Best sports bar
175 W. Troy, Ferndale
There are always a few tons of football geniuses waiting — waiting for any mistake so they can interject in a drunken, Hawaiian-blue blur how they would have sent the running back to the flat. Or bench Joey Harrington for their highly recruited second cousin, who benches 380 pounds and can throw the ball 60 yards on the run. Rosie’s is centrally located in beautiful downtown Ferndale; it’s a great gathering place to meet far-flung friends and fans to catch the Wings, Lions, Pistons, Wolverines, Spartans, etc. There is a passel of well-placed TVs — and a big screen — along with plenty of seating. There’s also a fine menu, with the deep-fried delicacies sports buffs require. Karaoke on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Best place to see Jaguars, Mercedes, SUVs and Hummers lined up
Flood’s Bar & Grille
731 St. Antoine, Detroit
We know this for a fact, because the Metro Times’ offices are located directly above the watering hole where the movers and shakers among Detroit’s elite meet for cold drinks and hot music. Especially on Friday nights, the place is jammed as luxury vehicles fill the adjacent parking structure and clog the street out front.
Best tavern with a small-town feel
6986 W. Jefferson, Detroit
Around noon, blue-collar workers amble into Kovacs, a quiet establishment on the city’s southwest side. Some order the chili and chat with Delores Evans, a former autoworker who bought the place with her husband, Bob. After 5 p.m., locals drop in for a beer. The owners know most by name. If you stop in more than once, they’ll remember you too. It’s that kind of place.
Best upscale blues bar
George & Harry’s
22048 Michigan Ave., Dearborn
This club features top-notch national entertainment and the best local bands, then goes beyond burgers and wings with food far better that what you’d expect in a blues joint. It has great sound and excellent sight lines.
Best downscale blues bar
11667 Jos. Campau, Hamtramck
A recent ownership change may breathe new life into this venerable Hamtown institution — perhaps by tuning the piano and replacing the burned-out light bulbs. Free pool, no cover Sunday-Thursday, open jam sessions, and a changing roster of local talent add to the charm. Watch for Uncle Jesse White on the occasional Saturday evening; Detroit blues — hell, Detroit music — is never more real than when he’s barrelhousing through a set.
Best reuse of a former post office
Tenny Street Roadhouse
22361 W. Village Drive, Dearborn
Once, this place dispensed letters and packages. Now it dispenses a Cajun/Creole menu and blues (plus the occasional rock act) in a cavernous but friendly setting.. The bar and the “BLUES” sign out front once graced Detroit’s Soup Kitchen Saloon, and it’s good to see them put to proper use.
Best jazz club
Baker’s Keyboard Lounge
20510 Livernois, Detroit
It’s hard to say exactly why this club has survived as arguably the oldest jazz spot on the planet. In fact, decades after it was a tour-stop for the biggest names in jazz, it’s enjoying a renaissance. Here are some of the things Baker’s has going on: first-rate Detroit talent, generally no cover charge, a kickin’ kitchen (we’re licking our lips and thinking about catfish as we write), a come-as-you-are ambience (elegant, but not stuffy), good sight lines, great acoustics … and for those so inclined, the two-seat booths along the wall are as good as public snuggling gets. All this, and more than 60 years of jazz history too.
Best little venue for big rock shows
10339 Conant, Hamtramck
On one side, the Art Deco-ish interior smacks of pre-dentures-era Robert Mitchum, a kind of polished, corner-bar noir favoring day-job shirkers and bedraggled fans of the Clash and Hank Williams. On the other, a fiercely loud mini-concert hall — fitted with theater-sized lighting and a proper stage — for earnest (and trendy) enthusiasts of the devil’s racket. The uncomplicated local and national show bookings run the gamut of hipster nostalgia (Tommy Stinson) and seemly power pop (Pernice Brothers) to dubious gee-rage (Holly Golightly) and slam-dunk punk (Dead Heroes). Better still, Small’s breezy milieu is seldom smudged by polemical punks or sloshed, red-faced suburbanites with testicular axes to grind. Dimly lit? Check. Ace sound? Yup. Within-yer-means libations? Uh-huh.
Best live music downtown
511 Monroe, Detroit
Yes, we love the Menu, seven nights a week. Catch blues-rock on Monday courtesy Bret Lucas, spicy Latin jazz by Saoco on Tuesday, Thornetta’s blues on Wednesday and funk from the Brothers Groove on Thursday. Other talented folks fill out the roster the rest of the time. A friendly, unpretentious joint with nary an “Opa!” to be found. The food is excellent. Fabulous staff, great vibe, seamlessly integrated.
