Washtenaw County Dive Bars: A Thorough Review

PULP LIFE REVIEW

Banfield's and Thompson's bars

Banfield's in Ann Arbor and the peguin mascot for Thompson Bar & Grill in Saline.

A truly excellent dive bar is an exceedingly special place. Slipping in through the door -- preferably dirty and unmarked -- one should lose all sense of time and place. The bathroom walls should be scrawled upon; the darts, the pool, and the jukebox should be cheap; and there should always be the sneaking suspicion that the bartender is watering down your drinks, even if all you’ve ordered is a pitcher of Labatt. 

I’ve spent many a conversation lamenting that 8 Ball is the last true dive bar in Ann Arbor, once even making the bold statement, “If 8 Ball goes, I go.” After one of these conversations recently, I started thinking about other good dives in the area. I remembered fondly the summer afternoon I found myself at Fenders in Milan and wished for the umpteenth time that Powell’s in Ypsilanti was closer to me. But there had to be some other good ones that I was missing or -- gasp -- didn’t even know about, I figured. And that’s how the idea for this piece, in which I attempt to find the best dive bar in Washtenaw County, was born. 

After making a list of all the potential dives I thought needed to be explored (and overcoming my disappointment that Zukey Lake Tavern is outside county lines), I asked my fellow dive-bar-loving friend to come with me on the journey. It turned out that the day that worked best for us to embark on the trip was a random Tuesday at the end of May. “Are dive bars open on Tuesdays?” I texted my friend. “They are if they want to be considered BEST OF WASHTENAW COUNTY,” he responded. “Excellent point,” I said.

Finding the best dive bar in any county is a marathon, not a sprint, so we started in the early afternoon at the county’s northernmost bar:

Raining in the Race: Conquering the 2018 Dexter-Ann Arbor Half Marathon

PULP LIFE REVIEW

The author at the 2018 Dexter-Ann Arbor Half Marathon

The Dexter-Ann Arbor Half Marathon (DXA2), which takes runners along the beautiful Huron River Drive, is a staple in the area the first Sunday of June each year. It’s a particularly special race because - unlike most races that have to be a loop or an out-and-back route so that the start and finish are in the same spot -- DXA2 takes runners from downtown Dexter to downtown Ann Arbor with no return. This requires much coordination by race organizers, as many runners opt to be shuttled on school buses from Ann Arbor to Dexter for the race start at Creekside Middle School. I’ve always been impressed with how smoothly this all works out. 

Our Secret Stories: "Notes From a Public Typewriter" captures anonymous odes & anecdotes

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Michael Gustafson & Oliver Uberti with their book Notes From a Typewriter

Literati's Michael Gustafson teamed with designer Oliver Uberti for a book capturing dreams and desires left on the bookstore's typewriter.

When Michael Gustafson, co-owner of Literati Bookstore with his wife, Hilary, put a typewriter out for public use in the basement of the store, he wasn’t sure what would come of it. 

"There was no concrete plan,” he says. “It was more of an experiment.”

Literati’s logo features a typewriter based on a Smith Corona that Gustafson inherited from his grandfather, and he decided it would be fun to give customers the chance to use a typewriter when they visited the store.

He had no idea it would be as popular as it is.

Cultivate's Songwriter Sunday series demystifies the process

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Katie Pederson and Tim Monger at Cultivate in Ypsilanti

Katie Pederson and Tim Monger are two of many area artists who have participated in Songwriter Sunday at Cultivate in Ypsilanti.

Many of us wonder what the creative process for an artist is like. How do they come up with ideas for their songs? What inspires them? How do they start to write and compose an original song?

Beginning in November 2017, Cultivate Coffee and Taphouse has held Songwriter Sunday bi-weekly, offering local artists the chance to share their songwriting and creative process, and giving interested members of the public the chance to answer some of those questions.

M, Go Blues-y: Former Michigan quarterback David Cone releases his debut album

MUSIC INTERVIEW

David Cone

David Cone traded in his shoulder pads for an acoustic guitar.

Pursuing a career in film and music is an unusual route for a former quarterback to take, but that’s exactly what former Michigan QB David Cone has done.

“Fortunately, I grew up in a household that valued a renaissance way of life,” said Cone, who played for the Wolverines from 2006-2009. “When I discovered a talent for football, I pursued it. I love songs, so I write them. I enjoy films, so I make them. I want to exhaust life in such a way that when I looked back, I’ve left no stone unturned.”

Now back in his home state of Georgia, Cone splits his time between Atlanta and Nashville and just released his debut album, Welcome Home.

March 2018 Author and Book Events

PULP WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW

March 2018 book collage

What does having an amazing university, a plethora of fantastic local independent bookstores, and a pretty slam-bang public library system (if we do say so ourselves) bring to a town?

Authors. Lots and lots of authors.

In fact, so many authors pass through the area that sometimes it can be hard to keep track of who is speaking and when and where. To help guide you, Pulp curated a highlights list of March 2018 author events.

January 2018 Book & Author Events

WRITTEN WORD

January 2018 Book & Author Events

What does having an amazing university, a plethora of fantastic local independent bookstores, and a pretty slam-bang public library system (if we do say so ourselves) bring to a town?

Authors. Lots and lots of authors.

In fact, so many authors pass through the area that sometimes it can be hard to keep track of who is speaking and when and where. To help guide you, Pulp curated a highlights list of January 2018 author events.

Author Events: October 2017

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September 2017 Author Events

Manipulated original image from StockSnap/Pixabay.

What does having an amazing university, a plethora of fantastic local independent bookstores, and a pretty slam-bang public library system (if we do say so ourselves) bring to a town?

Authors. Lots and lots of authors.

In fact, so many authors pass through the area that sometimes it can be hard to keep track of who is speaking and when and where. To help guide you, Pulp curated a highlights list of October 2017 author events.

Sibling Sounds: Wild Belle at the Blind Pig

REVIEW MUSIC

Last night was not Wild Belle’s first time playing at the Blind Pig. In fact, the group played one of its first ever shows there years ago, opening for the Afro-beat dance band Nomo in what was something like a family reunion. Elliott Bergman (saxophones, keyboards) is in both bands -- he founded Nomo while at the University of Michigan -- as are Erik Hall (guitar) and Quin Kirchner (drums), and Bergman's younger sister, Natalie (vocals, guitar), started guesting with Nomo when she was just 16. (Bassist Kellen Harrison is the only non-Nomo-affiliated member of Wild Belle.)

With a reserved “Hello, Ann Arbor” from Natalie, the band took the stage and launched into the first three tracks from 2016's Dreamland: “Mississippi River,” “Losing You,” and the title track. Natalie often seemed lost in her own world as she sang, but she was also a gripping stage presence, dressed in a loose white blouse and velvet pants emblazoned with white snakeskin stars.

Author Events: September 2017

PREVIEW WRITTEN WORD

September 2017 Author Events

Image by Mystic Art Design/Pixabay

What does having an amazing university, a plethora of fantastic local independent bookstores, and a pretty slam-bang public library system (if we do say so ourselves) bring to a town?

Authors. Lots and lots of authors.

In fact, so many authors pass through the area that sometimes it can be hard to keep track of who is speaking and when and where. To help guide you, Pulp curated a highlights list of September 2017 author events.