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Spend the night

Best strip-bar DJ: DJ Kristen, Player's Lounge
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Published 10/18/2006

Best watering hole
Tom’s Tavern
10093 W. Seven Mile Rd.
Detroit; 313-862-9768

Getting shit-faced in northwest Detroit has never been quite so comfy. Walk into Tom’s with a get-acquainted plan, and you’ll stumble out armed with hastily scrawled phone numbers on backs of moist beer labels. In fact, the tiny Tom’s has all the warmth of a ski lodge pub minus the turtlenecks and taxidermy. What’s more, its exterior resembles a shantytown lean-to; it’s flimsy and skewed, as if propped up on prayers and poppycock. And the sloping den is storied — there have been fires and locally famous drinkers (uh, Mike Ilitch anyone?), and an out-of-control van recently plowed into the place. But stand it does. A Greek guy (that would be Tom) acquired the place in 1928 — during Prohibition! — and ran it until his 1991 death. It continues to operate as a second home to cheery, red-nosed regulars, amateur drunks, button-down swillers, tarty spillers and the occasional local rock star looking to step beyond some tired Cass Corridor scenester fest. The kitchen serves food, the juke sports Holiday, Seger and Lennon, and Bukowski quips are scribbled in the pisser. How perfect.

Best Dive Bar Strip with Music
Tap Room, Elbow Room,
TC’s Speakeasy
Vicinity of Washington Street and Michigan Avenue, Ypsilanti

Seemingly worlds away from neighboring Ann Arbor, the Tap Room, on the corner of Washington and Michigan anchors a trio of comfy, pretense-free dive bars that all offer great music. The Tap Room and its annex host an acoustic open-mic night Monday, an electric open-mic night Thursday and an acoustic showcase Fridays hosted by John Latini. Along with Sunday nights at Ann Arbor’s Old Town this is one of the best places to get tipsy with one of the area’s many unsung singer-songwriters. Next door on Washington, the edgier Elbow Room has been booking great music for years. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club played there to indifferent regulars back in 2000, and Wolf Eyes have also laid waste to the stage. A few doors down from the Tap Room on Michigan, the roomier TC’s Speakeasy has music on Fridays and Saturdays. Of course, no sampling of Washtenaw County dive bars would be complete without a trip to Ann Arbor’s 8 Ball Saloon (also the winner of the last place you want to mess with the bouncers award) or Chelsea’s Seitz’s Tavern (which is like walking into a hunting bar up North in the 1940s).

Best Bloody Mary Bar
The Bronx
4476 Second Ave., Detroit
313-832-8464

Nurse that hangover with the glorious nectar of mornings-after: the Bloody Mary. You can pick your poison if you crawl into the Bronx on Saturdays and Sundays, where a self-serve Bloody Mary bar is available between noon and 5. The bartender calls the shots (which involve liberal libations of vodka), but you do the rest: You can play mad scientist à la Emeril with a makeshift table crowded with celery, hot sauces and pickled goodness. Plus, there’s still plenty of free bacon on Sunday nights. Frequented by bespectacled academics and bulbous-nosed drunks alike, the Bronx, much like the hangover, is one of society’s great equalizers.

Best blue-collar gay bar
The Male Box
3537 E. Seven Mile Rd., Detroit
313-892-5420

Located on a particularly down-at-the-heels stretch of Seven Mile (ever notice most of the gay bars in Detroit are located in the worst parts of town?), the Male Box is a little intimidating at first. The people wandering the streets are twitchy in the worst kind of way, and the bar is pretty much a no-frills place. But once you’re inside, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and the crowd is surprisingly diverse in ages and races. Unlike flashy high-priced dance bars, this is strictly a beer-and-shot kind of place, and there’s even a pool table and dartboard. The owners are swell folks, too, and support education in the community; they host the monthly gatherings of AL-GAMEA, a Detroit support group for gay and lesbian Arabs. And fear not for your car stereo — the parking lot is well-lit and guarded.

