Nightlife

586. Nain Rouge Brewery – October 8, 2022 – Detroit, MI

Nain Rouge Brewery, serving up sinfully good beer!

I discovered the Detroit-based brewery during birthday celebrations for moi last month. Friends ordered its beer during dinner at Smith & Co., and we noticed the brewery was right across the way. So we popped over for a round of drinks after, before continuing on to Willis Show Bar.

It turns out that Smith & Co. is the only restaurant to serve Nain Rouge’s wares. The brewery also works with Eastern Michigan University’s brewing school, according to its website, aiming to “help promote diversity in the beer industry.”

What an awesome partnership! Obviously, Nain Rouge Brewery’s character is nothing like its namesake’s, that legendary creature who is said to cause mayhem in the D. Nain Rouge the brewery was, in my experience, a welcoming place devoid of drama – a chill space to enjoy pre-show drinks. But the “red dwarf,” as its name translates, has left its imprint on the brewery – in the form of its devilishly delicious beer.

Nain Rouge’s current tap list boast a range of choices, from an amber lager to a coffee stout to a honey- and hibiscus-infused wheat beer. There are three kinds of IPAs, a kölsch, a pilsner – even an Oktoberfest selection. I went for the Wisehead Chocolate Vanilla Porter, and it was right up my alley: rich, tasty, smooth.

Maybe that’s how Nain Rouge the imp is able to sneak in and cause a ruckus: by being as smooth as Nain Rouge the brewery’s beers. Maybe Nain Rouge Brewery has more in common with its namesake than I initially thought!

666 Selden St.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.nainrougebrewery.com

585. Smith & Co. – October 8, 2022 – Detroit, MI

A Saturday night spent with friends in Detroit: is there anything better? That’s especially the case when you’re dining on Smith & Co.’s Nain Rouge Mac & Cheese!

The Midtown/Cass Corridor-based restaurant and bar serves up hearty fare in a convivial environment. The interior ambiance can be described as upscale industrial: concrete floors, exposed beams, and destressed elements mixed with leather banquettes, gloss, and mod lighting.

Delving into the menu’s array of sandwiches, salads, pizzas, and entrées, I saw several choices that enticed me – the Korean Fried Chicken sandwich being one. I even toyed with the idea of getting a salad, intrigued by the Fried Green Tomato with its medley of kale, kamut, beans, radishes, red onion, snap peas, feta, croutons, mint, the titular tomatoes, and balsamic vinaigrette.

But the Nain Rouge Mac & Cheese won out – and I’m SO glad it did! The noodles were doused in creamy beer cheese and tossed with barbecue sauce-infused pulled beef, chunks of bacon, and fried onion. It was rich, flavorful, indulgent – the exact qualities you want a birthday dinner to have.

The drink I imbibed at Smith & Co. embodied those same traits. A luxurious mix of Kahlua, vodka, coffee, and dalgona topped with coffee foam, the Espresso Martini Chamber Seven was so nice, I ordered it twice! The current selection of specialty cocktails includes the Pumpkin Spice Old Fashioned and a seasonal sangria. Beer from nearby Nain Rouge Brewery is on draft, and for those who don’t drink, a Zero-Proof section features two mocktails and drinks from the likes of local leisure soda vendor, Casamara Club.

Celebrating my birthday with friends at Smith & Co. was wonderful – namely because of those friends’ company. But the delicious food and drink amplified the experience. Thanks, Smith & Co., for helping make this special day even more special!

644 Selden St.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.smithandcodetroit.com

582. Mai Tiki Bar – September 30, 2022 – Ferndale, MI

Mai Tiki Bar is a sweet escape!

Tucked away behind an unmarked door inside TigerLily sushi bar (formerly Antihero), the Ferndale-based speakeasy tiki bar is a whimsical kaleidoscope of colors and flavors: the perfect contrast to the muted winter landscape soon to befall Metro Detroit.

Mai offers an array of tropically inspired drinks served in the way characteristic of tiki bars: in visually arresting ceramic tiki mugs bedecked with fun garnishes such as mint leaves, pineapple wedges, and orchid blooms – or half a flaming lime (that’s the garnish for The Zombie!). The bulk of Mai’s specialty cocktails incorporate rum and fruit juices – another trait characteristic of tiki bars. But the drinks are much more nuanced than the ones you’d find at a stereotypical tiki bar (those kinds that cater to tourists in popular vacation spots). Mai’s incorporate interesting ingredients such as orgeat syrup, cinnamon, and pomegranate.

