Best of Detroit 2011
Photo: Marvin Shaouni
The Real Deals - Staff Picks
Our staff counters with our own favorite places to plunk own them bones
Published: April 27, 2011
Best New Indie Label
Five Three Dial Tone Records
Making up for their Eat This City blog, baghead Jasper and blowhard Jay got their shit together last year to actually do something productive. That something: A vinyl-heavy record label featuring some of the city's more promising indie acts. The first release on 53DT was Deastro's Spritle in 2009, a release that was, in old-school record biz lingo, downright visionary. The label was quiet for about a year, then, starting with 52 Week High's Eznovah, they went on a "visionary" tear, dropping two Lettercamp records, then a couple seven-inch EPs from the Satin Peaches and Illy Mack. During Blowout this past March, they sold 333 cassettes of their White Stripes tribute, Hello Operator, featuring high talent in Mick Bassett, Will Yates, Child Bite, Carjack and Lightning Love, to name a few contributing acts. Speaking of Blowout, on May 21, 53DT will release Phantasmagoria's debut EP, on vinyl, at the Belmont. Dudes have their finger on Detroit's indie rock's emotive energy.
Best Video Store
4732 Rochester Rd., Royal Oak; 248-280-2833; thomasvideo.com
The original and still the champ, Thomas Video was the pioneer back in the hazy days of Betamax and LaserDisc, and now with Netflix, streaming and the mammoth chains continuing to bellyflop, they seem intent on being the last video store standing. Eternal punks Jim Olenski and Gary Reichel still firmly believe that a video store should be a repository of cinema art and wisdom, not just an anonymous grocery store box you dump Cheeto-stained copies of Yogi Bear into. The vastly knowledgeable and occasionally friendly staff at Thomas will guide you through the video wasteland into a wide world of cult, sci-fi, horror, foreign, anime, comedy, classics and more that you can't get anywhere else anymore.
Best Local T-Shirts
Down With Detroit
The simple screen of Tom Selleck's face under a Detroit Tigers cap is captioned with "W.W.M.D." Or perhaps you'd love to sport "I partied at the Manoogian." Other shirts pay homage to Russian Red Wings, Wayne Fontes and "M.F.I.C., 1974-1993." Designs reflect the state and city borders, neighborhood names and lakes and rivers. Sometimes they're timely: "Ernie is my Tiger" was a best-seller in the weeks following his passing. For quirky slogans, vintage images (Boblo boats, anyone?) and unique showings of Detroit and Michigan pride, shop here.
Best New City Brand
Here are a few gem phrases we've seen plastered on T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts around town in the past year; chances are you've seen 'em, too: "Brown Weed is for Suckas!" ... "Make Moves Not War" ... "Hoes Hate Me." You've seen them, right? Yes? No? OK, try this one: "Detroit Hustles Harder." That one's inescapable, to the extent that it's become somewhat of a new Motor City mantra. The Aptemal crew (now selling a killer $5 Detroit Hustles Harder compilation CD) can be found hustling at Eastern Market's Division Street Boutique and hustling harder at almost every local hip-hop show around town.
Best Vintage Clothing Store
2124 Pine St., Detroit; 313-964-9008
This two-year-old shop in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood is chock-full of vintage duds, from triple-digit designer pieces to breezy summer dresses available for less than $20. Occupying two floors of an ancient brownstone, the shop's wood floors practically creak under the weight of countless garment racks filled with top-notch men and women's vintage wear in a range of sizes and styles. The shop also features a wide selection of hats, jewelry, coats, purses and shoes. Intimidated by so many choices? Just rely on the bubbly and ever-smiling proprietor Rachel Leggs to steer you in the right direction.
Best Reuse of Old Skirts
Lovely Bag Ladies
Two nimble-fingered art history grads joined creative forces to form Lovely Bag Ladies. The product they're hawking? Stylish purses created from vintage fabrics and materials, mainly, vintage skirts. Sharmila Majumdar and Kaytee Querro hand-sew their fabulous and functional bags in Ferndale, and each one is made from at least 98 percent recycled materials, making them environmentally as well as style savvy. They come in a variety of colors, styles and materials, featuring simple design ranging from birds and pandas to hot air balloons and flying saucers. Many also sport the original buttons, zippers and pockets of the skirts they're fashioned from. You can buy your very own through their Etsy shop or at Hybrid Moments in Ferndale.
Best Place for a Splurge on a Dress
Third Floor at Saks Fifth Avenue, Somerset Collection
2901 W. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-643-9000; saksfifthavenue.com
Ascending the escalator into this wonderland of silk and taffeta is a combination of Alice falling down the rabbit hole and Charlie discovering what's inside the chocolate factory. Sure, it might cost you (or your significant other) the better part of a paycheck, but there are sales where deals can be had. And there are times when, frankly, quality wins out over the thrill of a bargain find. Sales manager Denise Kulak understands all that. She'll work with your budget, your figure and your personality to help you into the perfect flirty cocktail dress or elegant ball gown.