Best Ad Hoc Frat Party
Woody’s Diner
208 Fifth St., Royal Oak
258-543-6911

Collars popped and beers in hand, the attractive postcollege clientele of Woody’s looks just a semester away from keg stands and sorority mixers. This three-level establishment has a sports bar on the first floor, a dance club on the second and an open-air bar on the roof. “Coupling” occurs at rates comparable to your typical Greek shindig — and the dirty old men are kept to a minimum. If your roots are showing, have them re-dyed before entering this Thunderdome of one-night stands.

Best nightclub for jazz and romance
Baker’s Keyboard Lounge
20510 Livernois Ave., Detroit
313-345-6300

Sure, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge gets the nods for things like best club to hear mainstream jazz (not too smooth, nothing to avant-ish, later for that amped-up fusion) or the best place to soak up jazz history (after all, it opened in 1939 when the intersection of Eight Mile and Livernois still had cornfields and its walls have heard the evolution of jazz from then on). But we’re here now to praise the two-person snuggle booths along the back wall in a club where the seating is close and the lights are a little low — just right for popping the question — actually, any number of questions.

Best bar where everybody knows your name
Slows Bar BQ
2138 Michigan Ave., Detroit
313-962-9828

The service may be slow (hence the name), but it’s cute and friendly. When Molly is at the bar, she’ll give you a wink. And when proprietor Phil Cooley and his partner Dean St. Souver spin “Yacht Rock” — smooth sounds of the ’70s and ’80s — the setting, whether indoors, glowing from the copper-topped bar, or out on the patio, is an oasis. Choose from 20-plus beers alone on tap; Beer Noir is a chocolaty choice as sweet as the scene.

Best bar to see art sloshed
Motor City Brewing Works
470 W. Canfield St.
313-832-2700

This Week in Art, an art show held every Wednesday evening at the microbrewery, has turned into the place to see local work. The event has spurred artists to create impromptu drawings as free handouts; there’s even the occasional performance, including a memorable night of monologues by Motor City resident barkeep, the hostile and inhospitably hilarious Dan DeMaggio. Exhibit organizer, artist and bartender Graem Whyte couldn’t be more modest about what he’s done. Metro area artists now have a place to show and sell work at an affordable price without the hassle of opening-night showmanship to impress the deep pockets. This Week in Art also gives them a place to test their ideas without going all-out on a project. Notable showings include the recent spiderweb-like installation by artist John Chwekun and drawings by the numerous guests of Whyte and artist Faina Lerman’s wedding, scribbled on their invitation’s RSVP cards. From 7 to 11 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Best place to network and dance in a window
Flood’s Bar & Grille
733 St. Antoine, Detroit
313-963-1090

Flood’s Bar and Grille is where the city’s power elite rubs shoulders with the masses on dancing feet. It’s got great soul food, a long, classy wood bar running down the center of the main room, and a top-shelf liquor selection. But mostly, it’s got atmosphere to spare. It’s a place for talk about party politics and partying of the nonpartisan variety. With the not-so-ample dance floor and the DJ or band squeezed into the front window on St. Antoine, there’s an ostentatious element to everyone’s every move — or your every move. It just depends on whether you’re inside getting down or lingering outside and looking on.

Best local percussionist to make club music come alive
Jared Sykes

As necessary as house and progressive music is to the bling-conscious scenes at such weekend-friendly clubs as Mosaic in Greektown, Ferndale’s Posh or Dirty Martini in Novi, the music’s relentless and slick thump inevitably starts to sound rote, the forgettable background static of another artificially shiny evening. And that’s when a guy like Sykes is a lifesaver. With his percussion rig set up alongside the DJ’s turntables, Sykes’ steady supporting rhythm on the congas and rapid-fire fills lend an organic allure to even the most hollow of electronic sets, drawing on the Latin flavor of the Miami club scene but adding to that an open-handed slap that’s pure Detroit. It’s not that the DJs he works with are a snooze — Sykes is a regular wingman for dudes like John Arnold and Jeremy “Ayro” Ellis, and they’re talented in their own right. But with the lively, entirely real bump of his percussion added, their sets are often elevated beyond remixes of the moment or the usual four-on-the-floor.

