Best of Detroit 2011
Photo: Marvin Shaouni
The Real Deals - Readers' Choice
Our readers pick what's top when it comes to shops
Published: April 27, 2011
Best Hair Salon in Macomb County
27380 Gratiot, Roseville; 586-778-6379; londoncallingsalon.com
When you're ready to be "tressed to kill," here's your place. Featured in "Hair Wars," in 2004, the quirky salon offers exotic styling, dying and unique fun. If you consider your hair a material to be sculpted or a canvas to be colored, this is the place. Open six days a week — including 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Friday — the salon is one of southeast Michigan's relative few with Sunday hours too.
Best Hair Salon in Washtenaw County
338 S. Ashley St., Ann Arbor; 734-358-3603
When we read one client's review of Salon FraXure, describing it as "gothic elegance," we just had to check it out. Yup, a hint of goth but also a beautiful renovation job for this Ann Arbor salon. Comfortable, but the red walls will keep you energized, not like those pale pastels of so many hair places. Meanwhile, the style you're getting will only be the best. FraXure also offers ceramic technology for hair extensions. That means less heat but a stronger bond, extending the life of the extension.
Best African-American Hair Salon
Texture by Nefertiti
4147 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-831-4771; texturesbynef.com
Go natural. Forget the weaves and damaging straightening, embrace the braids and twists. Nefertiti has created not only a successful salon, but also what amounts to a cultural center for African-American men and women who are ready to celebrate — not be challenged by — their hair. Forget the chemicals, Nef is now offering a hot oil treatment locally made with herbs from her own garden. The Midtown establishment also offers skin care, nails and massage. Naturally.
Best Adult Novelty Shop
124 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-541-6655; noirleather.com
Shopping for a bachelorette or bachelor party? Or just pretending to? Noir Leather will keep your secret. Lusty, kinky and curious shoppers have headed here for nearly 30 years for the store's selection of clothing, shoes, stockings, lingerie and, um, accessories. Take a look, or take something home.
Best Tattoo Shop
308 S. Ashley St., Ann Arbor; 734-623-8200; luckymonkeytattoo.com
When it comes time for that sweetheart's name on your hip, that swirling design on your lower back, that bad ass MF statement on your shoulder, Lucky Monkey's artists are ready to create. The shop is responsible for the high-profile ink on a number of local celebrities, as well as on hundreds of satisfied customers. The shop also offers permanent cosmetics — eyeliner, lips, nipple coloration, whatever floats your boat. And if you're worried about such things, Lucky Monkey is officially licensed as a body art facility by the Michigan Department of Community Health.
Best Body-Piercing Shop
Lady Luck Tattoo
5310 Highland Rd., Waterford; 248-673-0670; ladyluckink.com
Best known among Waterford's finest inksters for owner Scott Budgen's body art, Lady Luck Tattoo also garners attention for Tiffany's piercing talents. The large selection of body jewelry is all made domestically whether it's glass, steel, gold or titanium. The shop itself is welcoming — a calming but daring shade of purple covers the walls up front. Private rooms in back are where the magic really happens.
Best Tobacco/Smoke Shop
Best Head Shop
B.D.T. Pipe & Tobacco
21640 John R Rd., Hazel Park; 248-542-6110
27419 Gratiot Ave., Roseville; 586-776-5233; buzzbdt.com
Serving the enlightened lungs of Detroit smokers and tokers since 1973, B.D.T.'s has not only survived a fire, but two crippling economic recessions as well, proving once more that pot's potent power is not only fantastical, but financial. And there are almost as many ingestion methods as there are strains these days. You can vaporize, roast hookah, pack a ceramic cigarette one-hitter, rip a gravity bong, bubble it up in a bubbler, roll a kiwi-strawberry blunt, or, like an O.G., just twist a spliff to tuck behind your ear. And B.D.T.'s has you covered on all of that. We suggest you pick up a grinder while you're at it.
Best Michigan Product
Better Made Chips
Sold everywhere; bmchips.com
Is it the tingle of the Red Hot BBQ? The smokiness of the Rainbow chips? The bite of salt & vinegar or the thickness of the old-fashioned crinkle cut? Or maybe it's the originals, with their perfect balance of greasy, salty and crispy? Whatever your preference, it's no secret that Detroiters like their chips — and their chip of choice is Better Made, a homegrown fave currently celebrating its 80th anniversary. Check the website for celebratory specials.
