Best Of 2002

People’s Picks

Civic Pride

Best museum: Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward, Detroit, 313-833-7900

Best museum to take kids: Detroit Science Center, 5020 John R, Detroit, 313-577-8400

Best art gallery: The Detroit Institute of Arts

Best place to see a blockbuster film: Star Southfield, 25333 W. 12 Mile Rd., Southfield, 248-353-STAR

Best place to see an independent film: Main Art Theatre, 118 N Main, Royal Oak, 248-542-0180

Best intimate live-music venue: Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward, Detroit, 313-833-7665

Best mega-music venue: DTE Energy Music Theatre, 7773 Pine Knob Rd., Clarkston, 248-645-6666

Best place to see live theater: Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward, Detroit, 313-471-6611

Best public art: Joe Louis Fist, Jefferson and Woodward, Detroit

Best urban park: Belle Isle, Detroit

Best Web site dedicated to Detroit: metrotimes.com

Best local zine: Metro Times, 733 E. Layafette, Detroit, 313-961-4060

Best unmarked historic site: Michigan Central Station, Michigan Avenue at 14th, Detroit

Best place to cruise: Woodward

Best Michigan vacation spot: Macinac Island

Best Ontario vacation spot: Toronto

Best Michigan tourist trap: Macinac Island

Best local television newscast: WDIV-Channel 4

Best local TV newscaster: Carmen Harlan, WDIV-Channel 4

Best local radio music show: Big Sonic Heaven, WDVD-FM 96.3, 10 p.m. Sundays

Best local radio talk show: Drew & Mike, WRIF-FM 101.1, 6-10 a.m. weekdays

Best local radio news: WWJ-AM 950

Best local radio DJ: Phat Matt, 89X (88.7 FM), 7-11 p.m. weeknights

Best local radio talk jocks: Drew & Mike, WRIF-FM 101.1, 6-10 a.m. weekdays

Best place to spot a celebrity: Somerset Collection

West Big Beaver Road and Coolidge, Troy, 248-816-2087

Best local nonpolitician who should seek office: Jack Lessenberry: columnist, Metro Times

Best small city, town or township in Wayne County: Hamtramck

Best new building: Ford Field: 2000 Brush, Detroit, 800-616-ROAR

Best old building: Michigan Central Train Depot, Michigan Avenue at 14th, Detroit

Best building to blow up: Renaissance Center, Jefferson Avenue, Detroit

Best local charity: United Way, 313-226-9895

Best professional sports team: Detroit Red Wings

Best professional athlete: Steve Yzerman

Party Loyalty

Best new night spot: Space, 415 E. Congress, Detroit, 248-262-6858 (cq area code)

Best club to hear rock: Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward, Detroit, 313-833-9700

Best club to hear country: The Diamondback Saloon, I-94 service drive, Belleville, 734-699-7833

Best club to hear blues: Memphis Smoke, 100 S. Main, Royal Oak, 248-543-4300

Best club to hear rap: St. Andrew's Hall, 431 E. Congress, Detroit, 313-961-6358

Best club to hear jazz: Baker's Keyboard Lounge, 20510 Livernois, Detroit, 313-345-6300

Best comedy club: Second City Theatre, 2301 Woodward Ave., Detroit, 313-965-2222

Best dance club: Space

Best dance club ambiance/decor: Space

Best dance club sound system: Space

Best dive bar: Gusoline Alley, 308 S. Center, Royal Oak, 248-545-2235

Best happy hour: Tie — Robusto's, 19271 Mack, Grosse Pointe, 313-881-0100; Flood's Bar & Grille, 731 St. Antoine, Detroit, 313-963-1090

Best jukebox: Gusoline Alley

Best beer selection in a store: Holiday Market, 1203 S. Main St., Royal Oak, 248-541-1414

Best wine selection in a store: Merchant's Fine Wine, three locations — 146 N. Main, Royal Oak, 248-546-7770; 21034 Mack, Grosse Pointe Woods, 313-417-0400; 22250 Michigan, Dearborn, 313-563-8700

Best beer selection in a bar: Ye Olde Tap Room, 14915 Charlevoix, Grosse Pointe Park, 313-824-1030

Best wine selection in a bar: Town Pump, 100 W. Montcalm, Detroit, 313-961-1929

 