Best strip-bar DJ
DJ Kristen, Player’s Lounge
13710 E. Eight Mile Rd., Detroit
313-371-6970

Reddish-blond with a clean complexion, DJ Kristen is pretty and unassuming. And she’s a kind of unsung hero among area strip bars. First, she’s one of only a few female DJ’s working the clubs. And second, her ability to pace the scene and gauge the senses of club patrons is uncanny. It’s as if she understands male longing as much as she does sexual tension. Hers is an intuitive DJ skill — one not easily learned — born of countless hours spinning and programming according to dancers’ needs and presumed desires. From her hidden, tree house-like perch in the corner of Player’s, she’s well-aware of the politics of this particular dance floor. “I keep [the dancers] happy,” she told Metro Times not long ago, while cueing up the faux-Madonna twitter of Exposé’s 1986 freestyle hit, “Come Go with Me.” “But I have to keep a decent mix in the bar too.” Modest words, indeed.

Best Beer Selection in a Bar
Berkley Front
3087 12 Mile Rd., Berkley
248-547-3331

A gigantic dry-erase board stretches the length of the bar in the first-floor beer room of Berkley Front. Cramped script lists out every brew the comfortably shouty local favorite currently features, from low-life exotics like Pabst Blue Ribbon to stodgy English ales, small-circulation Michigan brews and German imports so thick you need a fork to drink them. (In the German category, there’s usually a cacophonous syllabic collision that you swear is a bartender’s joke, until you discover that the beer in question wins blue ribbons that still actually count for something.) On any visit there are something like 40 taps and those are just the actives — distinctive tappers line the walls, waiting for their chance to help slosh suburban Detroit, part artwork and all potential. (Bottles included, the bar’s beer list tops out at more than 100 brews.) A musty aroma usually hovers around the bar area, something like decomposing fruit mixed with a college house basement. But given that it’s a byproduct of all the tasty craft beers consumed, Berkley Front might be the only bar in the metro area that can call being known for its smell a good thing.

Best place to stay the night
The Inn at 97 Winder Street
97 Winder St., Detroit
313-832-4348

Detroit residents Ghassan Yazbeck and Marilyn Nash-Yazbeck recently rehabbed this 1876 Victorian mansion in Brush Park, transforming it into a bed and breakfast for decadent travelers, as well as Detroiters looking for a luxurious stay away from home. The Yazbecks have a passion for museum-quality art and antiques, including local art by Jerome Ferretti and others. The inn’s rooms alternate in style between art deco, mid-century modern and old-world European elegance, with lush Middle Eastern and Asian rugs set in front of several of the bedroom suites’ private fireplaces for lounging. Amenities include a full gourmet breakfast and cable access. But why would you want to stay in with the nightlife at the Fox Theatre and the Detroit Opera House just around the corner? The Inn is Detroit as it used to be, the Paris of the Midwest.

Best destination for rotgut booze and rock ’n’ roll
2500 Club
2500 Park Ave., Detroit
313-962-9077

It’s a beat-up brick cube of a building, its only immediate neighbors a taxicab depot and scattered empty lots that double as dumping grounds for errant cement chunks and sheets of shattered safety glass, and sometimes the bustle of nearby Woodward Avenue and happily dull watering holes like Hockeytown seem so far away. But 2500 Club’s bunker quality suits its reputation perfectly, since it’s one of the best sources in the city for throwback punk rock and unapologetic heavy metal love. (As well as whatever else they decide to book.) The club is also back in action after some recent and unfortunate static over its lease and liquor license, and that’s great news for fans of its cheap booze, fantastically graceless decor (a random sampling of 1970s rec room, biker gang clubhouse and old-man bar), weekend punk, hardcore and metal shows, and DJs of a similar bent each weeknight. Pretense is locked up in 2500’s basement.

