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Cycles of change (9/22/2010)
Little bar on the prairie (9/15/2010)
Down on the corner (8/25/2010)
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Metro Retro (10/6/2010)
Metro Retro (9/29/2010)
Metro Retro (9/22/2010)
BEST CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION BAR
2906 Cass Ave., Detroit; 248-547-3331
This delectable dump is imperfectly central to everything. It's across the street from the hulking, though largely empty, Masonic Temple, almost equal distance between Wayne State University and downtown proper — and dangerously close to the hearts of anyone who has survived a night of drinking here. It's gay-straight-black-white-anything-goes sordid and sassy Detroit. The dance party Haute to Death provides Dorkwave-esque thrills once a month (the third Saturday) and gets brownie points for ripping off original art used by the Buzzcocks and Wire and using them in their flyers. Children of the revolution, rock on.
BEST HOTSPOT BAR FOR MUSICAL ECLECTICISM
2040 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-962-2933
OK, you know and we know this one was a keeper from day one. Firstly for its location on the increasingly dense Park Avenue bar and club scene, secondly for its round bar and enormous picture windows, thirdly for having the only late-night, cool-as-shit Romanian food source (the Bucharest Grill) in town. But the Park Bar is also evolving before our eyes into a hotspot of musical eclecticism. Most recent memorably jam-packed events have included rediscovered Southwest D and Cass Corridor rock 'n' roll godhead Rodriguez and equally stellar Detroit house DJs Mike Huckaby and Michael Geiger. This place has strange range. We dig that.
BEST PLACE TO PARTAKE IN CIVILIZED DEBAUCHERY
Ye Olde Tap Room
14915 Charlevoix, Detroit; 313-824-1030
Sweet beer, fine Scotch served neat with a twist and a dark smoky atmosphere are a few of our favorite things, and the best place for such in Detroit is the Ye Olde Tap Room. More than 280 fine lagers from the world over, a stellar selection of fine Scotch — single-grain, single-malt, vatted (pure) malt or blended, well-aged at 10, 12, 16 or 18 years, on the rocks or straight up — all get served minus the pretension. Adding to the ambiance is the bar's notorious history of serving booze before, during and after Prohibition; its surreptitious speakeasy roots suggest the naughty and clandestine revelry of the jazz-baby '20s, a decade for which we were, unfortunately, born too late. There's something sexy — and a bit dirty — about Ye Olde: The aged bar, sleek from years of use, the red brothel lights that glow softly in the strata of cigarette smoke, the midnight-dark corners that summon unclean thoughts make us want to slap on some red lipstick and get downright saucy.
BEST PLACE TO BUMP INTO MOTOR CITY 'CREATIVES'
4620 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-831-1400
As if the vintage bicycles chained up outside weren't a clue. Then the walls tell the story. The music backs it up. Look over the shoulder of any messenger-bag-wielding patron and you're likely to find them — assuming they're not chomping into a turkey burger or sipping a pint— sketching, reading, knitting, writing, perhaps focused on a MacBook. Pretentious? Nah. OK, maybe sometimes, but how can art exist without that? Cass Cafe is the unofficial meeting place for Detroit painters, poets, musicians, etc. The crowd's a boho and blue collar blend, fairly reflective of the creative community as such. And the place is as much an art gallery as a cafe; its walls adorned with local fine art — mostly paintings and installation pieces — that's usually engaging. The place gets pretty nerdy too, and we dig that. While some bro-bars get their kicks on beer pong, flip cup and the painfully barbaric "power hour," every Monday night here, right around 11 p.m., artful-minded geeks, dweebs and weirdoes congregate for the weekly Spelling Bee. Now don't get it twisted — it's not that dorky — the two-buck well-drink specials keep things interesting enough.
Musical performances are not rare either; while DJs spin Wednesday nights, the monthly Cass Collective, a jam session featuring some of Detroit's finest, goes down the last Sunday of every month.
