Western Michigan University NIGHTLIFE Review, Part I: The Grotto at Capone’s

To christen this blog, I’m going to begin with a review of every bar in the Kalamazoo drink-special circuit. I’ll start things off big by giving an overview and my opinions on the bar known for its Friday night shindiggery, relatively relaxed atmosphere, and colloquially referred to by WMU students as “Grotto.”


The name and decor of this bar is an obvious homage to Prohibition-era gangster Al Capone. The inside features a large photographic portrait of his likeness in addition to fake Tommy guns on the walls behind the upstairs bar but, other than those gaudy toys, the theme stops there. I’m not sure if the understated theme is a result of the owners thinking a more pronounced vibe would be too cheesy or because they just lack creativity but, hell, what’s wrong with having themed nights commemorating a massacre or two?

You won’t find gangsters inside. Instead, you’ve got a crowd of early 20-somethings with a few fake-ID holders here and there. Legal age or not, they’re all there for cheap beers. Beyond that profile, it’s pointless to try and describe the typical guy or gal who stumbles into Grotto on Friday nights. You’ve got listless burnouts donning wrinkled plaid shirts standing alongside turbo-douches in Armani Exchange V-neck muscle tees. You’ve got your faux-hipster dress-like-I-live-in-my-grandma’s-closet chicks exchanging bitchy glances with effeminate, doe-eyed beauties in high-heels and body-hugging short skirts. It’s not trashy and it’s not classy. It’s not ugly, either. Ugly kids don’t seem to go out in Kalamazoo.


Other than the fact that the downstairs area smells like shit (literally) and the fruit fly infestation, there’s not too much to complain about with Grotto’s service. The place has the coolest bouncers, by far, of any bar in Kalamazoo. Get to know them and they will allow you to cut epic lines and some of them might even allow you to start violent brawls with kids you don’t like. I had the privilege or observing an instance where a dogfuck-wasted kid on Thanksgiving Eve passed out in the middle of the basement and shit himself (you could smell it). The bouncers sauntered over and lifted him up by his armpits but instinctively dropped him as soon as the stench of feces assaulted their nostrils. They made his friends carry him out. I like bouncers with dignity.

Grotto employs the most male bartenders of any bar on campus. I’d estimate that it’s a 60-40 split between male and female workers–a good thing. The female bartenders (with the exception of one), are invariably shitty at their jobs. The shittiness stems from a mix of bitchiness, cuntiness, and all-around depraved attention-whoring behavior. I’ve seen one cunt-bartender throw limes at some kid for no reason, then laugh at him while he looked on with a “WTF, man” face. Another ignored people at the bar for a good five minutes on a busy night while she talked to some douche-clown in a white suit and matching fedora, looking like he found the genie from Aladdin and spent all three wishes on transforming into 1980s John Travolta.


By far the most horrendous playlist of any bar in Kalamazoo. Grotto actually uses a fucking jukebox so that even a whack-ass blonde with cystic acne and a Hollister sweatshirt can opt to blare 8-month-old Britney Spears singles through the speakers on Friday nights. Get a fucking DJ, please. At least on the big nights.

The decision on whether or not they should make room for a dance floor is up for debate. The place goes for a loungey, We’re-Not-Y-Bar type vibe, so they take up half their allotted square footage with pool tables. Personally, I think billiards is for douches and dads. Others might have differing opinions, but I ask you this: when was the last time something even remotely¬†interesting happened at a pool table? I rest my case.


Drinks in Kalamazoo student bars are all roughly the same price, with beer bottles and mixed drinks numbering around 3 dollars on non-special nights. Grotto has specials on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.

Tuesday: $3 U-Call-Its. Generally a sparse crowd during the school year but, for some reason, is always packed in the summer on this night. I don’t know how to explain that demographic phenomenon other than the fact that Kalamazoo is fucking bizarro land. If you want the most bang for your buck, get a tall beer. Double liquor drinks count as two drinks, so you’re paying $6 for a double. Dumb.

Friday: $1 Pabst, $1 Rolling Rock. Rolling Rock is served in small plastic cups, PBR is in bottles, I’ll let you guys figure out which one is the better deal so that the people who pick wrong will expedite evolution by going broke, filing bankruptcy, and getting their roadside cardboard shacks run over by a meth-addled truck driver while they sleep. This is the biggest night for Grotto of the week, almost always packed, although usually a sausagefest.

Saturday: $2.50 U-Call-Its. They’re trying desperately to compete with Library. It doesn’t seem to be working, as Library is always more packed on Saturday. Sausagefest. Don’t go if you’re a guy. Go if you’re a girl who’s into getting gang-banged by former high school hockey players wearing plaid.


I’m not going to give a numerical rating or ranking for any of my reviews, because I don’t want to lay out promotional fodder for geezer bar owners without getting paid for it. That said, Grotto’s not a bad place, but it leaves much to be desired. Go on Fridays if the queue doesn’t resemble a Soviet-era breadline or on Tuesdays if you’ve got nothing to do and want to hang out with a few friends.


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