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Wednesday, October 6, 1999

Sophisticated bar fare

Posted By on Wed, Oct 6, 1999 at 12:00 AM

CK Diggs runs a frequent drinker beer club: Order one of each of their beers in a six-month period, and you win a prize.

To qualify you’d pretty much have to make this sports bar your home away from home, because CK Diggs carries 103 varieties bottled and on tap. That’s a lot of imbibing for a T-shirt, a pint glass and, as the rules describe it, "a cheap paper membership card."

To help me make a small dent, I took along home brewers Judy Riley and Ron Citkowski, who won a blue ribbon at the Michigan State Fair this year for their rye beer. They were impressed with the beer selection, in particular that the choices include a good number of Michigan microbrews. It’s a shame, they said, with all the good local beermaking going on, when you go into a Detroit-area bar and find microbrews only from Colorado.

Ron and Judy make it a point to support their local breweries. "The more we drink, the more they’ll brew," says Judy.

For example, you can get draught Bell’s Oberon, a summer wheat brew from Bell’s in Kalamazoo, which my experts describe as one of the oldest and best microbreweries in the country. Boyne River, New Holland and Local Color of Novi are three of the Michigan suppliers.

Another winning point is that a surprising number of the foreign beers are on draught, and are therefore fresh. I liked both Boddington’s Pub Ale and Newcastle Brown Ale from England, and Ron approved the Hacker Pschorr from Germany.

The other nations represented are Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Poland and Scotland.

The menu describes each beer somewhat in the manner of a sommelier with a fancy wine, and we found the characterizations a good guide. So read them, because the waitstaff won’t take something back because you don’t like it. Boddington’s, for example, is "Hazy gold, big creamy head, faint lemony-fruity nose, bitter hop taste with a dry hop aftertaste."

The food is several notches better than you might expect in a sports bar. In general, it’s not too smart to order pasta or anything bordering on exotic in a bar. You stick with what the cook knows best, which means fried.

Even so, two of the best things I tasted at CK Diggs were the peanut-sauced Thai pizza and the garden vegetable pasta, the former spicy with a good, airy crust; the latter boasting lots of lemony artichokes.

You can also order shrimp linguini with a cayenne cream sauce, and the house salad sports walnuts and red onion. Perhaps those sophisticated beers have called forth endeavor to match in the kitchen.

When you revert to traditional bar food – say an appetizer sampler of Buffalo wings, chicken tenders, ribs and potato skins – the food is what you have every right to expect. Poppers, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, nachos and deep-fried ravioli are all available, along with deep-fried ice cream.

The ribs are quite all right but not memorable, the blackened catfish more interesting. Taco salad in a tortilla shell is above average – not greasy. The broccoli soup and bruschetta are more than respectable. All portions are gargantuan.

I don’t know why you would, but yes, you can get Bud Light (the menu says "good balance and hop flavor"). Happy hour 3—7 p.m., Monday-Saturday.

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