Best of Detroit 2012
Public Square - Reader's Choice
Reader's choice for Metro Detroit
Published: April 25, 2012
Best Farmers' Market, Wayne County
Between Russell and Riopelle streets, and Gratiot and Mack avenues, Detroit; 313-833-9300; detroiteasternmarket.com; open Tuesdays and Saturdays
The 209-year-old market has been at its present location (between Russell and Riopelle streets and north of Gratiot Avenue) since 1891 — smack in the middle of a bustling 43-acre area that's home to wholesalers, retailers and the prominent sales sheds. Re-energized by the Eastern Market Corporation, established in 2007, the market has seen significant renovations and improvements. As the corporation's head Dan Carmody points out, the market is a unique survivor: "It's the last of a kind of local food district that every city had that was significantly built before 1950."
Best Farmers' Market, Oakland County
Royal Oak Farmers Market
316 E. 11 Mile Rd., Royal Oak; 248-246-3276;
ci.royal-oak.mi.us; open Fridays May through Christmas, Saturdays year-round
The Royal Oak Farmers' Market has existed since the 1920s, but with rising interest in farm-fresh food, the market has only grown in importance and popularity in recent years. The enclosed building, ample parking and Sunday flea markets don't hurt either.
Best Farmers' Market, Macomb County
Mount Clemens Farmers' Market
141 N. River Rd., Mount Clemens; 586-493-7600; mountclemensfarmersmarket.com;
7 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday-Saturday, May-November
Here's an upset of sorts: Last year, Macomb County readers picked the farmers' market in Clinton Township. The new favorite is a mere few miles north, but leagues away in terms of place-making. Instead of shopping for freshness in the shadow of a McDonald's, Macomb County readers favored this spot tucked away in historic Mount Clemens.
Best Farmers' Market, Washtenaw County
Ann Arbor Farmers' Market
315 Detroit, St., Ann Arbor; 734-794-6255; a2gov.org/market; open 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday, May-December; 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays, January-April, open 4:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesdays May-September; no dogs allowed
Kerrytown's Farmers' Market is loaded with fresh and voluptuous fruits and veggies, but also delicious sweet treats, such as sweet potato pecan pies or creations from Ann Arbor-based baker Miette. The market serves at the moment as a base for more than 100 producers of fine foods.
Best TV News
Practice, practice, practice: When you produce 11 hours of live local news every Monday through Friday, and another 11 on the weekends, you should be perceived by viewers as delivering the finest newscasts in town. You certainly deliver the most — it's like the news on FOX2 never goes off! (Think of the money they save not buying syndicated programs!) And with so much extra air to fill after the major stories of the day have been reported, WJBK is the station most likely to show up at the neighborhood festivals in communities in and around Detroit, or invite the chef of a hot new eatery to come on the set and strut his stuff. Led by the flawlessly urbane Huel "Let It Rip" Perkins, grossly unheralded news director Dana Hahn, unbelievably steadfast Sherry Margolis and the chatty new 9 a.m. weekday hour with hunky Jason Carr and entertaining Lee Thomas, FOX2's staggering daily output and consistent quality are all the more incredible considering the station has overcome more internal family tragedies lately than you'll find in the Book of Job.
Best TV Newscaster
Quick, now: How long has Devin Scillian been lead male anchor for Detroit's Local 4? Would you believe 13 years? The legend and legacy of iconic anchor Mort Crim remains so vivid that it feels like the kid from Kansas just began warming the seat next to Queen Carmen. But Scillian, the smartest guy on Detroit television, has taken the time and care to learn our quirky ways, become entrenched in our community, and, most importantly, earn the trust of Detroit TV watchers. Much more than a headline reader, he displays his political acumen and perceptive interview style every Sunday on the top-rated public affairs series Flashpoint; don't be surprised to see him play a major role next month in the annual Mackinac Policy Conference. Scillian makes a hard job in a tough news town seem smooth and easy, and in his spare time he writes award-winning children's books and composes music to perform with the country band he fronts. A renaissance man, shining in the shadow of the Renaissance Center. How fitting.