BEST BAR TO OBSERVE GREEK MATING IN A NATURAL HABITAT
Rick's American Café
611 Church St., Ann Arbor; 734-996-2747
Described by some as a "meat market" and "a hole," Rick's American Café (otherwise referred to in a drunken slur or pre-party screech as simply "Rick's") is a home-away-from-home for much Greek life on the U-M campus. Cheap booze and dancing attracts a bevy of frat boys, sorority chicks and assorted towheads to this classy basement joint. While some think that the splooge that coats Rick's floors is post-orgy goo from Greek mating rituals — fear not, it's only an accumulation of dank sweat, spilled beer and shark bowls (large bowl filled with liquor-juice concoction meant to be consumed with your best girlfriends for life). Yummy!
BEST PLACE FOR A POETRY READING
Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit
4454 Woodward, Detroit; 313-832-8540
When The Zeitgeist Performance Space on Michigan Avenue closed last year, local poetry took a big hit. They'd hosted a weekly poetry series there for years. So who to pick up the slack? MOCAD stepped up to the plate and hosted several readings this year, including a recent evening dedicated to Detroit poets and their impact on print culture in the 1960s and '70s. And you couldn't ask for a better performance space; the spacious, dimly lit room in the back is a cool, dreamy setting for readings, and music too.
BEST LEATHER DADDY BAR
The Detroit Eagle
1501 Holden St., Detroit; 313-873-6969
Leather daddies unite! Leather isn't necessary at the Eagle, but is applauded; see, the Eagle proudly welcomes anyone, regardless of fetish, hang-up, lifestyle or gender preferences. There's a sense of humor here too (themed nights are funny and frolicsome, from "ice cream socials" to "blacklight underwear parties") because who wants to take life too seriously? Sunday's "secret" dance and disco parties — often filled with chain-smoking hipsters — rule, as do the movie nights, which sometimes feature gay-themed films. No-cover Saturdays are mighty crammed, with kids of all shapes and hues and all manner of dress, and guest DJs rotate throughout the week. We've never been to Thursday "bingo night," but can only imagine. Also, the Detroit Bondage Club (Dpc) hosts monthly meetings and trysts where BDSM accoutrements — from facial harnesses to straitjackets — play into to the fun.
Look, one can't write off the Eagle as a bar for margin-dwelling fetishists because, really, it's a nightclub that celebrates humanity and tolerance. Good on 'em.
BEST PLACE TO HEAR A THEATER PIPE ORGAN LIVE AND IN THE FLESH
6424 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-894-4100
When the Detroit Theater Organ Club purchased the derelict Senate Theater on Michigan Avenue back in '62, it was but a shell of its original self. Ripped-out seats, shattered glass, a flooded basement and a partially blown-off roof were all that remained. But the DTOC — now known as the Detroit Theater Organ Society — needed a home for the Wurlitzer pipe organ that they'd salvaged from the Fisher Theater. Countless man-hours later, the all-volunteer club had heroically restored the Senate, installing the gargantuan organ on the stage, where it was christened in its new location in 1964. Despite what must certainly be a dwindling audience, they've operated the theater ever since, hosting recitals with legendary organists on select Sunday afternoons. But troubling times may lie ahead: The Senate's now for sale, and if sold, the future of the DTOS lies in peril. Support this gem if you can, for, as was once said about the final organ concert given at the now-demolished Paramount Theatre in Toledo less than a year after the re-invented Senate opened, "Now is the hour."
BEST UNDERRATED ROCK VENUE
2932 Caniff St., Hamtramck; 313-874-0909; paycheckslounge.com
For the life of us, we can't figure out why some consider this place a joke. Maybe it's the bookings — even if they are very good about giving new and young fledgling local bands a chance. We do miss the days when national acts also took that stage. But aside from that, Paycheck's is a stellar local music venue, especially when compared to some of the other local dives (of course we use that word as a compliment, full of love and affection!). The sound system smokes, as does the stage (and they actually have a good stage) and lighting system. There's almost always a comfortable place to park your ass, plenty of space on the floor; sweet sightlines, and proprietor Paycheck is a constant at the door. Really, what's not to like? We're a little baffled by the lack of mixes for the booze (at least last time we were there — "shots only"), but we dig the elder Hamtramck regulars who hang with the rockers. But then, that's what we love most about Hamtramck clubs.
