Where the fun is 

You're the Best

The best pickup line is "Hi." You told us that. You also told us the best places to get your grub on, the best places to roll your wheels, the media people who really speak to you, the best places to shake your moneymaker, the best places to play games, gamble, watch movies, and flash cash. Comedy clubs, art galleries, pool halls, casinos, we got 'em all, even those little personal things like what really makes you a Detroiter. You know, stuff like having a taste for coney dogs and rooting for the home team even when the idea of a championship lands you on Fantasy Island.

This is our 15th annual Best of Detroit issue. We realize that some Johnny-come-lately folks around here have tossed their caps into the Best of ring – from Real Detroit which seems bereft of ideas and slavishly copies MT special issues, to the Detroit Free Press which couldn't even come up with a novel name for the undertaking (at least they came up with Michigandering when they copied our Summer Guide). Suffice to say that our Best of Detroit is the biggest — and the most fun. This is the real one.

This is Detroit. Your Detroit — from the political poseurs to streetwise artists. We asked you to tell us what you like, and you did. Now we're giving it back to you all counted and wrapped up pretty in your favorite publication. Gee, thanks guys, this one's for you. —Larry Gabriel, editor

BEST PLACE TO SEE A BLOCKBUSTER FILM

Star Southfield, 25333 W. 12 Mile, Southfield, 248-372-2222

BEST PLACE TO SEE AN INDEPENDENT FILM

Main Art Theater, 118, N. Main, Royal Oak, 248-542-0180

BEST PLACE TO GO ON BELLE ISLE

Zoo, E. Jefferson at E. Grand River, Detroit, 248-398-0900

BEST FREE ENTERTAINMENT

Hart Plaza

BEST LOCAL CULTURAL FESTIVAL

African World Festival

BEST LOCAL MUSIC FESTIVAL

Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival (formerly Montreux Detroit)

BEST PLACE TO SEE A CONCERT

Pine Knob/DTE Energy Music Theater, Clarkston, 248-645-6666

BEST PLACE TO HEAR A CONCERT

Pine Knob/DTE Energy Music Theater

BEST THEATER PERFORMANCE SPACE

Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward, Detroit, 313-983-6611

BEST COMEDY CLUB

Second City, 2301 Woodward, Detroit, 313-965-2222

BEST ALL-AGES CLUB

St. Andrew’s Hall, 431 E. Congress, Detroit, 313-961-MELT

BEST PLACE TO SCHMOOZE

220 Merrill Street, 220 Merrill, Birmingham, 248-645-2150

BEST PLACE TO SLUM

Home

BEST PLACE TO GO DANCING WITH A PARTNER

Clutch Cargo’s, 65 E. Huron, Pontiac, 248-333-2362

BEST PLACE TO GO DANCING BY YOURSELF

City Club, 400 Bagley, Detroit, 313-962-2300

BEST PLACE TO GO DANCING TO FIND A NEW PARTNER

Clutch Cargo’s

BEST PLACE TO DANCE OUTDOORS

Pine Knob/DTE Energy Music Theater

BEST MUSEUM

DIA, 5200 Woodward, Detroit, 313-833-7900

BEST DOWNTOWN ART GALLERY

C-POP, 4160 Woodward, Detroit, 313-833-9901

BEST SUBURBAN ART GALLERY

Park West Galleries, 29469 Northwestern Hwy., Southfield, 248-354-2343

BEST USE FOR A USELESS SUNDAY (BESIDES BELLE ISLE)

Sleep

BEST REASON FOR ADDING ANOTHER DAY TO THE WEEK

To get more sleep

BEST NEXT UNDERGROUND TREND TO GO MAINSTREAM

Emo music

BEST PLACE TO SHOOT POOL

Snookers (various locations)

BEST-SMELLING PLACE

TIE: Bath & Body Works (various locations)

Victoria’s Secret (various locations)

BEST PLACE TO HOLD YOUR NOSE

Rouge River

BEST HOBBY TO TURN INTO A PROFITABLE BUSINESS

Web design

BEST CELEBRITY TO CLONE

George Clooney

BEST CELEBRITY TO GENETICALLY ALTER

Eminem

BEST NEW CAREER FOR LAID-OFF DOT-COM WORKERS Telemarketing

BEST PLACE TO MEDITATE (BESIDES BELLE ISLE)