Best Comic Book Shop in Wayne County
13210 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-582-9444; greenbrain.biz
A diverse selection of mainstream and small-press offerings has made Green Brain a go-to stop for the comic faithful. But the store is so much more than just, well, a store: It features a gallery with comic-themed exhibitions, hosts monthly comic jams, frequent artist signings and a huge Free Comic Book Day party. And the owners are active in the community, spreading the love of reading by supporting local learning institutions and organizing the annual Kids Read Comics Convention.
Best Comic Book Shop in Oakland County
23333 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-548-2669; detroitcomics.com
A welcoming atmosphere is the hallmark of this cozy shop, where novices and hardcore enthusiasts comfortably browse shoulder to shoulder among the well-organized shelves. Equally welcoming is the staff, who are eager to help and devoid of condescension (or at least really good at hiding it). The store also hosts monthly Nerdy Book Club meetings and a yearly visit from the area's only surly, rock 'n' roll Santa, Metalliclaus.
Best Comic Book Shop in Macomb County
32032 Utica Rd., Fraser; 586-296-2758
861 E. Auburn Rd., Rochester Hills; 248-852-3356
True comic collectors hit up this eastside shop for its stellar service and killer deals. Along with fair prices on rare comics, Comix Corner offers faithful readers a way to get plenty of bang for their precious bucks with the Collector's Club — supply the shop with a list of your must-read needs and pick them up once a month at 25 percent off the regular price. With such a drool-worthy deal for die-hards, it's no wonder that Comix Corner has been stocking its shelves for nearly 30 years.
Best Comic Book Shop in Washtenaw County
Vault of Midnight
219 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-998-1413; vaultofmidnight.com
Even if you're not a comic book fan, it's hard to resist the pull of Vault of Midnight as you stroll down Ann Arbor's Main Street. The bright blue façade beckons passers-by; inside, colorful walls and oodles of merch — T-shirts, toys, artwork, games, etc. — continue the vibrant appeal. Located in Ann Arbor for 15 years, the shop's commitment to comics is evidenced by a comprehensive stock that includes issues dating from the '50s up to the latest, hot-off-the-press issues.
Best Indie Bookstore in Detroit
John K. King Used & Rare Books
901 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit, 313-961-0622; rarebooklink.com
Don't be lulled by the searchable inventory on the website. That's only for the 20,000-30,000 items in the Rare Book Room. Properly shopping the other John King's book store means heading to the iconic former glove factory, climbing the stairs and entering a world of wonder, or at least four floors packed with wonders. Watch for glimpses of the store in the film The Double, starring Martin Sheen and Richard Gere, currently in post-production.
Best Indie Bookstore in the Suburbs
26010 Greenfield Rd., Oak Park; 248-968-1190; thebookbeat.com
Tucked into a strip mall, this indie book seller has plenty of new releases stuffing its shelves alongside the time-tested favorites and discounted remainders for your reading pleasure. It has Detroit books, children's reads, fiction, body-mind-spirit and collections for several other genres. A subscription to Book Beat's monthly online newsletter will ensure you don't miss author appearances and other book-related events at the store or at area libraries and other organizations.
Best Video Selection
Thomas Video & DVD
4732 Rochester Rd., Royal Oak; 248-280-2833; thomasvideo.com
This stalwart indie shop has retained its relevance in this era of Netflix and supermarket red boxes thanks to an amazing selection that encompasses everything from new releases and high-brow art flicks to low-brow thriller schlock and all manner of trashy cinematic oddities. Out-of-print movies, timeless classics, laser discs, shorts — Thomas has it all, complete with a knowledgeable and passionate staff that will help you track down whatever B-movie atrocity you're hankering to see.
Best Indie Record Store in Wayne County
22000 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-561-1000; dearbornmusic.com
A sacred spot for music fans for more than 50 years, Dearborn Music houses tens of thousands of titles, including rarities, imports and new and used vinyl, as well as DVDs, trinkets, toys and memorabilia. Jazz, blues and classical are more than well-represented, and the well-organized and well-run store makes crate-digging a joy and spotting a specific disc a breeze.
