Best Gravesite for a Late-Night Ecclesia
31472 Michigan Ave., Wayne; 734-722-2530
Sweet-throated Detroit R&B legend Nolan Strong whose spine-ticklin' Fortune Records classics include the 1954 stunner "The Wind" and 1962's magical "Mind Over Matter" has often been acknowledged by Smokey Robinson and lesser Motor City soul stars as a primary influence. Yet after his 1977 death, he lay buried without a headstone in Westlawn Cemetery, just 75 yards a world away, really from Jackie Wilson's final resting place. It took a group of local garage rockers to finally right the injustice: In the mid-'90s, a benefit was held bands blasted, records rotated and money was raised. The result? A handsome gravestone inscribed with Strong's likeness and the historically accurate writ "Daddy Rockin' Strong."
Best Place to See Enhanced Penile
1271 Riverside Dr. E., Windsor; 519-256-2393 (Canada) or 313-963-6148 (USA)
As small all-male revue shows come and go, Danny's of Windsor stands, uh, "firm." Well-tanned beefcakes erect a show that includes group numbers with choreographed dance routines, skits and individual performances, which, you'll note, see the briny boys strip down to their heavily aerobicized birthday suits. What's more, Danny's offers a fully stocked bar to mix you any of-the-moment martini while you enjoy a schlong-bobbing show. Danny's also provides "special" packages for bachelorette parties and b-days. Go ahead, be a "bride to be" for a night and discover these boys of all seasons.
Best Bar to Ignore the Lord's Day
1501 Holden St., Detroit; 313-873-6969
It's Detroit's premier Levi/leather bar, and on Sunday nights you'll hear some of the straightest guys playing the gayest music. We're not talking about just any old Madonna, but "Burning Up" for sure. Michigan's own minx also happens to be plastered all over a wall of the DJ booth where Scott Zacharias, Mike Kearns, Dave Shettler, Tommy Ferrera and others reign with Disco/Secret aka Nightwave, playing mostly classic disco, obscure '80s tracks and some electro. Really, it's not unlike any other Motor City hole: Beer at the Eagle is cheap, bathrooms are small and dubious, and the genial owner, who's also the bartender, is rather knowledgeable about the city. Where else will you go when you need to pretend that Sunday is Saturday and Monday isn't an hour away? Screw the day of rest.
Best Date Spot to Inhale Pop Culture Ephemera
Ford-Wyoming Drive-In Theater
10400 Ford Rd., Dearborn; 313-846-6910
The Ford-Wyoming is one of a handful of remaining drive-ins in Michigan and the only one open year-round; during the winter car heaters are included in the price of admission. What's more, it screens flicks from dusk-till-dawn on its five screens. It opened in 1951, and its single art-deco concrete tower screen makes it hard to miss in this otherwise industrial neighborhood. In the early '90s, it became the largest drive-in movie complex in the world after expanding to nine screens using salvaged equipment from the shuttered Wayne and Algiers drive-ins. Many of the vintage aluminum car speakers are also from defunct theaters around town, stamped with the names of long-gone hangouts like the Bel-Air and the Grand River so the setup whiffs of lovely nostalgia, of an ephemeral piece of pop-culture history that might soon be gone. Double-features are the rule, not the exception, and all films are preceded by vintage, snack bar-pimping reels of dancing phallic hot dogs, popcorn and popsicles. Box office opens at 7 p.m.
Best Bar That Doesn't Appear to Exist
1439 Griswold St., Detroit; no contact info
In the heart of downtown, on a deserted section of Griswold next to the old ramshackle Detroit Synagogue, sits D'Mongo's, a tidy establishment with sidewalk seating that might, if you squint, resemble a Euro bistro. Upon closer examination through its windows, you learn that's it's a bar with an interior that could belong to an eccentric jazz musician with a pimp-daddy lifestyle and a healthy taste for Victorian antiques. Nearly every inch of the place is packed a grand piano here, a crank-up Victrola there and chandelier light gives the impression that the bar is open, yet, upon repeated visits, it never is. Liquor bottles line up neatly behind the bar, glasses hang on overhead racks, white and orange stools and booths sit in hazy peace as if on film and projected onto an old screen. There's even sheet music for the Temptations' "Just My Imagination" at the piano. All this and no front door handle. Huh? We don't know. Searches and inquires didn't give up much. Maybe it's just our imagination? Either way, it's only in Detroit. We love this city.
