The Best of the Best Of 

Every year since 1986, the Metro Times has printed ballots, asked our readers to choose their favorite metro area eateries, drinkeries and shopperies (huh?), and published the results in a definitive guide to the Best of everything in Detroit.

While our categories sometimes change, there have been a number of perennial winners — places that stick out as the best of the best, sometimes even in spite of the categories we list. Most romantic restaurant? You tell us the Whitney. Best Wine List? The Whitney. Most Ridiculously Expensive Restaurant? Guess.

Sometimes, the Best is just the Best.

Here is a selection of some — though by no means all — of the establishments, individuals and locations that have won at least five times in the past 15 years — making them, above all, some of the Best at capturing MT readers’ votes.


Detroit Film Theatre, Detroit: Best Alternative Movie Venue, every year from 1987-1992. Since then, it’s had to share the crown with the Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, but the counts are always notoriously close.

Star Theaters, various locations: Best Commercial Movie Theater every year since 1992.

St. Andrew’s Hall, Detroit: Apart from the honor of Best Bathroom to Meet a Giant Virus back in 1994, it was Best Indoor Concert Venue for most of the ’90s, Best All-Ages Venue in 1992, ’93 and ’94, and Best Live Music for several years as well.

Garden Bowl, Detroit: Since 1988, this has been MT readers’ favorite bowling alley. Maybe it’s the tunes. Or the atmosphere. Or because it’s the only really hip place to go bowling in the entire metro area.

Belle Isle, Detroit: This is one of those name-a-category-and-it-fits places. Best Playground, Best Place for Urban Solitude, Best City Park, Best Place to Hear Blasting Boom-boxes, Best Spot for Outdoor Sex, Best Sunrise/Sunset View … you named it.

Trojan: Best Condom Brand, from 1987 to 1992. Eventually we just stopped asking.

MT Personals: in 1986, ’89, ’90, ’91 and ’92, readers voted our very own classifieds section as the Best Personal Ads or the Best Way to Meet Someone. Aw, shucks.

Detroit Zoo, Royal Oak: Whenever we ask where’s the best place to take your kids, you tell us, like we didn’t get it or something: the Detroit Zoo. Then again, where else can they see polar bears, snakes, Siberian tigers and elephants all in one day?

Gusoline Alley, Royal Oak: Best Jukebox in 1991, ’92, ’93, ‘94 and ‘95. This notorious hangout has also won other honors, such as Best Biker Bar and Best Dive Bar.

Lili’s 21, Hamtramck: Before Gusoline’s Jukebox victory, Lili’s held the title of Best Jukebox from 1986 to 1990.


The Whitney, Detroit: In 1997 it was the spot for the Best Downtown Dining, and in 1996 it was the Best Place to Go if Someone Else Was Paying. It’s been the Most Romantic Restaurant every year we’ve had the category since 1987, and in ’92 and ‘94 it also had the Best Wine List. In 1993 and 1994 you voted for the Whitney as the Best Place to Go to Celebrate a Promotion to Management.

Xochimilco, Detroit: Best Mexican Restaurant since 1988. Do MT voters ever eat anywhere else in Mexicantown?

Lafayette and National Coney Island: Do MT voters eat any other coney islands? Two of our most consistent winners, year in and year out. Lafayette may have a slight edge.

La Shish, various locations: Best Middle Eastern Restaurant since 1993. Must be the fresh juices, tasty tabbouleh, great grape leaves and scrumptious shish kebabs. Or the fact that there’s lots of them in the metro area.

Buddy’s Pizza, various locations: Best Pizza (or Best Pizzeria) since 1986, although its winning streak was marred by a victory for Detroit’s Pizza Papalis in the early ’90s.

Taco Bell, various locations: Best Fast Lunch in ’89 and ’92, Best Cheap Eats or Meal Under $5 for most of the ’90s. Curiously, back in 1986, ’87 and ’88, the category was entitled Best Meal Under $3. Back then, the title went to White Castle.

Steve’s Soul Food, Detroit: A near-perennial winner for Best Soul Food, Steve’s has pretty much cornered the market since 1987.

Ray’s Ice Cream, Royal Oak: Best Homemade Ice Cream in 1986, ’88, ’89, ’91, ’92.

Traffic Jam and Snug, Detroit: If you don’t go in for Ray’s ice cream, you’re probably scarfing cakes and pies and fresh gooey concoctions at the place you voted Best Desserts every year from 1986-1992, and a few times since then.


Eastern Market, Detroit: Best Farmer’s Market, hands down, any year we asked. Is it any surprise?

John K. King Books, Detroit: Voted Best Used Bookstore every year the category has been on the ballot since 1989.

Cinderella’s Attic, Royal Oak: Alas, Cinderella’s Attic, voted Best Vintage Clothing from 1986 onward, has now closed its doors in Royal Oak. It will be interesting to see what new winner the vote brings in 2001. Maybe it will be the new Ferndale location?

T.J. Maxx, various locations: Since 1988, whenever we’ve asked about Best Bargain, Discount or Cheap Shopping, T.J. Maxx has come out on top the most. Must be the cut-rate designer wear. Or the great selection of sunglasses. Or the cool shoes. Or …


The Pinery, Ontario: We should’ve known the Best Campsite would be a half-day’s drive from metro Detroit. Never mind, readers voted on this one every year we asked, from 1986 to 1992.

Steve Yzerman: Your Favorite Red Wing since 1988 almost lost out to Chris Osgood back around those Stanley Cup victory years. Phew!

Red Wings: Must be the Yzerman factor. You voted them the Best Professional Sports Team throughout most of the ’90s. The Pistons won from 1988-’91.


Mitch Albom: Best Local Sports Columnist, pretty much every year we asked from 1987 onward.

Bill Bonds: In the ’80s, you voted for Bill Bonds whenever we asked (in 1986, ’87, ’88, ’89) about Best TV Hair (or Best Fake Hair on an Anchor, or Best Blow-dried Hair). In the ’90s, those categories have been pretty much sealed up by Carmen Harlan. Except the Fake Hair one. We don’t use that anymore.


AIDS research: While the votes hit more diverse causes in the late ’90s (homelessness, food banks, children), the runaway winner for Best Charitable Cause from 1987 to 1992 was AIDS research.

Coleman Young, deceased: When he was alive, and when we dared ask this question (from 1986-1992), you voted Hizzoner the Most Shamelessly Manipulative Power Broker. Except for in 1991, when he lost out to former Domino’s Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan. Go figure. Alisa Gordaneer is MT features editor. E-mail

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