Take one of the drinks I ordered, The Jungle Bird. Its blackstrap rum, Campari, and demerara syrup melded with pineapple and lime juices to make a drink that was one part sweet, one part bitter – and one hundred percent delicious! I especially enjoyed the molasses flavor brought by the blackstrap rum.

But humans can’t live on wonderfully nuanced liquid libations alone. When you’re in need of nourishment after downing a Mai Tai or two, look to Mai’s food menu. The assortment of plates offer something for everyone, from veg lovers to meat-focused folks to seafood fanatics intrigued by the Mai Tiki Shrimp, Aku Roll, and three kinds of fish tacos (salmon, hamachi, and tuna).

I went the veg and meat route, ordering Mai’s Chicken Karage and Shishito Peppers. A flavorful yuzu chili aioli accompanied the tender Chicken Karage. And wonder accompanied the Shishito Peppers! The cooked peppers were topped with bonito flakes, which were moving – writhing all over the peppers.

Apparently, this is a common occurance. Bonito flakes are shaved dried fish; when sprinkled on hot foods, the heat causes them to rehydrate, and they start wiggling as a result. But it was my first time experiencing this phenomenon, and it was hard to shake the feeling that they were alive. Order those Shishito Peppers and play a party trick on your friends!

Party trick or not, visiting Mai Tiki Bar is a shindig in itself. Vibrant ambiance and compelling food and drink make it a escape worth taking.

231 W. 9 Mile Rd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.maitikibar.com

573. Bowlero – August 10, 2022 – Royal Oak, MI

Bowlero is a place to be! What a delightful time warp this bowling alley/bar is.

The locally-owned, Royal Oak-based Bowlero has been around since 1957. But its age isn’t the sole reason for its cool vintage looks; Bowlero was renovated in 2019. It’s intentionally retro, in a ’70s-heavy way, incorporating groovy design motifs, lots of orange, and throwback programming playing on the TVs (Grease the night I was there). The women’s room alone is a selfie-lover’s dream with its flashy pink-and-orange wallpaper, mirrors with cartoonishly-shaped frames holding cans of Aqua Net, and a Ms. Pac Man arcade game.

The area of Bowlero that has a decidedly more contemporary feel is the lounge. Retro elements are incorporated into the decor of the long, narrow room, but it has a more hipster than hippie feel. The bar serves up wine, beer and hard cider (including multiple Michigan brews), and specialty cocktails featuring Michigan-made spirits (Two James, Valentine, Detroit City Distillery, Petoskey’s Gypsy Vodka). One such cocktail is Bowlero’s take on a White Russian, The Bowlero Orange Russian: a blend of Gypsy Vodka, Tia Maria, Cointreau, and vegan creamer.

Besides offering 16 lanes of bowling and seasonal bowling leagues, Bowlero regularly features no-cover live music (every Friday and Saturday), themed nights (Punk Nite and 80s Video Night being two examples), karaoke, and other events. Check this calendar for the current line-up, then boogie on over to Bowlero!

4209 Coolidge Hwy.

Royal Oak, MI 48073

www.bowlerodetroit.com

572. Berkley Coffee – August 5, 2022 – Oak Park, MI

Berkley Coffee has charm for days! From the drinks to the service to the ambiance, the good vibes are on overdrive at this Oak Park-based coffee shop, performance venue, and non-alcoholic bar.

Yes, Berkley Coffee isn’t based in Berkley, but Oak Park. But who cares? It’s Berkley adjacent – and its coffee is delicious. Berkley Coffee roasts it own beans and offers multiple varieties with origins ranging from Ethiopia to India, Nicaragua to Brazil.

The shop has multiple identities by design. By day, it’s the coffee shop, which is how I experienced it. I spent a couple of hours working at Berkley Coffee one morning, at a table bordering the performance stage. I loved the ambiance – both the lively energy (the place was bustling with customers that Friday morning) and the interior aesthetic. Berkley Coffee’s main room has a contemporary feel, with industrial details and neutral hues accented by pops of color (potted plants; stained glass in a pretty pattern of turquoise, white, and gold). Shelves housing nonalcoholic beers, wines, shrubs, syrups, and other drinks and drink ingredients dominate one corner. A room dubbed the East Room offers additional seating, books, children’s toys, a piano, and a plethora of board games.

