Wednesday, May 13, 2009

National Craft Beer Week

You'd think we would be the first people to know, but the first 3 days of National Craft Beer Week have already passed us by, and we didn't discover it until today.

In the Ann Arbor area, that probably necessitates visits to some of the microbreweries/brewpubs in town:
Grizzly Peak
Blue Tractor
Arbor Brewing Company
The Corner Brewery

The "official" celebration ends the 17th, so have a few craft beers before Monday rolls around.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

East Lansing - A Comparison

As (approximately) college-aged guys who did the majority of our growing up in Michigan, Nate and I both are pretty familiar with multiple colleges in the state, and even some around the country. We've all heard the stereotypes, and have a pretty good idea of which are true, and which are false.

It is with this in mind that we ventured to East Lansing on a Friday night to take in the nightlife. As a caveat, this trip occurred in the break between classes and exams, which may slightly change the atmosphere. Nate and I have also each been to East Lansing several times, so in the interest of a fair review, I'll sprinkle in a bit of my prior knowledge as well.


The first thing I'll note is that State is famous for charging cover at parties ($5 to buy a solo cup). This is standard issue there, so while it sucks (yes, people who go to State, parties are just free in Ann Arbor), I won't criticize it too much. It is what it is. However, nearly every single bar in East Lansing was charging cover on this particular night as well. We started the night at Woody's, which isn't so much a bar as a Mediterranean restaurant that serves alcohol, and stays open a little later than usual. Definitely not a bar-like atmosphere, and no cover there. However, upon progressing from Woody's, we found that every other bar along Grand River and in the entire area was charging a $5 cover. This, quite obviously, is not the case in Ann Arbor. The only place I know that EVER has such an expensive cover charge is Necto, and even that is only on certain nights. Some places in Ann Arbor will have a $2-3 cover charge, especially on a night that they have a special. However, you'll never wander for more than a few minutes before finding a bar with free entry. In EL, even the bars that were mostly empty were trying to charge $5 cover (and those that were full, like Rick's or __, were probably making a killing). The bars that I've been to on other trips to East Lansing include Rick's (a hybrid between Scorekeeper's and Rick's in Ann Arbor) and the Landshark. Nate loves him some Landshark, so I'll keep that one to him.

Our bar attempt rebuffed, we decided to hit the party scene. It is here where the caveat about academic calendar comes into play, because there were next to zero house parties going on in East Lansing. Sure, it isn't the house party-heavy environment that Ann Arbor is, but not a single one? Really? Eventually, we settled on a party that Nate's friends knew about at a housing co-op. This, predictably, was filled with Hippies, Hipsters, and lots of other things that start with "hip." It was not, however, filled with Solo Cups. Even though we were clutching our $5 bills, ready to take the hit to be able to drink, there were none available. We settled on a beer can that Nate had brought with him (full at the time), refilling it from the keg. Another thing to note at this party was that a huge proportion of the house was non-navigable due to weed smoke. Yes, it was a co-op, so this is probably expected, but it was certainly overwhelming.

The final note on East Lansing is that, for a school allegedly filled with hot girls, I saw maybe 2 of them the whole night, and it certainly wasn't because I saw very few girls. Perhaps I'm just overly sensitive because State students love to brag about their girls while simultaneously ripping on those in Ann Arbor, but over the course of my many, many visits, the girls in Ann Arbor are probably more attractive, but dead even at worst.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

New Writer - Tim Sullivan

As I said earlier I was trying to get someone to assist me with content.

Hurray! It's happened.

Tim, my ex-college roommate has volunteered to write a little. He's a UofM grad in the process of moving back to AA to work as a writer. He's currently working on an East Lansing review vs. Ann Arbor, similar to the State College comparison.

The End.

Babs' Underground Lounge

The Location: 213 S. Ashley St. (a block west of Main St., just south of Grizzly Peak)

The Facts:
Babs' opened in 1997. It's located, as the name would suggest, underground. Slightly hard to find, you must first enter a foyer to the building, then go down a series of stairs. It features two levels. The upper level has large leather chairs, a handful of tables, and two pool tables, the lower level features more tables, and the bar. There is also a photobooth on the lower level. Free WiFi. Open Tuesday through Saturday.

The Specials:
Babs' is a fairly expensive lounge. Bottles are generally around $4, Drafts are around $5. Martini's, the bar's specialty, are generally around $7.
Tuesday: Movie night, $4 40oz bottles of PBR, Olde English, and Miller High Life, Free Pool
Wednesday: Pitchers (4 drinks) of various mixed drinks for $12. Live DJ.
Thursday: $2 PBR and High Life bottles. $3 Vodka Red Bulls.

I first must admit I've only been to Babs' twice. Once on a Thursday, once on a Saturday, so I don't know the place that well. However, in those two times I've been, I've loved it. So relaxed. While some might call it a 'college' bar, it certainly isn't a bar populated by the average college student. While it's not 'quiet' you can certainly hear the people near you without yelling. You also avoid a lot of the patrons showing up to 'get drunk'. It's a very relaxed social bar.

It also is billed as a cigar bar. While there aren't a large amount of cigar smoker, there certainly are a lot of cigarette smokers. As someone who loves the former and, at best, puts up with the latter, this isn't ideal (for me) and a non-smoking section would be nice, but the amount of smoke is going to depend on who you're sitting near.

As I said, I haven't been to very many nights at Babs' and I haven't been able to develop a baseline for its average 'fullness', however, I have been there when it was 'at capacity' and was let in after a few minute wait. Coming down, I saw that it was far from crowded (though certainly not empty). I'm pretty sure the owner elected to have the 'capacity' much smaller than the fire marshal would have allowed to facilitate the atmosphere. This is an indication that the owner would rather cater to people looking for a certain atmosphere than make as much money as possible. A plus in my book.

As a side effect to this, I've noticed that you rarely have to wait to get a drink up at the bar. At that night of full capacity, I was asked what I wanted by the bartending staff almost immediately after laying a hand on the bar. Also, even on a busy night, the waitstaff is making rounds asking for drink orders.

On non-free days, pool is quite expensive. $15 an hour. However, the tables are immaculate. No where in Ann Arbor, other than perhaps Monkey Bar have I seen as nice of tables.

I really like Babs'. I think I'm getting older and that might be a sign, but I'm becoming more intune with the quiet(er) place with nice atmosphere than the place with cheap beer with loud underage drunks. I really think Babs will become one of my main haunts now. I really like it, dispite it's expense. I give it four stars.