Best Club VIP
Grand Central Lounge
311 E. Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-963-1300
At Grand Central Lounge, VIP isn't some lame and gauche acronym for Very Important People, it's more like an apt description: Very Impressive Pimp shit. The VIP area, also known as the Chocolate Room for its velvety brown decor, comes equipped with a round bed draped in rich linens (yes, like the notorious spinning bed at the Playboy Mansion), your own private bar stocked with liquors of your choice, a comely bartender, plasma screens and even a big, bald security dude to keep the commoners away while you and your crew traipse to and fro in your Friday night pimp pad.
Best Nightclub With No Walls
The Carpet House
Frederick and St. Aubin streets, Detroit
Choked to ruin by the 1981 construction of a Cadillac plant, the remnants of the neighborhood once known as Poletown have almost completely reverted to countryside. In fact, if not for the streets zigzagging through overgrown weeds, bushes and trees, this neglected section of urban Detroit could easily be rural Mississippi. This isn't an entirely bad thing come Sunday afternoon, when the smoking grills and gutbucket blues of John's Carpet House fill the air. The Carpet House is a club with no roof, walls or even a bar; just a revolving cast of some of the Motor City's finest blues musicians churning out (on a strip of dirty carpet) endless boogie until well after the sun goes down. Look for the motorcycles, trucks, vans, trailers and barbecue smoke. Or follow the music.
Best Hillbilly Club in Metro Detroit
The Kentuckians of Michigan
28391 Bredow Ave., Romulus; 734-782-0132
Ever wonder what happened to the Appalachian faction of the Northern migration: all those country folk who crossed the Mason-Dixon line and relocated to Detroit for work in the auto plants, pre-global economy? During the '30s, '40s and '50s, there were so many Southerners making the trek that US 23 became known as "The Hillbilly Highway." Local bluegrass transplants Curly Dan and Wilma Ann even wrote a pair of songs in the early '60s "North On 23" and "South On 23" about the phenomenon. Along with such groups as Roy McGinnis & the Sunnysiders and the still-active Windy Smith & the Windy Mountain Boys (now Blue Velvet), they established a fertile bluegrass scene in southern Michigan that's only blossomed over the years. It comes alive each Friday night, from autumn till spring, in this beautifully rustic structure between Middlebelt and Inkster roads. Make sure you get there early for the famed hillbilly potluck dinner, served at 7 p.m.
Best Bar to Raise a Toast to Motown Ghosts
Locker Room Lounge
18290 Livernois Ave., Detroit; 313-864-1220
In a recent Metro Times cover story, Motor City soul queen Bettye LaVette reminisced on this neighborhood lounge, where she'd often go to "sit and drink and cry" during her years of obscurity. It was the only place, she said, where people would continually approach her to ask, "Didn't you used to sing?" They remembered her records from the '60s and her shows at such places as the Twenty Grand, which makes sense. The Locker Room recalls those heady days, with its oblong, railed-in dance floor, paneled walls and raised, old-school DJ booth from which classic soul and R&B flow nightly. With a juke crammed with Bobby "Blue" Bland and Tyrone Davis, the Locker Room may have a sports-themed name, but music is clearly what matters here. Between the "Big Shots" and the "Dirty Dozen" ends of the long, elegantly curved bar, one can understand why this place has had for years one of the most eclectic and casually well-dressed clienteles in the city, ranging from congressmen to plumbers to Motown legends, the Spinners and Four Tops among them. Hand-painted posters announce a bevy of upcoming Locker Room events, including their infamous Ox Roast on Sunday, Oct. 21.