I learned that Berkley Coffee takes a unique approach to ordering coffee. Cylindrical containers holding individual portions of beans are stacked on shelves facing the customer. When you place your order, you pick one of the vials and hand it to the barista, and they grind the beans and make your drink.

Staff members kindly ushered clueless me through the process, recommending bean varieties based on my preferences. I had two drinks that morning: a cappuccino with Brazilian beans and oat milk and a Japanese iced coffee with Ethiopian beans. Both were fantastic! (The Japanese-style iced coffee was something I’d never heard of but turned out to be a drink I regularly enjoy at home: fresh-brewed hot coffee poured over ice.)

By night, the main room of Berkley Coffee is the performance space. The shop regularly hosts bands and other performers. Amps, mics, PA equipment, guitars and other instruments are available for performers. The bar whips up cocktails that range from non-alcoholic versions of classics such as the Manhattan and Mai Tai to signature drinks with intriguing flavor components such as pine syrup, sesame oil, and blood orange cordial. According to Berkley Coffee’s website, it’s dedicated to offering a space where guests can socialize and enjoy live entertainment while also being sober.

With so much good to experience at Berkley Coffee, days’ and days’ worth of revisits are warranted!

14661 W. 11 Mile Rd., Ste. 500

Oak Park, MI 48237

www.berkleycoffee.com

563. Brown Iron Brewhouse – May 26, 2022 – Washington, MI

Washington is represented on the blog – with a visit to Brown Iron Brewhouse!

I visited the local brewery in May, yearning to sit on its pretty patio. A rainy day – alas! – made that impossible. But I did get to experience Brown Iron’s convivial beer hall interior. There I feasted on its beefy bacon cheeseburger (the Brown Iron Burger) and sipped one of its raspberry saisons.

Brown Iron features a wide selection of beers and hard ciders on tap – both its own and those of other breweries. The Washington location’s tap list is currently 69 items strong! Wine and cocktails are also available.

And the food! A feature of Brown Iron’s food menu is its barbecued meats. It has a smoker – and that’s reflected in menu offerings such as Slow Smoked BBQ Pork, Texas Beef Brisket, and St. Louis Spareribs. Sandwiches, salads, and pub-friendly appetizers (here’s looking at you, Crispy Cheese Curds and Beer Hall Nachos!) are also available.

57695 Van Dyke Ave.

Washington, MI 48094

(With an additional location in Royal Oak)

www.browniron.com

562. Frame – May 25, 2022 – Hazel Park, MI

Frame, making an everyday night an absolute experience!

What a special place this Hazel Park-based business is. Frame is not simply a restaurant or bar – though its FRAMEbar does function as one. No, Frame is a crafter of experiences – experiences like the cocktail-making class I took this May.

The class, titled, “Vintage Spirits & Forgotten 19th-Century Cocktails,” was part of a series called Frame Summer School. Workshops are a large part of what Frame does. It offers classes on food and cocktail making, on subjects ranging from cake decorating to beer-making to Ethiopian cooking.

If you prefer to be served an experience rather than trying your hand at crafting it yourself, Frame’s got you, too! Another of Frame’s primary offerings is its Frame Dinners. Locally-based chefs and those from farther afield come to Frame to cook multi-course, reservation-only themed dinners. I’ve not yet attended one of these meals, but judging by the descriptions on Frame’s website, they are special. I want to experience them all: the Traditional Mexican Dinner Party by Eddie Vargas, the Liberian Dinner Party by Ameneh Marhaba (both local chefs).

While tickets must be purchased in advance for the Frame Dinners experiences, walk-in meals are possible at Frame via its FRAMEbar concept. FRAMEbar hosts chefs – such as current chef-in-residence Shinya Hirakawa of Obi Sushi – for month-long residencies.

I would love to revisit Frame, to attend one of its Frame Dinners or sample fare by a chef in residency or take another class. That workshop I attended, on vintage spirits and forgotten cocktails? It was an absolute blast! It was taught by Paul Seif, a Pittsburgh-based bartender. We made three cocktails with ties to the Detroit area: The Last Word, The 12th Mile Limit, and The Cohaset Punch. All were delightfully boozy and utterly delicious, but my favorite was The Cohaset Punch. With its 12 ingredients (including two kinds of rum, spiced brandy, blackstrap molasses, and bourbon-soaked peaches), the drink is more aspirational than everyday for me. But I want to make it part of my everyday. It’s flavor-packed, booze-forward, and the ideal amount of sweet-but-not-too-sweet.

