CultureNight Life - Reader Picks
BEST PICK-UP BAR
BlackFinn Restaurant & Saloon
530 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-582-9460; blackfinnroyaloak.com
We weren't sure what to make of BlackFinn when its doors first opened; was it a sports bar or a family restaurant with a dance floor? Was it a swingers club? And why would so many miniskirts and shiny-shirts wait in the freezing cold in a line that stinkin' long ... on a Thursday night? Sheesh. Could it be the fish & chips? Then we learned about the XX to XY ratio of mingling singles. BlackFinn: They don't deliver, but you can pick up.
BEST BAR FOR UNDER-30S
BEST BARTENDER: TWATCH
Slingers (formerly PY Stix)<
11791 Farmington, Livonia; 734- 421-6070
This killer bar is anything but chill. In fact, you could call it an "audience participation" club because its fetching clientele (average age: 25, maybe) is as much the entertainment as its flaring bartenders. You can scream and hoot along to whatever participatory event is offered up — whether it involves using drumsticks to get your Tommy Lee on, or indulging in "power hour" or beer pongs. The Thursday "college nights" allow students to sip it up all night at happy-hour prices and "ladies night" sees real beauty up dancing on the bar. No shit. The club's open every night, packed more often than not and there's no dress code and no velvet rope and no 'tude. Our reader's also picked PY Stix bartender "Twatch" as the area's best, and for good reason. The dude is a veritable one-man show, kids. He's the real deal, a star, a chickmagnet dervish. When Twatch pours he entertains and moves in perfect rhythm behind the bar as the DJ plays on. His shaker tins and bottles flip, fly, twirl and shake. He's a "flair bartender," which is like "stunt driving" for barkeeps, and the crowd adores it, and him. And why not? The dude even has his own t-shirt and travels to bartending competitions around the country. Bad ass.
BEST BAR FOR COUGARS
Boogie Fever Café & Disco
22901 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-541-1600; boogiefevercafe.com
It's true. They're out there. Getting' their Nicollette Sheridan on all the young dudes at Boogie Fever, Ferndale's glorious '70s time-warp fever dream. The disco destination makes this clear: killer mullets, shit cologne, gold chains and low self-esteem are not so welcome. Nah, these cougs are keepin' it classy, babe.
BEST LIBIDO CROWD
2901 Grand River Ave., inside the Motor City Casino, Detroit; 313-309-4605; amnesiadetroit.com
OK, the sexual tension inside Amnesia can make you wet (those aren't necessarily models in the ads, kids). The sweaty pressure ebbs and flows, from the club's dark corners to the DJ beats resonating off the walls. You won't be able to remember how you got there, but you'll be back, and not just for killer DJ Mike Scroggs.
BEST DIVE BAR
309 S. Center St., Royal Oak; 248-545-2235; myspace.com/gusolinealley
It gets sticky: shoes to floor, smoke to hair, lips to glass, music to despondent nostalgic sensibilities — in fact, when you're at Gusoline, you're likely to stick in here for a while. Its regulars are as colorful as witty scribble on bathroom walls; and like any authentic dive, there's real storytelling floating in its narrow room, amid so much bumper-sticker artistry. Even old Buk might've been a regular — or maybe we're just romanticizing the hell out of this place.
BEST IRISH PUB
318 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-665-2968; connoroneils.com
349 Monroe St., Detroit; 313-964-0007; oldshillelagh.com
Authenticity is a cornerstone of Connor O'Neil's rep, and because they continue to deliver it consistently — hand-to-mouth with many foamy stouts and flavorful Irish fare — folks flock to this warm and comfy public house. For shelter from winter storms, this place can feel like someone's living room. And, sure, Old Shillelagh's a game-day fave among Tigers and Lions heads, but this ironic and iconic corner bar in Greektown continues to throw down, particularly on St. Paddy's. It's often full of jolly regulars, and the underrated trio Black Mist can be heard live on weekends upstairs.
