Kalamazoo Gay Bars Guide

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••• Downtown's bustling East Michigan Avenue is a reliable spot for dining and nightlife, home to such mixed LGBT-popular spots as Monaco Bay and Food Dance. photo by Andrew Collins

Although the southwestern Michigan city of Kalamazoo (home to about 75,000 resdients) doesn't have any dedicated full-time gay bars, there are a few hangouts around this city of about 75,000 that have a definite mixed following, drawing plenty of LGBT folks.

The most famous is the Eccentric Cafe (355 E. Kalamazoo Ave., 269-382-2332), part of the increasingly renowned Bell's craft beer company - the cafe is right next to Bell's General Store.

Bell's, which is a major sponsor of the Kalamazoo Gay Pride, held over a couple of days in mid-June each year. Bell's has earned acclaim for such stellar craft brews as Bell's Oberon Ale, Bell's Two Hearted Ale, and Hopslam Ale, to name but a few. The atmospheric cafe, which sometimes hosts live music and LGBT-related events, always carries about a dozen Bell's beers on tap - there's also a great food menu featuring snacks (pork tacos, chips and pico de gallo, Cobb salads) and more substantial fare, like pulled pork sandwiches and veggie burgers.

Another nightlife option drawing a good mix of gays and straights, including quite a few students from nearby Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University, the Metro Diner and 411 Nightclub (411 N. Westnedge Ave., 269-276-9240), which has live music, comedy nights, karaoke on Tuesdays, and other fun stuff happening. 

An excellent restaurant and bar specializing in locally sourced ingredients and creative, contemporary fare, Food Dance (401 E.

Michigan Ave., 269-382-1888) is a big supporter of Kalamazoo Gay Pride and a terrific option both for dining and drinking. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the kitchen turns out reliably delicious crab cakes, sesame-ginger salmon, vegetarian stuffed poblano peppers, burgers, and more, plus there's a full selection of craft beers from Michigan and sophisticated cocktails.

This is a nice option for a date or one of the city's top farm-to-table experiences. A short walk from Food Dance, the Monaco Bay Piano Bar and Grill (300 E. Michigan Ave., 269-384-6044) draws a somewhat mixed crowd for live music (it's famous for "dueling piano" shows) and dining; there's a lovely roof deck that's popular on warm evenings.

Other spots around town where you're likely to encounter some diversity as well as a very good food-and-drink experience include Black Owl Cafe (414 Walbridge St., 269-459-1334), which serves the city's outstanding Kalamazoo Coffee Company artisan beans and is open from early in the morning until midafternoon; and the Crow's Nest (816 S. Westnedge Ave., 269-978-0490), a funky restaurant that's famed for its breakfast fare, is open 24 hours on Saturdays.