BEST COMFORTABLE & INTIMATE LOCAL ROCK VENUE
The Magic Bag
22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-544-3030; themagicbag.com
It used to be a pretty cool movie theater — would have probably won "Best Cheap Movie" and then "Best Porn Theater" back in the day before Steven A. Milgrom — who founded one-time local music shop powerhouse Sam's Jams — turned it into a music venue. Now it's one of the most charming music theaters in the area. They still host movies — "Brew & View" nights — but when it comes to music nights, the tables, chairs and comfortable benches and couches on the side make the place look a little like an old-time "adult" nightclub. It really is a great place to catch someone you completely dig, intimately, such as Ian McLagan, the Muggs, Dr. John, Leon Russell or whatever band Eddie Baranek's in.
BEST DIVE TO FEATURE MUSIC
3930 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-831-3830
This charming dive began as the New Miami back in the hazy Cass Corridor daze. Then, to screw with the heads of Midtown gentrifiers, it changed to its current name. And, like a trusted old friend, the Old Miami comes through in the pinch. It has become home to Detroit's day-rave scene, hosting all-day parties featuring local and international insomniac DJs and dancers, promoted by the Ferndale-based Auxetic group. For extra points, the Old Miami recently featured New Orleans' electro swamp rats Quintron & Miss Pussycat as part of the Bohemian Home-in-exile series. Fast, cheap and out of control.
BEST SMALL CLUB FOR LIVE MUSIC
10215 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck; 313-871-1966; belmontbar.com
This long, rectangular bar is nestled snugly on Hamtramck's main drag, situated inconspicuously among the oddball dollar stores, ethnic grocers and resale shops. But its glowing red sign serves as a beacon to hardened barflies and rock 'n' rollers alike, who come for cheap beer, generous shots and many of Detroit's best songsters. Play pool and see posters of rock demigods (such as Cash, Roth and Elvis.) Keep walking and the walls begin to close in – an abrupt narrowing that ends at the stage. This crank layout means you can avoid the stage (in case the band busts out a soulful rendition of "Free Bird") without feeling totally separated from the action. And thanks to kempt sound, the tricky balance between balls-to-the-wall, loud rock and being able to converse at the bar is nicely achieved. Live shows generally take place Thursdays through Saturdays, other events include Manicure & Martini Mondays, Punk Fitness on Tuesdays and free art openings the last Wednesday of every month. For a complete schedule of events, see the website.
MOST UNLIKELY PLAYOFF SHUTTLE
565 E. Larned St., Detroit
Opus One is the kind of joint where folks go to get their gourmand pamper on. You can't swing a dead mink stole here without conking the gourd of some old-money maven or new-money climber. The place, frankly, is a haven for people who know what they like and appreciate its finery and aren't afraid to spend the equivalent of someone else's mortgage to have it in a glass or on fine china in front of them. So, it makes both no sense and perfect sense that they should be shuttling gratis the finer folk to such plebian haunts as the Joe Louis Arena, Comerica Park and, well, the Fox Theatre (that last one kinda makes sense). Bring your loan officer, but leave the foam finger at home.
BEST CLUB TO POSE LIKE CHARLES AZNAVOUR OR SAM COOKE
2030 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-961-2543
If you want to soak up an art deco, Prohibition-era speakeasy vibe while you love the one you're with, go here. You like your jazz hot or cool, free or improvised, you'll also get that here. How about a monthly event featuring torch (with a twist) songs, burlesque and fire-eating on the street. Yowzer. But you probably already knew that. What you might've missed, if you blinked, is an impromptu performance by dark Detroit techno lord Carl Craig and Juilliard-trained modern classical pianist Francesco Tristano on a recent Wednesday night. That's rad, dad.