Best TV Morning Show Personality
FOX2 (WJBK); myfoxdetroit.com
Throw around all the tired PR adjectives you want about local media goobs — gregarious, pretty, well-spoken, titans of journalistic excellence, etc. — but how many local TV newscasters and hosts can possibly live up to such hyperbole? Those who can are usually on the midnight train to the next bigger market in, say, Philly. Enter Fox2 News Morning's Jason Carr. The good-looking dude with the perpetual two-day growth is articulate, educated and he can write and draw with aplomb (he has even contributed to Metro Times). Carr wields a charisma that's better suited for much bigger stages, but he's from here and he has no intention of leaving. More, he has that rare ability to make mundane topics (spring home trends?) interesting and the more challenging ones (say, mid-century modern architecture) straightforward. And he does it on the fly, effortlessly. It so happens that both the MT staff and our readers believe that Fox 2 News Morning show is lucky to have Carr because, simply, he brings intelligence and grace to otherwise dreary Detroit mornings.
Best Public Golf Course
Rackham Golf Course
10100 W. 10 Mile Road, Huntington Woods; 248-543-4040; rackhamgolfcourse.com
Rackham is No. 1 because it's inexpensive, accessible (from I-696, Lodge, Woodward), not long but a golf test. And it has more history: Rackham's clubhouse was designed by Albert Kahn, with Pewabic tile prominent. From 10 Mile Road, the course looks like a mostly treeless plain, without water hazards, just a few sand traps. But its designer, Scotsman Donald Ross, who built 400-plus courses in early 20th century America, put the devil in the details — such bedeviling details as mounds and bunkers, gorse (thorny shrubs) and elevated, up-and-down greens. The variety of Rackham's holes is notable. No. 7, for example, is a semicircle par 5 with hills trouble left, trees right. And the Rackham green, to mix a metaphor, is a postage stamp atop an anthill. Ross worked land donated to Detroit in 1921 by Horace and Mary Rackham. The deed specified the land must be a public park or golf course, open to all, in perpetuity. When the city, in 2007, wanted to sell Rackham, to be a housing development, the deed's restrictions prevented the sale. Here's another aspect of Rackham's history shared by an older gentlemen when we played there one raw October day some years ago. He told of playing with Ben Davis, a legendary black pro who taught at Rackham when several "semi-private" (read: segregated) local courses wouldn't have him (or Joe Louis, whom Davis taught). Davis became the country's first African-American PGA member head pro at Rackham in 1968.
Best Radio Music Show
Ann Delisi's Essential Music
WDET-FM (101.9); wdetfm.org
She's the franchise player around whom WDET began a few years ago to rebuild its tattered rep as a music station — complementing weekday news and talk with music-heavy wekeends. Last year, her on-air colleague Jon Moshier with his Modern Music bumped her out of her two-year run as winner here. This year she's back. A longtime radio and TV personality whose first prominence was on WDET in the 1980s, Delisi knows that the name of the game today is multimedia; a mere presence behind the microphone and a stack of shellac no longer cuts it. So the shows are laden with themes (birthday artist tributes, record and event anniversaries), special guests and audience involvement gambits that span the show, Facebook and Essential Listening Parties hosted by Delisi and fellow host Rob Reinhardt. She airs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Best Radio Morning Show
Dave and Chuck "the Freak,"
CIMX-FM (88.7); 89xradio.com:
What does it say about the state of Detroit radio when, despite all the high salaries, higher egos and cutthroat competition, MT readers have decreed three years in a row that the best morning radio show on the air is bottled in Windsor? We may think of our neighbors to the south as gentler, more refined souls, but Dave Hunter and Chuck Urquhart shatter that illusion every time they open a microphone. Male bikini waxing, the smells of women's farts, the worst songs to have sex by — aided and egged on by their on-air sidekick Lisa Way, virtually no subject is too gross or too far off-limits for this duo. (Or their freeway billboards, apparently.) Dave and Chuck seem convinced their 5-10 a.m. weekday snickerfest is cursed, that celebrities they ridicule in their "X Files" gossip segments seem to suffer dire fates shortly afterward, but their on-air concept of two best buds trading verbal gross-out bombs in the boys' room has proved to be nothing but a broadcast blessing.
Best Radio News
101.9 FM; wdetfm.org
Last year, WDET-FM bumped off longtime winner WWJ-AM in this category, a triumph of fewer stories and more depth over the diametrically opposed on-the-spot, quick-hit, cover-the-town, round-the-clock approach. But we asked the question then: Can they hold the title? Readers' answer: Yes. No doubt, some of this year's votes were generated by WDET's big undertakings Crossing the Lines, examining what unites and divides metro Detroit, and the Berlin-Detroit project, which took staffer Martina Guzmán to the European comeback city for lessons relevant to the D. Obviously, Craig Fahle's cred with voters (see above) didn't hurt.
