Food & DrinkNightlife - Readers' Picks
Best Place to See a Mainstream Film
250 N. Old Woodward, Birmingham; 248-644-3456; uptownentertainment.com
Maybe it's the swanky downtown Birmingham address, but something about a night out at the Palladium feels like a throwback to movie palaces of old. The vertical layout offers two floors of frolic, and 12 high-quality screens, packed with the latest Hollywood popcorn fare, all presented with an air of elegance and intimacy simply lacking in many mall parking lot omega-plexes. Afterward the credits roll, you can stroll down the block and enjoy a coffee or ice cream, like it's Westwood, Calif.
Best Place to See an Indie Film
Main Art Theatre
118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111; landmarktheatres.com
Recent news of a 10-screen popcorn factory/bowling alley, planned to be slapped right in the Main's back yard, have sent some local cinephiles into a tizzy. The fretting may be premature, because the upstart isn't likely to be able to book anything like the eclectic and remarkable mix of independent, foreign and cult fare that has been dazzling film fans since 1997. There's no other place in town to catch the newest Lars von Trier atrocity or the blissful hipster sarcasm of Ben Stiller in Greenberg. All summer long they rock a fun slate of midnight movies, a true rarity in this vast metropolis. The place has a lived-in feel, and the staff can be surly, but that only adds to the charm of a theater unafraid to wear its hipness and integrity as a badge of art house honor.
Best Local Film Festival
Ann Arbor Film Festival
As far as film fests go, this one is serious. Presenting more than 170 films from more than 20 countries over six days in downtown Ann Arbor, the nationally recognized Ann Arbor Film Festival boasts more than 40 cinephile-centric programs, with more than a dozen premiere screenings. Filmmakers from around the world join your neighbor from down the street to take in some of the world's most interesting independently made movies. For his world premiere at the AAFF this past March, filmmaker Harry Smith brought in experimental multigenre soundcrafter Flying Lotus to produce a live score for his avant-garde animation classic Heaven & Earth Magic, which brought some serious international attention. Features such as this make the AAFF, getting close to 50 years old, a world-class bash.
Best Bar for Under 30s
Slingers Bar & Grill
Ryan Sturing, aka Twatch, at Slingers Bar & Grill
11791 Farmington Rd., Livonia; 734-421-6070; myspace.com/py_stix
Though Madonna University and Schoolcraft College are both in city limits, Livonia isn't really some wild college town. It'll never be one of those. But that's not stopping Slingers Bar & Grill (formerly PY Stix) from attempting to tap into campus-approved, liquor-fueled folly, such as beer pong. We're talking cheap drinks, like on their Thirsty Thursdays, which feature beers for a buck from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. You'll also find those white T-shirt graffiti parties; theme nights bring out bleached blondes in sexy costumes, and, for those who threw dignity out the window in their teenage years, you can take a seat in the BJ chair and suck down booze straight form the bottle of nationally recognized bartender, Twatch. Picture this, babe: You're sitting in a dentist chair, there's a hundred people surrounding you, and they can all see your midriff. You like this. The music blares, glasses rattle, your BFF snaps photos with her iPhone to be immediately posted to Facebook, and this dude named Twatch stands over you — a different bottle of booze in each hand. "Open wide," he says, juggling the bottles like they were bowling pins. "Down the hatch." And the crowd goes wild.
Best Libido-Stimulating Club Crowd
Best Club Night
Best Bar to Meet Someone
Eden Nightclub and Ultra Lounge
22061 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-541-7674; myspace.com/edennightclub
It's Saturday night. You haven't worn that new getup yet. You're feeling antsy, to say the least. You're probably feeling more than that, killer. You need to let off some steam. You're single and looking for fun with money to burn. Where ya headed? Eden — the closest you'll get to South Beach in southeastern Michigan — might be your best bet. There are two levels, each boasting its own dance floor, and go-go dancers abound. So do the pheromones. Welcome to the Candy Shop, where DJ Godfather blends booty bass with world beats, so whether you're from Moscow or Madison Heights, you'll find yourself lost in groove. Though it's 18 and up, only those 21 or older can enjoy the drink deals, such as their $4 Long Islands and $10 buckets of five Budweiser brewskis. Remember: Don't bring sand to the beach, bro.
