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Happy Dog won these two categories last year, so it's no surprise the Detroit Shoreway concert club and restaurant takes top honors again this year. The place has a cool vintage look and its band-friendly approach (acts play for the door money) makes it an attractive venue for up-and-coming local and national indie rock bands. The club also hosts a monthly classical music jam night and a variety of lecture series with local intellects and writers. Last year, the Cleveland Orchestra launched a residency program that included performances at the Happy Dog and at other venues in the Gordon Square Arts District. Happy Dog owner Sean Watterson was the catalyst that helped make the event happen. The guy is clued in to the local music and arts scene and has the ability to bring together artists and intellectuals from a range of disciplines. And, of course, the $5 dogs with limitless toppings are scrumptious.
5801 Detroit Ave., 216-651-9474, happydogcleveland.com.
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Take your pipes from the privacy of your car or shower into public — no one cares how bad you sound anyway. Half the fun of karaoke is knowing how badly you're going to do justice to the latest Lady Gaga track or Free Bird or some obscure cut from the '70s that will leave the room in bewildered silence and confusion. We're all in this together. Readers love the weekly Sunday karaoke night at the Flying Monkey in Tremont. It's a friendly atmosphere, the song list is deep and eclectic, and once you're properly liquored up with liquid bravery, it's the perfect stage for your amateur crooning. Stop by and you will probably catch some local luminaries belting out the hits, including Sunny Ting, chef and co-owner of Ty Fun next door. (He likes Broadway tunes, just so you know.)
819 Jefferson Ave., 216-681-6659, flyingmonkeypub.com.
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Porco Lounge & Tiki Room is on West 25th Street, but not the main strip. It's far enough south that it considers itself part of the Tremont neighborhood. But it's close enough to both Oho City's and Tremont's most popular haunts to make it a walkable destination for both, and though it still seems off the beaten path, it's a diamond in the rough. The building was the former home of Cranky's, a biker bar, and a small concert club, and the new decor is like something out of a Hawaiian beach nightclub — bamboo sticks and coconuts and beads and lots of exposed wood. The tiki cocktails are authentic and well worth it, the kind of drinks you would have found at tiki lounges during their heyday in Cleveland decades ago. They actually steam as they're made — and these drinks aren't made; they're concocted — and each have probably a couple shots worth of booze in them. Suckers are strong. Not much in the way of food selection as of yet, but enough atmosphere for miles. Bring your hula skirt and check it out!
2527 West 25th St., 216-802-9222, porcolounge.com
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What was once sort of an open secret around town has now become a full-on Cleveland landmark. The Velvet Tango Room remains the gold standard of martini joints in our city. Though, like all excellent holes in the wall, this one has started to blow up in recent years. There are some around town who even consider this place passe. It's donezo, they'll tell ya. Meh, popular trends in Cleveland are pretty boring; we'll stick with the solid fact that this place serves up dynamite drinks that are tough to beat anywhere else. And Paulius Nasvytis began all these trends back when he opened the club in 1996, so we'll stick with the original. The price points are often pretty brutal, particularly for alt-weekly writers aching for strong drink, but the ends justify the means tenfold. We'll take a round of perfect Manhattans, thank ye kindly; put it on the Plain Dealer's tab.
2095 Columbus Rd., 216-241-8869, velvettangoroom.com.
Photo via Cleveland Scene Archives
Prior to opening the Beachland Ballroom & Tavern in Collinwood some 14 years ago, co-owner Mark Leddy played organ with retro rockers Satan's Satellites and booked garage and punk bands at Pat's in the Flats. Co-owner Cindy Barber worked as a journalist (she was editor at Cleveland Free Times for six years and started there as assistant publisher in 1992). Diehard music fans, they turned their dream of running a club into a reality when they purchased the old Croatian dancehall and turned it into a music hotspot. Over the years, the club has catered to national and local acts. Bands like the White Stripes played the Tavern before graduating to bigger venues. The garage-blues duo the Black Keys played their first-ever show in the club's tavern. With its two rooms (the 500-capacity ballroom and the smaller tavern), the club has the ability to have two shows a night. And because Leddy and Barber have such eclectic taste in music, they book a great mix of music that puts the Beachland on par with some of the best clubs in the country.
15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124, beachlandballroom.com.