Our picks for metro Detroit's essential bars

Top shelf

Our picks for metro Detroit's essential bars

Anchor Bar — 450 W. Fort St., Detroit; 313-964-9127; facebook.com/AnchorBarDetroit: Maybe we've always been partial to this place because of its reputation as a hangout for local journalists. Maybe we like the unpretentiousness of it all, or the many decades of Detroit memorabilia on the walls. That's the kind of effortless authenticity that comes when you've been in business for more than 50 years.

Baker's Keyboard Lounge — 20510 Livernois Ave., Detroit; 313-345-6300; theofficialbakerskeyboardlounge.com: Baker's claims to be the oldest continuously operating jazz joint in the world, dating back to a modest sandwich shop in the 1930s that booked live pianists. Today, it's a classy, art deco-themed joint with a bar featuring a piano keyboard design. Most importantly, the lounge continues to book stellar live acts to this day, making it a favorite destination on the Avenue of Fashion.

The Bronx Bar — 4476 Second Ave., Detroit; 313-832-8464: The Bronx reliably draws a lively, diverse crowd, from nearby Wayne State students to Detroit music scene fixtures — Danny Brown is known to pop in from time to time. They must all be drawn to the bar's eclectic jukeboxes — not one, but two — which feature plenty of old-school hip-hop, New Wave, greasy rock 'n' roll, and much more. If the nighttime crowd isn't your thing, drop in for brunch and hit their bloody mary bar.

Cadieux Café — 4300 Cadieux Road, Detroit; 313-882-8560; cadieuxcafe.com: This east side joint is certainly the only place in town where you can enjoy a big pot of about 40 mussels for $20, a Belgian beer, and a round of feather bowling (think regular bowling, but with a cheese wheel-shaped ball, a feather, and a dirt lane). Last year, the management updated the menu to include spicy mussels and hutspot, a sort of potato and vegetable stew. Plenty of live music, including soul and jazz on Sundays, rounds out the east side bar's unique offerings.

Cheli's Chili Bar Detroit — 47 E. Adams Ave., Detroit; 313-961-1700; chelischilibar.com: If you fancy yourself to be a hockey enthusiast (and come on, who in Michigan isn't?) you're probably already a fan of this enterprise of former Red Wings player Chris Chelios. It may be a bit of a ways away from Joe Louis Arena and the new arena district, but you should still be able to catch the game on one of this bar's 60 flat-screen televisions. Favorite dishes include the pulled pork or steak and cheese sandwiches, and, of course, the chili, which comes in beef, chicken, and a vegetarian option in a cup, bowl, or bread bowl.

Coach Insignia — 100 Renaissance Center, 71st & 72nd Floor, GM Renaissance Center, Detroit; 313-567-2622; coachinsigniadetroit.com: Come on, you have to try this place at least once. Hit the upstairs bar for happy hour and a breathtaking view of Detroit from 700 feet in the air — the view of the main arteries of Michigan, Gratiot, Woodward, and Grand River radiating outward is priceless.

The Dakota Inn Rathskeller — 17324 John R St., Detroit; 313-867-9722; dakota-inn.com: An Old World charm abounds at this German restaurant, family-owned and operated for more than 70 years. The menu includes traditional ethnic German food like three different types of schnitzel, sauerbraten, potato pancakes, and bratwurst, which you can wash down with any of seven different German beers on tap. Add bartenders clad in traditional garb and drunken, weekend piano singalongs and you have a unique bar outing to say the least.

Foran's Grand Trunk Pub — 612 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-3043; grandtrunkpub.com: Once upon a time, this was a ticket office for the Grand Trunk Railroad. Today, it's better known as a downtown destination with more than 20 Michigan beers on tap. A menu of typical pub fare like burgers and fish and chips shines, and the brunch is also something special; try the lobster benedict.

Fort Street Brewery — 1660 Fort St., Lincoln Park; 313-389-9620; fortstreetbeer.com: This downriver brewpub boasts a rotating and unique beer list — a current favorite is the colorfully named "Sack of Chit" IPA. A spacious interior and solid food menu round out the reasons to become a regular.