Best place to sober up and/or vomit inconspicuously
City Club
(Leland Hotel, 200 Bagley St., Detroit, unmarked entrance)

Nothing wakes you up and works the alcohol out of your system more than the sight of a drunken chick in a thong pelvic-grinding a heavy-lidded, stringy-haired Marilyn Manson wannabe in a sea of black-clad misanthropy charged one credit-card at time. City Club. Love it, hate it or both, it’s been around for two decades now and shows no sign of slowing, especially since a new generation of Hot Topic gothlings pop up to fill its darkened corners every few years. It’s also open until 4 a.m., so it’s a good place to dance away your B.A.C. before the ride back to suburban hell — or, as so many nubile young punkers before you have done, find a semiprivate corner to expel your misunderstood rebellion. (Oh, yeah, and that pitcher of Long Island Iced Tea you downed before last call.)

Best Late-Night Drunken Diner Hangout
Duly’s Place
5458 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit
313-554-3076

We fret at sharing this news for fear of even more drunkards making the trek next weekend, but shedding light on little gems like this is what MT’s here for. There is nowhere else in Detroit where a boozed stranger will buy you a meal just for putting up with him as he nods off into his meal or leans on you from his stool three seats to the right. Which other coney island will serve up a plate of jalepeño scrambled eggs with a side of authentic Albanian folk music, courtesy of the happily strumming waitstaff? Let me hear your balalaika ringing out! And at long last, if the Mayo and his friends take a liking to you, the crew has been known to hand out Dum Dum pops as you stumble into the morning light. Duly’s truly is a sweet treat.

Best place to explain avant-garde jazz
Kerrytown Concert House
415 N. Fourth Ave., Ann Arbor
734-769-2999

What is this skrawk-ass noise? your friend wants to know. Ornette Coleman blah blah, you say. John Coltrane yadda yadda yadda, you say. John Zorn, avant tradition, improvisational imperative, freedom from the strictures of chords and Tin Pan Alley yoohoo yahoddy, you say. Shut up. After a point there’s no explaining. Assuming your friend’s reacting to records, there’s always the explanation in the flesh, going to see the music live, up close, see a cat sweat while he (or she) screams. Listen to the music like that, then let your friend decide whether or not to declare it all pretentious fakery or some of the most exciting music around. And you should think about doing your show-and-tell at the Kerrytown Concert Hall’s intimate space, where the sound is immaculate, the programming is challenging, and capacity is 110 seats max. It may not have the intended effect, but that’s your friend’s problem. With a place so cozy, you’ll likely make new friends while you’re there.

Best new jazz club
Cliff Bells
2030 Park Ave., Detroit
313-961-6422

The long-shuttered club has been reopened and returned to its 1930s luster with an elegant bar of high-polish wood and gold-leaf on the ceiling. It’s a spacious room — the antithesis of Baker’s coziness — but a friendly one that accommodates patrons who want to sit close for the music and those who are just fine hanging back at the bar. The sound is good, and the local music programming has been inspired, with current attractions that include a jam session on Tuesdays (hosted by suave guitarist-vocalist Michael Gabriel) and Scott Gwinnell’s ambitious big band on Wednesdays. There’s been good jazz in that corner of downtown in decades past, including the old Café Con Brio and the John Sinclair-helmed Detroit Jazz Center. Let’s hope the return to form goes on and on.