Best Indie Record Store in Oakland County
512 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak; 248-545-5955; uhfmusic.com
A newbie to the record store scene, UHF has quickly become a favorite with Detroit scenesters since it opened its doors in September. Quality new and used vinyl is the specialty, along with the requisite dollar bins, new and used CDs and DVDs. Pristine rarities hang on the walls, while the local section is plentifully stocked. Weekly performances take place at the stage in the back of the shop; on the recent Record Store Day, more than 2,000 music fans crossed the threshold (digital be damned!) to scoop up the limited edition releases and check out performances from the Octopus, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. and others.
Best Indie Record Store in Macomb County
Car City Records
21918 Harper Ave., St. Clair Shores; 586-775-4770
You'd think any record store still standing deserves an award. But the hallowed Car City Records is one of those places where you'd go as a kid and learn everything about music from its staff, where'd you'd hang all day and listen to records, and let the music seep in. Just ask Eddie Baranek from the Sights; the dude spent hundreds and hundreds of hours at Car City. The place is glorious: crammed with cheap, well-kept vinyl, used and reissued. Lots of choice used and new CDs of all genres, most of which are the hard-to-find import variety. Thousands and thousands of titles, and it'd be impossible to list all the local rock stars who've manned the counter here.
Best Indie Record Store in Washtenaw County
417 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-662-6776; encorerecordings.com
Last year, Rolling Stone dubbed Encore one of the top 25 record stores in the country, and for music geeks who've ever stepped in the place it's no wonder why. Floor to ceiling shelves house a massive amount of new and used vinyl and CDs — jazz and classical titles, as well as locals past and present, abound. Stumbling upon rare gems is an everyday occurrence — but the goodies move fast, so don't hesitate. Encore also features an impressive collection of zines, books, handbills and other ephemera.
Best Store for Musical Instruments
31940 Gratiot Ave., Roseville; 586-296-6161;
for more locations, see guitarcenter.com
Guitar Center is the behemoth of instrument retailers — if it makes a noise, amplifies it, distorts it, records it or in any way aids any of those functions, they have it. Big name brands, used gear, frequent sales and online shopping — including access to their vintage collections located in Nashville, Hollywood and New York — all help make this retailer a frequent readers' pick.
Best Place to Buy Skates/Skateboard/etc.
Modern Skate & Surf
29862 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak; 248-545-5700
1500 N. Stephenson Hwy., Royal Oak; also Lansing and Grand Rapids; 248-546-PARK; modernskate.com
Whether you skate, surf, thrash or shred on asphalt, water or snow, what you need to be properly geared up is available at Modern Skate & Surf. But we don't have to tell you that, this retailer has been around for 30 years. Yep, back when fanny packs were cool. The place you shopped in the '90s is where you now take your kids. But you don't have to tell them that.
Best Bicycle Shop in Detroit
3611 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-879-5073; thehubofdetroit.org
How can you not love a place that's making a difference on, with and for two wheels? Located in lower Midtown — the Cass Corridor to some — the Hub is a retailer, a repair shop and an advocacy organization. Drop off your gently used bike parts — come on, do you really need all those sprockets? — and shop for new stuff. Or just make a donation so the Hub and its partner, Back Alley Bikes, can continue teaching kids how to fix bikes and to help with Detroit's growing cycling community.
Best Bicycle Shop in the Suburbs
Downtown Ferndale Bike Shop
163 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-439-1892; downtownferndalebikeshop.com
Owner Jon Hughes's DNA strands practically wrap around a gear sprocket. His grandfather, Mike Walden, not only opened Detroit's Continental Bike Shop in 1939 but also was inducted into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame as a coach. Hughes' parents operated the shop as it moved to Hazel Park and later opened a Rochester-based cycling company. That means when you visit this Ferndale store, repair center and cyclists community center, you're in the wheelhouse of someone who can't help but understand your passion. Tuned into the recent craze for simple-yet-stylish retro single speeds and fixies, the shop offers a great supply of affordable options. Plus, Hughes encourages folks to bike by offering group rides, as well as leading a contingent to Detroit's monthly Critical Mass rides.