Honest John's Bar & Grill — 488 Selden St., Detroit; 313-832-5646: Longtime owner John Thompson recently sold the bar, but the good news is that they won't need to change the name: the new owners are John Kwiatkowski and his brother Dave, who owns Sugar House and Wright & Co. It remains to be seen what changes the new owners will make, but this bar's legacy and Cass Corridor charm won't go away anytime soon.

HopCat — 4265 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-769-8828; hopcat.com: When this very hyped bar finally opened at the end of last year, we were happy to finally see something going on in this long-vacant building, which now features two floors and 130 beers on tap. While not the only HopCat in Michigan, in keeping with the Motor City's music legacy the Detroit branch features plenty of artwork featuring our rock 'n' roll royalty and even holds the distinction of being the only location with a performance space, which hosts live acts three nights a week.

Jolly Pumpkin — 311 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-913-2730; jollypumpkin.com: Offering a more up-to-date menu than your typical brewpub, Jolly Pumpkin has become a staple of Ann Arbor's dining and drinking scene. The real draw, of course, is the craft beers, wines, and spirits from Northern United Brewing Company. We're excited to check out their new Midtown location when it opens later this year.

Jumbo's Bar — 3736 Third St., Detroit; 313-831-8949: As Midtown rises, Jumbo's is still the king of the dives. You can't screw up simplicity: With a patio, jukebox, cheap booze, and — perhaps most importantly — a stable of regulars, Jumbo's has all you'd ever need in a watering hole.

Northern Lights Lounge — 660 W. Baltimore St., Detroit; 313-873-1739; northernlightslounge.com: This spacious bar has a retro charm and draws a diverse crowd, including students from the nearby College for Creative Studies and music geeks, as Motown guitar great Dennis Coffey is known to hold down a residency here.

Park Bar — 2040 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-962-2933; parkbardetroit.com: Prime location amid Detroit's sports and theater district, a gorgeous round bar, and wide picture windows have made Park Bar a favorite since it opened. The attached Bucharest Grill (famed for its Middle Eastern and Romanian dishes) has become such a Detroit hit that they've expanded to other locations in town as well.

The Sugar House — 2130 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-962-0123; sugarhousedetroit.com: This speakeasy-style bar isn't the only craft cocktail joint in town, but it might have the best reputation, with a precious interior that features taxidermy, candles, sleeve-gartered bartenders, and of course, a rotating menu of fanciful concoctions.

Third Street Saloon — 701 W. Forest Ave., Detroit; 313-831-3434: With wooden tables and a fireplace and a spacious patio, this bar has something of a rustic vibe — you might forget you're in Detroit. It's also got plenty of games, like "ringing the bull," shuffleboard, and even ski-ball. Oh, and did we mention Dangerously Delicious Pies?

Tom's Tavern — 10093 W. Seven Mile Rd., Detroit; 313-862-9768: When you're one of the oldest continuously operating bars in Detroit, you're bound to see some crazy shit. Built in 1928, this bar has lived through Prohibition, a fire, and numerous break-ins, including one from early last year that involved a truck driving into the building. Nevertheless, Tom's lives on. Come see why Mike Ilitch and the late Bill Bonds were fans.

Traffic Jam & Snug — 511 W. Canfield St.; 313-831-9470; trafficjamdetroit.com: It's almost hard to believe that "T.J.'s" turns 50 this year. In addition to brewing their own batch of beers (this bar has the distinction of being Michigan's first licensed brewpub, which they just started canning this year), the restaurant has an inventive, made-from-scratch menu that even uses ingredients from their rooftop garden. An eclectic décor that features a variety of curios (including an Ojibwa canoe) adds to the character.

Ye Olde Tap Room — 14915 Charlevoix, Detroit; 313-824-1030; yeoldetaproom.com: This east-side haunt boasts more than 280 beers from the world over, including an extensive local selection. You'll also find a full bar, with plenty of vodkas, bourbon, and scotch. Adding to the ambience is the bar's Prohibition-era history and character in spades.

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