BEST ONGOING MUSICAL MEMORIAL
SBH Trio Jam Session at Bert's Marketplace
2727 Russell St., Detroit; 313-567-2030; bertsentertainment.com
For seven years, Hubie Crawford was one-third of the SBH Trio, which was a key in reviving the jam session ethos on Detroit's jazz scene at Bert's Marketplace. The bassist, who'd notably played for years with guitarist Earl Klugh, was an indefatigable inspiration on the bandstand, and, after he died in October of 2007, musicians packed Bert's cavernous warehouse and played for hours at his memorial. Bassist Ralph Armstrong has taken his place in the band, and the jam sessions seem to be thriving still, though collapsed from two days a week to one, and no longer free (a modest $3 admission is now charged). They're relaxed affairs that bring in student musicians as young as their early teens and veterans of every age (including James Carter from time to time), and especially lots of vocalists. And every night, pianist Bill Meyer reminds folks how the band got its name: S for drummer Spider Webb, B for Bill and H for the departed Hubie.
BEST SOUNDTRACK FOR YOUR CONVERSATIONS
Johnny Allen and Alma Smith at Sweet Lorraine's
29101 Greenfield Rd., 248-559-5985; sweetlorraines.com
Jazz, opined one wag, is America's indigenous background music. Just like Rick at his saloon in Casblanca, you too can have the tinkling of ivories under your conversations at a handful of locations in the city. One of the most notable is Sweet Lorraine's, where pianists Alma Smith (with bassist Will Austin) and Johnny Allen (with bassist John Dana) have alternated Tuesday evenings for more than a decade. They're amazing veterans of the city's music scene. Smith cut three "soundies" — 1940s forerunners to the music video — with her group the Counts and Countess. Johnny Allen, whose career crossed from jazz to pop and back, shared an arranger's Grammy with Isaac Hayes in 1971 for "The Theme From Shaft." If you have something important say, Alma and Johnny can supply the appropriate soundtrack. And if you don't have much to say, they'll make it sound more important.
BEST BADASS LITTLE BAR
10241 Jos. Campau, Hamtramck; 313-285-9822
This former Hamtown corner bar transformed into faux-elegant Lush Lounge in the late 1990s, when it was a sort of downBeat, chill-out little sister to the mega-clubland scene at Motor. It's been modified yet again to accommodate rock bands, techno, house and legit Euro electronic body music. (Milford mortician and space-rockin' dream-pop dude 800Beloved and Germany's Move D played here earlier this year.) A nice selection of tap beers go for $3, the wine list is quite nice, the staff hospitable and, best of all, the sound system is to die for.
BEST BAR FOR DRAMA
11831 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck; 313-365-6576
In a churning sea of jaded hipster joints and seedy old-man dens, it takes something special to get noticed, but the regular patrons of this glorious Hamtramck hovel have no trouble grabbing spotlight. "The Brothers" caters to Detroit's smallish but incredibly vibrant theater community, with every square inch of space coated in head shots, cast posters and press clippings, and with every square foot packed with actors, writers, directors and various backstage types battling for elbow room at the bar. These off-off-off-off-off-Broadway stars-in-the-making lend the place a uniquely spirited and entertaining atmosphere, with spontaneous sing-alongs and dance-offs a distinct possibility at a moment's notice. The real entertainment starts on weekend nights after the curtain drops at nearby Planet Ant and other local stages, and giddy cast members flood in to celebrate and soak in the applause. Word of warning though; you think actresses and actors are nutty? Try an improviser. Off-the-chain crazy, but in a very good way.
BEST COMEDY THRONE
Mark Ridley's Comedy Castle
269 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-542-9900
Yes, Royal Oak's legendary cathedral of laughs continues to dominate the kingdom with an unbroken reign of chucklehead excellence stretching well back to halcyon days of the polyester '70s stand-up boom, a run on top so perfect it borders on oppressive. Yet Mark Ridley remains a benevolent monarch, the rare club owner who actually still likes comedy, as the echo of his booming laugh coming from the back of the room each weekend can attest. This passion for funny business has allowed the Castle to weather booms and busts for decades, and made the club a hallowed destination for premier comics from across the country. Hot names like Dave Attell and Greg Giraldo keep coming back, and each week the club remains the best place to catch the best homegrown talent each weekend, and up-and-coming jokesters every Wednesday at the longstanding open mic. Sometimes it's good to be the king.