Best Indie Hardware Shop in Detroit
1401 Gratiot Ave., Detroit; 313-567-0785
Legend has it this hardware store — located at the corner of Russell Street and Gratiot Avenue — can trace its roots to an entrepreneur who hawked tools and parts to early Eastern Market merchants who needed to make repairs while they were in the city. Today the landmark store caters to hipsters, long-time neighborhood residents, landlords and anyone else who wanders in. Antique mavens might get a kick out of some of the original signage around the store too.
Best Indie Hardware Shop in Suburbs
Frentz & Sons
1010 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-544-8111; frentzandsons.com
Frentz & Sons recalls the mom-and-pop hardware store that populates the small town Main Street of our nostalgic imaginations — creaky wood floors, large street-facing windows, shelves crammed with everyday tools and unusual parts, and knowledgeable owners who would rather send customers to a competitor than leave their needs unmet. This old-fashioned sensibility exists for good reason — the store opened in 1925 and the Frentz family — third generation — is still at the helm.
503 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-398-5153
1300 Broadway, Detroit; 313-964-5777; blumz.com
Got an event? A friend who needs a get well, congratulatory or "just because" arrangement? Could your own dreary desk use the energy, color and lift that only fresh flowers and plants can provide? Find what suits your season, color palette, mood and style at Blumz's two locations — city and suburb. And it's not just flowers: Vases, picture frames and jewelry are just waiting for you.
Best Gift Shop in Wayne County
460 W. Canfield St., Detroit; 313-831-9146; ilovecitybird.com
Creative siblings Andy and Emily Linn were known around town for their line of paper products, jewelry and housewares for years. Then they nested in this Midtown retail space and added the work of dozens of local and regional designers, jewelry makers and other artists. They've opened a gallery and a studio too, but it's the front of the space, stocked full of City Bird and other products, where you'll find perfect Detroit gifts and souvenirs for our visitors.
Best Gift Shop in Oakland County
117 W. 12 Mile Rd., Berkley; 248-336-2030
203 E. University Dr., Rochester; 248-650-3318; catchingfireflies.com
The name makes you think of those carefree days as a kid, when hoping to catch a firefly was a dream you could obtain. Shopping at this whimsical, colorful store can seem pretty close to those fun-filled childhood days. With bright, colorful, clever items, there's something for a gift, favor or "just because." Merchandise changes by the season. Look for citrus-colored purses, pastel flowerpots and whimsical garden art this time of year. And who doesn't need a sugar cookie-scented air freshener all year long?
Best Gift Shop in Macomb County
The Road Show
28500 Gratiot Ave., Roseville; 586-779-7623; theroadshowinc.com
The bewildering range of goods available at the Road Show may raise the eyebrows of the uninitiated, but no doubt it's the eclectic merch that keeps customers coming back. Snarky T-shirts and unusual clothing? There's plenty. Star Wars and comic book memorabilia? Check. Posters, stickers and candles? Sure. Exotic pets including lizards and tarantulas? Um ... yeah. Smoking accessories, collectible weapons and porn? Why not? The claim of "something for everyone" is usually hyperbole, but, at the Road Show, it just might work.
Best Gift Shop in Washtenaw County - Tie
1209 S. University Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-769-1488; middleearthgifts.com
111 W. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-213-3722; acmemercantile.com
Both these Ann Arbor indies carry their fair share of whimsical, novelty gifts — come on, if you don't need a case for your business cards with a comical robot on the cover, you know someone who does, right? The same goes for candy cigarettes, absinthe mints, and fois gras gumballs. But Acme is also known for its selection of fun and functional household goods, from toasters and kitchen clocks to pet care items and shower curtains; while Middle Earth boasts interesting designer jewelry, clever coffee table books and a great collection of kitschy postcards.
Best Place to Buy Detroit Products
See puredetroit.com for three Detroit locations
Sure the Eminem-Chrysler Corp. ad was a bit of video genius, but for the printed, wearable, edible Motown imports, check out Pure Detroit. Not to be confused with Pure Michigan, the state's brilliant tourism marketing effort, Pure Detroit is, well, all the T-shirts, accessories, food items (Sanders toppings! Yum!), hats, artwork and photography that are big pieces of our city's identity. We like the books, too, that range from internationally acclaimed authors to local interest publications.