BEST BOWLING ALLEY
4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-831-4662; majesticdetroit.com
There's old-school and then there's Garden Bowl, the long-running bowling alley on Woodward Avenue. It's indubitably a Detroit hipster spot, with lots of fine-boned women smoking cigarettes and drinking dark liquor attached to down-dressed bearded dudes in bands. DJs punk-funk up Rock & Bowl nightly to a crowd that mostly sucks down pitchers of beer and Sgt. Pepperoni's pizza (the best slices in Detroit, natch!). While many of Detroit's finest rock 'n' roll outfits shake the Garden Bowl bar — which sits below the Magic Stick in the Majestic complex — and the occasional concert on the lanes makes this venue unforgettable, even for you gutter balls.
27 E. 14 Mile Rd., Clawson; 248-588-2300; myspace.com/royal_kubo
Celebs are now born every nanosecond — just check Facebook/MySpace for "proof" — but at Royal Kubo, one of the most diverse bars in metro Detroit, you can actually be one, for a moment, anyway. Notable menu (sushi and Filipino cuisine!) aside, Royal's stage, large enough to house you and your crew, along with its top-tier sound system, place this venerable karaoke venue on the pedestal for any would-be American idol. You might not sound like a pop star (no pitch-correction technology allowed, heh), but does that matter anymore? Find (feign?) stardom here.
BEST FETISH CLUB
Leland City Club
400 Bagley St., Detroit (inside Leland Hotel); 313-962-2300; lelandcityclub.net
If you've ever found yourself in a subterranean room that's too dark, too rude and maybe kinkier than your own basement, you've likely wandered into the storied City Club in the space below the Leland Hotel in beautiful downtown Detroit. But don't fret, folks. Let Marvin whip your, er ... whip you up a cocktail, and let your inhibitions slip into a haze of queens, vamps, dreads and latex.
BEST SUBURBAN DANCE CLUB
BEST SEXY WAITSTAFF
1815 Main St., Royal Oak; 248-589-3344; lunaroyaloak.com
For about 25 bucks, you can cab-it to Luna, pay the cover, order libations, rotate your ass in a booth, sweat it on the dancefloor and most likely pocket a phone number or two. That ain't bad. Perhaps the least pretentious club in the burbs, Luna continues to be a place for the people — all people — to let it loose to the best new wave, down-tempo, industrial and alt-grooves of the last couple decades. As for the sexiness, it's not just dudes, tools and metrosexuals lusting after Luna's lovely waitstaff, because we know for a fact that women and feminist lesbians do too. And why the hell not? These fetching waitrons sport power pouts that could lay you out flat, fetish-y garb and drink-slinging skills notwithstanding.
BEST CLUB NIGHT
Luna's '80s Night
1815 Main St., Royal Oak; 248-589-3344; lunaroyaloak.com
Thursday nights are the best club night around, and the Luna Dancers are the reason why. Sure, DJ Paul plays a pivotal role, but the costumed and choreographed tributes to such '80s luminaries and has-beens as Prince, Janet Jackson, Billy Idol and David Bowie — not to mention the frolicsome Flashdance recital — are why this Thursday night puts weekends to shame in Royal Oak.
BEST HAPPY HOUR
30 E. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-619-9060; konagrill.com
118 Sycamore, Wyandotte; 734-284-8706; solerocafe.net
Slingers (formerly PY Stix)
11791 Farmington Rd., Livonia; 734-421-6070; myspace.com/py_stix
Here's the quick gist: Py Stix features a variety of nightly specials, like three beers and a pizza for only five bucks on Thursdays; Kona Grill offers a "reverse happy hour" with deals on food and drinks Monday through Thursday, from 9 to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 p.m. till midnight; Solero Café, a lovely west side tequila bar, is home to a club of tequila connoisseurs who earn points and prizes for Tequila consumption!