Best cozy strip club
Bev’s Backstreet Lounge
7468 E. Davison St., Hamtramck
313-365-7136

Bev’s is a dim, cozy den situated in an east side industrial area with secured parking. On an off night you might find a handful of house girls sitting at the bar chatting up middle-age gents in suits nursing sour marriages — those accustomed to strolling out of joints like this alone, down $100 and smelling like vanilla. You’ll also find male and female biker types in boots and denim, and CEOs of local rap labels offering up the occasional “whoop.” See, this ain’t exactly a gentlemen’s club, and that’s a good thing; here, one gets the feeling that you’ve stepped into some accommodating small-town tavern only without the meth damage and tattered Ford pickups out in the lot. The fetching talent runs the stripway gamut of lithesome white dancers in schoolgirl garb gyrating to G’n’R, to zaftig Vanessa Blue clones shaking it to 50 Cent. The kidney-shaped stage and pole pedestalize the women, their movements, which range from slow and languid to squats and gravity-defying twirls, as if they’re in your living room. The mirrored back wall is perfect for their long and perfected self-obsessed glances.

Best Strip Club for Character
Bouzouki Lounge
432 E. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit
313-964-5744

These days, strip clubs are all so similar. A splash of pink and some gaudy black lights, and that’s that. But the Bouzouki Lounge is different — and better — because the revered club has real character. With its drop ceiling, awkwardly jutting catwalk and a bar that looks like it was hijacked from your local sports pub, it resembles what a strip club might have looked like if it existed in the lobby of an airport Ramada in Soviet-era Russia. But that’s all part of its allure. And besides, the drinks are reasonable, the waitstaff’s friendly, and the dancers are eager, making this downtown favorite a quadruple threat.

Best sign that “Hey, Hey, the Blues Are All Right!”
The Attic Bar
11667 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck
313-365-4194

Where do all the bluesmen (and women) go when their clubs have all but faded away? They return to what’s familiar, in this case  Hamtramck and the dependable confines of the Attic Bar. The Attic has always tried to support the blues, and that hasn’t changed, even in today’s unpredictable nightlife world. You’ll find the blues at the Attic at least four nights a week, and it’s all driven by that Motor City spirit, the one that encourages reverence alongside gritty (or randy) reality, all washed down with generic amplifiers, Better Made chips and dirt cheap domestic.

Best Upscale Strip Club
The Coliseum
11300 E. Eight Mile Rd., Detroit
313-527-6969

They have a helipad for when you really want to be a baller. But even if you haven’t bought that Eurocopter EC120 just yet, the Coliseum will still make you feel like a million bucks. Seriously, this place does the upscale strip club concept right: There’s enough decadence and superficiality on display to suggest illicit fun, but the cheese-factor typical of so many places (particularly on Eight Mile) has been sufficiently cleansed. In other words, Coliseum understands that, even when you don’t want to feel like you’re in a strip club, you still want to know you’re in a strip club. The Coliseum never seems to scrimp on the talent and quality of its dancers — even on a weeknight — and you can eat a steak while paying for the right to flirt with them. That’s almost better than owning your own helicopter.

Best dance club
Oslo
1456 Woodward Ave., Detroit
313-963-0300

Since opening as an sushi bar (upstairs) and dance club (downstairs) in 2004, Oslo has had something for nearly everyone. It’s straight, gay, black, white; a magnet for perky techno groupies and a comfort zone for veteran househeads. It might be local on Friday, international on Saturday. Michael Mayer and Superpitcher have traveled from Cologne; Ellen Allien, Miss Kittin, Rich Hawtin and Luciano from Berlin; and Kenny Dixon Jr., Aaron-Carl, Theo Parrish and others have come to plug in at the downtown hot spot from neighborhoods across the metro area. Sure, the haters have drawn their knives and attempted to carve Oslo to pieces, and, yes, the bar has been guilty of running out of ice and clean glassware way too often. But it just keeps on delivering the sonic boom and bang. Nothing is better than descending the back stairs at 3 a.m. and entering a pitch-black room filled with beats and bodies in motion. On a weekly basis, nothing in Detroit comes remotely close.