In church

BEST LOCAL PLACE TO HIDE OUT FOR THE WEEKEND

At home

BEST PLACE TO STARGAZE

Up north

BEST PLACE TO BIRD-WATCH

Belle Isle

BEST NEW FASHION TREND

Leather clothes

BEST NEW FASHION TREND TO KILL

Body piercing

BEST WAY TO KILL TIME

Read

BEST MICHIGAN VACATION SPOT

Traverse City

BEST ONTARIO VACATION SPOT

Toronto

BEST WAY TO MAKE MORE TIME IN YOUR DAY

Sleep less

BEST VIDEO ARCADE

Gameworks, 4316 Baldwin, Auburn Hills, 248-745-9675

BEST CASINO FOOD

MotorCity Casino, 2901 Grand River, Detroit, 313-237-7711

BEST CASINO TO PEOPLE WATCH

Greektown Casino, 555 E. Lafayette, Detroit, 313-223-2999

BEST SLOTS

MGM Grand Casino, 1300 John C. Lodge, Detroit, 877-888-2121

BEST WAY TO LOSE MONEY (BESIDES GAMBLE)

Shopping

BEST IMPORTED BEER

Guinness

BEST MICHIGAN MICROBREW

Bell’s

BEST ROOM TO RENT FOR A PARTY OF LESS THAN 100

TIE: Whitney, 4421 Woodward, Detroit, 313-832-5700

Hilton (various locations)

Any VFW hall (various locations)

BEST ROOM TO RENT FOR A PARTY OF MORE THAN 100

TIE: Roostertail, 100 Marquette, Detroit, 313-822-1234

Detroit Yacht Club, 1 Riverbank, Detroit, 313-824-1200

MOST DANGEROUS HOME APPLIANCE

5. Blender

4. Microwave

3. Toaster

2. Food Processor

1. Stove

Indispensable island

Best Place to go on Belle Isle

Belle Isle Zoo

First off, about all the "other than Belle Isle" entries on this year’s ballot. Every year when the Best Of Detroit think tank holds court to draw up the ballot, we look for categories to tweak, whack and replace. Why? Partly because we like surprises (and think you do, too). So, we wondered whether some other contender had even a slight chance of pulling of an upset to dislodge Belle Isle as the Best Use for a Useless Sunday. And the Best Place to Meditate. And the Best Place to Find Nature in the City. And the Best Playground. And the Best Place to Play Hooky from Work. The Best Spot for Outdoor Sex. Even the Best-Kept Local Secret. (Pssst. If Belle Isle was the best-kept local secret, what was the worst?)That’s why we steered voters away from Belle Isle answers in all of those categories — and crafted a Best of Belle Isle question. And you told us: the Belle Isle Zoo. Some 13 acres with a three-quarter mile elevated walkway giving a panoramic view, the zoo attracted 77,000 visitors last year, continuing a tradition that goes back (in one form or another) to 1911. In fact, the Detroit Zoo got started on the island 17 years before the beginning of the facility in Royal Oak. And while Royal Oak dwarfs the original zoo site, smallness is part of the Belle Isle Zoo’s charm. Says spokeswoman Rana Kozouz(cq): "It’s small enough to see everything in one visit." Still you get face time with lions, tigers, wolves, bison, pandas, lemurs and … even spiders.

And we must note, that while we knocked Belle Isle out of the running in several categories, it immediately rose to the top in a couple of new ones: the Best Place for Outdoor Exercise and the Best Place to Bird-Watch.

You just can’t keep a good island down.

The Belle Isle Zoo opens this spring on May 1 and stays open until Oct. 31. Anyone interested in volunteering as a docent there or elsewhere in the Detroit Zoological Parks should call 248-541-5717. —W. Kim Heron

Dance fever

Best Place to Go Dancing to Find a New Partner/Best Place to Go Dancing with a Partner

Clutch Cargo’s

It’s Friday night — a week’s worth of hard work is behind you, and you’re ready to unleash your weekend-warrior persona and boogie the night away to an intoxicating beat. Whether you’re looking for a partner in crime, or already have a twinkle-toed cutie in mind, Clutch Cargo’s is the hottest place to go to display your scorching moves, and possibly learn some new ones. Housed in a glorious, revamped church, the massive space is one of the most popular venues for national acts and fevered, dance-club euphoria. Recently, several new bars have tried to capitalize on the mutlilevel, multithemed dance night that’s been the Clutch Cargo’s bread and butter on Saturday nights for years now. With a different sound on every floor, you can brush up on the dance techniques of several different musical genres, including the elaborate glow-stick gesticulations of techno, the rhythmic jerk and sway of hip hop, and the patented right foot-left-bounce-finger snap ’80s shimmy to the tune of your favorite retro beats. Who says the art of partner dancing is dead? (Although the modern version is considerably more intimate than the "make room for the Holy Ghost" stance you learned in Catholic school — witness the gyrating Siamese twin-like couples who populate the main floor.) And if you’re shy, grab a table and takes some notes, or have a drink and work up the courage to ask that special someone for a spin on the floor. Just remember: Friends don’t let friends drink and dance — especially the rhythm-impaired. Play that funky music, white boy. —Sarah Klein