BEST PLACE FOR GIG-DAMAGED GUITARS
Koontz Guitar Repair
600 Hilton Rd., Ferndale; 248-545-5460
His tiny digs are wallpapered with your gig posters and handbills. A sweet Gibson ES 125 and a shitty-modded Stratocaster might be lying about. Expect a wait — that is, unless you've proven yourself in this town. Or call this Mike Koontz dude and listen to his answering machine; he's swamped, can't take any guitars right now. The reason is simple: He's good ... muthafuckin' good. So good, in fact, his place is packed with guitars. Koontz is the mainstay for any guitar-playing dweedle-lee-dweedle-lee-dweedle-lee dickhead, rockstar or student in this area whose guitar is busted. Dude spends sleepless nights working on them, and his name is known far and wide. His work speaks volumes. No matter how broken the song is in your brain, your guitar will feel new and ready to play once Koontz has worked his magic.
BEST ALL-AGES EVENING
Friday Night Live!
Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-7900; www.dia.org.
Whether you're looking for a romantic date or a place to entertain the wee ones, a chance to reflectively wander the galleries or chat away in the Great Hall with a drink in your hand, you can indulge your creative side at the DIA. There are drawing workshops Friday evenings, guided tours at 6 and 7:30 p.m., drop-in art workshops designed for adults and kids, and some of the most adventurous music programming around, ranging from Brazilian beats to Beethoven sonatas to blues just in the next few weeks alone. And although the acoustics aren't the greatest, the Rivera Court is one majestic concert space. It's all for the price of admission, which is free for City of Detroiters (with ID) all day Friday and for members as always. Stop in for a spell before the Detroit Film Theatre (separate admission fee, though), make Friday Night Live! your end-of-the-week happy hour, or use it to launch a night out on the town.
BEST LATE-ISH NIGHT $2 PINTS
120 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-741-7325
As downtown Ann Arbor's burger- and steak-lovers' go-to, Grizzly Peak, winds down for the night, its pub, the Den, rolls out the red carpet for cash-strapped beer connoisseurs. Every night after 11 p.m., the bar's draft micro-brews ranging from hoppy to wheat to thick stout are but $2 or $2.50 a pint. No shit. With the selection of feature drafts changing from week to week, patrons can say goodbye to overpriced piss-water (er, Miller time anyone?) and hello to intoxicated deliciousness. With a massive oak bar, high-topped tables and cozy booths, friends who prefer chatting over a pint to getting freaked on will appreciate this English-style pub. Not to mention, there are six large plasma-screen TVs to zone out to while you savor your froth. But get there early — this little gem fills up fast!
BEST WAY TO SPEND A SATURDAY NIGHT
Detroit Derby Girls
Based on the number of sold-out bouts, it's safe to say that roller derby has reached phenom status in old Detroit. From November through May, the Masonic Temple is the place to be on the second Saturday each month (and sometimes on the last Saturday, if the travel team is hosting an out-of-state rival), when crowds often surpass the capacity of the Temple's third-floor drill room. No affinity to one of the four Detroit teams is a necessity (although the D-Funk are our personal faves) and, sure, some individual players seem to have their own fan clubs (Yeah, we're talking to you, Racer McChaser), but the thrill is in the athleticism of these badass chicks on wheels and in the scene that has built up around the revival of this retro sport (oh, Raquel Welch, where are you?). From babies bouncing on dad's leather-clad knee to blue-haired grandmas, the crowd's spectacular. And when the last jam ends, don't forget to follow the masses to the afterparty, where at-capacity revelry lasts until the wee hours.
