Food & Drink

It goes to 11: Detroit's 11 most iconic music bars

Published On 07/23/2014 Published On 07/23/2014
Cliff Bell's
The Raven Lounge
Baker's Keyboard Lounge
Harpos Concert Theatre
I-Rock Nightclub Detroit
Chris Lawrence Photography
Saint Andrew's Hall
TV Lounge
Old Miami
Leland City Club
Stonehouse Bar
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1. Cliff Bell's 2030 Park Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

Hands-down Detroit's finest cabaret club, Cliff Bell's is a cocktail bar, restaurant, and entertainment destination with dramatic Art Deco décor that includes a curved wood ceiling, mahogany leather banquettes, and a vintage Steinway grand piano. Stop by to wash down great jazz and burlesque with quality martinis and other beverages mixed by well dressed and professional bartenders.

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2. The Raven Lounge 5145 Chene St, Detroit, MI 48211

Potentially the oldest continuously operating blues bar in the state, The Raven Lounge is a bit out of the way, but totally worth the trip for some authentic blues and soul food.

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3. Baker's Keyboard Lounge 20510 Livernois Ave, Detroit, MI 48221

What began as a humble sandwich joint in 1933 turned into a piano bar in the early 40s, at which point it became a pivotal venue in the history of American jazz. A frequent haunt for the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Art Tatum, and Miles Davis, Baker's is still thriving today, with touring musicians providing nightly jazz and weekly comedy shows in an authentic Art Deco space. Entertainment aside, the kitchen here is serious about soul food: succulent barbecue wings and ribs reign supreme, and regional tastes like grilled perch and whiting are equally as satisfying.

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4. Harpos 142388 Harper, Detroit, MI 48213

Found in a slightly sketchy neighborhood, Harpos is an original metal institution in Detroit that's been played by everyone from Iron Maiden to GWAR.

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5. I-Rock Nightclub 16350 Harper Ave, Detroit, MI 48224

Just a mile down the road from the iconic Harpos, I-Rock is also a legendary establishment, having hosted the likes of Black Sabbath, Mercyful Fate, and ICP.

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6. Small's 10339 Conant St, Hamtramck, MI 48212 (Hamtramck)

Small's is a legendary spot that's brought in acts like the Melvins, Jello Biafra, and Fu Manchu. This corner neighborhood bar doubles as a rock venue and club-- both local and international bands and DJs come to perform. Choose from a wide selection of beers and well liquors. The bar's gorgeous, antiquated Art Deco theme (complete with multicolor stained glass windows) recalls the Motor City's golden years. Plus, once a month Small’s hosts Ray & Laura’s Comedy Showcase, a show run by two two Hamtramck comedians (which means they’re hilarious, and also likely buzzed) that invites independent local and national acts to take the newly inaugurated stage in the bar’s front room for celebrity guest impersonators, game show parodies, and good ol’ fashioned stand-up.

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7. Saint Andrew's Hall 431 E Congress St, Detroit, MI 48224

Built in 1907, Saint Andrews Hall is three music venues rolled into one old Downtown Scottish Society meeting spot. Upstairs is The Society Room, an exclusive high-ceilinged, exposed-brick lounge with a full bar, high tops, and chesterfields. On the main floor you will also find a full bar, but instead of tables it’s a music hall complete with balconies that has hosted legends like Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Adele on its small stage. Through a back ally entrance is The Shelter, a bar and music venue in the basement where there are regular DJs and other musical entertainment. Throughout Saint Andrews you will find over 80 different beers and the whole gamut of spirits for cocktails and shots.

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8. TV Lounge 2548 Grand River Ave, Detroit, MI 48201 (Midtown)

TV Lounge is the premier dance and electronic music bar in Detroit, and hosts plenty of Movement Festival after-parties and hip-hop acts as well.

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9. Old Miami 3930 Cass Ave, Detroit, MI 48201 (Midtown)

The Old Miami wears its heritage on its sleeve, starting with the “Thank you, Veterans” printed in large white lettering on the bar’s forest green awning. Established in 1975 as a haven for Vietnam veterans, the Old Miami has served Detroit for decades as a hybrid music-venue-meets-drinking-den. The walls are lined with military memorabilia, and a jukebox plays Patsy Kline next to the pool table. If you’re not swaying to the music on the dance floor, chances are you’re cozied up in one of the oversized couches or chairs near the fireplace chatting up a fellow patron whose past is inevitably a lot more interesting than yours.

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10. City Club 400 Bagley St, Detroit, MI 48226

Leland City Club is THE industrial nightclub in Detroit, and has been pumping out the jams since sometime in the early '90s.

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11. Stonehouse Bar 19803 Ralston St, Detroit, MI 48203

This bar is so old-school, it is rumored to have been a hangout for Prohibition-era Detroit gangsters, the Purple Gang -- and even a brothel at one time. Hypotheses aside, this bar today has a coveted Victorian-style covered front porch, a jukebox, cold beer, and cheap prices that may explain all the regulars.