Food & DrinkNightlife - Staff Picks
Best Leather Daddy Bar
7330 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-849-2751
Do you like your dudes mustachioed, tatted, uniformed and carved like Eastern European weightlifters? Are you into gloves and tons of biker leather? Enter the R&R Saloon, a simmering den with attendant darkness and laughter. It's where gay guys find real men meeting here to dance in close proximity and get their groove on while hetero hipster chicks whisper and quietly coo. It's also the home of the Mr. Leather Michigan and Mr. Leather Detroit contests — and lord knows the winners and some of those in the running are downright stunners. Note that the "Underwear Wednesdays" are enormously popular.
Best Place to Mount an Ersatz Bull
Coyote Joe's Nightclub
49440 Ryan Rd., Shelby Twp.; 586-254-4666
Much like the Coyote Ugly bar from the movie of the same name, Coyote Joe's celebrates the daisy dukes and rhinestone side of country. Every Urban Cowboy archetype is here, from line dancing and faded denim to pneumatic chests and Stetson hats. Don't expect too much in the way of outlaw country — no Kristofferson or Billy Joe Shaver — and you can catch the Orbitsuns and Whitey Morgan in any dive bar for that. No, this is for the Josh Gracin crowd, the suburban shitkicker in an SUV. Those who like their country hygienically unassailable, in large spacious settings with flatscreens hanging and guitars on walls with first-rate sound and lights and nods to Garth Brooks — while downing copious amounts of whichever drink is on special that week — will absolutely adore this joint.
Best Strip Bar
20771 W. Eight Mile Rd., Detroit; 313-541-7000
Part of the vast Penthouse empire, this club is what you'd likely expect: a gentlemen's venue on the classier end of Eight Mile Road, as opposed to the many stripper-on-a-milk-crate titty bars that you'll likely find upon closer inspection in certain parts of this glorious metropolis. The Penthouse's interior lines shimmer with a certain graceful élan — rich, sparkly hues of lavender, cobalt and ruby — the kind of beauty that's hard to come by inside a strip ... er ... gentlemen's club, if only because of the nature of this particular biz. The girls here are, in a word, stunning; curves span the runway-model-to-zaftig gamut, and many could have sauntered straight off the pages of the club's namesake magazine (or doubled for Jada Fire on a porn set). In this economy, you'd need a second mortgage for drinks and a private booth pretty much anywhere, but the fleshy allure here is so all-consuming that you'll leave grinning, even if you're down a couple hundred and smelling like Baby Phat Goddess and vanilla. Salute!
Best Intimate Acoustic Concert Showroom
316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-761-8181; theark.org
Ann Arbor — and Michigan in general — is fortunate to have the Ark, which is internationally renowned as one of the world's top clubs for folk, acoustic and even occasionally electric folk-rock music. The nonprofit establishment sports an intimate friendly scene — boho in nature — and the place is always a joy to visit, no matter who's playing the small room. But if it's someone you really love, don't miss them here. A few of the shows we've seen there over the last several years — including Nick Lowe with Ron Sexsmith, Robyn Hitchcock, Alejandro Escovedo and a recent awesome performance by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band — stand as some of the greatest shows we've seen this decade.
Best Bar for Friends Who Finally Hit Drinking Age
Slingers Bar & Grill
11791 Farmington Rd., Livonia; 734-421-6070
Despite the unassuming exterior of its squat building in Livonia, inside is the most out-of-control liquor party in the metro area. Under the bar's drop ceiling, you're likely to experience serious, eardrum-shivering bass, and a rowdy crowd whacking away at every surface in sight with drum sticks, chanting "Do It, Motherfucker!" along with the music while they stand up on their stools. Why is everybody up there? That's just how it is at Slingers, where they bang, thump and scream standing as high as possible, with lots of wide Midwestern hips at eye level. They have dancing, juggling bartenders, sweet-ass drinks and a barber's chair so they can whirl you back and pour drinks down your throat, topping you off with naughty whipped cream. In short, it's exactly the kind of bar you'd want to take your friends to when they turn 21.