Paul was a great instructor: approachable, funny, and willing to answer the questions lobbed at him by our full class. He shared stories about each cocktail’s origin and his particular takes on them. As we mixed our drinks, I chatted with the woman next to me, a Frame workshop regular who raved about the place. Now here I am, a fellow raving fan of Frame and its ultra-special experiences!

23839 John R. Rd.

Hazel Park, MI 48030

www.framehazelpark.com

559. Bronx Bar – April 30, 2022 – Detroit, MI

What’s better than springtime Saturday in the city? Springtime Saturday in the city capped off with a visit to the Bronx Bar!

Detroit is magical any time of year for me, precisely because it fosters magical establishments such as this longtime fixture in the Midtown/Cass Corridor neighborhood.

From the colorful stained-glass lamps hanging from its ceilings to the deer figurines flanking its tables, the Bronx Bar oozes old-fashioned charm. There’s a vintage jukebox (that holds CDs!) and a dolphin figurine inexplicably wearing a bra (because why not?). Roll-up doors open one wall to the outside, offering up fresh air and street-side people watching, and patio tables flank the exterior. Chalkboard menus advertise bar fare ranging from veggie-forward (a black-bean burger; a sandwich christened the Clean Veggie) to saturated-fat-infused decadence (fried bologna, cheese sticks, a ground-chuck cheeseburger). The bar stocked with bottles means everyone is bound to find a favorite drink.

If you’re looking for a little charm infusion, look no further than this effortlessly charming place!

4476 2nd Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

549. Mootz Pizzeria – March 13, 2022 – Detroit, MI

A visit to Mootz Pizzeria was the perfect way to celebrate 313 Day!

My trip to Mootz was also my first new-place visit in almost five weeks, and the first of Blog Year Nine. What a way to kick it off! Mootz’s food is fantastic. The Greek Salad is an amped-up version of the classic with its fresh arugula, feta chunks, red onion, cucumbers, Kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, and zesty Greek dressing. The kicker is the mini stuffed grape leaf on top. Delicious! Come to Mootz for this salad alone.

And stay at Mootz for the pizza. Laden with red sauce, fresh mozzarella, pepperoni, and basil leaves and kissed with spicy honey, the Bee Sting pie is AMAZING! I’m not generally a pepperoni person, but I love the pepperoni that curls up into little cups (there’s something about it!), and Mootz has that. The combination of the savory pepperoni and sweet and spicy honey is SO good!

Mootz’s menu contains several salads – one being the incredible-sounding Library salad, whose ingredients include grilled chicken, bacon, radishes, and candied pecans. The appetizer section contains Italian classics such as caprese, burrata, and bruschetta, while the entrées include several pasta dishes and hoagies. I’m sure those are delicious, but I can’t see myself ever coming to Mootz and bypassing their pies. There are too many enticing options to choose from, from the Bee Sting to the Juliet (beguiling with its fig jam, balsamic glaze, gorgonzola, green onion, prosciutto, pecorino, and shaved Parmesan) to the five-cheese Holy Cheesus.

The drink menu includes some pretty enticing options, too. Mootz offers a full bar with a selection of craft cocktails – one being the whimsically named Baby Got Spice (described on the menu as a “smokey and spicy margarita”). If Baby’s got spice, then Mootz has got the fun and flavor!

1230 Library St.

Detroit, MI 48226

www.mootzpizzeria.com

545. Rochester Bistro – January 21, 2022 – Rochester, MI

Cozy up to the bar rail of Rochester Bistro – you won’t be disappointed! The restaurant based in downtown Rochester is serving up delicious food and drink – not to mention ambiance (à la the delightfully moody scene shown above).

During my January visit, I savored an excellently prepared filet with a red wine sauce, plus a glass of pinot noir. Red wine and red meat on a Friday night? Perfection!

Maybe red wine and red meat aren’t your thing – and that’s OK. Rochester Bistro features a full bar, plus entrée offerings such as Chicken Limon, Roasted Salmon with Artichokes, and Rigatoni Pasta with Braised Lamb Sugo and Pecorino.

227 S. Main St.

Rochester, MI 48307