Strong Bodies

Best new restaurant: Sweet Georgia Brown, 1045 Brush, Detroit, 313-965-1245

Best restaurant to blow a wad: The Whitney, 4421 Woodward, Detroit , 313-832-5700

Best bargain restaurant: Taco Bell, numerous locations

Best after-hours eatery: National Coney Island, numerous locations

Best seafood: Tie — Lilly's Seafood, 410 S. Washington, Royal Oak, 248-591-5459; Tom's Oyster Bar, four locations — 519 E. Jefferson, Detroit, 313-964-4010; 29106 Franklin, Southfield, 248-356-8881; 15402 Mack, Grosse Pointe Park, 313-884-6030; 318 S. Main, Royal Oak, 248-541-1186

Best Mexican: Xochimilco, 3409 Bagley, Detroit, 313-843-0179

Best Italian: Maria's Front Room, 215 W. Nine Mile, Ferndale, 248-542-7379

Best Greek: Pegasus Taverna, 558 Monroe, Detroit, 313-964-6800

Best breakfast: International House of Pancakes, numerous locations

Best Chinese: Mon Jin Lau, 1515 E. Maple, Troy, 248-689-2332

Best Japanese/sushi: Little Tree Sushi Bar, 107 S. Main, Royal Oak, 248-586-0994

Best Indian: Priya, two locations — 36600 Grand River, Farmington Hills, 248-615-7700; 72 W. Maple, Troy, 248-269-0100

Best steakhouse: Outback Steakhouse, numerous locations

Best barbecue: Memphis Smoke, 100 S. Main St., Royal Oak, 248-543-4300

Best burger: Red Coat Tavern, 31542 Woodward, Royal Oak, 248-549-0300

Best soul food: Beans & Cornbread, 29508 Northwestern Highway, Southfield, 248-208-1680

Best Middle Eastern: La Shish, five locations — 12918 Michigan, Dearborn, 313-584-4477; 22039 Michigan, Dearborn, 313-562-7200; 37610 W. 12 Mile, Farmington Hills, 248-553-0700; 6303 Orchard Lake, West Bloomfield, 248-538-0800; 32401 Van Dyke, Warren, 810-977-2177;

Best buffet: Old Country Buffet, 28622 Telegraph, Southfield, 248-353-5508

Best cheap pizza: Hungry Howie’s, numerous locations

Best gourmet pizza: Pizza Papalis Taverna, four locations —553 Monroe, Detroit, 313-961-8020; 3171 E. Jefferson, Detroit 313-259-7272; 23703 Greenfield, Southfield, 248-552-7272; 32740 Northwestern Highway, Farmington, 248-932-2288

Best deli: Bread Basket Deli, two locations:, 11230 Middle Belt, Livonia, 734-422-1100; 26052 Greenfield, Oak Park, 248-968-0022

Best bakery: Avalon International Breads, 422 W. Willis, Detroit, 313-832-0008

Best desserts: Astoria Pastry Shop: 541 Monroe, Detroit, 313-963-9603

Best ice cream/yogurt shop: Baskin Robbins, Numerous locations

Best bagels: Einstein Bagels, numerous locations

Best Coney Island: Lafayette Coney Island, 118 W. Lafayette, Detroit, 313-964-8198

Best vegetarian: Inn Season Cafe, 500 E. Fourth, Royal Oak, 248-547-7916

Best juice bar: La Shish, five locations — 12918 Michigan, Dearborn, 313-584-4477; 22039 Michigan, Dearborn, 313-562-7200; 37610 W. 12 Mile, Farmington Hills, 248-553-0700; 6303 Orchard Lake, West Bloomfield, 248-538-0800; 32401 Van Dyke, Warren, 810-977-2177

Best independent coffee house: Brazil, 305 S. Main St., Royal Oak, 248-399-7200

Best casino food: Motor City Casino, 2901 Grand River Avenue, Detroit, 1-877-777-0711

Best Thai: Sala Thai, 1541-1543 E. Lafayette, Detroit, 313-567-8424

Celebrating Capitalism

 