Best Bar to Watch the Horse Races
Green Dot Stables
2200 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit; 313-965-1523
Walking into the Green Dot on a sunny day, it might take you a few minutes for your eyes to adjust. It's that dark. But when your vision clears, you'll find a bar that's an old-school version of "plush," with deep seats around a big bar, all set up on a carpeted platform. The televisions stay locked on horse races, giving you a front seat for the Sport of Kings, and you can imagine you're back in the days when racing-nuts would clutch their Racing Form and pound the bar screaming when their horse came down the stretch, only to curse and rush to the pay phone to call their bookie. It's a lot more sedate these days, mostly quiet regulars, and you're as likely to take a bartender-administered trivia test as to watch the race. But still — what character! Green Dot's weekday-only schedule (11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, until 2:30 a.m. Fridays) makes it a strictly after-work pleasure, but the owner sometimes opens up for weekend Triple Crowners, if there's enough interest. See you May 1?
Best Excuse to Clean Up and Get Dirty Haute to Death Prom at
2906 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-832-2822
They call themselves Haute to Death. Sometimes just "H2D" when they're not too hammered to talk, and their motto is "our party could be your life." They have dance mixes whose titles (such as "So Necessary") feature artists from Adult., Depeche Mode and Cybotron to Björk, Missy Elliot and Prince. No shit. The whole thing's a gas. Photographer Jon Dones and painter Ash Nowak play DJs as the minds, ears and faces of H2D, a party they take seriously so we don't have to. All of the duo's faux-pretentious glam-wave titles are part of the playtime ethos that define this once-a-month party craze. And while it's not uncommon for H2D parties to spin on a theme, what they do each May is nothing short of club-culture therapy designed to heal those wretched high school wounds. We're talking about the prom here, kids. That's right — it's some sort of great do-over, a chance to redeem yourself on the dance floor and wear a tux or gown on your terms.
Best Bar Resurrection
5756 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-638-6300
Alvin Stillman opened the doors to Alvin's Finer Delicatessen in 1968; its second owner, Barnie Surowitz, helped turn it into an iconic joint. In 1982, George Korinek partnered up with Surowitz to make some changes. The duo attained a liquor license to add the Twilight Bar, and built a stage. Over the decades, Iggy has played there, so have John Lee Hooker and Joni Mitchell. It was legendary, but in recent years there was a long stretch when you didn't know whether Alvin's was open or closed. The historic Cass Avenue venue — also home to the legendary hip-hop nights hosted by the late D-12 rapper and Eminem confidant Proof (DeShaun Holton) — had been mismanaged for the better half of the '00s, earning a bad rep and locked doors. Rumors swelled about renovations and one-off shows, then, out of nowhere, Alvin's was resurrected, fully. Not only does the bar host weekly jam sessions on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and book local talent as varied as blues-hound Johnnie Bassett and indie-folkster Mick Bassett, but they've also added an alluring bar food menu, offering that which can be washed down with Pabst, or something local from Atwater or MCBW. There's been a sound overhaul to match the aesthetic improvement too: the front windows have been replaced by a large glass garage door that opens up for outside seating, and there are HD flatscreens and wi-fi Internet access.
Best Bar Improvement
Sound at the Magic Stick
4140 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700
There's nothing like a good concert in a small room with great sound. It's intimate in every way a concert can be: Bodies bump each other, sweat drips from wet bangs into Jack and Cokes gripped by rollicking strangers, and you can see the band as much as they see you. And when it comes to more intimate live venues, the Magic Stick's one of America's best — so says Rolling Stone. Having said that, there's one way to fuck it all up — bad sound. No matter how much we drink, if the sound engineer or the system sucks, we're screwed. Till quite recently, the Stick's rep had begun to slip due to crap sound. The venue was having difficulty negotiating the subsonic bass of hip-hop shows, and we couldn't hear the rappers. Likewise, the room swallowed the sound of any band with more than three members, and buzz-kill technical difficulties were as rehearsed as the show. We're pleased to report that things are not back to normal. The Stick now sounds sick.
