If you’re hoping for a fun night out without the typically embarrassing occurrences of a liquor-soaked night, at long last, your wishes have been granted by Brillig Dry Bar.
If you’ve never experienced the dry bar scene, just as I hadn’t, you might assume it to be similar to a restaurant or coffeehouse. I was also unsure of how those of legal age would respond to the non-alcoholic principle. I expected the atmosphere to be just as dry as the bar, but the latest addition to Ann Arbor’s nightlife scene is modern and upbeat, while also alcohol-free. One can enjoy him/herself at Brillig and leave without the regrets of drunken texts and Instagram posts.
Throughout the month of December, Brillig has hosted multiple pop-up events to introduce itself to Ann Arborites. Hosted in its daytime coffee shop, Mighty Good Coffee, Brillig is not a permanent gathering place yet. However, its pop-up event on Dec. 26 boasted a buzzing crowd with a line out the door, foreshadowing a promising future for the unconventional bar concept.
As a viable alternative to both the late-night coffeehouse and bar scenes, Brillig is essentially the resurrection of the soda fountain, yet it caters to the new-age customer. Structured similarly to Mighty Good, customers order at the counter, then their food and beverage orders are called out for pickup. Seating ranges from couches, the bar and high and low tables. The eclectic décor, with bikes strung from the ceiling with various maps to educate customers on coffee production, adds to its unpretentious, homey diner vibe.
Unlike the usual bar scene, Brillig’s energy is sophisticated, not inebriated. It’s loud, but the noise is categorized by the pleasant cadences of everyday life — friends and families greeting and catching up, with a live band adding soothing sounds of light jazz in the background.
In addition to the usual fare of Mighty Good Coffee beverages, the drink menu ranges from the popular Brooklyn Egg Cream to the Cranberry Sour that I sampled, a deliciously tart and sweet concoction of Michigan-made Vernors and cranberry juice.
Brillig also caters to snack cravings, with its pastry case and menu of small plates — snack trays of cheeses and fruits, meats and mustards and the winter cookie sampler.
As a Michigander through and through, my usual hangout spot has been Coney Island since I was approximately 12 years old. Though Ann Arbor never ceases to amaze me with its seemingly endless selection of restaurant and nightlife options, I was always homesick for my familiar diner scene. Yet after my positive experience at Brillig, I now hope to frequent the kitschy hotspot.
Brillig fits in seamlessly to the city, as it’s everything Ann Arbor is: casual, clean and conceptually innovative. Though Brillig may be overlooked by college students at first glance, it’s a nice alternative to the standard collegiate night out, without wreaking havoc on your liver.