BEST MUSIC CLUB WITH NO ADDRESS
Boho in Exile
A bad turn for the music scene last year was the acrimonious falling-out among principals in the Bohemian National Home. Once a gathering place for ethnic Bohemians and a proud symbol of what they'd accomplished in America, it had become a gathering place for Detroit's aesthetic bohemians reclaiming a space from the ravages of decline. From Blowfly to His Name is Alive to the Sun Ra Arkestra, "the Bo House" was home for challenging music. Since the falling-out, musician-booker Joel Peterson has pushed the Bo House's concept into temporary spaces, including CAID, the Old Miami and the Detroit Evolution Laboratory. Meanwhile, Joel tells us, the search for a new, permanent home continues.
BEST "EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME" CATEGORY (AGAIN?) FOR A BAR
The Tap Room
201 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti; 734-482-5320
We know the cliché, but many regulars here say this bar really is like downtown Ypsi's own version of "Cheers." Maybe it's because co-owners Lisa and Brian Brickley and their staff are down-to-earth folks who'll chat with you even after you've tossed down your seventh shot of Jack. Or maybe it's because most of the staff were regulars before they started getting paid to serve. (Hiring from within! Cool.) Either way, it makes for one drunk, happy family down in old Ypsi-town.
BEST GAY BAR
928 W. McNichols Rd., Detroit; 313-863-3934
Menjo's is badass. Period. As we've said in past Best of Detroit issues, this mirrored, queer-friendly bar's all warm and fuzzy inside, free of club-kid 'tude. In fact, it combines elements of both a sports bar and a rave! Go figure. And there's an irrefutably erotic subtext going on amid the dart games, pool shots and so much dancing. Besides, the outdoor patio sees a rather large golden statue of a penis! Oh, my.
BEST PLACE TO SEE A DUEL
JD's Key Club
1 N. Saginaw, Pontiac; 248-338-7337
It's weirdly musical, and highly original. It's two piano players facing off. That's right. And it goes on each Wednesday through Saturday night at JD's Key Club. Playing mostly rock and pop tunes, the dueling pianos (or pianists) make for accessible, shot-swilling, slur-along fun — more fun, in fact, than that kid from Deliverance. The bar's a casual, laid-back joint a floor above the Coyote Club. Entertainment starts at around 9 p.m.; drink specials and ladies' night make the evening an affordable splurge. No lamp-shading atop the baby grand, please.
BEST PLACE TO WATCH OLD MOVIES
17360 Lasher, Detroit; 313-537-2560
When it opened its doors in 1928, who knew that the old Redford Theatre would still be standing today or that it would endure as a hot spot for vintage film in 35 mil on a big screen? Or that, 81 years later, the original pipe organ would still be played during intermission? Well, there's no better place to enjoy a silent film, a classic like Sunset Boulevard or a week of Mary Pickford than in this historic theatre. So grab a bag of popcorn, head up to the lovely old balcony, and take your place under the ceiling of fake stars.
BEST BIKE NIGHT
6650 Highland Rd. (M-59), Waterford; 248-666-6080
It was a toss-up for the Best Of category here: Owner Boomer Ulman's waist-length mullet nearly got its own entry, and we've had hours of entertainment watching patrons of this Waterford establishment attempt the mechanical bull — but that bridal party ride is a different story. Throttles down, it's Bike Night, considered Oakland County's largest. Motorcycles of all shapes and sizes fill the parking lot each Thursday, and their purring can be heard blocks away. Clubs from throughout southeast Michigan use Boomer's as a destination for the weekly rides, rewarded with the free buffet, line dancing on the oversized dance floor and, of course, the bull. Black T-shirts, leathers, tattoos — it all goes. Arriving by motorcycle is preferred, but no one will kick you out if you show up on four wheels.
BEST DEVELOPMENT WITHIN A DEVELOPMENT WITHIN A DEVELOPMENT
Majestic Theatre Complex
4120-4140 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700
So, it's super-awesome that the Majestic Theatre Complex built their outdoor deck for summertime lounging. But if you build a deck accessible to only a third of your patrons, will anyone use it? The question is now, thankfully, moot. Since the Majestic owners purchased the Apartment Finders building, they now have the Monopoly-like option of turning their four houses into a hotel. Oops, that is, they now have a way to provide access to their back deck without having to trudge through the not-so-fresh-air of the Stick to hit the "Hospital View Promenade" out back. Plus, we no longer have to wonder "just what the hell kinda half-ass business was Apartment Finders running in that motel-lookin' joint?" Natch.