Best Jewelry Store
Tapper's Diamonds & Fine Jewelry
Various locations, see tappers.com
Let's face it. When you want to land the girl of your dreams, guys, you've got to do it with some sparkle. That means the perfect engagement ring. And when you want to keep her happy over the years? That means bling for her wrist, neck and ears. Metro Detroit has no better jeweler to help you with that than Tapper's. And just in case anyone loves the guy enough to find him a watch, this 30-year retailer has more than a dozen lines of timepieces that will help you show him he's appreciated.
Best Jewelry Repair
Mount n Repair
205 Pierce St., Birmingham; 248-647-8670; mount-n-repair.com
Trust. Our readers, again, trust Mount n Repair with some of their most precious possessions when they need a little TLC or maintenance. Whether you need basic repairs, restringing, resizing or some serious "renovation" done, the jewelers at Mount n Repair will do it with care.
Best Place to Sell Your Gold
Tapper's Gold Exchange
Various locations, see tappersgold.com
If it's time to find some instant cash in exchange for your old gold, platinum and silver, Tapper's Gold Exchange associates will be happy to help. As a fully licensed precious metal buyer, Tapper's will weigh and evaluate all items in your presence. And if you host a gold-buying party, look for another 10 percent on your take. Cha-ching! (Not to mention the opportunity to get rid of that ex-boyfriend's tasteless piece!)
Best Indie Furniture Store
220 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-541-9940
22110 Telegraph Rd., Southfield; 248-352-5811; brightideasfurniture.com
Some of it's just fun to look at; most of it you'd actually put in your house. Catering to a range of budgets and styles, this downtown Royal Oak mainstay is easy to browse and nearly as easy to buy from. Whether you're looking for one accent piece for your established room or a whole new set of furniture, Bright Ideas will have something to make your house a bit homier.
Best Place To Buy Home Accessories
41640 Ford Rd., Canton; 734-981-6300; ikea.com
Not all of us live in 400 square feet. Not all of us want matching shelving, cabinetry, bed frames and other furniture pieces throughout our houses. But if we do — and for the vast majority of us in between those extremes — Ikea has what we need. It's often on display in creative model interiors that help those of us less visually inclined to imagine our homes with a great new look. Bring a bit of patience, since the store is huge, and you'll need some more if you plan to assemble your wares — lots more for the more complex assembly numbers. But once they're put together, they're worth it. The Swedish designs also blend well in a variety of styles: modern, classic, antique or retro.
Best Medical Marijuana Strain
We're told it's one of the strains that easiest to acquire, but there may be more than familiarity at work here; Sour Diesel's healing effects are also among the highest, readers say. Perhaps that's because of its relatively high THC content, perhaps some other magic. Whether it's your choice for migraines, persistent back pain, glaucoma pressure or other ailments, this strain is also known for its strong odor. So if you're growing it or carrying it, you might want to prescribe extra precautions for yourself.
The Cultivation Station
Various locations, see tcs-hydorponics.com
So you wanna be a farmer, eh? Wanna take a stab at that bubonic chronic hydroponic? Awesome. It takes a lot of work, equipment and expertise, you know? But if you're willing to put in the time and have a few grand to put into a setup, the Cultivation Station has you covered on the equipment and expertise. See, they're not just trying to sling as much merch as possible, they want to inform you to ensure your crops are tops. Their staff are up on all the techniques you'll need to know for your grow space, what nutrients are best, what strains are great, what kind of lights you'll need. Let the fine farmers at TCS design a complete and customized hydro system for you. After all, evidently, they are the best!
Best Place for Audio Gear
Various locations, see bestbuy.com
World-class audiophiles, electronics junkies and the everyman who just needs the basics all converge on this big box store thanks to its convenience, affordability and well-stocked shelves. One-stop shopping for everything that plugs in, powers up and drains the grid, the ubiquitous blue store and yellow price tags have become synonymous with all things audio.
Best Place for Car Audio Equipment
Various locations, see cartunesstereo.com
When Car Tunes was founded in 1977, iPod integration systems weren't even a twinkle in Steve Jobs' eye. But this metro Detroit staple — with five retail locations and one custom shop — has consistently adapted with the times, offering the latest in car audio gear and technology (but if the most your ride is rocking is a cassette player, they'll fix that too). Tricked-out custom jobs, basic navigation systems, window tinting, audio repair and marine audio repair are all part of Car Tunes' expertise. The biggest brands, ongoing training and top rankings from nationwide organizations round out the stores' bragging rights.
