It can be said: The Old Miami is a weird place. It used to be a bar for veterans, and the interior has retained an aesthetic that pays homage to its history. And then some. The walls are plastered with pictures, posters, army badges, street signs, T-shirts, and a whole hell of a lot more. Instead of fancy high-top tables, the "dining room" is outfitted with old couches, recliners, and end tables. Over a corner fireplace hangs a poster nominating Sixto Rodriguez for the Detroit mayoral race of 2013. In the corner, a computer printer sits rather inconspicuously between a couch and a pinball machine. It's a cross between your grandpa's living room and a flat where a gaggle of 20-year-old skateboarders live. The few flat-screen TVs they have play old movies when there isn't a band performing. Outside, on their patio, they have nightly bonfires.
Of course, what we're telling you, you probably already know. The Old Miami is sort of a staple in metro Detroit. It's just down the street from Wayne State, a relic of the days before the retail renaissance on Cass Avenue in "Midtown." Amid the newness of places like Melt, Cass Corridog, Nora, Hugh, and Human, the Old Miami remains, well, old. And for its oldness, it is much beloved.
Behind the bar, patrons will find all the requisites — and for cheap. A draft of Miller Lite will run you $2, a bottle of High Life is $2.50, and a generous pour of Ghettoblaster is only 3 bucks. We're not going to make any gross overstatements here, but these might be the best prices in the city.
The bar itself doesn't make food, but they do carry catered grub from Enorme Johnson's. The Ann Arbor-based street food makers are known for their gourmet hot dogs (an oxymoron?) and top them with everything from French fries and gravy to pulled pork.
The crowd is eclectic at the Old Miami. The last time we were in, there were some corporate dudes wearing lanyards sitting at the bar next to a couple of old bikers. The later it got, the more diverse the crowd. Students piled in around the bar, some leaving to enjoy the patio outside. That night they'd be participating in a long-standing ritual at the Old Miami, a pumpkin-carving contest. Traditions like that have helped create the community feeling that's pervasive inside the Old Miami. Of course, it helps that you can sit on a couch with strangers and watch a scary movie and drink beer. What better way to get to know someone, really?
Live music on the weekends, free pool on Mondays, and those nightly bonfires account for the Old Miami's entertainment schedule. They also open early on Sundays, when they have homemade Bloody Marys. Well, actually they open early every day. You can arrive at 9 a.m. and sip a shot of whiskey underneath the antique gun that hangs from the ceiling of the bar.
A special place where most people feel right at home, the Old Miami is kind of like Detroit itself: It's weird, but welcoming.