Best Dive Bar
Best Juke Box
309 S. Center St., Royal Oak; 248-545-2235; myspace.com/gusolinealley
It's your first trip to Gus' and you're a stranger; stick around long enough and the next time you stroll through the doors into this dimly lit dive, you'll be welcomed as a regular. That's just the kind of joint Gus' is. From aged crust-punks to off-duty journalists, lawyers, comedians and bikers — the crowd at Gus' runs the gamut. And the bar operates the same as the juke — Detroit's best — and that's on a cash basis. Detroiters dig off-kilter disposition, truly wise(ass) bartenders and wise-ass barflies.
Best Honky-Tonk Bar
49345 S. I-94 Service Dr., Bellville; 734-699-7899; diamondbacksaloon.com
In country music fashion, some of the best honky-tonk bars in this great country are along highways, so long-haul truckers can feel at home, no matter where they are. The wider the road, the better the honky-tonk. If they're passing through our neck of the woods (Wednesday through Sunday), they'll no doubt ease their rig into the parking lot and enter Diamondback Saloon, where they can line-dance, down buck beers and take in the sounds and sights of house band Derringer. Giddy up!
Best Irish Pub
The Old Shillelagh
349 Monroe St., Detroit; 313-964-0007; oldshillelagh.com
Welcome to a Detroit institution. For pre-game, post-game and St. Patty's drinking plans, jock Detroiters dig this Irish bar over all others. With two floors, live music, reasonable drink prices and enough apple-cheeked patrons to start a small colony, the Old Shillelagh is one of the most consistently packed watering holes in the Motor City. An Irish bar in Greektown? Ah, sit down, shut up and drink!
33729 Ford Rd., Garden City; 734-522-7744; rockstarzbar.com
Rockstarz isn't a bar — it's a karaoke bar. And that's not saying they've but one kick-ass karaoke night a week. Nah, that's amateur, dude. Rockstarz features karaoke seven nights a week, from 9 p.m. till 2 a.m. They even have hats, wigs, costumes and prop instruments so you can "play" the drums, bass or guitar while rocking out on stage. Yikes! Honorable mention: The Millionaire received multiple votes as the best karaoke host in town. See millionairekaraoke.com.
Best Art Gallery to Party At
4454 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-832-6622; mocadetroit.org
One of the most important Detroit institutions for contemporary art — visual mainly; musical, often; literary, sometimes — the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit is also a more-than-viable nightspot. Case in point: You're Gonna Die! Halloween bash and the St. Valentine's Day Massacre parties were heralded as two of the year's flat-out best parties, period.
Best Club to Get Your Fetish On
Best Dance Club in Detroit
400 Bagley Ave., Detroit; 313-962-2300; lelandcityclub.net
Let's get industrial, latexed and leathered. Let's get cyber-dreaded, gothed, chained, corseted, pretty and pierced. Let's rub up against each other inside this vast den of debauchery. When you want the grit of Gravity Kills mashed up against something from Ministry or Depeche Mode, tied together by that which sounds like Trent Reznor copulating with Cherie Currie's chainsaw, and you want to be surrounded by fellow deviates, get your City Club on.
Best Fetish Party or Fetish Night
Noir Leather's Hellbound
Various locations; 248-541-3979; noirleather.com
Noir Leather, Royal Oak's sexiest worst-kept secret, gets under you skin, doesn't it, you dungeon-ready reader? The only thing that tops that shop's libido stimuli is Hellbound, where the shop's sex/BDSM wares come to life before you. Hellbound brings together dolls, sluts and kinksters (doms, subs and switches welcome, as well as others wanting to explore BDSM options) for a party where not only can you bring home the latest in floggers, croppers and sinfully hot sex toys, but you'll be treated to a show that might be a gift that keeps on giving.
Best Dance Club in Suburbs
Best Sexed-up Waitstaff
1815 Main St., Royal Oak; 248-589-3344; lunaroyaloak.com
Open Wednesday through Sunday, Luna has long been of one the area's most popular dance clubs, especially for lovers of downtempo, new-wave, fishnets and glitter boots. As far as dance clubs go, it is — from booth to dance floor to bar — the most unpretentious in the burbs, and on certain nights it's loaded with ungodly sexual tension, for both boys and girls, some of which rises straight from its hot and fetching waitstaff. Moreover, it's at once modest (wear what you want) and charmingly over-the-top (Prince and Madonna tribute nights, indeed!), while the music and beat-pounding spans genre and era.