Sniffing the future

Best Next Underground Trend to go Mainstream

Emo music

Yeah, OK, I kind of see it happening. The Hot Water Music show at St. Andrews was pretty packed, and Sunny Day Real Estate’s The Rising Tide was one of the most anticipated albums of last year. But I think when a diverse "style" of music tries its damnedest not to categorize itself into the cozy confines of a genre or worse yet, a trend, it's hard to imagine it ever scraping its way aboveground. But just in case, retail outlets, here's your warning: Start ordering black, hooded sweatshirts now! Everyone buy stock in those Sharpie pens that the kids use to make Xs on their hands! I mean, look at who's leading our country. Punk's coming back — even if it's an emo-tional, introspective, mushy version. I smell a revolution! Or wait, maybe it's just all the emo kids. —Melissa Giannini

Design this

Best Hobby to Turn Into a Profitable Business

Web design

Being a teenager is no longer a roadblock. Actually, youthfulness is embraced in the 21st century. It is recruited. More importantly, it is accepted.

Ten years ago, if a boy no older than 15 pitched you an art layout for a CD cover, you would cringe. Many would question his authority. Others would question his choice of clothing: a zip-down sweatshirt and a pair of orange cargos. And 99.9 percent of listeners would call security.

Now the little lad next door is transforming an entertaining hobby into a multimillion-dollar corporation as you read this snippet. Even if that sounds a bit extreme — or downright uncanny — checks for 20 grand are routinely cut to Web site designers. Honestly.

Sure, hobbies such as crafting clothespin creatures and makeshift beanies rarely expand wallets. But the intricacies of the Internet fuel luxurious lifestyles, from Porsches to New York City lofts to African safaris.

But success doesn’t come so easy. Unless you’re computer literate from the get-go, months are spent experimenting with graphic formats such as Java, Flash and Shockwave. The new age of PCs isn’t speeding up the process, either. As broadband edges its way into more households, Web sites must adapt — becoming much more complicated — in order to maintain current visitors and garner a fresh customer base.

You could say Shirley Temple set the tone for the entire world when she broke into stardom years before she hit puberty, and could say the same for Michael Jackson. And just like the film and recording industries, a certain degree of natural-born talent usually exists in Web designers, allowing even adolescent computer geeks to score large paychecks.

Although, on the rare occasion that a client skips out on an invoice, the truly unruly Web designer could hack into their mainframe and write his own blank check. But that is a different hobby entirely. —Jon M. Gibson

Better than chocolate

Best Celebrity to Genetically Alter

Eminem

What is wrong with you people? This alarming response — choosing Eminem as the celebrity you would most like to genetically alter — was enough to make me check if somebody was stuffing the ballets.

Ah hah! I find out from rifling through the stacks of wrinkled returned ballots, Eminem’s name was repeatedly scrawled in aggressively retaliatory, decidedly male penmanship. What does that prove? Thankfully, just this: jealousy. Phew. I was losing my faith in females — especially the smart birds of this metro area who are usually clawing to stake claim on the bad-boy cuties. Eminem’s extremely sexy. The very bestest part of the boy’s appearance is that he’s also terribly little-boy cute. Adorable, as in fourth-grade trouble cute … as in "I’m-going-to-chase-you-on-the-playground-but-then-ask-you-to-be-my-reading-partner" cute. And he’s a hot-bodied sampling of overwhelming irony. Mathers’ working voice is Brooklyn-tough but not as affected: He’s gritty like this Motor City.

Fellas, you want to get it? Imagine any of your archetypal sirens: the Catholic schoolgirl gone wrong, the librarian-turned-devil’s temptress, Goldilocks eating your porridge.