Best New Venue
4140 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700
The historic Majestic Theatre complex (owned and operated by the beloved Zainea clan) has seen its fair share of updates in recent years, including the addition of the Alley Deck bar, which immediately proved to be a popular summer chill spot. Last year, we witnessed a drastic overhaul of the Majestic Café restaurant. It's still called that, and you can still find food there but there are fewer tables, because the space has been reconfigured for an even more intimate music venue than what the Magic Stick can offer. Joining the ranks of Crofoot's Pike Room in Pontiac and PJ's Lager House in Corktown, the Majestic Café is so small you can toss in 50 hungry scenesters and it looks full.
Best Gallery/Venue After Midnight
5 E Gallery
2125 Michigan Ave., Detroit
Culturally enriching and undoubtedly funked up, the 5 E Gallery — dubbed after the killer Detroit hip-hop crew 5 Ela — ain't only Detroit's staple urban-centric art spot, but it's the city's best bet when it's late night and you're not even close to being ready for home. Founded by 5 Ela's DJ Sicari as an outlet for the Detroit art and music community to come together and take part in expression, the main mission of the city-centric nonprof is to increase public awareness of the arts community through rather tasteful urban art exhibitions and singular educational programs. Its secondary mission is simply to show a good time, and the gallery is not short on those. From fashion shows to graffiti demos, break-dancing competitions, dance parties and live shows, 5 E is an eclectic and insomniac venue that rocks well past midnight. (At press time, the gallery is set move into a new home, the former Zeitgeist Gallery at 2661 Michigan Ave., five blocks west of 5 E's current location. Founder DJ Sicari recently said in an interview that he's excited to stay in the same neighborhood and that the new space is "bigger, better, it has a back patio and a stage.")
Best Reason to Start (or Stop!) Going to Bars Again
We feel for the smokers among us — including many on MT's payroll — and know the gravitational pull nicotine has once drinks are downed. And we're braced to hear you all whine. But get over it. Other states have made the leap, and smokers have somehow survived. At least take comfort in the fact you'll be making all sorts of new pals who'll be showing up at bars much more often now that they won't be exposed to nauseating fumes or waking up in the morning with the nasty smell of stale smoke permeating clothes and hair. Then again, we'll still have to endure the car fumes, human exhaust, city smog, rank processed air inside buildings and the wretched perfumes of others. ...
Main Art Theatre
118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111
Though you wouldn't really consider the cool indie dramas, art-house epics and cult trash that the Main specializes in to be "popcorn pictures," this Royal Oak institution sure has a touch with everybody's favorite cinema snack. Who knows why it's so damn good? It could be the ample helpings of butter that the friendly staff is all too happy to lather on; could be the secret weapons are those do-it-yourself seasonings. Either that or it's the particular in-house popper, and the smart blend of popping corn, oil and salt.
Best Indie Film Theater
The Burton Theatre
3420 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-473-9238
As the chains continue to build ever-grander multiplexes in farther-flung corners of the suburbs, the prospects of a new cinema option downtown seemed highly unlikely at best. Apparently no one told the maverick crew of onetime Landmark employees who converted a portion of the former Burton International School into Detroit's newest must-visit cultural attraction. They came charging out of the gate with an audacious and sometimes controversial programming slate that highlighted everything from foreign gems (Spirit of the Beehive) to exploitation classics (Dolemite). Even more incredible was the ambitious weeklong independent film festival that showcased dozens of local talents and brought in big guns such as zombie maestro George A. Romero. All of this in a semi-desolate section of the Cass Corridor that had been left for dead. The rebirth of cool starts right here.