Best Dance Club in Ann Arbor
Necto Night Club
516 E Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-994-5436; necto.com
Necto is as much a mega-club (biggest college night in the state) as it is a meta-club, in that it takes on various scenester roles throughout the week. Monday nights bring out hardcore industrial beats and cyber-punk pretties, Thursdays see sweaty college folk sucking down copious amounts of cheap vodka, Friday's popular and packed Pride Night offer $2 Long Islands, and Necto transforms into a haven for house and techno on Frequency Saturdays.
Best Lesbian Bar
1641 Middlebelt Rd., Inkster; 734-729-8980
In lipstick or work-boots or both, women who love women who love going out love Stiletto's. The drag shows here kill, men get all rosy-cheeked, and distaff rocks its world.
928 W. McNichols Rd., Detroit; 313-863-3934; menjoscomplex.com
The place is packed to the gills with gorgeous gay dudes — a beer-guzzling, all-age brigade that includes many chiseled torsos, tan faces and strong features. There are a fair number of women and hipsters here too, but unless you're a fan of butterball babes, Menjo's might not be the place to pick up chicks.
Best Strip Club
29709 Michigan Ave., Inkster; 734-641-2400; theflightclub.com
We could yak on about the Flight Club's bitchin' kitchen, their notable martini, Champagne, cigar and beer menus, and their technological advancements in the world of strip clubs, but let's talk about girls. You'll find them seductive, sassy, saucy and slutty. And that's just the conversation. As far as strip bars go, the Flight Club is a class joint. Think of it like Disneyland's "It's a Small World" exhibit, only with impossibly hot chicks instead of animatronic dwarfs.
Best Bottled Beer Selection in a Bar
Ye Olde Tap Room
14915 Charlevoix St., Detroit; 313-824-1030
Staring down 40 years in Detroit, the Tap Room is something of a legend in its own town, even if it is one of the more assuming icons in city limits. What draws people to this tavern-style drink joint is sheer variety. When it comes to beer in a bottle, the Tap Room is king, boasting 280 different cold ones from more than 30 countries (from Sri Lanka to Lebanon to Brazil). We once drank one of each in a single night. We did, truly.
Best Draft Selection in a Bar
The Berkley Front
3087 12 Mile Rd., Berkley; 248-547-3331
The magic number, it turns out, is 42. That's how many beers you'll find on tap at this neighborhood biergarten. And, unlike most bars, the Berkley Front features an uncarbonated pull, usually pouring Bell's Two Hearted ale. Speaking of Bell's, there are always several local brews to choose from, matched up against a genuine selection of German and Belgian ones. The beer pulls you in, but the juke, live music and conversation keeps you there.
Best Bar for a Martini
Goodnite Gracie Jazz & Martini Bar
301 Huron St., Ann Arbor; 734-623-2070;
224 S Sherman Dr, Royal Oak, 248-584-7400; goodnitegracie.com
Though the musical flavorings change throughout the week at both of the Goodnite Gracie lounge locations — bringing in jazz, reggaeton, funk, blues, live music and DJs — they consistently serve up myriad martinis metro Detroiters crave. The original location in Royal Oak serves up their magnificent martinis and all other fantastically fermented beverages at a half-off happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Note: You'd be doing yourself a favor to make the attached Italian bistro, D'Amato's, your dinner destination.
Best Comedy Club
Best Comedy Open-mic
Go! Comedy Improv Theatre
261 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-327-0575; gocomedy.net
As far as comedy clubs go, what patrons want is consistency, and not just consistently good comedy, because even if it were reliably bad, hey, that's something. But metro Detroiters who love a laugh know that Go! delivers the good kind, consistently and improvisationally, Wednesdays through Saturdays. Go! adds new shows to its lineup regularly — such as Son of the Maltese Falcon, and an improvised musical titled Rock-O-Matic — making it a fresh date-night destination. If you really dig it, and you can brave the stage, you should join the fun on Wednesday open-mic nights.