Best thrift store: Salvation Army, numerous locations

Best smoke shop: BDT Pipe & Tobacco, 21640 John R, Hazel Park, 248-542-6110

Best head shop: BDT Pipe & Tobacco

Best vintage clothing: Mother Fletcher’s, 234 W. Nine Mile, Ferndale, 248-398-4816

Best independent hardware store: Frentz & Sons Hardware, 1010 N. Main, Royal Oak, 248-544-8111

Best video store: Blockbuster, numerous locations

Best record store: Record Time, two locations — 262 W. Nine Mile, Ferndale, 248-336-8463; 27360 Gratiot, Roseville, 810-775-1550

Best record store staff: Harmony House — Berkley, 28297 Woodward, Berkley, 248-544-1700

Best health food store: Whole Foods Market, three locations — 2880 W. Maple, Troy; 248-649-9600; 2398 E. Stadium, Ann Arbor, 734-971-3366; 1404 Walton, Rochester, 248-652-2100

Best big box store: Best Buy, numerous locations

Best tattoo shop: Eternal Tattoos, four locations — 27590 Plymouth, Livonia, 734-425-0428; 21132 Ecorse, Taylor, 248-879-8338; 26065 Gratiot, Roseville, 586-779-4770; 6453 Rochester, Troy , 734-425-6650

Best adult novelty shop: Tie — Noir Leather, 124 W. Fourth, Royal Oak, 248-541-3979; Priscilla's, numerous locations, 313-565-2100

Best odd mix of products or services in one store: Meijer, numerous locations, 248-280-1800

Best place to entertain out-of-towners: Greektown

Best mall: Somerset Collection, West Big Beaver and Coolidge, Troy, 248-816-2087

Best non-mall shopping area: Royal Oak

Best independent clothier for women: Dragonfly Boutique, 163 W. Nine Mile, Ferndale, 248-547-7545

Best independent clothier for men: Incognito, 323 S. Main, Royal Oak, 248-548-2980

Best hip-hop clothing: Incognito

Best independent shoe store: Chester Boot Shop, 28037 Gratiot, Roseville, 877-362-7836

Best jewelry: Edmund T. Ahee jewelers (CQ), 20139 Mack, Grosse Pointe Woods, 313-886-4600

Best casino: Greektown, 555 E. Lafayette Avenue, Detroit, 888-771-4386

Best health club: Lifetime Fitness, numerous locations, 952-947-0000 (cq phone)

Best of Detroit 2002:

Civic pride
Celebrating capitalism
Party loyalty
Strong bodies

Celebrating capitalism

Best place to have your tea leaves read

Boston Tea Room

121 Elm St., Wyandotte

734-281-2244

The sages here will never miss a prediction if they say they see a mild, warm beverage in your future. That's because at the Boston Tea Room you can get a reading — and some swell tea. Also complementary are coffee and snacks, and the pleasant conversation you'll have in the comfy surroundings with other patrons of the extrasensory. There are 10 readers on staff, providing everything from tealeaf deciphering to palmistry, tarot readings and chats with the dearly departed. It's a great place to take a group of friends for a reading, and then hang to discuss the psychic implications. For $2 more, you get an audio tape of your reading. How futuristic!

Best Detroit product no longer made in Detroit

(tie) Stroh’s Beer and Vernor’s Ginger Ale

Over the recent decades, many Detroit-born products have taken the route many Detroiters have — that is, hightailing it out of the city for perhaps greener pastures. But no matter where their current factories of production may reside, true Detroit products such as Vernor’s Ginger Ale and Stroh’s Beer will always be rooted in the city that gave them their birth. The classic "Boston Cooler" (Vernor’s and vanilla ice cream) should rightfully be referred to as the "Motown Cooler," and Stroh’s, with its rich, fire-brewed flavor and bargain price, is always the perfect companion for a shot and a smile. Bring back Stroh’s Signature!

Best place to get up to no good

Ford-Wyoming Drive-In Theater

10499 Ford Road, Dearborn

313-846-6910

Next time someone asks if you want to screw around, don’t decline because you’re still living with your parents. Instead, take a passage from Danny Zuko's Art of Seduction and woo your date at the drive-in. The Ford-Wyoming features first-run films and a double-feature deal, 16 screens and more action than a by-the-hour motel.