The Henry Ford
20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn; 313-271-1570
Ignoring the inherent irony that a historical museum would be home to the most state-of-the-art film technology, the Henry Ford is in fact the best place in town to experience the mind-blowing best in Hollywood amusement. While the Science Center has that funky, '70s style dome seating, and some of the other chains claim to have IMAX, they just can't compete with the 6-story-tall, 84-foot wide monster screen on display in Dearborn. We won't bore you with the tech specs, but an IMAX frame is 10 times larger than a standard 35 mm frame, the xenon lamp is nearly as bright as the sun, and the sound system has more bass and subwoofers than a lowrider convention. If you're shelling out extra scratch for 3-D, this is the way to go, and right next door you can see butter churned at Greenfield Village — all the more reason to be thrilled you have modern entertainment options.
Best Lesbian Bar
1641 Middlebelt Rd., Inkster; 734-729-8980
For more than 14 years, Stiletto's has been among the most, if not the most, popular lesbian bars and clubs in Metro Detroit, and it has been a Metro Times fave for long-ass time. In short, the drag nights are a downright blast and a half, and such performers as Trixie Deluxxe get the ladies whooping and hollering. Wildside Fridays are theme nights, but Saturdays are the most popular, as the club presents what they describe as the "women's largest dance party."
Best Disco Party
at the R&R Saloon, 7330 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-849-2751
When DJs Mike Trombley (a onetime Sights drummer) and Scott Zachariask first brushed the cobwebs off their collections of disparaged disco tunes of yesteryear, did they have any idea what they were on to? This monthly party celebrates its one-year anniversary of "disco debauchery" on April 24 — and it's a year that's been marked by capacity crowds, lines down the street at the motley leather bar R&R (who'd have ever thunk it?) and an amazing and varied guest list that includes everyone from blogger Supergay Detroit to French disco queen Nancy Fortune, from one-man funk machine Publicist (aka Sebastian Thomas, drummer for Trans Am) to enigmatic Italo-disco futurist Black Devil Disco Club. With Year One offering such hip-swiveling, sweaty goodness, we can only imagine what Year Two will bring.
Best Bar to Get Your Candy on in Booze Form
Hard Luck Lounge
15410 Mack Ave., Grosse Pointe Park; 313-884-5825
10 W. Adams, Detroit; 313-974-7470; hardlucklounge.com
Hard Luck Lounge has a lot to recommend it — the mirthful staff, the fetching Vegas-y decor (Peter Lawford, natch!), the neighborhood-drinking-hole-meets-classy-lounge aesthetic. But the real reason to frequent this east side den (and a second location, soon opening downtown) is for its candy-flavored cocktails. Of particular note is the red fish, which comes in martini and shot form, and tastes exactly like Swedish Fish candy, those delectably chewy gummy fish with the off-putting motto "A Friend You Can Eat!" It has the flavor, but none of the teeth-sticking side effects. Plus, it's alcoholic! So popular are these sweet-tasting libations that Hard Luck recently launched its own brand of 70-proof, candy-infused vodka, Hard Luck Candy. Current flavors include Red Fish and Root Beer Barrel, which make for dandy candy booze, indeed.
Best Spot for a Poetry Reading
The Scarab Club
217 Farnsworth St., Detroit; 313-831-1250
The historic Scarab Club was built on literature. Literally. A poem by Gordon Damon, along with other items, is sealed in a time capsule within the building brick. For more than 100 years, the club has been a home for the arts in Detroit. And it's still going strong today. Check out the "Downtown Literary Arts Series," 2 to 4 p.m., Sundays, for free readings by local and national writers. The venue also hosts the Woodward Line, a monthly poetry series co-sponsored by Springfed Arts of Metro Detroit.
Best Place to Spot a Random Rockabilly Band Mid-Week
3087 W. 12 Mile Rd., Berkley; 248-547-3331
It's true, Berkley might not be metro Detroit's most rock 'n' roll burb, despite the fact Marshall Crenshaw and Curtis "Booger" Armstrong (Revenge of the Nerds) hail from here, and the MC5's Rob Tyner settled here for many years. Yet the Berkley Front, with its impressive selection of hand-pulled and bottled beers, is one of the damned coolest music venues in the entire region. It's not strictly a rockabilly bar, and the gig listings show a diverse selection of bands on offer in any given month. Still, somebody in charge of the booking over there is a fan of '50s-esque rock with Gene Vincent-cum-Stray Cats hairstyles and double basses, because it seems like anytime anybody ventures in off-the-cuff with a random desire to see some live music, a band like Desolation Angels is ripping up some white trash boogie, wearing jeans with over-large turn-ups, sporting some frankly frightening sideburns and singing of hot rods, chicks, drinking and drinking with chicks. Which, let's face it, on a Thursday night in the suburbs, is shit-fire awesome. Who knew the McCarthy era was so free, easy and tolerant?
