205 W. Fifth Ave., Royal Oak; 248-591-9226
Let's start with the obvious. O'Tooles is in Royal Oak, which is pretty much the best city to turn 21 in — bar central, amirite? But O'Tooles stands out as a solid place to get wasted legally for the first time. A casual public house with an Irish-American bar menu, O'Tooles is part shitshow (we mean this in the best way) with its party vibes and part sophisticated gathering spot with its stone fireplaces. In other words, this is the perfect place to make your official transition into adulthood.
215 Fifth St., Royal Oak; 248-629-9423; fifthavenueroyaloak.com
This Royal Oak bar is not a newcomer to our Best Of Detroit list. Our readers designated it the "Best Place to Celebrate Your 21st Birthday" last year, and this year, they told us, "wait, that's not all." Turns out, Fifth Avenue is virtually a one-stop shop when it comes to Oakland County nightlife — there's more than 40 HDTVs for watching your sports team of choice, a huge dance floor, and a great menu to boot. Plus, it's one of the few spots that offers two floors to see and be seen. Fans of Fifth Avenue love that they don't have to travel to a big city to get a taste of its nightlife.
With three locations, it's clear Macomb County loves this family-friendly sports bar. The Trpcevski family has owned Art & Jake's, with its flagship location at Shelby and Mound in Utica, since 2001, and its fanbase has grown ever since. Whether you just want to watch the game or catch up with an old friend — this place has the Cheers vibe down pat — you'll be happy. Plus, the menu goes way beyond burgers and beer. Pro tip: check out their cevapi. You won't be sorry.
349 Monroe Ave, Detroit; 313-964-0007; oldshillelagh.com
This Motor City staple was opened in the 1970s by a retired Detroit police officer who was raised in Dublin, and it's since become cemented in the city's drinking tradition. Seemingly everyone has a tale about a night at the three-story Celtic funhouse, which is often described as a "can of Pringles ... you can't have just one beer," and we are far from surprised readers have bestowed it the accolade of Best Bar in Wayne County. Because if there's one thing that makes a bar great, it's the stories people tell about it after they leave.
705 W. Cross St., Ypsilanti; 734-485-6720; wurstbarypsi.com
Yes, it's a total sausagefest. Since 2012, what first sounded like a clever conceit — beer and sausage — has become a habitual MT Best Bar winner. The Wurst's beer list is crowded with the best brews from Europe, the United States, and Michigan, all paired with outstanding sausage: spicy rattlesnake chorizo, bison-and-lamb merguez, and alligator-and-crawfish boudin.
376 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-607-3127; stradaroyaloak.com
What does it take to be the best in glitzy Oakland County? This year's formula seems to be a sophisticated small plates spin on Italian fare, a no-expense-spared décor that includes an original 1920s chandelier from the Book Cadillac Hotel, an Italian wine selection, and a balanced seasonal cocktail menu and special menus for apéritifs and digestifs.
225 Gratiot Ave., Detroit; 313-736-5533; standbydetroit.com
Situated on the edge of the street art-festooned Belt Alley is downtown's newest and most exciting bar and restaurant. When you've had one of the many exquisitely crafted cocktails here designed by the showman bartenders, or one of chef Brendon Edwards' stellar small plates or entrees, you'll quickly realize why the spot gets jam packed each and every night. Top it off with a super sexy interior, and it's really no surprise that Standby has fast become a favorite.
124 Pearl St., Ypsilanti; 734-487-1555; ypsialehouse.com
The interior is modern, the food includes brisket and ribs, and the location is a stone's throw from hip eateries and breakfast spots. The beer is especially interesting: Mishigama is the Japanese-sounding brew created by Michigan craft beer pioneer Ted Bagerow. All put together, it earned the Alehouse the nod for Washtenaw County's best new bar this year.
See tiltedkilt.com for locations
Since first opening in 2003, the Tilted Kilt has grown into a national Celtic-themed sports bar chain with three locations in Michigan, opening its Sterling Heights location in the beginning of 2015. The waitresses are buxom babes, and that's reflected in the cheeky name of some menu items, such as "Sadie's Stuffed Breasts," "the Big Rack," and the "Double D Burger."
1815 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-298-6875; lunaroyaloak.com
Heads-up: Last year, Luna was voted Best Bar for Hook-Ups in Oakland County by our readers. It remains a popular spot, and people do get dressed up nice to go out here, plus the drink specials are great deals. So it might still be the place to meet your next fling. But it's also a terrific spot to lose yourself on the dance floor. Whether you also find yourself in the arms of a new friend is all up to you, honey.
4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700
The spot once known as the Magic Stick is bright, shiny, loud, and exhilarating, with a first-class sound system and dance floor lighting. It's hard to think of a better place to catch a national act or celebrate a major occasion with a group of friends, whether it's a 21st birthday or a bachelor or bachelorette party. The outdoor deck is great on a summer evening too. This impeccably designed club is your own personal pleasure palace — all you have to do is show up.