Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Damn Arbor's guide to Bars, 2014

Attentive Damn Arbor readers may notice this article bares a strong resemblance to one posted Wednesday, November 27th, 2013. Today's post is almost identical to last year's with the exception of Woodruff's which has shuffled off this mortal coil. Without further ado, here is our largely un-updated 2014 bar guide:

Tonight is the best bar night of the year. Or at least one of the busiest. It's a great time to grab a drink at your favorite hometown watering hole with some friends and just see who shows up. Incase you're having some trouble deciding where to grab a drink tonight, we here at Damn Arbor have worked tirelessly to update our guide to the Ypsi-Arbor Area's bars. We hope you find it useful.
Gentle readers, are you going out to grab a pint/tumbler/pitcher with your friends tonight? Do you have anything you'd like to add to our Bar Guide? And remember, if you go out tonight, make arrangements for a DD or call a cab.


Arbor Brewing Company: 114 E Washington St

BCB: I’m a big ABC fan. I think they do a good local food/pub food fusion. The vegetarians and vegans I know really appreciate ABC’s extensive selection of good food they can eat. Their standard beers are good standbys, but I usually like their seasonal and limited run beers a lot better.
G$: I always found ABC kind of mediocre, kind of like ordering a Heineken, but it’s a good place to take a group and have a casual beer and some passable food.
EJ: I like the atmosphere at ABC: it can accommodate a larger group of friends as well as an intimate Sunday night book club. Plus, now you can hit up Literati right next door and make a whole evening of it.
Quinn: I used to not really be on the ABC bandwagon. I’ll admit I still don’t like that it’s too nice for how sticky all the tables and seats are, much like The Arena. Unlike The Arena, the food menu has gotten wayyyyy better than it was a year or so ago, in health, taste and variety. Not as big on their beers. Yes G$, that’s it! Mediocre.
BCB: Boooooo! you guys are all hating on their beer. Sacred Cow and Bavarian Bliss are good beers. And I'm not just saying that about the Bliss because I married EJ. G$: She truly is bliss, isn't she? I like the Brasserie Blonde on a summer's day, I will give you that.

Wolverine State Brewing Co.: 2019 W Stadium Blvd

BCB: I’m continually impressed with Wolverine State. They have a range of beers that go from tasty and dependable to innovative and exciting. The place has a good crowd, a warm atmosphere.
EJ: It feels very casual and charming, like you’re hanging out in someone’s basement, though it’s on a very un-charming stretch of Stadium.
Quinn: Ugh, the location. I should get over it I guess. Beer is good, atmosphere is good but not very intimate, love that you can go and bring food right in.
Rich Retyi: Diamond in the rough! I spent a few really great evenings here in the summer, sitting outside and enjoying the patio and the really tasty beer. The location is terrible, but the bar itself is really great.
Damn Arbor: Read more about Wolverine State Brewing Co. here:

In praise of Wolverine State Brewing Co.
Beer Bellies at Wolverine State Brewing Co.
Wolverine State Brewing Company

Grizzly Peak: 120 W Washington Stp

BCB: Some people are Arbor Brewing Company people, some people are Grizzly Peak people. The Old German, in the basement of “The Peak” is pretty cool. There's good German food at OG and I like their smaller batch beers.
EJ: B-school students. That’s all I have to say.
Quinn: I like the beer better at Grizzly Peak, but that’s probably just because it reminds me of its sister restaurant, North Peak, which is up in Traverse City. Which just goes to show you that homesickness trumps all, because I don’t even like North Peak.
Rich Retyi: I just can't get into this place. I hate the layout and I'm not a huge fan of GP beer. Every time I end up here I make a scene. Maybe it's me?
G$: It's not just you. I've always had an irrational hate for GP as well. I feel like the beer is not great and the food is totally unmemorable. There's just something so blah about it. At least ABC is local and has shuffleboard.

Damn Arbor: Read more about the Old German here:

Old German, a Review

Jolly Pumpkin: 311 S Main St

G$: Better for food than to hang out and have a beer… although the food is excellent. Their patio has great views and, because it’s upstairs, doesn’t have open-mouthed pedestrians walking by your table like the rest of the Main Street corridor.
EJ: Truffle fries!
BCB: Good nachos.
Quinn: Truffle fries AND the Thai boxer, my favorite drink in town (along with the Black Pearl’s lychee martini). Just discovered the patio on the upper back area this summer and it’s the best thing since sliced challah.