Best salon for checking out firm male assets

Alex & Emilio Salon

409 S. Main, Royal Oak

248-414-7600

Yes, they have amazing cuts and color, but perhaps the best reason to frequent Alex & Emilio Salon is for checking out the staff. Male stylists seduce your scalp with luxurious shampoos and pamper you with full attention. This salon is a perfect place to practice your "Sex & the City" innuendoes while pretending to browse Vogue. There are also a few hot ladies on hand for the male clientele. A little harmless flirting, yes, but don’t let all that peroxide go to your head.

Best place to unleash your inner product whore

Sephora

2800 W. Big Beaver Road, Suite 218, Troy

248-458-0100

Sephora knows product possession addiction (beauty supplies, potions, etc.). This emporium is fully devoted to giving product whores a surreal, orgasmic experience — providing the latest and chicest shades, scents and textures. Sephora carries a number of rare brands such as Fresh, Frederic Fekkai and Nars. Attractive women in white gloves will happily seduce you with this season’s blush, gloss, bath picks and other superfluous cravings. For anyone who has to have the "in" thing, stop by Sephora to fulfill your fix.

Best costume jewelry

Royal Oak Farmer’s Market

316 E. 11 Mile Road, Royal Oak

Cheap, cool and sparkly are the watchwords of every costume jewelry junky. Their addiction can be satisfied every weekend at the Royal Oak Farmer’s Market. From gaudy paste diamond confections to sterling silver charm bracelets featuring a pantheon of lesser-known Christian saints, there’s something for everyone. The market is open every Sunday.

Best name for a hair salon

Babes N Braids

20534 W. Seven Mile Road, Detroit

313-537-7700

If a clever slogan is all you need, try this on for size: "If your hair is not becoming to you, you should be coming to us." Babes N Braids goes beyond clever wordplay, offering a wide range of services including, but not limited to, perms, weaves, braids and something called a "pump-a-dor."

Best place for a hair weave or fly hairdo

Shades of Gray Salon

230 W. Nine Mile Road, Ferndale

248-541-4611

Is your kitchen busted? Or did you just end up with a bad haircut? Either way, hair engineer Ja’Niece Gray, co-owner of Shades of Gray Salon, can dye, fry and lay your hair. And if you need a little extra length, Gray will take that pressing comb, blow on it and tell you to "hold your ear," before she adds a little length. Whether you want it curly, straight, temporary or sewn in for a few months, Gray can tighten ya’ up.

Best place for dreads

Golden Goddess

1248 Washington Boulevard, Detroit

313-965-6200

Dreadlocks are often seen as a lifestyle, more than a hairstyle. Along with the long twists may come more spirituality and a higher connection with African ethnicity and heritage. Golden Goddess, a full-service salon that specializes in natural hair care, is the place many visit when they want to start wearing dreads or want to re-twist the already-present locks.

Best independent pharmacy

Mills Pharmacy

1740 W. Maple, Birmingham

248-644-5060

Mills Pharmacy is a quaint, wholesome, neighborhood drugstore, where, even in this age of TV and video games, kids can still spend their allowances on cheap candy and comic books. The pharmacists and staff are knowledgeable and very experienced. A range of convenience-store products in a clean, upscale environment makes Mills Pharmacy a pleasant drug-buying experience.

Best cheap fun for kids

Arts & Scraps

17820 E. Warren, Detroit

313-640-4411

This place is the answer to everyone’s prayers — from designers and business owners to teachers and interior designers. For moms, it’s an even greater treasure. It is also the answer to those endless questions of "Mooom, what are we going to do today?" on rainy Saturday afternoons. Inside this magical store, kids can fill up a grocery bag for a couple dollars with art supplies that will busy them for hours. Arts & Scraps has an extensive range of art materials including wallpaper, old photo frames, colored sand, bottle caps, stickies and whatever else might be needed for a unique work of art. Arts & Scraps is a nonprofit organization that recycles tons of industrial waste into fun art materials each year.

Best nursery

Wiegand’s Nursery & Garden Center

47747 Romeo Plank, Macomb Township

586-286-3655

Wiegand’s qualifies as the best nursery in the Detroit area for both landscaping and home needs. They offer 10,000 square feet of flowers, plants, trees and shrubs for every gardening enthusiast. It features the garden center, glass greenhouse and an adjacent sales yard that hold more than 540 varieties of trees, shrubs and perennials carefully selected from Wiegand’s 350-acre farm in Lenox Township. This family-owned operation is the best place to go to for friendly service, reasonable prices and a wonderful gardening experience.