Best Place to Stroll Off Michigan Avenue into Old Europe
The Gaelic League
2062 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-965-8700
In a time when most watering holes claiming Irish affinity are merely thinly veiled sports bars serving Guinness on tap, a Real Deal may shock many. Don't worry, once inside the vestibule you'll have a moment to decide if you want to take the final plunge before being buzzed in. After all, the Gaelic League is a private club, as the sign reading "Have You Paid Your Dues?" near the buzzer attests. Once inside, it's as if you've jumped continents, swapping Detroit dereliction for old Irish poignancy in a few footsteps. Sitting proudly at the corner of Michigan and Wabash in Corktown since 1920, the Gaelic League offers both daily and annual memberships at the bar, authentic live Irish music on weekends and, yes, the best slow-drawn Guinness you'll likely ever taste.
Best Authentic Movie Experience
The Main Art
118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111
It may not offer the killer sound or comfy seats of the Palladium or the historic movie-glam grandeur of the DFT but for our money, the Main Art gives up the right mix of lived-in accessibility and vintage atmo. Forget the uncomfortable mini-theaters that were added after the fact, the Art's main auditorium is a worn but welcome step back in time that never feels like a museum. The stained carpets and small cracks in the paint remind you just how inauthentic and impersonal modern multiplexes are and the cozy little cinema lounge begs after-film discussion for loquacious cinemaphiles; especially given the theater's art-house fare. If Landmark Cinemas were smart they'd program such events. Hell, even the bathrooms, with their frosted glass doors and period tile, warrant quick piss trips, even if your bladder's drained.
Best Unintentional Detroit Honky-Tonk
The Texas Bar
14619 Kercheval, Detroit; 313-824-5190
Back in the '40s and '50s, Detroit's east side was heaven if you were a fan of hillbilly music: Fiddler Casey Clark hosted WXYZ's Lazy Ranch Boys Barn Dance out of the Hudson Local Union Hall on Mack Avenue, the York Brothers (of "Hamtramck Mama" and "Highland Park Girl" fame) lived in an apartment building nearby, and clubs like Ted's 10-Hi Bar were in full rhinestone roar. So the presence of what looks like an urban honky-tonk on Kercheval teleported straight out of rural Texas ain't all that surprising, even if the place has only been open for 30 years. What's strange is, despite the longhorns over the bar and the giant rebel flags prominently displayed above the stage and in the main room, this isn't strictly a country bar. Any band is welcome to book a gig, as long as they can draw crowds. Be forewarned: that dance floor in the back room is barn-dance-sized big!
Best Detroit Jazz Club
Baker's Keyboard Lounge
20510 Livernois Ave., Detroit; 313-345-6300
Last summer, Blue Note records reissued the music of Kenn Cox's late-'60s group the Contemporary Jazz Quintet prompting notices as prominent as one in The New York Times. Well, thanks to what the late Clarence Baker began in the 1930s, and what partners Juanita Jackson and John Colbert continue today, Cox is still heard regularly in his hometown in one of the country's classiest little jazz clubs. Other local spots matter a lot (frill-less yet homey Bert's Marketplace, ambitious newcomers Cliff Bell's and Arturo's, the relocated Firefly in Ann Arbor, for instance), but Baker's is the historical treasure that refuses to rest on its laurels. Great food, good acoustics, that piano-shaped bar, the romantically cozy wall booths, the see-round-the-corner mirrors ... and, of course, the music.
Best Small Venue for Hip Hop, Techno and Rock 'n' Roll
Northern Lights Lounge
660 W. Baltimore St., Detroit; 313-873-1739
In the Fisher Building's shadow on an otherwise industrial strip of Baltimore sits an anomaly: a music venue free of flat black walls, overpriced drinks and trying barkeeps. It's Northern Lights, and if it weren't for the skilled bands, emcees and DJs looming large on its small stage and the unbelievably cut-rate drinks delivered with a grin you might think you were in a well-appointed jazz club. The wood-themed decor, ample booths, muted lighting and luxurious (yes, luxurious) restrooms might be too good to be true, or at least otherworldly to the scrappy music fan. So's the entertainment, from Dave Shettler's Soul Night to Detroit Militia DJs to Uncle Paulie to the Fondas.