Best Jukebox to Find that Song You First Smoked Weed to in High School
309 S. Center St., Royal Oak; 248-545-2235
Yeah, yeah, we've been chirping Gusoline's juke for what feels like ages. It wins a staff pick nearly every year, and that's no mean feat, 'cause we swill nightly at all colors of shitholes that sport great jukes. But here, after one flip through its plastic pages, we are instantly reminded of the perfect ninth grade soundtrack to our first-ever bong hit. Nestled amid such indie-ish stars as Supergrass (RIP) and the Super Furry Animals, you get punk classics like the Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks and the Clash's London's Calling; you'll also hit play on such locals as the Grande Nationals and Detroit Cobras, or such ever-perplexing perpetual college dorm heroes as Pink Floyd and Zappa, and probably Robert Johnson's mythical lost song. We recommend playing the heady "suicide selection" by sliding in a few bucks and punching up random numbers. You'll never be disappointed, and, if you happen to be in the correct toxic haze, you might discover a gem of a tune that you'd never, in a million years, listen to.
Best Place to Visit a Brothel Without Really Visiting a Brothel
22634 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-546-3644
Here's the deal — up until the early '90s, the Loving Touch was one of those proletariat-friendly "massage parlors" your mom shook her head about when you were a kid. Part of the WAB building, it lay dormant for the best part of two decades until it reopened as a very cool (in the best, most linear of meanings) bar in 2008. Owner Chris Johnston retained the old moniker and kept just enough of the natty seediness — with his tongue firmly in his cheek — to give the place an amusing, if not fetching, ambient glow. While the place is a respectable hipster hangout these days, it's hard to sit and work a beer without at least letting your mind drift into what may have been real carnal carnage that Loving Touch's walls have seen.
Best Place for Sushi and a VIP Party
326 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-546-0888
While it has nothing to do with De Niro's near-perfect caper flick, the care that went into designing Ronin is obvious, its sorta Bauhaus simplicity, from its dim lighting to ultra-low tables, gives off a warming kind of rhythm and feel; whoever designed the place was a real aesthete, to be sure. Figure in the socially gifted servers — plus owner Hugh's greeting grin — and the main room's ambience rivals the badass VIP room upstairs, where all manner of frivolities go down. The sushi is, arguably, among metro Detroit's best, and there are menu items available for those who aren't necessarily piscivorous, or those who shun raw chow.
Best Place to See a Band That You Thought Had Broken Up Decades Ago
65 E. Huron St., Pontiac; 248-333-2362
Whether it be the Happy Mondays or the Psychedelic Furs, the great and cavernous Clutch Cargo's will always jump the nostalgia train just for you, and God bless 'em too. See, we need those bands who've stubbornly stuck around beyond their peak popularity if only to remind us of little lovely Julie McCullough in seventh grade. Thing is, there's still a mad audience for "hits" tours — by once-cutting-edge bands, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, the only bands making a living are mostly those whose best days are past and are now out playing the old songs. Beyond that, Clutch Cargo's, between its packed club nights and special events, isn't just about vet acts. Hell no. At press time we're looking forward to the Extreme Midget Wrestling show coming through the Clutch! Neat!