Best place to buy a Christmas tree

Blake's Orchard and Cider Mill

17985 Armada Center Road, Armada

810-784-5343

There’s nothing quite like heading to the country to hack down your own tree come Christmas. And Blake’s is the place to do it. With 80 acres of trees, and about 10 varieties ranging from Scotch pine to Norway spruce to firs, there’s plenty to choose from. But that’s only part of the fun. A tractor-pulled hay wagon takes you to the trees. Hot cider, made at the farm’s cider press, keeps the chill off. Grilled Italian sausage sandwiches and a bakery offering fresh donuts and all sorts of other yummy baked goods make the experience complete.

Best place to buy eyewear

Wizard of Eyes

407 S. Main, Royal Oak

248-584-4880

If you’re looking for funk and function in a pair of glasses, then check out the Wizard of Eyes in Royal Oak. They not only offer great vintage frames, but quirky new styles and eye exams as well. The staff is friendly and honest, so you can rest assured that you won’t end up with frames that would make Poindexter feel like a geek.

Best arcade

Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum

31005 Orchard Lake Road, Farmington Hills

248-626-5020

Everyone has a hobby that sets them apart from others. Marvin Yagoda, however, brought his hobby to the public in his specialty arcade. The 60-year-old pharmacist’s business is listed in the 100 Most Unusual Museums in the U.S. and holds that title with honor. His museum has everything from drunkard dummies to more than 40 gliding airplanes on the ceiling, ancient fans and the newest arcade games for those seeking the latest gaming innovations. The place is a perfect weekend escape to set the kids free and kick back and enjoy a few games yourself. Also available for birthday parties.

Best swimwear

Bobette’s Lingerie

945 W. Huron, Waterford

248-681-2727

For those seeking all the accessories to go along with a bathing suit, travel to Bobette’s in Waterford for friendly staff and a pleasing shopping experience. The store comes equipped with form-fitting suits to flatter any figure, as well as specialty lingerie that makes every man drool.

Best place to buy women’s underwear (affordable)

Target

15901 Ford Road, Dearborn

313-336-5000 (or call for a location near you)

Men can pick up a pack of BVDs in just about any department store and wear them without complaint. But for the curvaceous gender, finding a decent pair of undies that don’t droop or creep up one’s crack is no easy feat. For a reliable pair of cotton briefs in all cuts, colors and sizes, Target is a sure bet. And it won’t break your pocket book.

Best place to buy women’s underwear (moderately priced)

Victoria’s Secret

Fairlane Town Center, Dearborn

313-271-2480 (or call for a location near you)

It’s fun to watch women drag hubbies and boyfriends in this store and ask, "Do you think I would look good in a G-string? How about tap pants? Do you prefer French-cut panties or bikinis?" Most men sheepishly look at the floor and grunt inaudibly. But, don’t be fooled, ladies. Men pay attention to underwear. If you want to treat yourself to sexy yet comfortable panties, shop here. You and your partner won’t be disappointed.

Best place to buy women’s underwear (expensive)

Nordstrom

Somerset North, 2850 West Big Beaver Road, Troy

248-816-5100

For primo panties at a primo price this is the place. The store carries designs by Felina, Shantel and Cosabella — whoever they are. Calvin Klein bras are the best — not only pretty, but comfortable and form-fitting. If you want to blow a wad, it’s well worth it.

Best date flick of the year

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

This comedy tops the list as the most enjoyable Friday night flick of the year. Scriptwriter Nia Vardolos portrays a thirtysomething daughter of the most traditional Greek parents in the world, according to her. She works at Dancing Zorba’s, her family’s restaurant, leading a miserable life and aching for some color. Her bleak world changes the instant the man of her dreams walks in to have lunch, flipping her world upside down. It’s a humorous tale of separating from parents, marrying a "Non-Greek," and dealing with a loud and obnoxious family. This movie appeals to both women and men through its endless family banter and wisecracks that everyone comes to love.

