The Venues: Musician Brian Teasley, who toured with bands like the Polyphonic Spree, now co-owns the Bottletree, a combination club and vegetarian café that's consistently ranked among indie bands' favorite stages in the U.S.A. Maybe that's due to its unpretentious food or the vintage Airstream trailers that serve as greenrooms for the acts. You'll catch the best bands here and at WorkPlay, situated in an old warehouse at 23rd Street South. Also, be sure to watch for the festivals produced at Sloss Furnaces, a preserved 20th-century iron-production complex that now hosts barbecue and music events.
The Menus: Birmingham goes far to preserve its down-home past (and present), which you can taste in the super-smoked ribs of Demetri's and the hot biscuits at hash house Bogue's. But the real must-eats here are in Frank Stitt's restaurant empire. The Alice Waters/Simone Beck–trained chef put both Birmingham and the South on the world food map with his famous Highlands Bar and Grill. Also check out the next wave of culinary talent at the farm-to-table Café Dupont or at seafood mecca Hot and Hot Fish Club.
Low rents and endless real estate are the perfect ingredients for a rich creative climate, and Motor City certainly has both in spades, not to mention one of the country's most important musical legacies. From John Lee Hooker to Aretha Franklin, Madonna to Marvin Gaye, the Stooges to the White Stripes, Insane Clown Posse to Eminem, some of the biggest names in the biggest genres of American music have called Detroit home.
The Venues: Music fans may remember the name Magic Stick from the brawl there a while back between then Detroiter Jack White and Jason Stollsteimer of the Von Bondies. Well, the billiards club above an old bowling alley is still as deliciously gritty as ever and a great place to catch up-and-coming rockers. If you're looking for something a little more low-key, see what's going on with SOUP, an organization that hosts monthly dinners to fund creative projects like last year's pop-up music/arts venue above a Mexican bakery. Into hip-hop? Check out acts like Black Milk and Danny Brown at St. Andrew's Hall.
The Menus: The music video for breakout indie pop stars Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.'s cover of "We Almost Lost Detroit" is a perfect example of everything that's right with Detroit's creative scene. In it, the duo cruises through the city, singing about its challenges but highlighting its solutions. Chef Andy Hollyday of Roast, the folks from McClure's pickles, bakers (Avalon International Breads) and pizza makers (Supino) all make appearances before the band ends up at then shuttered Green Dot Stables, now reopened as a quirky little gastropub. It's a good go-to list for a first-time visitor.