The Old Town Tavern never played second fiddle to the sadly long-since-shuttered Del Rio, it just always culminated a different aesthetic. And hey, it's still in business some ten years after the other South Ashley Street corner bar went the way of the dodo (or respectable journalism, whichever you prefer).
The pressed tin ceiling gives a nod to both turn-of-the century American architecture and the Prohibition era. Whereas the exposed brick and late-19th century photographs are perhaps an homage to the original Bismark saloon opened by John Berger in 1898.
The Rubenesque painting along the back wall simply isn't gaudy, even if you are a tittering 21-year old who got lost looking for a beer pong tournament. The OTT presupposes a less-undergrad clientele—a watering hole for those who know how to have a few drinks without degenerating into mean-mugging neanderthals.
But on any given night, there may be a few of those bellied up to the bar as well.
The lunch and dinner crowd are treated to above-average pub grub. Pretty standard stuff but there are a few nice options for the non-carnivore (a Tempeh Burger, a Veggie Pita, as well as Grilled Cheese and Tuna Salad sandwiches). Even when the kitchen closes, you can grab a bite from the scaled-down Late Night Menu (Nachos or Townie Tators and a few other small plates).
Old Town sponsors a measured selection of draught and bottled beers rather than trying to cater to every Tom, Dick and whim. On tap, there's Stella Artois, Bass and Guinness for the Euro-centric and Founder's, Bell's (3-4 of their award-winning varieties) and another rotating local beer for the homers.
A bottled favorite is the Short's Pontius Pilsener from Short's Brewery of Bellaire, MI. (actually brewed in Elk Rapids, but in any case, it's from Northern MI.). Don't worry, you can get a Labatt or a Stroh's (still brewed in Detroit), if you prefer. A total of 24 bottled brews are offered (16 domestic, 8 import).
While it's far from sensory-deprivation tank quiet, the Old Town is a nice break from the rowdy collegiate (or young hipster) atmosphere of some of Ann Arbor's other fine establishments.
Townies need lovin' too.