this Pleasant Ridge pub. The atmosphere and decor are warm and inviting, the staff is friendly, the brunch is delicious, and we're totally in love with their bloody mary bar. Plus, the pub throws a great event called East Meets West, which invites Pleasant Ridgers to come meet their neighbors while the eat and drink for a discount.
529 Monroe St., Detroit; 313-962-1300; exodosrooftop.com
Situated above Greektown's oldest restaurant, the Golden Fleece, Exodos provides a posh environment that can accommodate crowds year-round. But its during the warmer months that Exodos really shines, when its outdoor rooftop bar hosts DJs and other entertainment.
13710 E. Eight Mile Rd., Detroit; 313-371-6970; playersdetroit.net
Sure, they're known for having great looking girls, but Players might be more revered for their fantastic menu. Think: lobster, steak, ahi tuna, shrimp, wings, build-your-own pasta, prime burgers, huge salads, and so much more. They also have daily specials, so you'll never get bored eating at Players.
160 W. Maple Rd. Birmingham; 248-642-1135; dickodowspub.com
Operating on the Irish values of warmth and fellowship, Dick O'Dow's prides itself on a laid-back atmosphere that makes its customers feel at home. Manager Jill Cooper says they enjoy a loyal patronage of regulars, adding that some who have moved from Birmingham visit just for O'Dow's.
1384 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-965-3180
Family-owned since 1965, Nemo's is a Detroit classic celebrating 50 years of business this summer. Pat Osmond, who works there, says the bar sees all walks of life from sports fans to police, and it's that come-as-you-are vibe coupled with the family aspect that keeps Nemo's around.
215 W. Fifth St. Royal Oak; 248-629-9423; fifthavenueroyaloak.com
"Everybody wants to be seen at Fifth Avenue," says manager Jeff Tewksbury. A popular local hangout during the week and a hot destination venue on the weekends, this is the virtual one-stop shop of Royal Oak nightlife with great food and drinks as well as weekly live DJ entertainment.