There’s an odd comfort in a good, old dive bar. Low lighting, cheap drinks, and a laid-back atmosphere are enough to make most anyone feel at home. Not all dive bars are the same, and many of them have a long, storied history that’s an important part of the atmosphere. Along with darts and pool tables, these metro Detroit watering holes have a simple, laid-back vibe, with a little something extra to draw you in and to set them apart.
Madison Club Bar
Known to many simply as “BAR” due to its giant exterior sign reading “BAR,” Madison Club is a typical, laid back local hideout. If you miss karaoke night on Wednesday, it’s offered three times a week on Fridays and Saturdays as well, with different drink specials every night. Unlike its dive bar counterparts that typically open in the afternoon, Madison Club prefers to get an early start. As an old factory bar, Madison Club once opened at 7 a.m. as a courtesy to third-shift workers. Over the years, this has only changed slightly to 8 a.m. Madison Club Bar, 32275 Stephenson Hwy., Madison Heights; 248-588-4433
With its bright green brick exterior on an almost empty block, Jumbo’s is hard to miss. After being open for nearly 80 years, Jumbo’s is believed by many to be the last piece standing of the original Cass Corridor. The current owner, Cindy Furkovich — daughter of original owner Steve “Jumbo” Demoff — keeps the bar’s history in-tact with a news clipping of Demoff hung on the wall and a functional cigarette machine. In trendy Midtown, classic Jumbo’s keeps customers returning with its old school feel, cheap drinks, original jukebox, outside seating, and free open mic comedy on the last Wednesday of every month. Jumbo’s Bar, 3736 Third Ave., Detroit; 313-831-894
Royal Oak has an extensive bar scene, but few have such a well-respected reputation as Gusoline Alley. Gusoline Alley, also known as “Gus’,” has become a hub for locals and out-of-towners alike. Gus’ is regularly featured in Royal Oak bar crawls and beer strolls, but that certainly doesn’t affect its laid-back atmosphere and cheap drink prices. Gus’ has a larger beer collection than the classic dive bar, featuring many local and craft options. Gusoline Alley was also named Best Dive Bar in Hour Detroit’s Best of Detroit 2018. Gusoline Alley, 309 S. Center St., Royal Oak; 248-545-2235
Duffy’s Pub in Auburn Hills is easy to miss if you aren’t looking closely. Sharing a complex with an insurance company and a family dentist, Duffy’s may not appear to hold a crowd, but locals pledge loyalty to this hometown hideaway. The $1 Burger Wednesday’s is what gets most people through the door, but the homey, everybody-knows-everybody feel is what keeps patrons coming back. With daily drink specials, live music every weekend with a dance floor, and a Friday Night Fish Fry, Duffy’s offers up plenty of specialties that keep customers coming back. Duffy’s Pub, 3320 Auburn Rd., Auburn Hills; 248-852-2222
Hilltop Bar is, in the purest sense of the term, a dive bar. It’s barebones, no-frills, and full of character and characters. The bar’s classic reoccurring cast of personalities never fail to make you feel welcome. It’s like you’ve walked into an episode of “Cheers,” especially because Darko, the bartender, could put Sam Malone in his place. Besides Hilltop’s digital jukebox and the dartboard, the only extra amenities you’ll find at Hilltop are their shuffleboard table, and subsequently, their unofficial shuffleboard league. If you’re looking for a simple cheap drink and a good time, or some competitive shuffleboard, look no further than Hilltop. Hilltop Bar, 48214 Van Dyke Ave., Shelby Charter Twp.; 586-731-0828
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