Best strip club name
141 W. Eight Mile Road, Detroit
It’s hard to pass this establishment without tittering (pun intended). Funnier yet is imagining the inner monologue of the wise guy who came up with the name. Perhaps it went like this: “Naked breasts. Tits. Men. Horny men. Men like naked tits. T-Time. Nah, too subtle. Tits R Us. Too pedophilic. Knockers. Fun bags. Cantaloupes. Rack. Rack ’em. Not bad. That’s a maybe. Hooters. That’s taken. Boobies. Boobs and U. Boobs 4 U. Booby Brigade. Booby Trap. Perfect. Booby Trap.”
Best place to feather bowl
4300 Cadieux, Detroit
If you have never attempted this bizarre Belgian game, give it a try. Or drop in on Tuesday or Thursday night this fall to watch league competitors fight for first place. It’s a blast. With a bucket of their delicious mussels and a cold beer, you’re set.
Best beer selection
Ye Olde Tap Room
14915 Charlevoix, Grosse Pointe
There’s nothing cute about Ye Olde Tap Room. It’s just a slightly smoky wooden bar with tables and chairs, ash trays and beer labels plastered on the walls. It’s old and classic, a pub for drinking. But it’s got a great, huge beer selection, from Belgian ales to Japanese lagers. The music is sometimes loud and obnoxious, but always rock ’n’ roll. It’s a great place to grab a basket of peanuts and chill with friends.
Best date bar
The Buddha Lounge
21633 W. Eight Mile Road, Detroit,
As soon as you and your soon-to-be smooching partner walk in to this dimly lit lounge you will wonder why you never found the bars in old Chinese restaurants sexier. Because they are sexy, at least the seedy, magenta-drenched variety that one associates with 1970s Los Angeles. But the Buddha serves not a single egg roll — this joint is just a bar: supremely cozy booths, a red-light glaze, strong cocktails, and a recessed side room that draws its aesthetic inspiration from the opium dens of pulp paperbacks. Not saucy enough? It’s located in a strip mall on Eight Mile. So if your date isn’t working out, you can find another date who is working.
Best Irish bar
2062 Michigan Ave., Detroit
Without the Gaelic League it would be questionable exactly how Irish the Corktown neighborhood is these days. But the Gaelic League isn’t just a fantastic and authentic Irish-American bar, it is a social and cultural center for the Irish diaspora in Detroit. Language and dance classes are offered for the young and old every week, just as they have been for years. Historians lecture on Ireland’s politics and past. Community volunteer work is coordinated all in the same homey space as their annual St. Pat’s bonanza. A time-tested tavern and a staple of Detroit life.
Best bar for an ear-bleed
1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit
You can wonder if the Lager House needs any more affirmation that it is a mecca for Detroit-bred live music, but it’s still true. The best up-and-coming Detroit bands play here regularly. Good independent touring acts are featured as well. There are dollar drinks on Monday nights and a lovely little back porch where your eardrums can find respite.
The Bronx Bar
4476 Second Ave., Detroit
Something strange happened last winter. The Bronx Bar, which has been on the corner of Second and Prentis for as long as anyone can remember, quietly went from being an underappreciated dive bar that kept odd hours to being a positively hip, dark-as-a-mine shaft watering hole that keeps wee-hours hours. Most important, though, are two jukeboxes that will endear themselves to hardened music freaks. Early ’80s post-punk, classic hip hop, deep soul, indie-rock favorites, and a slew of Detroit bands make up a dumbfounding roster of lovable non-hits. You might spend more on the jukebox than on drinks.
Motor City Brewing Co.
470 W. Canfield, Detroit
Motor City Brewing Co. could have simply chosen to remain one of Michigan’s finest microbreweries. But instead its owners decided to make a little room for a bar, build a lovely wood deck upstairs, and invite their neighbors inside. And the Wayne State area is all the better for it. This is not one of those brewpubs with six-story ceilings and emu burgers that litter Oakland County. This pub is small, stylish and simple in design (ski lodge themes are illegal in the Cass Corridor), and home to a whole spectrum of delicious beers made on the spot. The Ghetto Blaster is everyone’s favorite for good reason.
Best place for a cold one after work, downtown
624 Brush, Detroit
Jacoby’s beers aren’t cheap, but they’ve got great German imports that are hard to find elsewhere. The bar food is pretty darn good considering the haggard appearance of the kitchen workers; the chicken sandwiches and German sausages and potato pancakes are awesome, as are the salads and burgers. But the best thing about Jacoby’s is the atmosphere. Opened in 1904, the classic wood, brass and mirrored bar sports tin ceilings and a friendly, neighborhood feel, with great bartenders. Metro Times ragged on the place last year for its raunchy bathroom odor, and the management responded quickly. The last time we dropped in, no odor could be detected. It’s an all-around great spot to wet your whistle. Sports can be seen on the TVs downstairs; bands play upstairs during the later hours.