BEST LESBIAN BAR
6640 E. Eight Mile Rd., Detroit; 313-891-1020; clubrainbowroom.com
1641 Middlebelt Rd., Inkster; 734-729-8980; myspace.com/stilettos_bar
Readers voted en masse for their favorite queer-friendly bar for chicks and women into chicks and women, and the results were a dead heat (both bars are, incidentally, MT staff faves). Out at Stiletto's, Trixie Deluxxe packs 'em in on Wilde Side Fridays while wet T-shirt Saturdays at the country-bar-like Rainbow Room show a bit more than just fleshy inhibitions. On off nights, the bars are warm and fuzzy places where one understands that the universe is indeed female.
BEST GAY BAR
The Aut Bar
315 Braun Ct., Ann Arbor; 734-994-3677; autbar.com
Far from a watering hole, the Aut Bar— with its graceful interior and notable eatery — is a den of camaraderie in the GLBT community. While live performances and wine-tasting Tuesdays (25 percent off a bottle) keep weekday crowds goin' steady, it's their "free nacho" Fridays and infamous Sunday brunches that rule; see, it's more than just a party, kids.
BEST STRIP CLUB
20771 W. Eight Mile Rd., Detroit; 313-541-7000; thepenthouseclubdetroit.com
You know those girls who live between the glossy pages of Penthouse Magazine? Well, beady-eyed readers, walking through the Penthouse Club doors is not unlike living inside the pages of its namesake, in the most upmarket, gentlemen's club kind of way. While Detroit's favorite swivel-hipped dancers run the exotic to porno gamut, this elaborate, multifloor palace is worthy of Vegas. The executive bottle service, premier cigars and filet mignon ain't bad either.
BEST BEER BAR
3087 W. 12 Mile Rd., Berkley; 248-547-3331; myspace.com/theberkleyfront
Whether it's a band upstairs in the Dean Martini Lounge or any number of classic records spun on the distinguished juke at ground level, the Berkley Front promises swell tunes mixed with its 42 (at our last count) draft beers. Shoot pool with pals, slide into a booth for a beer-lubed date or belly up to the bar and pour your busted heart out to a stranger — no one judges you here. Besides, the joint offers swell martinis too, and its happy hour kills.
224 S. Sherman Ave., Royal Oak; 248-544-7490; goodnitegracie.com
"Some places got it, some places don't." We've heard it a million times, eh? But what is that "it"? It could be the equal balance of cool and class, or it could be the easy ability to see through bullshit, or it could simply be a fully stocked bar and a gracious staff. Maybe it's the perfect martini. Somewhere, someone is working really hard to define what "it" is — in the meantime we'll point to Gracie's and suggest you try a remarkably executed martini.
BEST CITY DANCE CLUB
Leland City Club
400 Bagley St., inside Leland Hotel, Detroit; 313-962-2300; lelandcityclub.net
How Detroit loves thee, let us count the ways: The cover will set you back a cool finster, security keeps the dark den tight as latex hot pants, and the DJs spin danceable industrial and goth until the sun's burping on the horizon. For more than 20-odd years, the punks, freaks, goths, faux-goths, BDSM heads, poseurs and underbelly tourists have all arrived to pose and play under City Club's (black) lights — Detroit submitted to its authority.
BEST ANN ARBOR DANCE CLUB
516 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-994-5436; necto.com
Necto dons masks throughout the week — Mondays sees the industrial-synthpop kohl-eyed crowd, Thursday's the patented college night, gay pride Friday is steadfast and "Frequency" on Saturday is the biggest club night in the state. No shit. Necto's huge, full of soused singles and cheating lovers looking to bump and grind or the old "in-out, in-out." Attracting everyone from U-M freshmen and sweaty jocks to club kids and lawyerly types to horny MILFs and silver foxes, Necto's rep is that it's a bit on the touchy-feely side — we don't think so, we're all about social intercourse, man ...
BEST JUKE BOX
4476 Second Ave., Detroit; 313-832-8464
You know that bit in This is Spinal Tap where the one dude is showing the other dude his disgustingly awesome array of guitars and amps and points out that on his "special" Marshall amp the knob's numbers go to up past the normal "10" to number "11"? The Bronx Bar's tandem juke setup reminds us how Spinal Tap was prophecy not parody. No matter how good your bar's jukebox is, they have two of them. Sorry.
