Special Issues » The Drink Issue

Some of the better bars for a loaded night

Badass Bar Crawl



Berkley Front | 3087 12 Mile Rd., Berkley; 248-547-3331: If there's a reason the Berkley Front is known as a better beer bar, it's because it is. The drafts, mixes, and hand-pulls that go up on the chalkboard week by week are some of the best you can get. It also can accommodate all sorts of guests, with a friendly bar, a wide-open area with pool, or even cozy booths for folks on dates. What's more, this place was there early, before the craze caught on. Reward them.

Bronx Bar | 4476 2nd Ave., Detroit; 313-832-8464: Bronx has the works: a well-rounded jukebox, cheap brunch, an expansive Bloody Mary bar, and no TVs. It may be jam-packed during the weekend, but it's still a quiet place to sit and muse in peace during the week.

Cass Cafe | 4620 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-831-1400; casscafe.com: Just on the outskirts of Wayne State's campus, the Cass Café sits with its unassuming brick façade. However, on the inside, is a very cool place to enjoy a drink with friends and check out local art. The mood is always laid back, so you won't have to scream to hear each other.

Checker Bar & Grill | 124 Cadillac Square, Detroit; 313-961-9249: Now under the ownership of the same people who brought you the revamped Foran's Grand Trunk Pub, bigger changes are in the offing, but the improved beer selection and friendly staff already show a difference.

Cheli's Chili Bar Detroit | 47 E. Adams Ave., Detroit; 313-961-1700; chelischilibar.com: You know by the name that this bar, owned by former Red Wing Chris Chelios, is not for "hockey agnostics." With 36 flat-screen televisions, this half-timbered edifice on Adams, right off Woodward, would seem the perfect place to bask in hockeyness.

Clubhouse BFD | 2265 Crooks Rd., Rochester Hills; 248-289-6093; chbfd.com: Sharing the building with East Side Mario's, BFD's parking lot is usually jammed up by 7 on a weeknight, filled to capacity with people enjoying beer and innovative bar fare like sweet potato tater tots. It's totally family-friendly; in fact you'll likely be dodging tykes left and right as you walk through. But their taps are impressive, and they host beer events, such as the Sour Celebration we atttended in August.

Corktown Tavern | 1716 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-964-5103; corktowntavern.com: Normally when we go by Corktown Tavern, the folks smoking out in front of it are enough to encourage us to keep crawling up Michigan. But when we saw this dive's MySpace page, we knew we had to check them out. Turns out it's a special place for punk and "ear-bursting rock." And much cooler than this blurb, or MySpace, let on.

Delux Bar and Lounge | 350 Monroe Ave., Detroit; 313-962-4200; deluxlounge.com: Smallish downtown bar with a club feel, the after-work crowd can heat things up and often does. Bartender Frankie recently told us that things can get a little bit messy on the weekends. "We find everything, shoes, cell phones, weaves — especially weaves," she says of bar clean-up. Sounds like a hell of a time.

Dooleys Tavern | 27 E. 14 Mile Rd., Clawson; 248-677-6262: Billed as the home of the $1 draft, you can get a good deal on beer at Dooley's, along with trivia nights, beer pong nights, mug nights, ladies' nights and more. It's that appealing suburban mix of sports, entertainment, and casual family dining that packs them in.

Dotte Pub | 116 Oak St., Wyandotte; 734-283-6883: Dotte Pub spent some time as a couple different squalid karaoke bars with crappy drinks and dirty bathrooms, but that's all in the past now. A renovation a few years ago restored this place to the glory it experienced in the '40s when it hosted movie stars that crashed in the adjacent hotel.

Dragonmead | 14600 E. 11 Mile Rd., Warren; 586-776-9428: It doesn't get any grander than Dragonmead. The squat, unpretentious building by the side of a freeway service drive serves some of the best fermented beverages around, including some high-ABV pours, such as Belgian-style ales that can run to 10 percent ABV. A kind of coffeehouse atmosphere prevails in the main dining room, where there's sometimes live entertainment, but there's a bar to one side with televised sports for the guys who just need to watch the game.

Falling Down Beer Company | 2270 E. 10 Mile Rd., Warren; 586-799-BREW; fallingdownbeer.com: There are wonders hidden within this squat, single-story building on East 10 Mile Road that could have been a former Arby's. Falling Down's craft beer offerings are malt-forward, and hew to traditional beermaking recipes. The kitchen doesn't stint on food, either churning out inventive fare like deep-fried Reuben egg rolls and hand-cut fries with "pub cheese."

