Landmarks of standup for decades, Connxtions Comedy Clubs remain mainstays for up-and-coming comics and national stars, with a roster of past performers that includes Sinbad, Drew Carey, Tim Allen, D. L. Hughley, and Rob Schneider. Headlining comedians, many seen on national television, keep the venues teetering Thursday–Saturday nights, whereas Wednesday nights host improv spectacles and open mics where rookies can begin their ascent into stardom or descent into miming. While refueling chuckle tanks, duos and groups can split a savory appetizer, such as cheese bread or chicken wings, or enjoy a potent cocktail at the bar.
You could argue that, as a self-proclaimed gastropub specializing in "burgers, bands, and bourbon," Bar 145 is not quite a cozy bar and not quite an upscale restaurant. Or, you could say that it offers the best of both worlds. The menu appeals to refined and socially responsible palates alike with local produce, cheese from Zingerman's Creamery in Ann Arbor, and all-natural, humanely raised beef from Niman Ranch. The line between fine dining and casual is further blurred when the waiter arrives at your table wearing red Chuck Taylor tennis shoes and holding a build-your-own burger atop, of all things, white china. Even the name Bar 145 is a hybrid: the first portion points to its hefty beer and bourbon reserves, and the 145 refers not to an address or the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a truffle french fry, but to the ideal temperature of a medium-rare burger.
The label-defying hot spot is also known for its live music, tuning up acoustic sets, dueling pianos, and full bands from Ohio and across the country six nights a week. Bar 145's musical roots run as deep as those of its chef, Robby Lucas, who once cooked dinner for Metallica after its Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, according to the Toledo City Paper. The space itself leaves plenty of room for air-guitar solos at the 50-seat, oval-shaped bar on the outdoor patio.
Owner Joe Skaff is well aware that Star Bar and Grille is off the beaten path. He doesn't begrudge its hideaway status, however—it lends the venue an air of exclusive mystique and allows for the two criteria he demanded when planning the place: ample parking and an impressive patio. In the spring, diners can embark past a wall of glass to sit outdoors, snacking on inventive flavored-fare. Their tables might host servings of pulled-pork quesadillas, a seared-tuna salad, or the popular surf 'n' turf tacos: grilled shrimp and flank steak in separate tortillas, divided by yellow rice and black beans.
Inside, a parade of televisions and low-hanging lights glint above the sunken bar. The walls behind them sport contemporary art in the form of undulating red panels, matching the lava-like color of the lamps suspended over nearby booths. These illuminate the weekend crowds drawn by DJ Matt Lewis, who reverberates the space with music on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Weekdays, on the other hand, schedule a more relaxed scene of solo artists to supply dinner dates with catchy songs and one-man conga line performances. Star Bar’s ambiance is one of vibrant modernity, with inventive meals to match the crisp decor.
More than a few local legends swirl around Dublin cheesemonger Pat Hyland, better known as Paddy Jack. One tale has him traveling more than more than 1,000 miles to retrieve a cow that had been carried off by a tornado?no mean feat when one considers the rarity of tornadoes in Ireland and the fact that the island's only 250 miles from Bantry Bay up to Derry Quay. Another tells of him hiding the recipes to his finest cheeses in a cave beneath Dublin, possibly just below the Temple Bar market where he sold them for 10 years.
Paddy Jack's strives to match Hyland's passion for quality, exemplified by his phrase: ?People can taste the effort you put in.? That effort can be tasted in the establishment's more than 20 stuffed grilled-cheese sandwiches. The Memphis Mac is the chef's favorite, lined as it is with pulled pork and topped with mac and cheese. But the Loco Jack makes it a contest with its splash of special sauce and hidden depths of crushed Doritos. Running throughout all the sandwiches, however, are cheeses that could stand with the best produced by Hyland on Co Laois, his farm in Cuffsboro.
The Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani only honors the most authentic Neapolitan pizza with its seal of certification. The pies at 5th St. Pub make the cut. Perhaps it’s the dough recipe penned 150 years ago. Or maybe it’s the fresh veggies and imported Italian meats and cheeses that chefs pile on top of the menu’s traditional and creative pizzas. Regardless, a slice of margherita or bruschetta pesto pizza complements a craft beer or glass of wine.