Physically, Eminem’s nobody to genetically alter. It’s certainly possible you’re all scientists, and you may be referencing the genes that promote Eminem’s poor taste. There’s a large collective of you who assume Eminem is serious when he’s actually spouting extremely caustic irony. You believe his offensive remarks are so tactless that it must be embedded in his chromosomal makeup. But, considering that you voted George Clooney to be the celebrity you would most like to genetically clone, I think what you mean to admit here is that you’d love to rid blondie of the social conditions that have spurred his inflammatory remarks. I can get that. But let’s be big enough to admit that he’s Detroit’s Calvin Klein-underwear model-esqe poster boy … moreover more so than someone like Geoffrey Fieger. No offense intended Mr. Fieger, but until you look that good in a wife-beat … um, I mean, white tank undershirt, let’s hold onto the hope that Detroit femmes are vixens who have impeccable taste for the disastrously desirable. —Rebecca Mazzei

Phone bangs

Best New Career for Laid-Off Dot-Com Workers

Telemarketing

Mere moments before Chuck Heston discovers the ape-clustered planet he collided with is actually Earth, possibly the most thrilling conclusion to a movie in decades — and the ultimate human nightmare — the phone rings. But you can’t pause HBO. A few more rings and you’ll go completely mad. Hopefully it will only be Britney. You can call her back after the credits roll. Or just your best friend. He’ll understand.

Not a chance.

It’s a product jockey — a telemarketer. In fantasies, such calls should be short and sweet. "Thanks, but no thanks," you could say before the women on the other end of the line even catches a breath. "Sorry, but I’m satisfied with my current vacuum cleaner," you could announce before the marketer even finishes a single word. Alas, that is just a dream.

In the world of product pushing, your comments play second banana to a preprinted sales pitch. And the business is booming — like Pokémon, only more annoying. So who better to man the switchboard than dot-com rodeo riders? You know, the former players in the tech stock explosion, from a fairytale time when Pets.com, Go.com and eToys were still buzzing — rather than buried 10 feet under.

Even though the aforementioned isn’t an accurate statistic, it fares well in the humor department. Imagine, the programmer who once attempted to entice shoppers to purchase a 20-pound sack of Kibbles & Bits online is now hawking long-distance service. And even though he may not convince you, he compels you to listen contently.

By now, Heston has laid eyes on the Statue of Liberty, broken and decayed. The screen fades to black. The credits roll, just as you feared. And all you’ve learned is that Sprint offers better local-calling rates than AT&T.

Damn, I always thought that planet looked oddly familiar. —Jon M. Gibson

Pointless

Best New Fashion Trend to Kill

Body piercing

Last year, a woman in England died due to complications from infections in her body piercings — approximately 118 of them. Now, obviously this lass took things a bit far, but apparently Metro Times readers would like to see less of body piercings in general.

As a fairly heavily pierced person, I am slightly offended but hardly surprised. Ever since I first paid someone to shove a needle through my tongue six years ago, I have dealt with looks of disgust and confusion, and outright insults. Although body piercing has become widespread and rather common now, people far and wide are still overwhelmingly grossed out by the sight of metal glinting from unusual places on your person.

Let’s look at the downside of piercing: first and foremost, there’s the pain. Yes, it hurts. Sometimes not so much, sometimes like the furies of hell. You’ll also have to deal everyday with countless people, inquiring at every given opportunity (sometimes at highly inappropriate moments) if your piercing hurt. Apparently, being pierced means inviting strangers to say extremely stupid and/or mean things to you. "You’ve got so many holes in your ears you could strain spaghetti with them!" Or "Hey, you have a pierced tongue? I hear that’s great for …." I’ll spare you the rest.

And there’s the danger of snags. It’s every pierced person’s nightmare. There’s no better way to start your day on a sour note than by ripping your navel barbell on your jeans, or snagging your nipple ring on your scrubby puff in the shower.

And, of course, in an intimate moment, there is the risk of frightening your new potential partner out of bed the first time you undress together and your reveal your jewelry-bedecked naughty bits. —Sarah Klein

Get there pronto

Best Ontario Vacation Spot

Toronto

Toronto is like New York, only cleaner, safer and friendlier: big-city fun and entertainment with a small city sense of community. Plus it’s only a four-hour trip by car or train, making for a convenient and enjoyable weekend getaway spot for metro Detroiters. With four trains leaving daily, Viarail makes getting to Toronto quite easy and reasonably inexpensive. Tickets are only about $65 (U.S.) roundtrip if you book five days in advance, which you can do online at www.viarail.ca. If you drive, be careful on the 401, especially during the winter. Snow squalls and whiteouts are common.