Best Casino Slots
Best Casino Craps
Best Casino Poker
MGM Grand Casino
1777 Third St., Detroit; 313-888-2121; mgmgranddetroit.com
This is the fourth consecutive year MGM Grand's won the honor of being voted Detroit's most popular casino, and the second year it swept all four casino categories. Now that's a double-down! They keep it classy at MGM, from the clubs to the eateries to the dealers at the tables; this is a casino you love to keep coming back to. You'd think the bartenders mix luck into their cocktails or something.
Best Electronic Club
3-way tie: Eden
22061 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-541-7674; myspace.com/edennightclub
516 E Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-994-5436; necto.com
1456 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-962-7200; oslodetroit.com
This is a nice city-suburbs-Ann Arbor triangle if there ever was one. If you're looking for four-to-the-floor beats in the burbs, then you can find them in the house variety at Eden, a Miami-themed semi-swank club. If you're near Ann Arbor, you'll get techno and house bangers at Necto, one of the largest clubs in the state. Detroit techno aficionados make Oslo their destination for delectable electronic treats, and the sushi ain't bad either.
Best Hip-Hop Venue
St. Andrew's Hall
431 E. Congress St., Detroit; 313-961-8137
Whether Snoop D-O-double-G is rolling through Detroit with his entourage to smoke out St. Andy's on a Saturday night or Detroit grime-and-rhyme legend Guilty Simpson is holding court with the microphone down in the Shelter, this historic Motor City venue remains central to the cause of providing rap that'll twist your beer cap.
Best Hip-Hop Night
Blue Collar Gentlemen
At the Old Miami, 3930 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-831-3830; myspace.com/boomboxentertainment
For hip-hop heads in the know, the state's most popular monthly meet-up goes down in the pit of the Cass Corridor, on the first Friday of each month, at the Old Miami. It's here the Blue Collar Gentlemen hold court with the Zone Radio's hosts Origix and D.C. No other hip-hop night captures the vibe of the city the way BCG does, with local rap acts the likes of United States of Mind, SelfSays, Marvwon, Phat Kat, Illite, Ro Spit, Danny Brown and Magestik Legend and more all gracing the Blue Collar stage, representing Detroit the best way they know how.
Best Rock Club
The Magic Stick
4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700; majesticdetroit.com
No matter what you spent on home speakers, headphones or subwoofers for your car, rock music has and always will sound best when reproduced live in an authentic rock club. In Detroit, that club is the iconic Magic Stick. Located above the Garden Bowl in the Majestic complex, the Magic Stick is home to 10 billiard tables, a full bar and lounge area, and the Alley Deck, where you can enjoy fresh air and a cold brew. You can always grab a slice at Sgt. Pepperoni's on your way up the stairs too. Continually booking the best touring bands, and home to the events such as Blowout kickoff, Rock Lottery and Fucking Awesome Fest, the Magic Stick remains the hippest of hip for revelers of rock.
Best Blues Club
2105 South Blvd., Auburn Hills; 248-858-9508
100 S. Main, Royal Oak; 248-543-4300
As the song says, "Hey, hey, the blues is all right." Especially when you've got two joints such as these vying for the hottest spot. Both are prime locales for Detroit-based bluesmen and blueswomen to wail. Memphis is more likely to diverge from the blues-beaten path, while Callahan's is more likely to spice its schedule with road-touring out-of-towners. Upcoming attractions at Smoke include the Reefermen, Liz Larin and Bobby Murray. At Callahan's you can look forward to Jimmy Thackery, Smokin' Joe Kubek and Roomful of Blues.
Best Folk Venue
316 S. Main, Ann Arbor; 734-761-1800; a2ark.org
A 40-year institution — and a nonprofit that calls on hundreds of volunteers to supplement its core, paid staff — the Ark is an anchor for the national circuit that keeps the heirs of Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly in front of audiences. But with an upcoming schedule that ranges from Crash Test Dummies to Bettye LaVette to Josh White Jr. and Loudon Wainwright III, you get some idea of their breadth.
