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Best Detroit Nightlife

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One of Detroit’s greatest exports is music. From Motown to Madonna to The White Stripes and The Hard Lessons, Metro Detroit has spawned far more talent than most people can keep track of. This is also, of course, the birthplace of techno music, and while the club scene tends to be ever changing, you can always count on the annual celebration of the genre, the Movement festival. It's held on the Detroit River each May and draws crowds from all over the world. Truthfully, the city’s best nightlife is found in its bars, and from fierce (and slightly terrifying) to quiet and civilized, there’s a drinking den for everyone. Late at night the city might seem dead, but everyone is indoors somewhere having a blast. Narrowing down the venues to a list of five is beyond difficult, but here are five great choices to get you started. Once on the ground, pick up the local weeklies—Metro Times and Real Detroit, available everywhere. You’ll generally find an astonishing number of live shows and club nights to choose from.

Cadieux Cafe

Neighborhood: East Side (Detroit)
Like something out of a David Lynch film, this vintage cafe that caters to the region’s Belgian-American community (who knew, right?) is best visited on a Saturday afternoon—a rainy one, better yet. You’ll probably be the only person at the bar, sipping pints of Stella Artois and munching on miles of mussels. The bowling lanes—this is feather bowling, ask the bartender to explain—will likely be quiet. Play something dark on the juke and enjoy. At night, the lanes heat up with league play and the atmosphere gets decidedly more energetic, particularly when there’s live music, which is often. Either way, the Cadieux works. We love to come here after 10PM Monday through Thursday when the pitchers are only $8.

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MotorCity Wine

Neighborhood: Downtown/ Eastern Market 
Located near the foot of Woodward Avenue in the heart of downtown, this neighborhood-like wine shop and wine bar features multiple choices by the glass and offers tastings and a wine club for locals. They also serve food and host some fun events, such as charcuterie tastings with local butchers, the Corridor Sausage Co. Owned by a Montreal native and his ex-sommelier wife (a local girl), this is a giant step forward for regional wine connoisseurs, and a must-stop on any Downtown crawl.

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Clilff Bell's

Neighborhood: Downtown/ Eastern Market 
This nicely renovated art deco room on a side street behind the over-the-top Fox Theater has a long history, dating back to its launch as a jazz club in 1935 by a bartender-turned-club owner. After years of silence, the stage is back and bad, featuring an eclectic calendar of live music and a lot of jazz. The new ownership is going for a supper club vibe, but the food isn’t so much the draw as the room itself and the atmosphere when there’s a good act booked in. Don’t be surprised if there’s a small cover charge to enter (it varies) and be sure to dress up, at least a little bit. If your Saturday night out ends on a Sunday, they do a decent brunch. 

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Small's

Neighborhood: Hamtramck
It’s a corner tap in a blue-collar suburb, but it’s also one of the best live music venues in the Midwest, a small, red, back room with stellar sound and friendly crowds that pack in for local and national acts. The sound in the bar area can be ear-splittingly loud, but it’s all part of the experience. 

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D'Mongo's Speakeasy

Neighborhood: Downtown/ Eastern Market 
Larry Mongo’s joint is so original that he feels it's best just to open the doors once a week, on Fridays. If that syncs with your schedule, you really shouldn’t be anywhere else but this bordello-sexy back alley joint, sandwiched between a strip club and a synagogue. Try some of the home-cooked soul food, listen to the piano player tickle the ivories, have a few drinks and check out the scene. We like the cozy back area, which heats up late at night with a hip but friendly crowd.     

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