Rolling into town, the CN Tower — the world’s tallest free-standing structure and a Toronto landmark — looms in the distance, which means it’s time to get down to business.

Shopping, clubs and restaurants in Toronto are a must, and with the great exchange rate, your U.S. dollars will take you far. The old standbys are Yorkville (upscale shops and department stores located at Yonge and Bloor) and the Eton Centre (which is basically a giant shopping mall). For a younger, more hip experience, hit Queen Street West and the surrounding areas, especially just to the south at John and Richmond Streets. Nightclubs, vintage stores, restaurants and movie theaters attract University of Toronto students and scenesters by the droves.

Toronto has a wealth of clubs where you can spend your nights away. Be sure to pick up a copy of Now — the local free weekly — to see who’s playing at venues such as El Mocambo, Lee’s and Reverb. Finally, during the summer months there’s the Beaches (a beautiful resort area just outside of the city), the Harborfront along the lake and ferries to Toronto Island.

And this is just scratching the surface, because there’re a million hidden treasures waiting for you in the bustling Canadian metropolis. Get going, then! —Aaron Warshaw

Electronic jungle

Best Video Arcade

Gameworks

Like a pixelized jungle, Gameworks oozes texture. Vinelike extension cords dance in an endless loop behind machines and in the arcade’s electronic canopy; and a nest of black tube televisions is suspended in midair, tuned to whatever station the king of the steel jungle commands. Meanwhile, at ground level, stylized carpet and distinctive, modern tile replace fallen, decaying leaves. But be forewarned: virgins to the techno-enhanced atmosphere may snap into a wicked state of split-second panic, because amid the thick array of arcade kiosks and bustling bodies lies an oasis of food, drink and intoxication (minus all restrictions, so carrying a cocktail doesn’t restrict your all-access play pass).

Alas, most of the New Year’s atmosphere is reserved for 10-spot clockers. Rather, Gameworks is a gathering place for the newbies and veterans of the gaming arena, offering Dig Dug and Pac Man for gurus with facial hair and next-gen romps such as Silent Scope and Tekken Tag for players with only a hint of stubble.

To complement the stand-up arcades is a host of entertainment you’ll probably never see equipped for home use: virtual fighting, where your body is the joystick and sweat tends to pour after each battle; a batting-cage competition that utilizes real physics, providing sportsmen with a digital challenge and an actual club to grip; and a multistory elevation game, propelling four players up and down at a playful velocity, like a downsized Tower of Terror, with top scores determined by strategy and good fortune.

So it’s really no surprise Gameworks of Great Lakes Crossing packs in crowds by the dumpcart full. Whether a bountiful day of stress relief is on your bill, or a night of lustful, bar-trotting pick-up lines floats your digital boat, this interactive destination passed our test. The definitive grade: Being bored is not an option. —Jon M. Gibson

"Mmmmm … beer."

Best Imported Beer

Guinness

Best Michigan Microbrew

Bell’s

Think of Guinness as an especially potent milkshake. A drink you can chew. A drink and a meal. From the long wait for the pour and settle to the white moustache after your first sip, Guinness is more of an experience than just a beer. Let’s face it: Nothing looks cooler, and nothing tastes better.

There are two kinds of Guinness you can order from your favorite "pub" — draught (which is served either on tap or in a can) and extra stout (which comes in bottles). Rumor has it that beer scientists at Guinness spent years (and millions of dollars) designing the special "draught-flow cans" that create a draftlike head. It’s kind of like having a keg at home. How about that for commitment? Irish-themed bars, bad stereotypes and St. Patrick’s Day aside, Guinness has to be one of the best things to come out of Ireland.

And then we have the wonderful Kalamazoo Brewing Company right here in Michigan, makers of a tasty assortment of fine beers including Bell’s, Third Coast Beer and Oberon. According to its Web site (www.bellsbeer.com), there are four regularly produced styles of Bell’s: Amber Ale, Pale Ale, Porter and Kalamazoo Stout. Each is a full-flavored, hoppy brew that seems to exude "Michigan." We’re actually quite lucky, because outside of the Midwest the stuff is almost impossible to find. And while they last through the winter months, be sure to pick up a bottle of Bell’s Double Cream Stout. It’s a special winter beer that is sweet and thick, kind of like cream soda. Yum! Belly up to the bar and say, "Cheers!" —Aaron Warshaw

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