There’s something about dive bars that makes them cooler than night clubs. I’m not a huge drinker, really, and it’s probably weird that I don’t go to dive bars for the alcohol. If I go, this place has to have all the things I’m looking for: a dark, somewhat dusty ambience, an angry, usually older bartender that wants to do anything but take your order, and they have to have great food. But most importantly, they have to have a fully stocked jukebox, and most dives have way better music on their juke’s than the Gaga-spewing dance clubs.
The first time I went to the Bronx Bar in Detroit’s Midtown, I knew just from standing outside looking at the old, faded sign and two-tone, weathered building that this place would be right up my alley.
It might be hard to understand why someone would actually want to spend their time in a place that’s dark with a potentially unfriendly wait staff, but there’s so much more to it than that. Hanging out at a dive bar with a bunch of friends after work (or after school, since this place is so close to Wayne State) is great because you can actually hear each other over the music, people don’t usually constantly approach you or invade your space the way they do in night clubs, and have you ever had a bar burger? Yes, bar food is some of the best food (not best for you, but best tasting) around, and the Bronx is no exception.
Walking in, the Bronx is dark with small streams of light peeking through window shades. There are usually a few older men sitting at the bar, and you know they’re locals because they call the bartender by her first name and ask how her family is doing. A few plain, wooden tables and chairs that have seen better days are set up throughout the room in no particular order. The bar lines the left side of the room as you walk in and wraps around the corner into the kitchen. A short, tough-looking, older grey-haired woman stands behind the bar with her hand on her hip, inspecting everyone who walks through the door thoroughly with her eyes.
I once saw an episode of “Boy Meets World” (I was younger, okay?) where a girl was trying to order food from this underground restaurant, and could not get the cook to respond. The main character Corey then comes along and tells her how to order, what to order and what to say. When the cook responded and wiped his nose, this was a sign that she was welcome there and could order anytime she liked.
My situation with the bartender felt quite similar. The first time you order something, she doesn’t say a word and makes no eye contact with you. The second time, she’ll say “thank you” after you pay and take your food or drink. By about the third or fourth time, as long as you have said please or thank you all the other times, she will ask you something like “Where are you from?” and after that ice is broken, she’ll actually smile at you and call you “hunny.” Unfortunate for one of my friends who joined me on this venture, who hadn’t said please and thank you every single time, received continuous silent treatment. It’s a system of respect and welcoming, and you either pass or you don’t. Was this stated? No, but easily perceived.
After grabbing one of the greatest bar burgers I’ve ever tasted from the kitchen, I turned around to search for my friends when I saw what solidified my first impression when I stood outside the Bronx’s door: this place has two juke boxes, which means, this place is fantastic.
We sat in the wood booth next to both juke’s, taking breaks between bites to scope out the music selection. Our eyes lit up at as the likes of Muddy Waters, Elvis Costello, various Motown artists like the and Iron & Wine flipped by as we searched the neat rows of album art.
While most of the other customers at the bar remained quiet and seated, intently drinking their beers, I couldn’t help but sing along to David Bowie and Devo while checking out their 80’s arcade games (Donkey Kong, anyone?). There’s one pool table near the bathrooms as well, for your billiard pleasure. And according to those around me who ordered a myriad of drinks, the bar is well stocked with fair prices.
For all the above-mentioned reasons, the Bronx gets five stars from me. It’s a fun place to grab a burger and hang out with friends while mastering the art of Pacman and listening to great tunes from vaious era’s. You can find the Bronx in Cass Corridor on 2nd Avenue.