Best Food Delivery Business
Take-out delivered via bike may not be big news in most major cities, but as are many things, it's a bit of a novelty in Detroit. But novelty or not, it also makes sense — pedaling from Midtown to downtown takes noticeably less time than fighting traffic and hunting down a parking spot (and who ever has change for the meter?) Enter Hot Spokes, a recent upstart delivering lentil burgers and dumpling from three Midtown eateries — Shangri-La, Union Street and Cass Cafe — to New Center, Woodbridge, downtown, Cass Corridor and the medical center. Delivery is available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and costs a mere $3. Just call the restaurant to order, then sit back and relax while your food speeds toward you on two wheels.
Best Barbershop for Football Talk
The Clip Joint
8260 Cooley Lake Rd., Commerce Township
For 54 years, Jim Bastas has trimmed, shaved and cut hair, first at his northwest Detroit storefront, now in Commerce Township. And for 54 years, his customers have experienced his love for the Green Bay Packers. It's pretty obvious in his two-chair shop adorned with photos, signed helmets, ticket stubs and other memorabilia. Bastas, a Detroit native, switched allegiances from the Lions when one of his high school classmates was drafted by the Pack.
Best Way to Be on a Boat
Docked behind Cobo Arena; 877-DET-BOAT; detroitprincess.com
If you're ready to prance on an upper deck, wave at your friends on shore and proclaim, "I'm on a boat, take a good hard look," buy your ticket for a Detroit Princess cruise. Captain Scott will pilot the riverboat while guests eat, drink, dance and stroll the five levels, inside and out. You'll get stunning views of the Detroit and Windsor skylines, a bird's-eye view of Belle Isle and a great look at the expanse of Lake St. Clair. Enjoy a red wine on the starboard bow for weddings, birthdays, lunch outings or evening outings. Tuxedos, flippy-floppies and blow-up dolphins optional.
Best Happy Fishmonger
Diane Finken at Blue Bay Fish & Seafood
19561 Mack Ave., Grosse Pointe Woods; 313-824-3474
You'd smile too if you sold the freshest fish in town, crafted some of the best seafood soup and sent it all home with customers who you know will be more than satisfied. Diane Finken last year moved her fish and seafood retailer and catering from Grosse Pointe Park to a higher-traffic storefront in Grosse Pointe Woods. She's lost none of the quality and gained customers. Try the tart key lime pie, the creamy whitefish spread and the ever-changing specials Finken makes. Cooking classes have started too, so you can try to re-create her magic at home.
Best New Specialty Food Shop
Giuseppe's Oil and Vinegar
The Mall at Partridge Creek, 17420 Hall Rd., Space No. 199, Clinton Twp.; 586-263-4200; giuseppesoils.com
And you thought "oil and vinegar" was simple, right? Sterling Heights residents Joe and Wendy Cucinello have just established this new business in Clinton Township, and the concept is novel: High-quality oils and vinegars. Right now, they stock a dozen different all-natural virgin olive oils from all over the world — including Australia, Sicily, Portugal, Tunisia and Chile. Not only can you learn each oil's "crush date," but they rank each on an "intensity scale." They also sell almost a dozen flavored extra virgin olive oils, in addition to white and black truffle oil. You'll also find more than a dozen dark balsamic vinegars (including blueberry?) and five light (including peach?). With their personal expertise, this sounds like a place to kick your salad dressings up about 10 notches.
Best Store for Locavores
15104 Kercheval St., Grosse Pointe Park; 313-432-2373; urbangreengos.com
Business partners James Folden and Michell Danel opened this store a few months ago, and held the official ribbon-cutting last week. Hoping to offer the widest possible dietary options for an increasingly sophisticated public, they both have agricultural backgrounds and have been involved with several urban farms in Detroit. What do they sell? Everything from local Michigan fish from North of the Huron to local organic free-range chicken, even local free-range eggs. Their cheese is from Detroit's Traffic Jam, and they offer locally roasted, fair-trade coffee, as well as smoothies and raw juices. This summer, they'll even have fresh, whole-fruit, sugarless popsicles. You can even mix up your own bowl of grain, salad, and other raw, cooked or cold ingredients. Sounds like a promising food business on the east side.
Best Leftover Advertising for a Former Business
Bricks in the outside wall of the Anchor Bar
450 W Fort St., Detroit; 313-964-9127; anchorbardetroit.com
It's a subtle, lingering bit of history, that geometric brick pattern on the outside walls of the Anchor Bar, watering hole of Detroit's ink-stained scribes. The Anchor building is the long-gone office of a brick company. The building was planned as a skyscraper but only made it up two stories when the Great Depression hit. As a sample display, the owner used a variety of bricks on the outside walls. Their variety of colors and textures make the walls one of the most unusual downtown.
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