BEST CASINO SLOTS
BEST CASINO CRAP TABLES
BEST CASINO POKER
1777 Third St., Detroit; 877-888-2121; mgmgranddetroit.com
Aside from finding the words impossible to write sequentially without smirking just a little bit, poker, slots and craps are the backbone of any casino. If dealers are cool, if the wins mount and the luck hits just right, you've got a hell of a lot of fun on your hands — assuming you're not gamblin' your mortgage on a pair of 8s (maybe you are, and that's the kick. It's true, competition among Motor City casinos is mighty fierce, and the odds that MGM Grand would sweep our reader's picks this year was too damn close to bet on (yeah, we had to say it). Maybe it was MGM's swank-rich nightclubs and award-hogging restaurants that put them over-the-top? You can, um, bet on it, chief.
BEST COUNTRY/FOLK VENUE
316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-763-8587; theark.org
It started as a church-sponsored coffee house in 1965, but the folk music soon became integral. Two locations and at least one major reorganization later, the Ark is a nonprofit corporation and a major node in the network of clubs supporting the folk scene of today, now-old-timers like Arlo Guthrie and up-and-comers like his son Abe, both of whom perform there in May. Rock, jazz and world music are included in the offerings, but the Ark remains a product of the hootenanny era that's managed to maintain both its roots and relevance in the era of the "Internets."
BEST ELECTRONIC CLUB
1456 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-962-7200; oslodetroit.com
The sushi's good, the pad Thai does the trick and the cocktails warm you from the inside out, but why Detroiters can't get enough Oslo can't even be found on the club's first floor. See, Oslo gets its wood up in the basement, with the best in local and national electronic and hip-hop DJs, the comely women who love them, and crops of recurring parties — such as Fierce Hot Mess — that draw Detroit's dedicated techno and electronic heads.
BEST HIP-HOP VENUE
St. Andrew's Hall
431 E. Congress St., Detroit; 313-961-8137
For many of you, the first time you come home reeking of sweat and cigarettes, ears ringing, wallet empty and the back of your right hand stained with a thick black X, it was because you had answered the call of an all-ages hip-hop show at St. Andrew's Hall, with its night-black interior and 1,000-head capacity. You got older, started bringing ear plugs and a debit card, but the club made notorious by Eminem has kept it classic and is well-loved by many, from 313 stars Royce Da 5'9" and the PayPa Boiz to gazillion-sellers Nas and Mos Def. Bottom line: In a milieu where hip-hop venues rise and fall, the storied St. Andy's maintains its haven status for hip-hop heads young and old.
BEST JAZZ CLUB
BEST CLUB TO HEAR BLUES
Baker's Keyboard Lounge
20510 Livernois Ave., Detroit; 313-345-6300; bakerskeyboardlounge.com
One can only hope that in the coming weeks supporters rally around the brick-and-mortar Baker's Keyboard the way they rallied in our readers poll. A fixture in Detroit jazz history, the club is nearing its 75th anniversary. In that time it's gone from a sandwich place with a piano to a touring stop for the biggest names from the '50s to the '70s. It struggled through the '80s and '90s and had been on solid footing for a decade or so with a top-notch kitchen operation, great local talent and no- to low-cover shows. Then came the triple-slam of disruptive roadwork, water-bill problems and a tumbling economy. In the outpouring of concern, voters not only named it the best jazz club, but gave it the nod for blues as well, even though blues acts are fairly rare there. Meanwhile, the club-restaurant soldiers on, hoping in particular for a successful anniversary weekend May 1-4.
BEST SPORTS BAR
Buffalo Wild Wings
Multiple metro-Detroit locations: buffalowildwings.com
When you're surrounded by beers the size of your forearm, an army of high-def TVs, and buckets upon buckets of chicken wings (and a host of other deep-fired thingies) you're probably sitting in B Dubs. The bar's mid-day and late-night happy hours show that it's recession friendly, and it flies flags of local pro and college sports teams so that when you're too broke for game tix, the next best place to be is inside one of these joints.