Garden Bowl | 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700; majesticdetroit.com: Sure, you've been to a local bowling alley with a bar, but none compare to the Garden Bowl. It's a bare bones operation, with affordable booze, pizza within an earshot, and good music usually playing at tolerable volumes.

Green Dot Stables | 2200 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit; 313-962-5588; greendotstables.com: Go for the sliders (the Korean with peanut butter and kim-chi changed our life.). Stay for the beer, mixed drinks, ponies, and classic décor.

Gusoline Alley | 309 S. Center St., Royal Oak; 248-545-2235: If a bar could be a person, Gusoline Alley would be your punk friend from high school that you run into every once in a while and never really know what they're talking about, but you nod along and laugh anyway. After all, it is a charming dive with a kickass jukebox.

Firebird Tavern | 419 Monroe Ave., Detroit; 313-782-4189; firebirdtavern.com: It's not hard to put together the basics of a good tavern, but it's the fine points that are demanding. Firebird Tavern has them covered, with specialty cocktails, dozens of Michigan brews, and a menu to restore you for that drive home.

Gator Jakes Bar Grill Patio | 36863 Van Dyke Ave., Sterling Heights; 586-983-3700; gatorjakes.com: Gator Jakes may be the perfect sort of place to soak up some warmth (or at least some booze) on a snowy Midwestern winter night. The bar is dressed in warm yellows and reds, and you can almost feel the trade winds blow after a few of their Creole-inspired dishes, and some formidable cocktails.

The Hills Bar & Grille | 6810 N. Rochester Rd., Rochester Hills; 248-237-7703; thehillsbar.com: Just off Rochester Road, north of the city's historic downtown, the quaint bar and grill is stylish but homey. The drink menu has the assortment of Michigan beers drinkers have come to demand, but also a solid selection of wines and craft cocktails. Use them to wash down a fortifying menu of burgers, pastas, meatloaf, salads, and steaks.

Honest John's Bar & Grill | 488 Selden St., Detroit; 313-832-5646: Spend the night drinking elsewhere, but around 1 a.m., you should mozy on over to Honest John's for a late-night 40 oz. of Old Milwaukee and a basket of fries unrivaled around the Cass Corridor. The kitchen here keeps things rolling until 2 a.m.

Jumbo's Bar | 3736 Third St., Detroit; 313-831-8949: Off the beaten path of revitalized Midtown lies this gem, a hole in the wall dive that carries booze you'd expect to find at a dive bar. Enjoy the company, the patio, the jukebox, and just drink.

Kuhnhenn Brewing Co. | 5919 Chicago Rd., Warren; 586-979-8361; kbrewery.com: This is a serious microbrewery, the kind of place where the malty smell hits you smack in the face as you walk in. There's no food (with the exception of a popcorn machine), but that's just fine when people line up for it's special six-pack releases or to belly up to the bar for such unusual concoctions as DRIPA, Simcoe Silly, and Blueberry Tart. Our favorite on our last visit was Summer Wonder Peach Lager, 13 percent ABV, with an unmistakable trace of bubble gum to it.

The Last Word | 301 W. Huron St., Ann Arbor; 734-585-5691: The home of the craft cocktail in Ann Arbor, it's like other similar and wildly popular places where you're transported back to a time when bartenders wore snazzy attire, all cocktails were given a wild ride in a shaker, and the flat-screen hadn't been invented. The only thing not of that age are the prices, but they're worth it.

Loving Touch | 22634 Woodward Ave., Ferndale: With a name taken from the building's former incarnation as a massage parlor, a fake forest, plenty of pool tables, and a knack for booking some excellent national acts, the Loving Touch has great atmosphere. Oh, and there's beer, too — on tap are selections from next-door's Woodward Avenue Brewers.

Motor City Brewing Works | 470 W. Canfield St., Detroit; 313-832-2700: This Midtown establishment not only brews their own beer on premises, they also have delectable pizzas and artisan cheeses to enjoy with a cold pint. Motor City is also a must if you're into the local art scene. The bar hosts "This Week in Art," every Wednesday.

New Way Bar | 23130 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-541-9870: New Way Bar has come a long way in the short time it has been under new management. There is still that old school, dive bar vibe to it, but you don't feel like a staph infection is inevitable. New Way is also a great venue for live, local music and stand-up comedy.

Northern Lights Lounge | 660 W. Baltimore St., Detroit; 313-873-1739: This stylish bar and performance venue sprawls throughout a large building that can seat more than 100 guests, from booths to tables to a long and commodious bar. What's more, they now have an excellent weekend brunch and, in good weather, an outdoor patio.