Best game place for a cheap ladies’ night out

Gameworks

4316 Baldwin Road, Auburn Hills

248-745-9675

Gameworks (in the Star Theatres’ side of Great Lakes Crossing) offers an irresistible event for ladies over 18. From 8 to 10 p.m. on Thursday nights, all ladies receive a free game card that can be used at all arcade games. You can play each one as many times as you’d like, as often as you’d like. It’s a great chance to meet up with the girls and let loose for a few hours, kicking each other’s butts on the NASCAR game or one of the other 200 newest games. There’s also a hip and trendy bar for those over 21 and the Gameworks restaurant at the front of the building for a before-gaming meal.

Best place to buy homemade herbal products

5th Element Products

33 N. Washington, Oxford

248-628-5858

5th Element is an excellent place to get a shampoo-soap bar, flax-seed pillow or whatever your interest might be. Owner Debra Chaffins works in the early morning hours before the store opens, making all of the soap and other quality items sporting the "5th Element" logo. Chaffins also supplies the store with an extensive selection of herbs and oils, candles and health remedies for any illness. Visit Chaffins, also a student of neuropathy, and her store in Oxford for a sweet trip into a land of herbs and smells made for relaxation.

Best magazine selection

Borders Books & Music

612 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor

734-668-7652

You may think that all Borders bookstores are alike. Not so, particularly when it comes to periodicals. The Ann Arbor location carries the mother lode. Where else can you find Reptiles USA, a guide to buying and caring for reptiles and amphibians, or KMT, a modern journal of ancient Egypt? Of course there’s also the standard fare: People, The New Yorker, Opera News, etc. Whatever your interest, be it motorcycles, music, film, spirituality, Eastern philosophy, travel or skateboarding, it’s there.

Best place to buy Krishna paraphernalia

Lotus Imports

419 S. Washington, Royal Oak

248-546-8820

If you’re looking to find Zen in the teenybopper-biker scene on the streets of Royal Oak, look no further than Lotus Imports. Surround yourself in serenity as the sounds of chimes and the scents of spices from faraway lands enliven your senses. This hidden gem of retail refuge offers shoppers a constantly evolving array of finds from the tranquil East. Silk saris, gold-bellied Buddhas and Kali pendants flank the displays. Lotus also offers a selection of offbeat gifts such as newspaper purses and a cowgirl-themed board game.

Best place to buy your first guitar

Mars Music

28223 Telegraph, Southfield

248-354-6444

Let’s face some facts: The huge, corporate-owned guitar supercenter chains have driven a stake through the heart of the mom-and-pop instrument shops using the cruel basics of Economics 101. If you want to buy a guitar on the cheap, you have little choice but to buy it from the "man" (who in this case is probably adorned with "hockey hair" and plays in a cheesy East Side-Double Trouble cover band.) But unlike the condescending wankers at all of the various Guitar Center locations, the guys at Mars are actually helpful, kind and exceptionally good at concealing the fact that they are frothing at the mouth for their commission. If you’re going to drop a whole summer’s lawn-moving wages on a physical token of the rock ’n’ roll dream, Mars is the place.

Best place to buy your last guitar

Boss Guitars & Vintage Musical Equipment

Best vintage musical equipment

Boss Guitars & Vintage Musical Equipment

613 N. Main, Ann Arbor

734-327-2677

When you step into Boss, it’s immediately apparent that you’re in the right place to spend a slightly regrettable amount of money on the object of your dreams. In addition to a hand-selected collection of guitars and amps, Boss also deals in buying and selling a fairly stunning collection of vintage electric pianos, organs and the occasional set of traps — all fairly priced (though bartering will get you nowhere). The shop’s owner, Eric Stollsteimer, seems to live behind the counter and is a no-nonsense guide to great vintage gear. He’s convincing enough to be a good salesman, frugal enough to be a good shop owner and rightfully proud of his jaw-dropping collection of instruments. Word on the street is that he may try opening an appointment-only location in Detroit. We’ll keep you posted.