Best DJ in Detroit
YOU…

Who’s the best working DJ in Detroit — where DJ talent has been famously exported to all continents since the 1980s? The question is a tough one. Of the figures that built the techno 4/4 foundation still widely referenced everywhere, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May are past their prime and Juan Atkins, Jeff Mills, and Rob Hood have been out of town for years. Carl Craig has reignited his DJ career, having produced some of his best tracks in a decade via his apocalyptic Demon Days project. But while Demon Days regularly rolls through New York, London and Tokyo, it has no regular presence here in Detroit. Gospel house innovator Terrence Parker recently moved to Las Vegas, leaving another hole in the local scene, and the newer wave led by Matthew Dear, Ryan Elliott, Seth Troxler, Lee Curtiss and Ryan Crosson has also become increasingly international. So, the best answer to the D’s best working DJ? Why not you? It could be if you find a sound and commit to making everyone dance until the night becomes the morning, which is what this music was about in the first place. And then in two years we’ll write about how you’re decamping Detroit for the totally hot Shanghai scene.

Best place to earn $100 for your own urine
Hellbound (monthly party, rotating locations)

Allow us to recount a tale: A young woman, dressed in a fetching, subdued ensemble of head-to-toe latex polished with personal lubricant, attends the monthly fetish party known as Hellbound, sponsored by the Detroit area’s venerable one-stop kink shop Noir Leather. Upon entering the festivities, the pretty young thing is approached by a strapping gentleman in a suit, who offers her a business deal: If she urinates in one of her spike heeled shoes and allows him to drink the spew, he’ll pay her $100. The young lass is aghast. As her stylish footwear cost her $120, she would be losing $20. She allowed the strapping gentleman to suckle her toenails instead, and everyone lived happily ever after.

Best reason to stop mourning the loss of Zoot’s Coffee House
Bohemian National Home
3009 Tillman St., Detroit
313-737-6606

All those hangs of yore — Zoot’s, the Detroit Art Space, even the Gold Dollar — they’re all long gone, and the sooner we get over eulogizing them and start replacing them, the better off we’ll be. Bohemian booking guru Joel Peterson has taken that assertion and run with it in 2006, turning this tumbledown near west side gathering place into a consistently rewarding destination for adventurous art, music, and film from local, national and international artists. It still has the feel of a secret hideout, which is nice, especially since so many of the shows that occur at Bohemian cater to a discerning crowd. But it’s also friendly and inclusive, meaning that Bohemian should really be on your radar if it isn’t already. It’s only likely to get better in 2007.

Best Women’s Bathroom in a Bar
Northern Lights Lounge
660 W. Baltimore St., Detroit
313-873-1739

We’ve all been in bathrooms as big as living rooms, and living rooms that smell like bathrooms. But never before has Detroit seen a bathroom that looks classier and cozier than most living rooms. The ladies restroom at Northern Lights Lounge features a low-lit alcove designed like your parent’s front room, if your parents had the good and hip sense to appreciate midcentury Danish modern furniture. On a sleek wood end table, there’s even a Scandinavian ceramic ashtray to make smoking a Marlboro Light seem elegant and appropriate as you wait for your stall.

Best place to conjure the ’80s
Danny’s
1271 Riverside Dr. E., Windsor
519-256-2393

OK, so it’s pretty much the only strip joint ’round these parts where the dudes disrobe, but let’s not let that diminish anyone’s enthusiasm. Shucks, if you are the kind of gal who loves the way a bulbous pec looks under a coat of baby oil, and you simply can’t imagine more flattering lighting than a disco ball’s glimmer, who are we to interfere? It’s all a matter of taste anyway, right? A face full of floppy-wiener-encased-in-a-silk-charmeuse-banana-hammock every now and then never hurt anyone. Start breaking the hundos post-haste. Wooooooooooooo!