Best Open-Mic or Jam Session
Thursday nights at Bert's Marketplace
2727 Russell Street, Detroit; 313-567-2030
This granddaddy of the current jam scene just rounded the corner into its 10th year, helmed by bassist Ralphe Armstrong (formerly of Zappa and Mahavishnu Orchestra), drummer Spider Webb (a psychedelic-era Funk Brother) and Bill Meyers (who seems to know every tune a singer can throw at him). You never know what to expect — a waif of a singer from Central America with limited conversational English, fluently belting "Midnight Train to Georgia" alongside Martha Reeves; luminaries or swingin' grade-schoolers brought by doting parents — for the $3 cover. It runs from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Best Jazz Club
2030 Park Ave.; 313-961-2543; cliffbells.com
Cliff Bell's honcho Paul Howard will tell you he doesn't think jazz is necessarily the best music to hear — but he digs it as "the best music to see live — especially in small setting." And although there's more than jazz to be seen and heard in this art deco temple — other musical genres, burlesque, poetry and the Moth story-telling sessions, for instance — it has built a stable of top-notch local swinging regulars, semi-regulars and occasionals — including the Hot Club of Detroit, Gerard Gibbs and Wendell Harrison's Swing Ensemble — and such out-of-towners as Dr. Lonnie Smith (last week) and France's Moutin Reunion (April 29). It can get rather noisy for listening, but it's also got class galore and great small-plates dining.
Best Sports Bar
Rosie O'Grady's Irish Pub
279 W Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-591-9163; see rosieogradysirishpub.com for more locations.
When you go to the bar to catch the big game with your best bros, there's a good chance there are a few other games, matches, meets, etc., you'd also like to follow, however casually or seriously. Ferndale's recently relocated Rosie O'Grady's Irish Pub, in just one year since being revived, is your favorite bar to do just that. With more than 100 TVs throughout the joint, including a small flat-screen in each booth all broadcasting the game, it's a sensory overload of sports, but that's why some people dig it. Game on!
Best Local Beer
Refreshing for any season, Ghettoblaster is a medium ale that pours into your glass a beautiful bronze. Brewed in the English style, this beer bears toasted malt aromas mixed with hints of dark fruit and chocolate. Ghettoblaster's average alcohol content (5.2 percent) makes it easy to drink in copious amounts out on the deck, and its balanced flavor and light carbonation make it great for washing down almost any meal. You know it's top-shelf beer when a good drunk on the stuff leaves a slight hangover.
Originally from France, Grey Goose made its way stateside in 1997 and never looked back. Known for its slightly sugary taste from the winter wheat it's distilled from, the esteemed finish can be described as both smoky and silky, and vodka lovers say the hints of anise and citrus in the finish put the Goose in a class all its own. With fogged glass and a replaceable cork, rather than a screw-top cap, Grey Goose is the godfather of premium vodka, and Detroiters refuse to accept anything less.
Foamy, rich, malty, smooth and lighter than you might think, Guinness is an ultimate beer. It's easy to drink, warming and easy to love. Did you know researchers found that anti-oxidant compounds in Guinness, similar to those found in certain fruits and vegetables, are responsible for health benefits because they slow down the deposit of harmful cholesterol on the artery walls? Yeah, it's good for you! It's also stinkin' flavorful, especially when matched with a short of Irish whiskey. Sláinte!
The oldest legal distillery in the Scottish parish of Glenlivet, the Glenlivet scotch is regarded in its native land as "the single malt that started it all." No matter if you're drinking a 12-year-old shot or a premium bottle with contents aged 25 years — or its most recently acclaimed batch of French Oak Reserve, which spends 15 years before blooming, so to speak — the Glenlivet ranks among Detroit's (and the world's) most favorite scotch whiskies.
Tie: Jim Beam
Both winners for Best Bourbon this year are notably sweet and simple varieties, light on the smoke and oak found in, say, Knob Creek or Wild Turkey's premium blends. That means Detroiters are mixing this stuff ... with Faygo, we're guessing. But these two bourbons won by default. See, the far-and-away winner in this category was actually Jack Daniel's, which isn't actually bourbon but boasts the same saccharine character that Detroiters are keen on.
This world-renowned London Dry Gin is created using a double-distillation process on a neutral grain spirit, adding botanicals during the second phase, to make for its complex character. You know that refreshing, piney kick you love so much? Is that nuance responsible for its perfect marriage with tonic? Who knows? Who cares! As long as you can get a little lime on the side.