Best Soul DJ
Brad Hales at Blind Pig
208 S. First, Ann Arbor; 734-996-8555
Brad Hales has got to be the hardest-working soul and funk DJ in the biz; maybe because he's one of the best. When not manning the counter of his vinyl emporium Peoples Records or playing bass with sweet soul harmonaires the Ultimate Ovation, he can be found dynamiting the dance floor at Funk Night, which packs the National Bohemian Home to the absolute rafters from midnight until the wee hours of the morning on the last Friday of every month. But Hales' latest endeavor is even more inspiring: He's resident DJ of the Ann Arbor Soul Club, which takes over the Blind Pig on the first Friday of every month and has been catching on like wildfire with scooter enthusiasts, soul fans, skinheads and just about anyone looking for a groove-filled frolic.
Best Funk Night
Funk Night at the Bohemian National Home
3009 Tillman St., Detroit; 313-737-6606
Talk about a tempest in a teapot! For quite some time, Peoples Records honcho Brad Hales and pal Frank Ranes ran the out-of-control after-hours dance party Funk Night out of the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit. This party is huge. How huge? When it moved over to Bohemian National Home a few months ago, it was so successful that even some of the venue's open-minded neighbors on Tillman Street raised their eyebrows. The folks at CAID are rumored to have trademarked the term "Funk Night" and have continued to host their own event, sans Hales and Ranes. But we know who's got the funk.
Best Theater-Sized Music Venue
2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-5451
"Hate the name, love the venue." That was the near universal reaction burped up by Detroit's diehard, tradition-minded music community to the news that new promoter Live Nation was "re-branding" downtown's venerable State Theatre. All summer you could hear the howls of outraged fans. One downriver metalhead was heard chirping, "How dare they fuck with history! Those corporate tools oughta know this ain't San Fransissy, this is the D, bitch!" Well, it's all wasted sound and fury, 'cause, aside from some cosmetic upgrades, the song remains pretty much the same inside the famed movie house turned live music palace. The room continues to host the best in national touring acts this in a stunning Italian Renaissance design that adds certain grandeur to bad riffage without drowning it in Old World movie glam. A progressive booking strategy means that local crowds get treated to a truly diverse slate of major artists, when the likes of the Beastie Boys, Kings of Leon and Ween can all appear where Fatty Arbuckle made an appearance in 1927 to appeal for sympathy after a headline-snatching scandal. So quit your bitching and have an apple.
Best Way to Concertize in Color Year-Round
Ford/Comerica Global Thursdays
Arab American National Museum, 13624 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-624-0207; arabamericanmuseum.org
We wish they'd come up with a name that linked this weekly series more closely with the Concert of Colors, which it's largely an extension of. By any name, the weekly shows at the Arab American National Museum are programmed by the same folks at ACCESS, including former WDET host Ralph Valdez. All Global Thursdays lacks is the top-of-the-heap star power that brings out fans of Hugh Masekela or They Might Be Giants, who wind up checking out Hassan Hakmoun or Golem. Bottom line: Go on trust even if you've never heard of, for instance, Palestinian playwright-actress Betty Shamieh (Oct. 18), Yuri Yunakov and his Romani Wedding Band (Oct. 25) or West African griot Mady Kouyate (Dec. 6). Tickets are $8 for students, otherwise $10 in advance and $12 at the door.
Best Live Venue to Continue Beyond Its Legend
The Painted Lady
2930 Jacob St., Hamtramck; 313-874-2991
The Painted Lady ain't exactly the same as its notoriously legendary punk rock predecessor Lili's, but how can it be? Still, when this ancient Hamtramck saloon changed hands and names a few years back, it didn't get gutted, yuppified and soul-stripped like so many drinkin' holes from days of yore. While Lili's boasted fab regulars (from Iggy to local TV horror-show host the Ghoul) as well as an impressive toy and poster collection its new identity continues to uphold Lili's honor with gusto. Yeah, the Painted Lady is a heady rock 'n' roll shithole in the most glorious sense and we get cranial-crushing shows (from Wayne Hancock to the Clone Defects to whomever) but one can't overlook the eye-twisting flyer collection on the back wall courtesy of local artist-collector Tim Caldwell which serves as an drive-by history lesson for the past quarter century of underground rock 'n' roll. And that just makes perfect sense.