BEST SEPARATION OF CHURCH (MUSIC) & STATE (DRINKING) — HAMTRAMCK DIVISION
Baker's Streetcar Lounge
9817 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck; 313-873-8296
The old man bar on Joseph Campau is hands-down the most awesomest spot to catch a show during the Blowout. On entry, you're greeted with all the Stroh's tipplin' Moe's-ness of a workaday bar complete with dim lighting, idiosyncratic decor and been-there-seen-that staff. Take a left turn before you hit the john and you're in a room that verily defines DIY. Spartan everything save for a PA perched in front, bands performing at floor level, intimacy that breeds the perception of attendance — the whole nine yards. If only they'd let the kids in more often. Runner-up: The Belmont's "Funnel of Noise/Watering Hole"
BEST FERNDALE KARAOKE
22628 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-545-8243
Sure, it's now within striking distance of the bustling Loving Touch pool hall, but even before the Johnston's latest endeavor extended the family pub crawl a little further south, Sneaker's has boasted an admirable karaoke scene. Hosted by a no-bullshit dude named Dennis, Sneaker's gathers the disparate karaoke masses, from tables full of music-scene noisemakers to post-game softball squads, American Idol wannabes (but neverwoulds) to wandering half-crocked exhibitionists. The mix is just about as hit-or-miss as it sounds, but that's the genius of karaoke's new role as the ultimate societal wallbuster.
BEST BAR DISGUISED AS A STONER COFFEE HOUSE
Trowbridge House of Coffee
10241 Joseph Campau., Hamtramck; 313-285-9822; thc313.com
Yes, this is a bar, and not unlike most of those in Hamtramck, the dubiously named Trowbridge House of Coffee — T.H.C. for short — brings in a motley crew. And many who seek it out claim discernable tastes in beats and beverages ... and perhaps other mind-altering substances. OK, maybe the latte lacks, but that's made up for by its cold, cost-effective premium beer and the reputable acts it books, from Detroit's techno, folk and rock scenes. Look, there's a musical and artistic swagger here, which makes it a swingin' go-to for many. Boozer bonus: When mothers and/or significant others frown upon your frequent nights spent warming barstools, you can just tell 'em, "Me? No. I was at the Trowbridge House of Coffee." There's a defense we can all smoke ... er ... drink to.
BEST BAR FOR HAPPY ENDINGS
BEST NEW PLACE TO SEE AND BE SCENE
The Loving Touch
22634 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-546-3644
Opened in late-'08, Ferndale's new pool hall-lounge was once a massage parlor of the same name. Neat! Whatever the former's business practices, the new version is one of the best bars for last call in the metro Detroit. The Loving Touch's cozy with beautiful woodwork, welcoming atrium and it sports a badass juke, with many local rock stars in rotation. It's lounge-casual, to be sure. What better way to cap a night than with sloppy billiards or in a booth with your pals, glowing from locally brewed beer?
BEST BAR TO KICK-START YOUR NIGHT AT NOON
Foran's Grand Trunk
612 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-3043; foransirishpub.com
It's Sunday morning — you're looking for good grub and drink that's not OJ. What to do? It's easy: Head to downtown Detroit to Foran's Grand Trunk, where brunch and booze ain't no joke. The funky, compact bar (formally Foran's Irish Pub) sits inside the old Detroit Grand Trunk ticketing station. The House pop is Faygo and the bread's from Avalon Bakery, the produce is from Eastern Market, and the taps boast 14 various Michigan brews. And if the French toast doesn't do you in, the beer can be had with coins found under cushions on your couch. Starting at noon, beers cost 50 cents, and every half-hour increase another 50 cents until they're back at regular price. Or you might opt for the $6 Bloody Mary — with buck refills. Either way, you'll be wobbly by dinner. Now, what to do with the rest of the day?