Approach the bar

Wayne: Majestic Garden Bowl
4140 Woodward, Detroit, 313-833-9700

Oakland: Dick O'Dow's 160 W. Maple, Birmingham, 248-642-1135
This supposedly authentic Irish pub smack-dab in the middle of Birmingham is replete with a fireplace, funny little stools on which to squat and sip your Guinness or Harp, and some wacky Stonehenge-style Gaelic rock decor livening up the front bar area.

With its variations on standard-issue pub fare, and folk rock acts performing live in the bar, MT voters apparently deemed this factor worthy of the "Best No-Cover Bar" accolades.

Whoever designed the floor plan knew exactly what they were doing, as suburban family-travelers, after stepping off their SUV-carriages, are inevitably shuttled back to the far-removed coachmen’s room for a hearty meal of fish and chips in front of the fireplace.

The front bar area, meanwhile, continues to thrive in all of its Birmingham splendor, mixing cigar-toking yuppie professionals with sweater-clad middle-aged men looking for escape from their respective midlife crises.

This place even has some old-fashioned Irish-saloon-style Machiavellian political intrigue, which made the papers recently. Several members of the Birmingham City Comission apparently met here for the ostensible purpose of a postmeeting "social gathering" and, at least for commissioner Robert De Laura, to do a little "networking with the ladies." (Oh, behave!)

State police reportedly investigated to determine whether this gathering violated the state Open Meetings Act in discussing ways to smooth over obstacles to the $100 million Palladium project.

Such allegations of Tip O’Neill-style deal-cutting over a pint and a shot can only help strengthen the (sub)urban mythology of this aspiring Irish pub. — Casey Coston

Macomb: Shamrock Pub 7715 Auburn Re., Utica, 810-731-6886
Washtenaw: Cub's AC 1950 Industrial, Ann Arbor, 734-665-4474


Back Street 15605 Joy Rd., Detroit, 313-272-8959
Oakland: Clutch Cargo's 65 E. Huron, Pontiac, 248-333-2362
Macomb: JD's Macomb Theater 31 N. Walnut, Mt. Clemens, 810-913-1929
Washtenaw: Nectarine Ballroom 516 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor, 734-994-5436


Wayne: Motor 3515 Caniff, Hamtramck, 313-369-0080
Oakland: Groove Room 1815 N. Main, Royal Oak, 248-589-3344
Macomb: T.G.I. Fridays Various locations
Washtenaw: Nectarine Ballroom 516 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor, 734-994-5436


Wayne: Numbers Video Night Club 17518 Woodward, Detroit, 313-868-9145
Oakland: 7th House 7 N. Saginaw, Pontiac, 248-335-8100
Macomb: National Coney Island, Various locations
Washtenaw: Pizza House 618 Church, Ann Arbor, 734-995-5095


Wayne: Motor 3515 Caniff, Hamtramck, 313-369-0080
Oakland: Clutch Cargo’s 65 E. Huron, Pontiac, 248-333-2362
Macomb: Nowhere!
Washtenaw: Nectarine Ballroom 516 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor, 734-994-5436


Wayne: Baker’s Keyboard Lounge 20510 Livernois, Detroit, 313-345-6300
Oakland: Edison’s 220 Merrill, Birmingham, 248-645-2150
Macomb: Fishbone’s 23722 Jefferson, St. Clair Shores, 810-498-3000
Washtenaw: Bird of Paradise 207 S. Ashley, Ann Arbor, 734-662-8310


Wayne: Soup Kitchen 1585 Franklin, Detroit, 313-259-1374
Oakland:Memphis Smoke 100 S. Main, Royal Oak, 248-543-4300
Macomb: Blue Goose Inn 28911 Jefferson, St. Clair Shores, 810-294-0690
Washtenaw: Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Fest


Wayne: Harpo’s 14238 Harper, Detroit, 313-824-1700
Oakland: Magic Bag 22920 Woodward, Ferndale, 248-544-1991
Macomb: Hayloft Liquor Stand 140 N. Main, Mt. Clemens, 810-468-1010
Washtenaw: Blind Pig 206-208 S. First, Ann Arbor, 734-996-8555


Wayne: Union Street 4145 Woodward, Detroit, 313-831-3965
Oakland: Berkley Front 3087 W. 12 Mile, Berkley, 248-547-3331
Macomb: (tie) Roger’s Roost Sterling Heights, 810-979-7550 Shores Inn St. Clair Shores, 810-773-8940
Washtenaw: Ashley’s 338 S. State, Ann Arbor, 734-996-9191
Freedom of choice is an American tradition, and that’s especially important when it comes to beer. So, where to go when choice is important?