Best fringe listening space
Bohemian National Home
3009 Tillman St., Detroit; 313-737-6606
You wailed when the Gold Dollar closed. You sobbed when Detroit Art Space closed. Wipe away your tears and support the Boho House, O you lovers of music at the fringes, because this place is happening now. Sure, the 91-year-old building is a rough-hewn fixer-upper in a challenged neighborhood, but take a cue from Damo Suzuki, the former lead-singer from the Kraut rock group Can. He finished his last U.S. tour at Boho and started his new one there earlier this month, so he's obviously getting a good vibe. Boho House is where you go in Detroit to hear a musical range from Detroit and the world over, from young rockers to wild-blowing jazz men. There's music almost nightly and of special note is a mini-fest of experimental the week of Nov. 5, featuring among others madcap banjoist Paul Metzger, improv percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani and a Detroit trio of saxophonists Faruq Z. Bey and Mike Carey with Boho booking seer Joel Peterson on bass.
Best sound and lights in a small music venue
10339 Conant St., Hamtramck; 313-873-1117
Great dive bars are one thing this town has, in almost sickening abundance, and Hamtramck is the epicenter of drunky rocker hipster utopia, with literally every corner offering some form of live rock, country or hip hip on any given night of the week. So you have to do something pretty special to stand out, and Small's does a whole lot of things really, really well. A teeny little slice of art deco heaven on the corner of Caniff and Conant, the front of the building dates to 1923, and the stained-glass-lined barroom and was once a bank, but the real magic takes place in the windowless state-of-the-art showplace addition in the back. For intimacy, sound quality, cleanliness and presentation the place just can't be beat, yet it's just as sweaty, smoky and soulful as any wonderful gin mill you'd want to call home. In the tight confines you're likely to be elbow to elbow with everyone who's anyone, jamming to the very best roster of local bands and national acts a corner bar can muster.
Best 7 Inches of Pleasure
DJ Vinyl Junkie and DJ Savage Matty
When they're not heading up local racket squad the Hi-Qs, vocalist Matt Strickland and drummer Loney Charles are busy conquering the city under the aliases DJ Savage Matty and DJ Vinyl Junkie. The location may shift this month could be the Painted Lady, next month the Berkley Front but the goal is steadfast: to fracture minds with a potent mixture of screaming sax-laden R&B, overdriven backwoods 'billy and snarly garage punk, all blasted on the format on which they were originally meant to be enjoyed: the 7-inch vinyl 45. The power is in those wide grooves you could never get the same satisfaction from a stupid iPod, a laptop or even a CD and these guys prove it whenever they go public with their drool-worthy record collections.
Best Place to Imagine You're Lost in a Rob Zombie Flick
967 W. State Fair Rd., Detroit; myspace.com/theatrebizarre
Famous for the Halloween bashes from years past, some still attend various parties and productions at the carnie compound known as Theatre Bizarre. Nestled in the ruins south of the State Fairgrounds, the Bizarre grounds resemble an abandoned turn-of-the-century carnival where something has gone terrible wrong the creators clearly have a penchant for classic slasher flick aesthetics. Attendees can expect everything from demented clowns to burlesque performances to exploding microwaves. See the MySpace page to find out about upcoming events.
Best Open-Mic Comedy
Club Bart Comedy All-Stars
Club Bart, 22728 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-548-8746
Comedy is hard; just ask any comic who has bombed at Club Bart, the area's legendarily outrageous and infamous comedy show. Ferndale's funniest evening is celebrating its ninth year, an eternity for most restaurants in this town, let alone an open-mic night. Yet this night carries on its Thursday tradition like clockwork; the area's comedy wide-eyes, from rising stars to the deeply delusional, have stumbled up under the lights looking for a break. Generations of chuckleheads have honed chops here and the show has evolved into something wonderful; it's part clubhouse, boot camp, meat grinder and creative free-for-all. Absolutely anything can happen at Bart's and probably already has (including the occasional flying ashtray), but the thing that happens most is deep, gut-busting laughter.