Best Place to Buy a Car in Wayne County - Tie
Bill Brown Ford
3222 Plymouth Rd., Livonia; 734-421-7000; billbrownford.net
Pat Milliken Ford
9600 Telegraph Rd., Redford; 800-737-0232; patmillikenford.com
Wayne County residents love their Fords, even if they can't agree on where to buy 'em. Both these dealerships have earned cred thanks to their long existences in the community — both have been family-owned and -operated since the '50s. Along with trust gained over 50-plus years of service, both also offer a large inventory of used rides, as well as the new Fusions, Focuses and Tauruses. Of special note — Pat Milliken has been awarded the President's Award for excellence in customer satisfaction by Ford for the last 13 years in a row.
Best Place to Buy a Car in Oakland County
Shuman Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram
1111 S. Commerce, Walled Lake; 888-435-2084; shumanjeep.com
Operating in Oakland County since 1955, Shuman's basic tenant is simple — beat any ad and any price while offering old-fashioned customer service. The family-owned dealership provides ongoing training for sales staff and technicians, stocks the latest in tools and equipment, and has expanded and maintained its original no-muss, no-fuss showroom rather than move out of Walled Lake when Chrysler told them to. Commitment to the customer and the community is matched by a comprehensive inventory of new and used vehicles (imported from Detroit, natch!), and a sales volume that consistently ranks Shuman in the top 25 Chrysler dealerships nationwide.
Best Place to Buy a Car in Macomb County - Tie
Roy O'Brien Ford
22201 E. Nine Mile Rd., St. Clair Shores; 586-776-7600; royobrien.com
40555 Van Dyke Ave., Sterling Heights; 586- 977-2800; vyletelvw.com
Domestics don't beat out the imports in Macomb County, where Das Auto shares pride of place with the American-as-apple-pie Ford. The family-owned Roy O'Brien Ford has been selling Mustangs and wagons, Escorts and Fusions, since 1946, and has consistently been recognized as one of the top Ford dealers in the country. Vyletel offers VW nuts a full line of Jettas, Passats and Beetles, as well as affordable service by knowledgeable Volkswagen techs.
Best Place to Buy a Car in Washtenaw County
Fischer Honda Ypsilanti
15 E. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti; 734-483-0323; fischerhonda.com
Whether it's the Element, the Accord or the Civic, durability, reliability and value are how you know it's a Honda (and the "H," of course). The self-described "best little Honda store in Washtenaw County" doesn't just rely on the rep of its product for business — it boasts a friendly, unpretentious atmosphere, a large selection of affordable, certified pre-owned vehicles, a highly trained service staff and, best of all, free oil changes for the life of your new or used purchase.
615 Griswold St., Ste. 719, Detroit; 313-879-1206; dezsilaw.com
For years Geoffrey Fieger has dominated this category. Now, with an admitted bit of campaigning, it goes to one of his former staff attorneys. The effervescent Michael Dezsi, a 35-year-old University of Detroit Mercy law grad, spent five years in Fieger's firm. He handled much of Fieger's personal work, including suing the Michigan Supreme Court over its court rules that limited attorney speech. (Fieger kept getting fined for calling judges names, a violation of attorney conduct rules.) Deszi won in U.S. District Court before a federal appeals court overturned it on procedural grounds. Deszi also successfully defended Fieger against federal prosecution for alleged campaign finance violations. On his own since January, Deszi is doing criminal defense, civil litigation and personal injury cases.
Best Indie Health Food Store
Natural Food Patch
221 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-546-5908; naturalfoodpatch.com
For 13 years, the Natural Food Patch has hawked everything from eco-friendly toilet paper to organic carrots, selling to metro Detroit's health- and environmentally-conscious. Certified organic produce shares the space with herbal teas, discounted supplements, ready-to-eat entrées, frozen vegetarian and vegan meals, gluten-free edibles, natural baby food and local products. The only thing you won't find on the amply stocked shelves? Artificial sweeteners, colorings, preservatives and other unpronounceable, highly processed "ingredients."