Best Radio Personality
The Craig Fahle Show, WDET-FM (101.9); wdetfm.org; 10-noon, 6-8 p.m., Monday-Friday
Much of what's called talk radio — on the right, especially, but sometimes on less-prominent left talk radio too — is more like shout radio, the blare of ideological megaphones in echo chambers. The NPR style tends to talk as conversation, talking with rather than talking at the audience. Fahle, with the former Detroit Today rebranded and built around his personality, has found his niche in the estimation of MT balloters. Part of his success is being a big radio tent and encouraging a range of caller views while recruiting knowledgable guests. "I learn something new every day" is one of his on-air mantras. And if we're representative of his audience, we do too. Airs 10-noon live Monday-Friday and replays 6-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday. (Full disclosure: We're regular guests in the just-before-noon slot on Wednesdays.)
Best Candidate for President in 2012
By a landslide, with Ron Paul in the dust, Mitt Romney further behind and Rick Santorum with three votes putting him ahead of two-vote Newt Gingirch and such one-vote wonders as Weird Al Yankovic, Charlie LeDuff, Elmo, Gary Johnson, George Clooney, Hillary Clinton, Jerry Vile, Kwame Kilpatrick, Mickey Mouse, Sheefy McFly, the Other Guy, They All Suck, Vanilla Ice and Vermin Supreme.
Best Nickname for
Gov. Rick Snyder
There were also numerous variations on Dick, the most tasteful being "Dictator" and the Nixonian throwback of "Tricky Dick" and the variation "Not So Slick Rick."
Best Nickname for
Mayor Dave Bing
A sampling of others: "Hoops," "Heartless," "Hero," "Lame Duck," "Nada Bing," "Slam Dunk," "Doctor of Debt," "Not Kwame," "Bus Slasher," "Tall and Timid" and "As Good as the Pistons."
Best Nickname for Oakland County Exec Brooks Patterson
Brooksie was the most-often suggested. Also suggested: "Gasbag," "Blowhard," "My Drinking Buddy," "The Great Divider," "Fat Cat," etc.
Best Nickname for Wayne County Exec Robert Ficano
Crook was the most frequent suggestion, with numerous variations on that theme and variations speculating on the end of his time in office, such as "Soon to be gone" and "Soon to be indicted" and "Ficano the Former." On the other hand, if he rides out political controversy, an FBI probe and a grand jury ... if he survives, then the nickname "Teflon Exec" will prove just right.
Best Nickname for Macomb County Exec Mark Hackel
Also: "Mark Shackle," "Mackerel," "Hacky," "The Hackster," etc.
Best Concert of 2011
Paul McCartney at Comerica Park
Alright, so Detroit radio station WKNR-FM played a big part in the '69 rumor that Paul McCartney was dead. Sorry, Macca. Thankfully he was, as he is now, alive and well, and you guys justifiably voted his Comerica Park show of July 24 last year as the best gig of the past 12 months. "It's great to be back in Detroit. We love it here. A beautiful place," McCartney said, before blasting through a set of Beatles, Wings and solo classics. He even played Marvin Gaye's "Hitch Hike," a special tribute to the city that birthed Motown and influenced the Fab Four (giving them such early hits as "Please Mr. Postman" and "You've Really Got a Hold on Me"). We love you too, Sir.
Best Local Sports Story
Lions Make Playoffs
You cannot stop Megatron; you can only hope to contain him. We've heard all the accolades, been inundated with the hype. But Calvin Johnson has lived up to the hype, and then some. It's mind-boggling that a guy his size (6-foot-5, 239 pounds) can run so fast, jump so high, and display his level of body control and hand-eye coordination. Calvin Johnson is the new prototype, the standard by which NFL wide receivers will be judged in the future. Drafted in 2007, he is easily the best thing to come from the horrendous Matt Millen era. 2011 was Johnson's best statistical season, racking up 1,681 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. His clutch performance against the Cowboys in week four was especially memorable, scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to lead the Lions to a 34-30 victory despite trailing 24 points going into the second half. And when the Lions returned to the NFL playoffs for the first time since 1999, Johnson caught 11 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns, crushing the previous Lions playoff receiving record in a losing effort. But this Lions team is unlike any that we've seen before. They are young, talented, physical and exciting to watch. And with all due respect to our good friend Justin Durant, Calvin Johnson is the clear pick for best Lions player. His new contract suggests that the top brass in the Lions organization agree with you. This is a brand-new era of Lions football, and Calvin Johnson is not only leading the charge, he is changing the game.