Best Scenic Biker Bar
The Stonehouse Bar and Grill
19803 Ralston St., Detroit; 313-892-0125
When you roll up to the Stonehouse, you could be forgiven if you thought you were in rural Louisiana. The place looks like what it is: a rough-and-tumble roadhouse straight out of the '40s. Which makes sense, because it was around this time that the last members of the Purple Gang were either behind bars or killed off and their former clubhouse became the Stonehouse Bar and Grill. The notorious bootlegging gang had used the Victorian farm house since Prohibition, but its history stretches back to the 1860s when the land surrounding it including what is now the State Fairgrounds was nothing but farmland. Kick back on the front porch with a cold beer, dream of biker glory in a time when tats and hogs actually were symbols of individuality, and throw a nice, safe game of horseshoes at the pit on the side of the building. Just don't park your car directly in front: That's for bikes, chief.
Best Place to Drink and Repent
The Outer Limits Lounge
5507 Caniff St., Hamtramck; 313-368-8192
Long a fixture at the corner of Buffalo and Caniff, this backwoods-y haven presents an odd illusion. Seen from the pickup-packed parking lot across the street, the bar appears to have a church in the back of it, facing on the alley. We recommend going in and after a brew or two at the cool, dark bar ask if you can see the fenced-off backyard lounge. It's quite a sight: A few picnic tables sit in front of an honest-to-God chapel sharing a double lot with a tavern. All of which no doubt makes your first tentative steps toward reformation that much likelier.
Best Theater Company
Detroit Repertory Theatre
13103 Woodrow Wilson, Detroit; 313-868-1347
You can't argue with success. If the Detroit Repertory Theatre had any catcallers or detractors back when they started in 1957, chances are good that "the Rep" has literally outlived them. Begun as a traveling children's theater troupe that toured Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the group took up housekeeping in Detroit. As pioneers of open casting, they've mounted seminal plays that tackle racism, sexism and all forms of ignorance, forging strong bonds with the disinvested neighborhood hard by Davison and the Lodge. And the group has maintained its stubborn presence for a half century, enduring the hard times and periods of popular unrest. Now ensconced in a commodious theater with an attractive lounge, these veterans of inner-city theater haven't lost their pluck. Look for a full season of local premieres as the Rep turns 50 this year.
Best New Bar to Gaze at Sweaty Jocks
The Pit Stop
1570 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-887-1624
What was once a makeshift tavern during Super Bowl X-whatever is now a go-to bar for suburban sportos and downtown cocktail enthusiasts. Located at the bottom of the Broderick Tower on the Southeast corner of Woodward and Witherell, the Pit Stop is a short stumbling distance from CoPa and Ford Field, a prime location for some quick liver bloatage. They've everything Detroit sports fans need too: cheap frothy, big TVs and bar grub. Getting your beer "before it's $8.50" is the motto these kind folks live by, so expect drink specials before and after the games and throughout the week. You can also expect $2 beers all the time. No shit. If you're blotto and can't find the joint, just look for the whale mural or take the People Mover to the Grand Circus exit.
Best Place to Feel Like a 19th Century Lumber Baron While Enjoying a Snifter or Three
4421 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-832-5700
The ownership may have changed, but the Whitney remains a Detroit institution. And the joint's rich, dim-lit, polished wood and plush interior is, simply put, the best place to raise a snifter of cognac in these hard times and pretend you're atop the world even if that world is long-gone and an industrial age ago. On a recent trip to the joint's second-floor lounge, we spotted three couples celebrating anniversaries ranging from 10 to 25 years and joking loudly with each other, a pair of smartly dressed hipsters playing out flirtations and a handful of post-dinner chillers not just soaking in the environs, but also trying on the part of David Whitney and marinating in the bonhomie. And the price of admission to that world's a whole lot less than the full-course meal treatment.
Best Late-Night Place to Quell Drunken Hunger Pangs
The Clock Restaurant
1444 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck; 313-893-4290
With testosterone-rich dudes stumbling across the street from Diesel or a nearby Polish disco, all the Clock folk have to do is bake the meatloaf and wait for the booze-sodden crowd. Leggy girls in minis under arms of cologne-drenched moneybags traipse in and take over three tables shoved together, as couples intimately discuss their relationship in perimeter booths. But there are perks that make this place a treat: sweet and hard-working waitresses, a serious array of clocks decorating the walls and wacky cartoons hop-scotching across the menu. The omelets? Umm.
