Sep 28, 2015

Tavern 101, an anchor of Bay City’s renaissance

Meagan behind the bar at Tavern 101
Doc's report:

An apt symbol of Bay City’s cultural and economic revival is the Mill End Lofts. Where once stood “The World’s Most Unusual Store” -– and thank God for “unusual” -– we now have a glistening and vibrant commercial and residential space.

A bright red all-caps sign accents the night skyline as you cross bridges from the west, complementing the view of our brightly-lit and renovated City Hall tower clock. It’s as though Hell’s Half Mile has become God’s Little Acre.

Anchoring the southwest corner of the lofts building, where historic Center Avenue meets Water Street at Wenonah Park along the river, is Tavern 101.

When I was a boy here, there was no place like it. Until this year, there still wasn’t.

I’ve mentioned before that I like a dark, smoky, South End bar where blue-collar men drink Bud Light, eat burgers and play pool at night. And I still do. Bishop’s. Barney’s.

Tavern 101 is none of those things. So when I liked it, that surprised me. 

Tastefully decorated (antiqued gray wood in the bathroom; gray stone marbled floor). A bar so glistening that Harry could play shuffleboard on it. Well-groomed, friendly, informed and black-uniformed service staff. Fifty-four brews on tap, more in bottles (complementing Governor’s Quarters on the West Side). Dining inside and out.

I have yet to dine at Tavern 101, but a friend recommends flat breads, fish and sandwiches. She notes that the tavern is across from the Delta Planetarium, run by our community college, and
Still life: Behind the bar at Tavern 101
that “101” is the identifier of classes for  first-year college students -- e.g., Freshman Comp 101.

I’d never had a crisp and light Alaskan Amber before our visit, but I will again.

We watched in awe as our waitress Meagan created a white sangria (!) of her own concoction for the 2015 Wine Walk: Granny Smith apples diced, oranges sliced, Moscato, Riesling, peach puree and vodka. She was characteristically gracious in offering us a taste. Novel, that.

Tavern 101 will succeed for two other reasons:

It has a built-in clientele: People live above the tavern. If I lived above Coonan’s, I’d never go outside.

And at the northwest end of the Lofts is the Bay City Times. I don’t care if it’s the Algonquin Round Table once near the offices of the New Yorker magazine, or the underground Billy Goat Tavern near Chicago's newspaper offices: If you’re a bar in the same building as a group of journalists, you’re grazing in the clover.

A request to our blog visitors: As the sugar beets make their way down Kosciuszko to the refinery, we’re still working on a way to incorporate them into a drink. 


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