In Oakland County, MT readers voted for the Berkley Front in Berkley. There are 53 taps there, including three which dispense cask-conditioned English ales, carbonated naturally by yeast in the keg. There are also more than 100 varieties of bottled beers available.

Wayne State denizens flock to Union Street for variety and education of a different sort than they get in class. Novice beer drinkers will find the more than 100 beers grouped into the "Seven Circles of Beer Hell." Your descent into Hell is marked by beers that grow increasingly complex and richly flavored. There’s nothing corporate about the place — as floor manager Michael Mikolowski says, "We let individuality fester."

Roger’s Roost tied with the Shores Inn for best variety in Macomb County. The lot at Roger’s was jammed when I got there, so they must be doing something right.

At the Shores Inn, a place that’s part family restaurant, part singles bar and part sports bar, I found about 130 beers from 18 different countries.

Those who enjoy an English-style atmosphere voted for Ashley’s in Ann Arbor. The woody decor and convivial atmosphere is complemented by 65 beer taps and 50 or 60 bottled beers. There’s also a new menu, but with so many beers, there’s plenty to do besides eat. — Vic Doucette


Wayne: Motor 3515 Caniff, Hamtramck, 313-369-0080
Oakland: Goodnight Gracie’s 222 S. Sherman, Royal Oak, 248-584-7400
Macomb: Dave and Buster’s 45511 Park, Utica, 810-930-1515
Washtenaw: Ashley’s 338 S. State, Ann Arbor, 734-996-9191


Wayne: Atwater Block Brewery 237 Jos. Campau, Detroit, 313-393-2337
Oakland: Woodward Avenue Brewers 22646 Woodward, Ferndale, 248-546-3696
Macomb: Great Baraboo 35905 Utica, Clinton Township, 810-79-BREWS
Washtenaw: Arbor Brewing Co. 114 E. Washington, Ann Arbor, 734-213-1393
Metro Times readers know their brewpubs, those beery bastions where fresh fermentables made on the premises add to your pleasure.

You voted; I sampled. Thanks for the advice!

Ferndale’s Woodward Avenue Brewers is MT readers’ favorite Oakland County brewpub. Brewmaster Grant Johnston says his Custom Blonde Ale is the most popular pour. I tried the Vanilla Porter and loved it — it reminded me of liquid chocolate cake.

Atwater Block Brewery in downtown Detroit is a popular gathering place for Red Wings fans, as well it should be: Eight different taps dispense about 30 different kinds of German-style lagers. Head brewer Rich Walters is justifiably proud of the two silver medals Atwater beers have won in the prestigious Great American Beer Festival.

In Clinton Township, the Great Baraboo Brewing Company has four permanent selections on tap, with a fifth tap reserved for rotating specialty brews. Brewer Andrew Stroble calls the King’s Peak Caribou Wheat ale — an adaptation of a popular German style — his most popular selection and a real thirst quencher.

In Ann Arbor, manager/bartender Erin Moran says the Arbor Brewing Company is a favorite place to relax with a glass of Red Snapper pale ale and a plate of ribs or roasted garlic. There are currently seven different beers on tap, with many different styles rotated throughout the year. Cheers! — Vic Doucette


Wayne: Carriage House 24200 Grand River, Detroit, 313-535-3440
Oakland: Gusoline Alley 309 S. Center, Royal Oak, 248-545-2235
Macomb: Fritz’s Pub 77 N. Main, Mt. Clemens, 810-469-0878
Washtenaw: Aut Bar 315 Braun Court, Ann Arbor, 734-994-3677


Wayne: Menjo’s 928 W. McNichols, Detroit, 313-863-3934
Oakland: Pronto 608 S. Washington, Royal Oak, 248-544-7900
Macomb: Shhh... it's a secret!
Washtenaw: Aut Bar 315 Braun Court, Ann Arbor, 734-994-3677


Wayne: Rainbow Room 6640 E. Eight Mile, Detroit, 313-891-1020
Oakland: Pronto 608 S. Washington, Royal Oak, 248-544-7900
Macomb: Nobody knows!
Washtenaw: Aut Bar 315 Braun Court, Ann Arbor, 734-994-3677

Wayne: (tie) Motor Hamtramck, 313-369-0080 Lush Hamtramck, 313-872-6220
It’s inevitable that Hamtramck, which seems to have more bars per square mile than anywhere else, would score the two top spots in the Places to Schmooze category.