Best bar to revisit for old time’s sake
Gusoline Alley
308 S. Center St., Royal Oak
248-545-2235

Over the years, Gusoline Alley has been lauded for several, albeit sometimes-dubious reasons. Gus’s dive bar vibe and killer jukebox appealed to music lovers (and Samhain fans — yes, they are mutually exclusive) long before the Bronx re-opened and got the Jack White Seal of Worth. And the bathroom graffiti? The often-esoteric wall scrawls in the shitter at Gus’s — written, edited and perfected by the bar’s regulars — are a lot like ancient hieroglyphics just waiting to be deciphered by the layman. And speaking of regulars, Gus’s gang of Paul Westerberg enthusiasts-cum-sophisticated beer drinkers are always a sight for sore eyes. In fact, what’s best about this place is that, even if the bartenders get a little older and the beer selection gets the occasional seasonal update, if you were a Gus’s patron back in the day, you can plop in there tonight and feel like you never left. Let’s hope the rumors of an imminent closure or move are just dirty gossip.

Best save of a local venue
Small’s
10339 Conant, Hamtramck
313-873-1117

It got a little tetchy over there when ownership first changed hands, but when Small’s current owners took over in October of 2005, all was as it should be. Alas, Small’s is once again a great place to catch local and touring rock ’n’ roll — and they no longer accost patrons at the front door with outrageous cover charges. What was once an outdoor patio has been renovated into a fabulous room with decent acoustics, professional sound guys and an old-school rock joint feel. And that window they added in between the game room and the stage? Effing ingenious. That the new bartenders don’t wear belly shirts and are aware of what a Franziskaner Weissbier is? Well, that’s just plain solace.

Best place to smoke at the movies
Ford-Wyoming Drive In
10400 Ford Rd., Dearborn

Billed as the world’s largest drive-in theater, the Ford-Wyoming harks back to a time when a man’s car was his castle, and every red-blooded American demanded the right to drive into absolutely anything, including a Jackass Number Two/Beerfest double-feature. Sure, the area’s light pollution will turn an atmospheric, moody film into an eye-straining experience. But the real fun is having the freedom to crack open an illicit beverage, paw your date and light up any kind of cigarette you please. How else are you supposed to make it through Employee of the Month?

Best Hamtramck watering hole
Hank’s Bar
3001 Holbrook St., Hamtramck; 313-872-0677

No see-and-be-seen pretension? Check. No wine-snob fakes? Check. Pool, darts and a flickering TV behind the bar? Check. Upstairs apartment living for the bar’s owners? Check. Community spirit and revelry among a multicultural clientele? Check. Snow-haired regulars with a few missing teeth, regaling Hank’s newbies with war stories of old Hamtown? Check. Sounds like any of the other old man bars that blanket this burg like flies on cow pies, right? Sure, but what elevates Hank’s is its hazy, red-hued and relaxed ”neighborhood family” feel. It’s a feel that subscribes to the anti-elitist idea that a “beer is a just beer” and a nightly, barley-fueled stagger home is all part of the plan. You sense that plan is life, their way. And it’s a lovely life at that.

Best place in Hamtramck to get drunk on couch change
Baker’s Streetcar Lounge
9817 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck
313-873-8296

It’s a matter of principle. There’s just no justification for a $3.50 Miller High Life. The proprietors of Baker’s Streetcar Lounge understand this; at their place you can still get a shell of domestic beer for a buck, and a shot of Polish vodka for $2.50. And that 30-minute confab with a grizzled but wise American Axle retiree? That’s a pleasure of Baker’s too, and better than any 30-minute flirting session with some American Apparel wannabe at the dance club downtown. Plus, Baker’s has nachos, man. Nachos.

Best bar that’s not open yet
Mercury Bar
2163 Michigan Ave., Detroit

Last occupied in early ’70s, the Mercury Bar, at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Vernor Highway, has had some bad years, suffering extensive structural damage, including a roof that caved into the basement. But restoration has brought the bar that sits in the shadow of the crumbling Michigan Central Station back from the brink, and today the interior, with its art deco rounded corners and a semicircular soffit above the bar, cries out for our patronage. Unfortunately it’s been idle for about a year, leaving us waiting for the chance to don our old fedora and drink in a place straight out of an Edward Hopper painting. John Lopez, who hopes to open the joint soon, says he’s waiting for approval from the city for a liquor license. Hurry the fuck up, Kwame!

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