Best dive bar
3930 Cass, Detroit
Located in the heart of the Cass Corridor, the Old Miami is an old hangout for Vietnam vets that regularly gets invaded by punk-rockers and regular punks of all shapes, sizes and colors. It’s got old sofas and a patio perfect for outside sitting on beautiful days. It’s seeping with history — go there and you can’t help but pick some up.
Best place for romance over pints
Town Pump Tavern
100 W. Montcalm, Detroit
The Town Pump is hidden in a back alley behind Hockeytown Café and Second City. With its ivy-covered windows, wooden interior and small (fake) library with couches in the corner, the bar makes you feel like you’re in London. The cozy atmosphere is sometimes interrupted by a loud weekend crowd, but the noise can be forgiven for the atmosphere. The pub is even located beneath a hostel. How European.
Best bar with year-round Christmas decorations
The Comet Bar
128 Henry, Detroit
Located in the belly of the Cass Corridor, the Comet Bar is about as kitschy as it gets. From lamé streamers to flashing Christmas lights to a hilarious collection of Santa Claus dolls, this seedy little watering hole is one of the few places where you can enjoy a beer, a shot and the (literal) warm-fuzziness of the Christmas spirit in the middle of July.
Best place to make a complete ass of yourself and not care
25234 Greenfield Road, Oak Park
If you’re looking for overstimulation of both ear and tongue, the Royal Kubo Lounge can satisfy. Squeezed into a strip mall at Greenfield and I-696, this Filipino restaurant and nightspot caters to those who want a fine sampling of pork adobo, as well as a usually not-so-fine rendition of “I Will Survive.” If you can summon the courage to get off your ass and sing (just put back a few strong ones), don’t worry a bit about crooning off-key. The atmosphere is comfortable and quite supportive. The menu offers a wide variety of exotic samplings until 2 a.m.
Best piano bar
13 N. Washington, Ypsilanti
Although dueling piano bars have become a bit trendy, this quaint little Ypsi spot has garnered a prime spot among the ranks. It gets a bit packed on the weekends, but an off-night is pure bliss, and if you’re lucky enough to get the place almost to yourself, the dueling piano maestros are at your beck and call. They know all the Journey and Billy Joel you could ever want, but a couple of them are well-schooled in the jazz classics too. Oh, and they serve top-notch martinis in glasses almost as big as your head, which probably won’t do much for your sing-along.
Best place to feel androgynous
1815 N. Main St., Royal Oak
Every Thursday night, this small venue in Royal Oak gets funkified with Vicious Pink. New Wave, synth-pop, and vintage dance classics flood the dimly lit nightspot. Flash Gordon, Xanadu and other ’80s flicks pulse to the music on the big screen. Take a spin in the silver turning booth or down the Vicious Pink poison of choice — the Pop Rock shot (vodka with pink Pop Rocks at the bottom). If you’ve ever wanted to dress like Robert Smith or act like Cyndi Lauper … Vicious Pink at Luna is your best retro escape.
Best bar to resurrect
The Kress Lounge
We knew it was coming when the doors were closed a few years back, but the resultant dearth in cool midnight oases has become marked since the demise of the Kress Lounge. Now that dive bars are haute-couture, the unaffected beauty of a genuine old-timer’s lounge like the Kress is hard to find.
Best new downtown scene
Instant Vintage at Fifth Avenue
2100 Woodward (inside Comerica Park), Detroit
There’s a mysterious charm to Sunday nights at Fifth Avenue downtown. It might be the duo residents, DJ HFusion and Brad Hales, and attendant collection of old soul, hip-hop and groove-intensive sounds. Maybe it’s the monthly engagements by internationally renowned DJ Theo Parrish and top-shelf guests for a pocket-change price. Outfitted with enormous tropical fish tanks and offering views of the ballpark and the heart of the downtown skyline, maybe it’s the environment itself. Whatever the formula, the evening just feels right. The relaxed vibe of the fashionably low-key locals and loft-dwellers could help redefine Detroit’s downtown nightlife.
Best club night
Untitled at the Shelter
431 W. Congress, Detroit
Less than a year into bringing frothy sleaze back to the dance floor, the Saturday club dubbed Untitled has already been responsible for public spankings, vodka squirt-gun fights, a Miss Untitled pageant, three wonderfully unnecessary subgenres (sasspunk, jungleclash and dorkwave), flash-mob-style after-parties (BYO at the drive-in until 4 a.m., Jell-O wrestling, etc.) and plenty of assorted monkeyshines. Oh, and the music’s great too. Consider your liver pickled, Jack.