Old Miami | 3930 Cass Ave., Detroit: 313-831-3830: It wouldn't be out of place to find millennial punks mingling with Vietnam War vets while listening to '90s R&B at this shot-and-a-beer bar. A "Rodriguez for Mayor" painting and couches reminiscent of your grandparents' basement further round out this bar's vibe. It also has one of the most incredibly surprising back yards, with trees, greenery, grass, and fire pits.

Pat O'Brien's | 22385 E. 10 Mile Rd., St. Clair Shores; 586-771-5715; pobtavern.com: Pat O'Brien's offers more than just a place to watch a game and have a beer. They have a great selection of beers on tap and the best bar food on the Nautical Mile. While the weather allows, the outdoor patio is comfortable place to sit with friends and catch a breeze coming off the lake.

PJ's Lager House | 1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-961-4668; pjslagerhouse.com: Pj's carries a menu full of options for carnivores and vegetarians. The bar's Sunday brunch provides affordable fare, with cheap mimosas and Bloody Mary's to boot. Chances are if you're seeing a show here, you likely want to drink something. It's likely PJ's will have something to drink.

Renshaw Lounge | 210 E. 14 Mile Rd., Clawson; 248-616-3016; renshawlounge.com: Yeah, the Renshaw used to be a dive, but even though it's expanded and much grander, it still has some of the best drink prices in metro Detroit. Owner Mike Lang insists that you can still get drunk at the Renshaw for $10. You'll just have to do it in a nicer place. Deal?

The Rockery | 1175 Eureka Rd., Wyandotte; 734-281-4629: This place doesn't look like much, but it has so much to give. The Wyandotte dive has a great selection of Michigan craft beers and locally-made liquors and the staff know how to whip up something stiff and delicious. Pop in on the weekends for live music and don't forget about Soul Deep!

St. Cece's Pub | 1426 Bagley Ave., Detroit; 313-962-2121; stceces.com: If you've always fantasized about drinking in church, St. Cece's is the place for you. The decor is replete with stained glass, pew-style, seating, and ornate light fixtures and the food menu is made up of belly-filling, wholesome meals. If you're in the mood for a cocktail we suggest the Hunter S. Thompson, but they also make a great gin and tonic.

The Sugar House | 2130 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-962-0123; sugarhousedetroit.com: Chances are you've heard of this place. Hardly anyone can talk about craft cocktails in Detroit without Sugar House getting mentioned. Sure the drinks are great (we're partial to the Suffering Bastard), but the service is also impeccable and the environs won't leave you wanting for more.

Third Street Saloon | 701 W. Forest Ave., Detroit; 313-831-3434: Long wooden tables and a fireplace give Third Street a dive bar meets a cabin vibe. Soak up their excellent beer selection with Dangerously Delicious Pies. Also, this bar's got plenty of games, from darts, shuffleboard, ski-ball, and ring toss.

Three Blind Mice Irish Pub | 101 N. Main St., Mount Clemens; 586-961-6371; threeblindmiceirishpub.com: Right on Main Street in downtown Mount Clemens, this relatively new entry has a drinks menu that runs several pages, and the waitresses are often clad in kilts.

Tony V's | 5756 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-833-5595: Formerly Alvin's, John Lulgjuraj reopened the space this summer with more modest goals: to build a fun space for students and neighbors, with karaoke, trivia, "college night," DJs, and live music. A menu of a dozen pizzas don't hurt either.

Town Pump Tavern | 100 W. Montcalm St., Detroit; 313-961-1929; thetownpumptavern.com: If you're hitting a concert, Tigers game, or just bar-hopping downtown, this old-timey-style tavern is a requisite stop thanks to its traditional menu and full bar. You won't get smarmy craft cocktails or any flair bartending, but the service is quality and the drinks are stiff.

TV Lounge | 2548 Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-965-4789: If you're into Detroit's DJ scene, TV Lounge is the place to be. Partitions help divide the action, from the red room where the dancing's at, to the more relaxed blue room, to a recently renovated outdoor patio. Drinks are a little more expensive, but this place makes up for it in swanky atmosphere.

Vicente's | 1250 Library St., Detroit; 313-962-8800; www.vicente.us: Vicente's boasts a diverse drink selection, including mojitos and sangria (you can even buy sangria by the growler, to go). Those drinks could come in handy giving you the courage to try the salsa dancing lessons here.

Whiskey Disco | 1456 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-962-7200: The downtown space that formerly housed Oslo is open again, this time as Whiskey Disco, a bar with a gritty Detroit dance vibe that's rounded out with sets from DJs. — mt

This list is nowhere near definitive, and we're certain to have missed several of your favorite bars. Which would you add? Comment or email eat@metrotimes.com.

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