Best Place to Bowl If You Suck
7630 Schaefer Rd., Dearborn; 313-846-4900
Most bowling alleys look as if the scoring equipment and the carpet were upgraded back in '85 and no one's touched anything since. Therein lies the beauty. The Garden Bowl, of course, wins for "most rocking." Ferndale's bright, chirpy Luxury Lanes will remind you of giggly and awkward outings with school pals or maybe that hurt of a first crush. Bowlero in Royal Oak gets points for snappiest name. But if your pin-toppling skills ain't so hot and you prefer, to paraphrase George Thorogood, to bowl a-LOW-one, head over Mercury Lanes in Dearborn on a Wednesday afternoon, after the league bowlers have cleared out. Dimly lit and virtually deserted, you can fail to pick up all the easy spares you like and no one will know the difference. Stay shy, young man.
Best Bottle Service
1344 Broadway, Detroit; 888-900-1210
In order to rest your swollen stiletto-clad toes and rest your ass on buttery-soft limited leather seating, one can fork over a sizable amount of cash for bottle service. Here the reasonably priced ($200) bottle service comes with your choice of top-shelf liquors, complimentary drinking accoutrements (coke, cranberry juice, Red Bull, etc.), a moderate cigar selection and black leather chaise loungers so you can put up your feet. And, for the see-and-be-seen set, the sexy staff will ensure that all can see you.
Best Place to Live Out Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get it On"
8701 N. Beech Daly Rd., Dearborn Heights; 313-274-9645
Ah, yeah, the '70s: the days of middle-class couples hosting "get-togethers" in which every one ate, drank, did something with a bunch of car keys and then got naked. Well this ain't then, but like everything, the swingin' '70s are back, only more sophisticated. Well, kinda. Twice a month, Walker's, which masquerades as a local sports bar, throws a private party for those in "the lifestyle." It's really a meet-and-greet of sorts where couples drink, dance, visually undress each other and then, maybe, decide to go somewhere else to "play." These swappers even get a special rate on rooms in a nearby hotel where some are on first-name basis with the hotel staff. But before you start trying to convince your mate to get all open-minded and shit, this place sports tight security and you must be invited by a fellow swinger. Happy hunting!
Best Place to Booze with Local "Artistes"
This Week in Art
Motor City Brewing Works, 470 W. Canfield, Detroit; 313-832-2700
Curated by bartender and artist Graem Whyte at the taproom hidden in the back of a parking lot on Canfield between Cass and Second, the weekly event held 7 to 11 p.m. each Wednesday allows Detroiters to swill beer and glimpse the local art scene without having to endure the pretensions of a gallery or museum opening. Alas, there's no free cheese or boxed wine but there are lots of locally crafted beers, snacks and artwork to be purchased and consumed.
Best Dive Bar Stuck in the 1990s
Danny's Irish Pub
22824 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-546-8331
While the warm and timeless decor of this Ferndale dive has recently enjoyed some sprucing up, the low lighting, green walls and Guinness ads never change. Apparently, neither will the jukebox. The strong drinks sport prices stuck in the last century, and the music selections are gleefully limited so that if you get lit enough, an eerie mid-'90s nostalgia will float over you. If Sublime and Jane's Addiction can jerk a drunken tear, than that high school graduation will never be so far away.
Best Place to Get Wired and Stew in Ferlinghetti Envy
4639 Second Ave., Detroit; 313-887-1286
Well, I'll be damned Amsterdam Café finally opened, and they've made it for more than a year. They had their "Coming Soon" sign up for so long it seemed like a damn put-on. But know what? This coffee shop was worth the wait. Located in the garden level of the historic Forest Arms building, conveniently next door to Peoples Records on the corner of Second and Forest, this café is home to lots of the good guys, both young and old, Cass Corridor types like poets, leftists and painters, reading, sipping, smoking or gazing at art on the walls, contemplating their next move or nothing at all. Amsterdam makes a decent cup with the Italian fave Lavazza, as well as locally roasted fair-trade organic coffees. They also sell a small selection of locally handmade crafts.