Best Place to Watch Blues and Jazz While Sucking Down Prime Filet
Dirty Dog Jazz Café
97 Kercheval Ave., Grosse Pointe Farms; 313-882-5299
Isn't that the perfect name for a Detroit jazz and blues place? Dirty Dog — it suggests inner city grime, of shadowy characters blowing horns late at night under garish neon to the sound of hooker heels tapping back and forth. You picture some guy called Phil "Dirty Dog" Taylor, straight out of a David Goodis novel set in 1950s Philly, or something. ... Well, the Dirty Dog isn't that — no, it's beautiful and well-kept in silk wallpaper, elegant table seating, ornate fixtures and statuary. And there's a menu to match. The music's played — in a very intimate setting — with various emotions that go lengths to set the night's tone, and it's dirty, lovely, soaring and inspired, sometimes all at once, by such artists as jazz poet-philosopher Mose Allison, George "Sax" Benson and local forever-blues diva Thornetta Davis. Seats vanish quickly so it's recommended that you arrive early. Better yet, make a reservation.
Best Place to Still Get Pulled Across a Dance Floor by Your Eyebrow Ring
400 Bagley St., Detroit; 313-962-2300
Like a scene out of The Crow, CityClub has been the best S&M-tinged industrial music club in Detroit for 20 years, and it seems that there will always be a place for the leather fetish Goth peeps to meet. You'll see piercings that defy nature, and probably a gas mask or two. But you won't see strap-on training or tinkle sports, and other such dungeonesque things. It's a subterranean club, sure, but law-abiding. The music pumps, in that post-apocalyptic, KMFDM way. Those outside the scene might think that it's a vision of hell, and that's the point. It's all harmless, fun mimicry; some dressy-upsy and dancing, and everybody looks like they're having a jolly old time. Yes, even the perpetual, grim-faced downers.
Best History to Keep Swinging
Baker's Keyboard Lounge
20510 Livernois Ave., Detroit; 313-345-6300; bakerskeyboardlounge.com
With the buzz as a newer hip spot, consistent local offerings and some big-name events (like the Hot Club of Detroit's collaborations with James Carter and others), it's not surprising that Cliff Bell's has upset Baker's usual status as the readers' choice jazz spot. Baker's near-demise due to multiple financial issues has been news the last two years, and the acts don't have the consistent panache of a decade back, let alone the heyday. But don't count the world's oldest jazz joint out. Along with newer names on the marquee, there are such longtime local faves as Dwight Adams and Dennis Coffey. And the club's 76th anniversary celebrations kick off May 1, starting with the superb Claude Black Trio plus the Netherlands-based singer Denise Jannah (hailed by no less than Gary Giddins as one of the great heirs to Ella et al. to arrive in the last quarter century). We could go on about the history, the romantic wall booths, the sight lines, the sound, the soul food, the vibe.
Best Sound System that Nobody Knows About
2932 Caniff St., Hamtramck; 313-874-0909
It was one of the premier rock 'n' roll venues in the city back in the '80s, but the last couple of decades have been hard on Paycheck's. However the owner, Paycheck, has installed new lighting and a sound system, and hired a couple of soundmen whose ears are not made of tin, and the venue is slowly but surely building its rep back up. During Blowout, it is one of the better venues in terms of sound. The challenge is getting similar crowds in year-round, but recent shows have certainly lifted the venue's local rep.
Best Place to Check Out Art on the Wall While Listening to Live Indie Rock
10215 Joseph Campau St., Hamtramck; 313-871-1966
You know that thing when you get to a show early in order to check out the opening bands or emcees, and they all suck? Unless you're with a group of buddies all determined to have a good time no matter how lame the music, the support act can quickly become an endurance test. Thankfully, the Belmont took the initiative and tackled the issue by covering its walls with work of local artists, all up for sale. It's not always great, but it's usually interesting. Lean against the pool table and gaze at a warped caricature of a Rubenesque chick, nude. What could be more appealing than that?
Best Place to Revert to an 18-Year-Old Slayer Fan
2281 W. Fort St., Detroit; 313-964-1000
Like Alvin's, the Blondies name has been resurrected, in a new location, and metal is the order of the day. A quick look down their listings, and such names as Entombed, Obituary and Death Angel jump out in spiky leather jackets. The original club shuttered in '94, but in its time played host to such bands as Slayer, so the owners seem to have picked up where the original location left off. And this place is beautiful. So, all you young dudes, grow your hair to your ass, wear surly expressions, rinse that musty Metallica T with the Pushead art and dust off your patched denim. War ensemble!