Best Local Pro Athlete
It is a special, magical feeling just watching Justin Verlander step onto the mound, a knots-in-your-stomach-and-a-smirk-you-can't-wipe-away feeling. Not only did he unanimously win the American League Cy Young award, but he defied statistics and history by becoming the first starting pitcher since 1986 to become MVP. He threw a no-hitter to boot. Verlander set a new standard for what a major league pitcher can and should be. A win from Verlander is simply not enough at this point. A win from Verlander has become the new minimum standard, and it's exciting to think that we can look forward to a potential no-hitter every time he hits the mound. Verlander has certainly become the face of the Tigers organization, but also all of Detroit sports.
Best Local Amateur Athlete
from Detroit Derby Girls; detroitrollerderby.com
Christina Iulianelli (aka Tiny Ninja) first earned her nickname doing festival catering where she impressed co-workers and clients with her ability to effortlessly weave in and out of dense, hungry crowds. Iulianelli — who stands 5-foot-2 — admits she felt like "Bambi on ice" in her first bout for the Detroit Derby Girls, but after six seasons those days are long gone. Iulianelli plays jammer (the only point-scoring position in flat-track derby) or blocker for the D-Funk Allstars as well as the Detroit Derby Girls Allstars, the DDG's nationally ranked travel team. Those who haven't seen her kick ass at the Masonic may recognize Iulianelli from her role as "Fight Attendant" in the Drew Barrymore-directed Whip It, in which Iulianelli coordinated and performed her own stunts. When she's not skating, she assists the Detroit Derby Girls as a member of their marketing team and as a skater trainer for new recruits.
Best Free Agent for
Tigers to Pick Up
When thinking about the Tiger's offseason this year, the term "go big or go home" comes to mind. Last summer was almost amazing, we almost had a really special team, and we almost got back to the World Series. But we didn't. Mike Ilitch and Dave Dombrowski don't seem to have much time for almost anymore. Enter Prince Fielder, an all-in signing to the tune of $214 million over nine years. The kid who grew up at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull has returned to don the old English D and get us over the hump at last, in part, by giving the Tigers the best 3-4 hitters in baseball (with Cabrera batting third followed by Fielder). Last year Fielder hit .299 with 38 home runs and 120 RBIs. He is a three-time All Star, and was the All Star Game MVP last year in Phoenix. If he can even come close to that kind of production in a Tigers uniform, the size of his contract will soon be forgotten. And come November, when it's all said and done, hopefully almost will be someone else's problem.
Best Red Wing
Pavel Datsyuk has contributed to two Red Wing Stanley Cup victories so far (2002 and 2008). He is fast, strong, has unbelievable hands and puck control, and is considered the best two-way forward in today's NHL. But why take our word for it? NHL players themselves are in agreement with MT readers on this one. In the 2011-2012 Hockey Night in Canada/NHLPA Player Poll (playerpoll.ca), league players voted Datsyuk the smartest player, cleanest player, toughest forward, most difficult to stop, most difficult to play against and the hardest to steal the puck from. With a career like that, it won't be long until Pavel Datsyuk earns his rightful place as one of the best players to ever wear the winged wheel, up there in the pantheon with Howe, Lindsay, Lidstrom and Yzerman.
A rising star among the NBA's big men, center Greg Monroe provides a solid cornerstone on which the Detroit Pistons can build their future. Monroe has shown improvement from last year in almost every major statistical category and is a leading candidate for the NBA's Most Improved Player Award this year. A near selection for the 2012 NBA All-Star Game, Monroe's play this year gives a glimpse of what Pistons fans can come to expect for a long time. The second-year pro, drafted seventh overall in 2010, leads the Pistons in scoring, rebounding, field-goal percentage, steals and double-doubles.
Best Draft Pick for Pistons
Pistons point guard Brandon Knight was drafted eighth overall in the 2011 NBA Draft and has already given Pistons fans reason to believe a bright future lies ahead for the franchise. Knight was inserted into the starting lineup after only six games into the season and has not looked back. He's the team's third-leading scorer, tied for the assist leader and ranks in the Top 10 in every major statistical category among this year's NBA rookie class. Knight's passion and workmanlike approach to the game bodes well for the Pistons and the positive direction they are headed in.
Best New Player for
Lions to Pick Up
Hey, Tim, after the wildcard round game in the playoffs against Pittsburgh, when you threw that game-winning touchdown seconds into overtime, all of America gave a collective sigh of shock and surprise, an existential moment of "WTF?!" But face it, you'd simply be another lucky quarterback if it weren't for your public beliefs and theatrics. And now New York City will likely tear you apart. Realize you're walking into a city that is nearly the population of the entire state of Michigan in a space smaller than Detroit's city limits. Right off the bat, half of these people automatically hate you (Giants and Jets fans get along about as well as Wolverine and Spartan fans in the middle of October). And the other half? The Jets fans? Well, they hate you too. It's a shame the Jets and Lions don't play this year, Timmy. It would be fantastic to see MT's main man Justin, Calvin, and the rest of the boys stomp you again.