Old Town: 122 W Liberty

BCB: Pressed tin ceiling, exposed bricks, old timey photos, warm lighting and lots of wood. A great bar for any occasion.
Benji: My favorite place in Ann Arbor to have a hamburger, drink a beer, and read a book.
G$: It doesn’t get any better. I’ve studied in Old Town, had birthdays at Old Town, went on dates at Old Town, hung out for six hour stretches at Old Town… there is very little it’s not perfect for.
Quinn: Some of the best nachos in town, with the best snarky service in town. It’s a good place to go if you want to forget you’re in Ann Arbor and want to feel like you’re back home in Anywhere, Midwest for a while.
Dana: Old Town is in my top three, and most of the top three's of those I know. It's a very comfortable bar, and while you might not always seek it out, when you remember it, it's perfect.
Rich Retyi: An Ann Arbor standard, but can a place be too townie? I like the staff, the food is solid, the booths are great and free peanuts are free peanuts, but I always run into the same people here every single time I show up. There's not a lot of variation. The front booths looking outside are probably the best real estate in all of Ann Arbor, particularly at 5pm on a work day in the summer. Prime day drinking.

Alley Bar: 112 W Liberty
Rich Retyi: An upscale dive bar that fills up quickly on the weekends. Great bartenders who make good drinks and are excellent company. Nice, intimate booths for dates and friend hangouts and whatnot. They’re famous for their picklebacks.
G$: Weekends can be too crowded, but it’s a nice option for a weeknight.

8 Ball: 208 S 1st St

Rich Retyi: The only true dive bar in Ann Arbor and Ypsi. Pool tables, pinball, a jukebox, free popcorn and cheap beer. Really cheap beer. The bouncers are jerks but the bartenders are okay. This is also one of the worst bathrooms in Washtenaw County (apparently not anymore!). Cash only.
Benji: The best bar in Ann Arbor to end up at. The bathrooms are indeed terrible. Once, friend of the blog, [redacted, but see comment 4 here], fell into the trough urinal.
G$: It was better before the smoking ban. Cigarette smoke > piss odor. A great place to finish the night (if it’s been that kind of night).
BCB: It was not better before the smoking ban. You can leave a bar that smells like piss and not smell like piss, not true with cigarette smoke. Also, cancer. Cheap beer, free popcorn. A great place to grab a pitcher with a friend.
EJ: Great place to get cut off at your bachelor party.
Quinn: Perfect locale for being propositioned in the bathroom by a woman wearing a moustache named Smokey and her partner, who wanted me to come to Smokey’s birthday party later and “see what happens.” Evidence that they have, in fact, the BEST bathrooms in Washtenaw County.

Bill’s Beer Garden: 218 S Ashley St

BCB: Best outdoor drinking on the Westside. Fire pits keep you warm on chilly nights. Sometimes the food carts from Mark’s Carts will sell food while Bill’s is open.
EJ: Or Pizza Pino! Love that place.
Quinn: I love this place so hard. Another place to forget that the average age in Ann Arbor is 27 and that yes, there are people older than you (besides BCB who is a million) that are friendly, interesting and find you interesting too. Isn’t open too late, but a great place to start.
Damn Arbor: See more on Bill's Beer Garden here:

Bill's Beer Garden is open for the Season
Bill's Beer Garden: a review in pictures

The Last Word: 301 W Huron St

Rich Retyi: Some of the most skilled and nattily-dressed bartenders in Ann Arbor. They take care with their cocktails and the food is on par with some of the best restaurants in town.
Josh: Really nice mellow spot underneath Live. The bartenders love what they do and make great mixed drinks.
Quinn: My absolute favorite. A bunch of soft-spoken bartenders in the basement of Live, men wearing suspenders, a stand-up piano in the corner, just as intimate as you’d want. My suggestion is to sit at the bar and ask the bartenders questions, for suggestions or for surprise drinks that aren’t on the menu. You’ll feel like you’re in a speakeasy underneath a 1940s railroad or something equally as novel-worthy. The drinks are strong and delicious, and the food is unique and diverse. Get the You’re My Boy Blue. You won’t be disappointed.
Damn Arbor: See more on The Last Word here:

The Last Word

Ravens Club: 207 S Main St

BCB: Fun and fancy cocktails.
EJ: The menu changes a lot. That’s usually a sign of a dynamic and engaged chef, but it also means I will likely never again have this delicious fractal broccoli dish I ate there two years ago, and that is a shame. The whiskey drinks are the best, especially for winter.
Quinn: I’m rarely disappointed here, but I do sometimes walk away feeling that it’s overpriced. Go if you’ve got a hankerin’ for weird stuff and great decor. The giant blue lamps!
Dana: Jazz Night!
Damn Arbor: Read more about Ravens Club here:

The Chef at the Cocktail Bar


The Bar at 327 Braun Court: 327 Braun Ct

Rich Retyi: I’d like to call this the hipsteriest bar in Ann Arbor, which it is. I’d like to call it the coziest bar in Ann Arbor, which it is. I’d like to call it one of the best cocktail bars in Ann Arbor, which it is. I’d like to call it one of the best bars in town to get great food, which it is. But then you might want to come here and take my seat. My favorite bar in Ann Arbor. Sit at the bar if you can and bug Eric and Luke.
G$: Ah, Braun Court. From the ridiculous decor to the fact that it shares space with the Espresso Bar, it really is the hipsteriest place imaginable. But very fun and off the beaten path. The drinks are great and it's fun to hang out and shoot the shit with Eric. You can’t beat sitting on the patio in nice weather.
Quinn: I want to like this place a lot, but every night I have here is just weird. The drinks are potent but small, so they’re not for someone with a bad case of the dropsies. I feel just okay about the place.
Dana: This is the kind of bar where you meet a Robert Pattinson look alike who gets offended when you point it out. Use that information as you'd like.
Damn Arbor: You can read more about the Bar at 327 Braun Court here:

The Bar at 327 Braun Court part II

Aut Bar: 315 Braun Ct

BCB: The price point on the cocktails is good. I like the brunch menu too.
G$: As DA’s resident queer, I can’t say I miss Aut too much (although playing pool on a quiet night is fun). From the terrible music to the ridiculous service - brunch is great, but slow as molasses - there’s not much to recommend, although the Manhattans are pretty cheap. We used to drag admitted LGBTQ students to Aut during Preview Weekend to make it seem like A2 has a fun scene. No one was ever convinced.
Quinn: Brunch at the Aut Bar is one of my favorites in town. The mochas are great, and the atmosphere is better. A great place to take your grandma and wait until she figures out it’s a gay bar.
BCB: G$ your time on the East Coast has made you even snarkier, maybe it's time you moved back home.


Ashley’s: 338 S State St

G$: Excellent beer selection but its proximity to campus makes it crowded at peak times. The food’s pretty good (ah, the pesto fries!) as well.
Quinn: I have a soft spot for Ashley’s and you can have some surprisingly nom-worthy food there. Love the huge open windows in the summer, don’t love the wait.

Dominick’s: 812 Monroe St

Rich Retyi: They have beer and food and some other items, but come here for two things: sangria and the Constant Buzz. Patio seating on a sunny summer day and a few glasses of booze. Just be sure to stand up very slowly. This stuff hits pretty hard.
Benji: The quintessential summer-in-Ann-Arbor bar. Sit outside, drink sangria, eat greasy, delicious pizza, and be ready to run when the air raid sirens start blaring.
Quinn: A great place to lose your goddamn mind.
G$: Ah, so many fond memories of wandering over to Dominicks after being bored in a law school class. DO NOT EAT THE FOOD EVER. One time I made the mistake of ordering a Constant Buzz at 1 PM after taking a morning final. It led to some shenanigans (Erika remembers).
BCB: I like the pizza bread, the pizza is pretty good too.


Corner Brewery: 720 Norris St

Rich Retyi: The best thing about Corner Brewery is the ability to do more than just drink. You can do work (school, salaried, etc.), you can have formal meetings, you can take your kid outside and let them run around the picnic tables. Good beer. Great atmosphere.
EJ: I never love the food, but I love the beer and wide open space. I keep going back.
Quinn: Love how big and open this place is.
Dana: Corner always has something going on. From bigger things, like Shadow Art Fair, to smaller theme nights. I might just favor it because of the constant supply of board games.

Sidetrack: 56 E Cross St

Benji: Fried pickles. The end.
BCB: Great bar, great atmosphere, great burgers.
Quinn: There is beer that tastes like BANANA BREAD.
G$: Giant Oberon steins. Great food. You’re not surrounded by U-M undergrads. Occasionally a loud train will come barreling by and interrupt your conversation.
Rich Retyi: I love this place in the winter. Try to grab a seat near the fireplace, drink a giant mug of cold beer and give Mother Nature the middle finger. Then walk home in the cold and taste her sweet revenge.

Wurst Bar: 705 W Cross St

BCB: Homemade sausages and tater tots. You’d think it’d be a terrible place for vegetarians, but they even grind their own vegetarian/vegan sausages. Good selection of beers and good food.
EJ: Tater tots in both regular and sweet potato. Pretzel buns.
Quinn: Good beer, but I feel like their taps run out quickly. So they’ll be out of something, you’ll ask for it, and you’ll get a, “Oh, that’s gone,” even though it’s still listed.
Dana: Whiskey/Trivia Wednesday and Sweet Potato Tater Tots. I have come here only for those tots.

Tap Room: 201 W Michigan Ave

BCB: A good beer and burger place in downtown Ypsi.
Rich Retyi: At one time, this was one of my favorite bars in Ypsi. But then they remodeled and expanded and lost that true tavern feel. Tap Room Trivia: Notice how the handles on the doors are abnormally low? This was to serve the multitude of little people who used to work down the street building bombers for the war effort. Or so I was told. I'm gullible.