Best Independent Grocery Store in Wayne County
Honey Bee La Colmena
2443 Bagley Ave., Detroit; 313-237-0295; honeybeemkt.com
We dare you to get by the samples just inside the door of this southwest Detroit mercado. We've never seen anyone among Honey Bee's wildly diverse customer base do it. The salsa, pico de gallo and peppy guacamole are just too tempting. Gringos, African-Americans and Spanish-speaking neighborhood residents ... hipsters and working classers ... city folk and suburbanites ... it's a metro Detroit cross-section here, all enjoying the store offerings: perfectly ripened avocados, Mexican specialties made in-house and from local companies, piñatas and everyday household wares. Honey Bee decisively shatters the myth that there are no worthwhile grocery stores in the city limits.
Best Independent Grocery Store in Oakland County
Best Beer Selection in a Store in Oakland County
Best Wine Selection in a Store in Oakland County
1203 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-541-1414; holiday-market.com
You may be making a mad dash in for a carry-out lunch or filling a shopping cart to stock up your pantry or throwing the perfect shindig with help from the caterers here. Either way, Holiday Market satisfies. The vegan, gluten-free and Michigan-made products are plentiful, and the specialty "shoppes" within the market have outstanding service to help you with meats, baked goods, sushi, wine, cheese and seafood.
Best Independent Grocery in Macomb County
27900 Harper Ave., St. Clair Shores; 586-778-3650; for more locations, see ninosalvaggio.com
Nino Salvaggio opened as a fruit and vegetable market in 1979, and the stacks of delectable produce — crisp Michigan apples, juicy vine-ripened tomatoes, colorful bell peppers — still stand-out. But the ensuing 30-odd years have seen the store expand into a full-service gourmet grocery complete with a wide array of organic offerings, more than 300 types of cheeses, more than 1,600 Michigan-made products, hard-to-find ethnic ingredients, a superb wine selection, fresh-baked breads and ready-made meals prepared by in-house chefs. Nino's also offers online deli ordering, party-planning services and gift baskets.
Best Independent Grocery in Washtenaw County
People's Food Co-Operative
216 N. Fourth St., Ann Arbor; 734-994-9174; peoplesfood.coop
With ever-changing selections, depending on what's fresh, available and seasonal, the People's Food Co-Op helps you mix up your menus. With an inherent sense of community in its café, it also helps you share your passions, interests and opinions with other members. While some members claim years of membership, new ones are just as valued. That's healthy and smart.
Best Beer Selection in a Store in Wayne County
Best Wine Selection in a Store in Wayne County
Merchant's Fine Wine
22250 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-563-8700; merchantsfinewine.com
When you need wine — and some gourmet nibbles to go with it — our readers concur perennially that Merchant's is the place for reds, whites, blends, reasonably priced bottles and that big splurge. And the owners' advice is free: "Wine always tastes better with food, beer is always best on a hot summer day, and always drink water before you go to bed."
Best Beer Selection in a Store in Macomb County
Best Wine Selection in a Store in Macomb County
7007 Chicago Rd., Warren; 586-978-9463; champanes.com
Customers first might be lured in by the competitive prices and the ever-changing specials. In the store, they'll learn about the wine and beer tastings and maybe return for some "spirited" knowledge. We doubt they'll leave without some purchases from the extensive selection of wine and beer — liquor too — of everything from Michigan-made brews to little-known vintages, purchased, of course, with the help of the knowledgeable staff.
Best Beer Selection in a Store in Washtenaw County
Ann Arbor Beer Depot
114 E. William St., Ann Arbor; 734-623-4430; annarborbeerdepot.com
Since 1941, this store has offered brew to the University of Michigan community. Now with more than 750 kinds of beer (750!) in stock, the Beer Depot also sells home brewing supplies, wine and snacks. Don't believe the vintage sign (it's not a "drive-thru" establishment) but do stop to check out the building. It's on the Ann Arbor historic building list.
Best Wine Selection in a Store in Washtenaw County
375 N. Maple Rd., Ann Arbor; 734-827-5000; plummarket.com
Plum Market's amazing cheese selection, great wine and chocolate, plentiful organic and local choices, fresh sushi and e-coupons for regulars bring shoppers in for those household staples. But customers also come for the catering and prepared foods. If you are über-organized, you can drop your own serving dishes off, and the cooks will fill them with their tantalizing dishes. Confess to your dinner guests only if you must.
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