Best Local College
Wayne State University
We caught the Brookings Institute's Bruce Katz on the Craig Fahle Show (see above) the other day talking about Detroit's downtown-to-midtown vitality and ongoing revitalization. Katz reeled off numbers for the 1.5-square mile midtown center: "You've got 24,000 residents, you've got 46,000 workers, a whole bunch of students, over 30,000 — my lord, that's a platform to build on." He could have gotten more detailed and talked about new restaurants, residential lofts and crafty boutiques, creating a cool place to hang out — an actual scene. That's part and parcel of the process by which the state's only urban public research university has evolved into something more than the solid, affordable commuter school that it's been for seeming eons. Tack on the football team's first trip to the NCAA Division II National Championship last year and a refocused vision for academic achievement, and you see why the school is a winner with MT voters.
Best Way for Detroit to Deal with Its Debt
Right. Because we really need someone to come in and sell off the city's assets, like our water system or Belle Isle. Because democracy really is such a quaint and old-fashioned idea that it has run its course. Because an emergency manager is going to know how to keep 20,000 people a year from leaving the city, and how to keep tens of thousands more homes from being foreclosed on. Oh, yes, this is what Detroit needs. But it sure sounds like a simple solution to frustrating, complex problems that make you wanna throw up your hands and shred democracy.
Best Way to Improve Downtown Detroit
Best Way to Improve Midtown Detroit
Better public tranist
There is actually a way to improve public transit — not just for downtown and Midtown, but for the entire metro region! — currently being debated in the Michigan Legislature. Our solons are weighing the possibility of creating a Regional Transit Auhtority that would serve as an umbrella organizion covvering Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties, and the city of Detroit. If created, the RTA would provide "rapid" bus service along Woodward, Gratiot and a few other major corridors — including dedicated service to Detroit Metro Airport. A second piece to sovling this particular transit puzzle would be to have the Legislature put on the ballot a measure seeking voter approval to raise vehicle registration fees (about $30) to fund the RTA. If our legislators are smart, they will listen to MT readers and do the best thing for our region and make public transit better for the benefit of all. Corporate backers of a downtown-to-New Center light rail plan said recently that they are on track to start building late this year for a 2014 completion. Others are skeptical, given the city's tattered finances.
Best Way to Improve Downtown Royal Oak
Best Way to Improve Downtown Ferndale
Best Way to Improve Downtown Birmingham
More parking, free parking,
less restrictive parking
Birmingham City Manager Bob Bruner helped us put it in perspective in an e-mail: "There is no such thing as 'free' parking. If the driver does not pay it just means someone else does! Free parking has contributed to auto dependence, urban sprawl, extravagant energy use, and a host of other problems. Fair market pricing for parking actually makes parking easier." Nonetheless, even if it isn't free in the existential sense, Bruner ventured to guess that Birmingham's nearly 5,000 public parking spaces top Royal Oak and Ferndale combined. While there may be demand for more parking spaces in downtown Birmingham at peak times, the cost of providing them currently outweighs the benefits.
Best Slogan for
Celebrating 45 years of Rebirth
Some distinct themes here. For instance, finding other cities to look down on ("At least we're not Flint, Cleveland, Cincinnati"), talking tough ("I'm a Detroiter ... bitches," "Where we chew up our kids before we spit them out," "We have packs of wild dogs, do you?" "Stick 'em up," "Enter at your own risk"), snappy lines ("I'm diggin' Detroit," "It starts with the D," "Motown has heart"), historical allusions ("Aloha, motherfuckers," as famously said by former Mayor Coleman Young; "Say nice things about Detroit," as businesswoman Emily Gail implored her fellow Detroiters; and variations on the post-1805 slogan "We will rise from the ashes") and sheer desperation ("Flatlined," "Sucks, but in a cool way," "Detroit: When you can't go anywhere but up"). Then there were the references to comeback, put best by the suggestion above, depicting the city as a sort of perpetual motion machine of decline and regeneration.
Best Reason to Invite Me to the Metro Times Best of Detroit Party
"Because by the looks of this survey ....
I really need to get out more."
"Because I still stand up for Detroit."
"Cuz I freakin' yodel."
"I used to work at
Sorry we could only pick five. See you all at the party.
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