Before they were household names, Ellen DeGeneres, Tim Allen, and Drew Carey were performers at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase. The establishment, once dubbed by Rolling Stone as “one of the best clubs between the coasts,” has been corralling burgeoning stars to its stage since its 1984 inception when it was called Mainstreet Comedy Showcase. Several nights a week, nationally touring comedians who’ve graced the stages of Late Show with David Letterman and Showtime’s Comics Without Borders share witty observations, humorous songs, and intense eye contact with brave audience members in the front row.
Arbor Brewing Company serves organic pub fare that incorporates local farmers’ and growers’ fresh, seasonal meats and produce. The dinner menu showcases Lake Superior whitefish ($13) and the Ar-burger ($13), a 1/3 pound patty of beef from McLaughlin Farm, a local producer of grass-fed, hormone-free cattle. Vegetarians rejoice when served the beer-battered tempeh sandwich ($8) from the lunch menu. Night owls can nosh hearty bar fare from the late-night menu, such as pierogies ($8) or a half pound of chicken strips ($7).
Selecting a wine at The Earle Restaurant isn't as simple as choosing between a red and a white. A recipient of Wine Spectator's Best of Award of Excellence for 20-plus years, The Earle's wine list heaves under the weight of its more than 1,200 listed bottles and from all those bricks weighing it down. Some of those varietals are even available by the glass at The Earle's wine bar, where the menu of light bites includes handmade pizzas crowned with pesto and shrimp.
In the main dining room, wines likewise complement dinners of award-winning French and Italian cuisine, from linguini tossed with crumbled garlic sausage to sautéed duck breast in apple brandy and cider. Those feasts unfold amid the room's romantic lighting and the historic building's exposed brick walls. Once the home of a jazz club, the Earle now spotlights jazz five nights a week with trios on weekends and solo guitarists or pianists on select weekdays.
PJ's and Gracie's join forces on a nightly basis to saturate Southeastern Michigan with rotating genres of live and recorded music. Travel between the establishments without paying double cover, enjoying Gracie's eclectic mix of acts and PJ's spacious dance floor. Depending on the night, you may swing to a big band, sway to a rock group, or juggle the rave ball to the sounds of a DJ. Check the website for upcoming ear enticers. With your bucket of beers, you can raise a glass to a gleeful guitar solo or toast to a toe-tapping tympani roll. Scoop up this side deal for a cover-charge-less jaunt through two of Ann Arbor's most aurally aware bars.