Best "Hey, We Have That Too" Cultural Movement
Handmade Detroit and hipster craftspeople
Oh, wasn't that whole "knitting circle/stitch-and-bitch" alt-weekly feature story tsunami of a few years back just so trying? It brought back shudder-inducing recollections of the swing craze, cigar chic, body-piercing vogue and other ephemera best left to the archives of some New Times data backup server somewhere in BFE. So it's actually gosh, hate to say it encouraging to see that something actually came of the crafty meme. The handmade movement that's sprung up in cities across the country found fertile ground here. After all, who's better at making lemonade (spiked, natch) from all varieties of lemons than Detroiters? So you'll find them, at pretty much every free summer and fall festival worth its salt. You'll find them manning a wee merch table at a local club or embracing their Thrift Score-meets-BeDazzler-meets-artisan selves at bona fide all-handmade gatherings. It's a welcome option in a city hurting for critical mass quirk to be able to shell out a handful of bucks for some awesome and useful home accessories leavening the flotsam that surrounds us and supporting an underground economy. And do it at night, in a club. Suck on that, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy! What did the swing revival bring us except endless amounts of Vince Vaughn?
Best Movie Theater for Your Keister
250 N Old Woodward, Birmingham; 248 644-FILM
Far be it for us to sing the praises of a multiplex but there's no getting around that the seats in theater 8 at the Birmingham Palladium are pretty stinkin' comfy. No matter how stupid big your 'ol onion is, these grade-A leather seats pretty much set the local standard for butt-cheek opulence. Flanked by generous snack tables, the paired-off seats in Number 8 are favored by local critics for screenings and perfect for getting cozy with your date. Sure, the theater is a bit small, but its sound and screen are state-of-the-art. We assholes give it four stars.
Best Haunted Hotel
The Leland Hotel
400 Bagley, Detroit; 313-962-1045
Is the old Leland haunted? With a disused mezzanine lounge once frequented by Jimmy Hoffa, several seemingly deserted floors and a shrouded, sordid history that includes gangland massacres, some swear they've seen ectoplasmic shapes, heard noises from no discernible sources. Yet there's something comforting here because one can still rent a room by the day or the month at the stately-yet-rundown Leland, take meals at the diner downstairs, lounge in the luxurious lobby and even hang out in the aforementioned mezzanine bar, all without leaving the building! Quick trysts in shabbily festooned rooms offer a distinctly Detroit experience. As we've said before, the Leland could be D-Town's Chelsea Hotel, complete with trust-fund bohos and authentic artist-slummers of every stripe and color; some of whom live here, others who straggle in headed for the hotel's subterranean clubs, the black leathery City Club and the overly fetishized Labyrinth.
Best Reason Not to be Lonely at Night
Detroit porn star Dani Woodward
Among many other distinctions, sizzling vixen Dani Woodward is perhaps the only sex-biz queen to take her nom de porn from our Woodward Avenue. Think about that as you hoist your ninth pint at Woodward Avenue Brewers, sports fans. To look at her, Ms. Woodward is a Dairy Queen Blizzard jockey gone bad, a delicious fantasy mix of all-American sweetie dipped with jolly maxi-slut. The Livonia honey entered the adult world in 2003, and has made a name for herself "acting" in such features as Naughty America's Bookworm Bitches and My Sister's Hot Friend series. Motor City trooper that she is, lil' Dani gets screwed, so you don't have to.
Best Place to Find a Pay-To-Play "Date"
The Erotic Review
First of all, there is little mention of "prostitution" anywhere; even most of the Web site links state: "Money exchanged is for time spent only; this is not an offer of prostitution." And there are no old-fashioned terms like "hookers" and "johns" here, either. One is either a "hobbyist" or a "provider." That said, this site provides a public service to both the hobbyists and providers amongst us. Reviews of the providers are posted by hobbyists, so that in a business full of scams and rip-offs one can know exactly what to expect. It's a public service for the best providers as well; this is the site, after all, that turned Las Vegas provider Nikki Avalon (featured in a huge Playboy piece this past summer) into a major "star." And Detroit appears to have its own "stars" in the making. The site is free if you just want to see the ratings. If you want to see the "juicy details" (including services and money charged for those services), it costs either $20 a month or the posting of two reviews a month. Even if, like us, you're not a hobbyist, the "juicy details" sections provide some of the most titillating Internet "adult content" around 'cause it's all true.