Best Bar That Shares Its Name With a Legendary Bar
Bookies Bar & Grill
2208 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-962-0319
Back in the late '70s and the '80s, Bookie's was the place that Detroit punk bands like the Sillies, the Boners, Destroy All Monsters and Coldcock called home. UK bands like the Damned and the Police loved playing there. It was, by all accounts, an awesome punk rock club. Fast forward 30 years, the punks have all grown up and there's a new Bookies in town. It's over on Cass. This one has a classy wine bar feel, with the decor veering toward '30s Chicago gangland. Same name — plus or minus an apostrophe — very very different place. There is, in fact, a killer rooftop patio, cozy VIP rooms and a huge HD screen. It's a cool, even graceful, place to hang, and the one thing it has in common with the old Bookie's is that it still hosts live music, although you're more likely to find a DJ or a sports bar throwdown.
Best Place to Pay Way Too Much for a Drink While Listening to Banging Techno
205 W. Congress St., Detroit; 313-226-1200
You have to really want to get in. The cover charge can be $30, and there's a mandatory coat check. But fans of electronic, techno and house music love this place, and the crowd that shows up each weekend suggests that people will quite happily pay gobs for a vodka and Red Bull if the tunes bang, the DJ is quality and the lights are a-flashing.
Best Place to Feel That Hip-Hop Bass Yank at Your Spine
The C-Note Lounge
18912 Van Dyke St., Detroit; 313-366-1190
Want the real-deal hip-hop mind-blow? Want to hear the words spat at you, not to you, as street rap should be, like the emcee's larynx is a loaded weapon? Want to feel tinges of menace in the air, imagined or otherwise? The C-Note Lounge, open seven days a week until 2 a.m., can mean some posturing from some emcees, but dig it: The open-mic nights are a blast and the amateur talent here is phenomenal.
Best Bar Band
The Hell Drivers
OK, before their fans grab their weapons of choice and storm the MT offices like the final scene out of Frankenstein, we're not trying to be cute or deliberately mean ... but just attempting to prove a point, MT was flooded with letters when Brett Callwood described this group of mostly Detroit all-stars as perhaps the city's "best bar band." You'd have thought we said they sucked. But we want to emphasize that this was not an insult or intended as such. We were, after all, big fans of the Detroit Wheels, Mitch Ryder & Detroit, Cactus and the Rockets and full of respect. But we also consider a bar band — especially "best" bar band — to be a compliment. Springsteen & the E Street Band called themselves a "bar band" for years, even after they were selling out arenas. The Smithereens still call themselves a bar band. And George Harrison once said the Beatles were never better than when they were a "bar band," playing clubs in Liverpool and Germany. We'd hate to see what would have happened if we'd really have been intent on insulting these killer Detroit musicians (though we still do think they should drop the Iggy cover ...).
Best Bar for Respectable Daytime Drinking
4620 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-831-1400
The Cass Cafe isn't some windowless dive you patronize when you want alone time, anonymous and wasted while the sun's high in the sky — no, that'd be the Bronx or Honest John's or some other old-man joint in the hood. You go to the Cass when you're shameless but can still hold yourself together in public, like a pro drinker, when you want barstool wisdom but long for conversation that's more "day"-friendly. It has just the right balance of Corridor grit and college campus wit, and it's where your two cents can be of value to an overheard conversation. When the bar pours $2 Ghettoblaster beers, it's easy to stick around, all while the irksome sun pours through those smudge-free front windows, reflecting the edges of the pleasing local art on the walls. It's one of the best public atmospheres we can picture in which to write, study, chat, eat, sketch. As you drink the afternoon away, notice those doing the same, their laptops up, their pens on paper, and their glasses emptying at a mighty good clip. No reason to feel guilty about a good day buzz, mister, soused or not.