While Motor’s weekend crowds are, at times, as frighteningly large as anything you’ll find in Royal Oak or Pontiac, there can be no denying the schmoozeability. While one area provides some convivial booths, the cozy back room is the primo loungecore locale. With inviting couches and a stunning bar, this place virtually oozes schmooze.

Pour yourself into a dry martini and get ready to spend the night with the one you love (or the one you’d like to love after you finish those four Cosmopolitans).

Meanwhile, just a few blocks away, is Lush, which recently celebrated its first birthday. Lush is the plucky upstart on the Hamtown scene, which debuted a year ago after an intrusive vetting by state liquor license authorities.

With its cushioned walls, leopard prints and stylishly intimate lounge decor, this is the type of bar that other major cities have in abundance. Unfortunately, however, this is Detroit, and our idea of innovative bars usually revolves around the tweaking of either sports-related themes (such as Spectadium, the 5 Hole, Post Bar, etc.), or dueling piano bars (no comment).

Although possessing a relatively intimate space, Lush has enough room to rotate your schmoozing, as the back area is segmented into several sitting areas with appropriately loungey furniture.

It also has a variety of live and DJ programming just about every night. If I lived in the neighborhood, I’d be here just about every night as well. — Casey Coston

Oakland: (tie) Fifth Avenue Billiards Royal Oak, 248-452-9922 4th Street Royal Oak, 248-546-7610
Macomb: Shores Inn 23410 Greater Mack, St. Clair Shores, 810-773-8940
Washtenaw: The Ark 316 S. Main, Ann Arbor, 734-761-1451


Wayne: Motor 3515 Caniff, Hamtramck, 313-369-0080
Oakland: The Groove Room 1815 N. Main, Royal Oak, 248-589-3344
Macomb: Beach Grill 29920 E. Jefferson, St. Clair Shores, 810-771-4455
Washtenaw: Nectarine Ballroom 516 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor, 734-994-5436


Wayne: Liquid 2917 Biddle, Wyandotte, 734-285-7788
Oakland: 4th Street 318 W. 4th, Royal Oak, 248-546-7610
Macomb: Lipsticks 37235 Groesbec, Clinton Twp., 810-465-6833
Washtenaw: Rick’s 611 Church, Ann Arbor, 734-996-2747


Wayne: Saturday
Oakland: Saturday
Macomb: Tuesday
Washtenaw: Thursday


Wayne: Outer Limits 5507 Caniff, Hamtramck, 313-368-8192
Oakland: Royal Kubo 25234 Greenfield, Oak Park, 248-968-7550
Macomb: Wellington Pub 44819 Hayes, Sterling Heights, 810-566-0260
Washtenaw: Nobody knows!

Wayne: Ginger, Garden Bowl, 4140 Woodward, Detroit, 313-833-9700
Oakland: Shane Pfannes, Wingate Country Club, 1975 W. Gunn Oakland Twp., 248-608-7800
Macomb: Tom, Lipsticks, 37235 Groesbeck, Clinton Twp., 810-465-6833
Washtenaw: Deborah Tennant, Casey’s Tavern, 304 Depot, Ann Arbor, 734-665-6775
Casey’s Tavern on Depot Street in Ann Arbor has a warm, comfortable feel. Some of the atmosphere may come from the decor of the 1870s building — dark wood doors, wide wooden floor planks, wood-beamed ceiling and long wooden bar — but friendliness also seems to radiate from Deborah Tennant, the weekday bartender.

At the lunch rush, Tennant zips back and forth behind the bar, pouring drinks, taking food orders and offering congenial conversation when she has the chance.

Her long gray hair is pulled back in a ponytail to reveal a youthful, smiling face. Regular drinkers bid her hello and goodbye by name.

"Debbie is always in a fantastic mood — that’s why (people) come here," says Willard Robison Jr., a Saline funeral home owner who visits Casey’s at least once a week. "I can’t imagine her ever having bad days."

Tennant says she enjoys waiting on the "easygoing, nice, down-to-earth folks" who frequent Casey’s.

She started working at the bar when it opened in 1986. After a yearlong sabbatical, during which she worked at an upscale downtown restaurant (it just wasn’t the same, she recalls), she returned to her old job.

"I really like the type of bar this is," she says. "We have a lot of regular customers. There aren’t that many bars like this left in Ann Arbor, neighborhood bars that are comfortable, with good food and familiar faces."

Her customers seem to agree.

"(Casey’s is) not pretentious, and Debbie is the one who makes it that way," Robison says. —Erick Trickey