BEST LOCAL BEER
Motor City Brewing Works' Ghetto Blaster
470 W. Canfield St., Detroit; 313-832-2700; motorcitybeer.com
Go-'hed, as Ratso Rizzo would say, go-'hed and stop in at Motor City Brewing Works for a pint of Ghetto Blaster. Brewed in the tradition of dark English ales, Ghetto Blaster is smooth as they come, but the subtle hops and malty undertones keep sips mighty interesting, no matter how sloshed you might get. Restraint may be signpost for non-fools, but here's a beer that's easy to guzzle, as any worthy froth is; you can down a handful of these bad boys without fear of a hangover.
BEST BEER SELECTION IN STORE
1203 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-541-1414; holiday-market.com
You know those cinematic moments when a character experiences some sort of epiphany, when the room takes on a golden hue and a chorus of singers harmonize a sustaining "ahhh?" That's pretty much what happens when a lager snob strolls down the beer aisle at Holiday Market. Not just the first time, every time. Look, what's great about Holiday is you can make yourself a custom six-pack of beers you've yet to try, you can find all the Michigan-made brews that matter, and you still can come home with a case of domestics ... if that's your thang.
BEST WINE SELECTION IN A STORE
Merchant's Fine Wines
22250 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-563-8700; merchantsfinewine.com
If you're planning a trip to Merchant's (formally Merchant of Vino) and you don't know exactly what poison you're in the mood for, plan on spending time here as shelves are seem never ending and are well-organized, so it's easy to discover exciting new wines and wineries from all over the world — and state. And while the kinds of wines are as various as their price tags, you should note that the medley of beers here is known to drops jaws.
A favorite among rappers — maybe it's just easy to rhyme things with "goose" — Grey Goose might be the first vodka to find its way into the annals of pop culture. It was also the first vodka to be considered "top shelf," mainly because it was marketed as such when it first appeared on shelves back in '97. That was then. Now whether you're shootin' it back by the ounce or mixing with juices, tonics or, as Bond would have it, gin, vermouth and Kina Lillet, Grey Goose is still atop the market.
Bell's Brewery (various)
If you started at the front door of Metro Times and traveled 142 miles west, you'd find yourself at Larry Bell's prestigious brewery in Kalamazoo. Bell's is legendary — its appreciators aren't mere fans, but more like family ... or an army. What other brewery yields such an anticipation of select seasonal brews? When it's time for Bell's yearly release of Hopslam and Expedition Stout, beer aficionados get pretty excited, but when they release Oberon it's a nothing short of a city-wide event.
Johnnie Walker (various)
Johnnie Walker just sounds cool, like it should be the name of the frontman of your favorite new band: Johnny Walker & the Schnockered. Alas, he's a rock star of sorts ... and plenty of real rock 'n' rollers have gotten to know the man — hell, blown out their livers — all too well. Whether you have a bottle of recession-friendly Red Label — the ideal scotch whisky for mixing — or the more complex (and pricey) black, green, gold or blue label varieties, rest assured that old Johnnie's a premium product. How could so many Detroiters be wrong? Let us all hail the beauty of Johnnie Walker!
BEST COMEDY CLUB
Go! Comedy Improv Theater
261 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-327-0575
Laughs are one commodity this battered Rust Belt community is always in need of, and Go! Comedy is all too willing to tickle what's left of your weary funny bone. A formerly grimly utilitarian Secretary of State office in Ferndale has morphed into a jubilant home base for Detroit's scattered improv comedy tribes, with all the off-the-cuff humor one could ever dream of. Only a few months old but already growing a rep, the theater offers an ambitious five-night-a-week lineup of improvised yuks, sketch troupes and original semi-scripted productions, complete with bells, whistles and audience participation galore. Funny-men PJ Jacokes and Chris DiAngelo lead a large and ever-evolving cast of improvisers, ready to make with the funny, and ready to give away their trade secrets through workshops and classes. They also serve kooky "dare shots" like the BLT, and it don't get funnier than bacon-flavored booze.