Biggest prick behind the counter

New To You Connection

172 W. Nine Mile Road, Ferndale

248-545-4570

Understanding the truth in the adage "even bad press is good press," we’ll keep this one short. If you want to go completely broke by spending your life savings, 401k cash-out and dead Uncle Dick’s inheritance on a guitar, amp or vintage keyboard, New To You might look good through the front window. The problem is the guy behind the counter has the manner of a penny-pinching love child of Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grim Reaper. Widely reputed as the rudest (and most overpriced) guy in the instrument biz, the proprietor (and only employee) of New To You Music wins this dubious prize.

Best recording studio

Ghetto Recorders

www.ghettorecorders.com

Don’t think his collection of cool old tape machines and analogue gadgets is the only thing responsible for Jim Diamond’s successful track record in the last few years (his client list includes a who’s-who of Detroit rock notables, including the Von Bondies, the Soledad Brothers, Bantam Rooster and more). It probably also has something to do with his vintage soft-core porn mags and never-ending supply of beer. In short, this place is a rock and roller’s paradise.

Best indie record label

Ghostly International

www.ghostly.com

So like its apparitional (CQ) name, Ghostly International seems to have simply appeared out of nowhere (well, actually Ann Arbor) and grabbed a slice of the spotlight. How? It seems mostly to do with Sam Valenti IV, a young man whose methodical takeover of underground electronic music is stunning. Releases include Tangent 2002 (a compilation featuring ever-buzzworthy locals Adult.) and Midwest Product’s Specific CD, both of which have made this start up … well, international

Best affordable audio equipment

Salvation Army

1627 W. Fort St., Detroit

313-962-5960

Digging through the stacks of unloved donations at Detroit’s largest Salvation Army location can be a somewhat daunting task. But because of its size and downtown location, the place is stacked with great finds. The thrift shop’s large selection of stereo equipment is sure to have a well-made dinosaur or two from the glory days of 1970s high fidelity. For hardcore bargain hunters, head for the basement where there are huge, unsorted lots of treasure in various states of repair for next to nothing.

Best alley for the serious bowler

Thunderbird Lanes

400 W. Maple Road, Troy

248-362-1660

It may not have the indie-rock charm of the Garden Bowl, but Thunderbird Lanes has the best bowling around. This is not the place to go to show off your oh-so-vintage new T-shirt. This is where to go to punish some pins. The lanes are in great shape; ther are frequent specials (usually $5 all you can bowl), and the ball selection is truly awe-inspiring.

Best Michigan microbrew

Bell’s Brewery

Kalamazoo

Does anything taste better on a hot summer evening than a cold bottle of Bell’s Oberon? We think not. Bell’s Brewery offerings not only taste great, they're potent. Pass up those 15 cans of MGD and have a couple Bell’s instead. It's available in most grocery or specialty stores.

Best independent bookstore

Book Beat

26010 Greenfield, Oak Park

248-968-1190

Break the chains. Expand your borders. Find books on barns and nobles (and a whole lot more) in this small-but-mighty spot tucked into the corner of yet another anonymous suburban strip mall. It’s jammed ceiling to floor with books, ethnic masks and other literate goodies, and staffed by people who seem to know more about what you want than you do yourself. The in-store gallery exhibits art too edgy for other places. Always worth the trip.

Best used bookstore

The Library Bookstore

169 W. Nine Mile Road, Ferndale

248-545-4300

Now, of course, John K. King Books (Detroit and Ferndale) is the undisputed King Kong of used publications, with more square footage and floors of titles than anyone else. But the Library is an intimate alternative, perfect for browsing, where you always seem to find just the right Zen text or poetry book or mystery novel for your mood. With A Woman’s Prerogative, Paperbacks Unlimited and John K. King Books North in the immediate neighborhood, it makes Ferndale the most literate town in the sprawl.

Best poetry section in a bookstore

Shaman Drum Bookshop

311-315 S. State St., Ann Arbor

734-662-7407

Though not specializing in poetry, these folks do a terrific job of stocking their shelves with bards from John Ashbery and Amiri Baraka to Anne Waldman and Louis Zukofsky, while representing the local scenes and small presses, and planting that unexpected chapbook treasure here and there that turns browsing into a real adventure.

Best art movie house

Main Art Theatre

118 N. Main, Royal Oak

248-542-0180

Pretenders come and go, but the Main Art endures for good reason. Once the home of simply "The Main," a neighborhood house specializing in kids’ matinees and mainstream fare, the redesigned space has become the anytime-you-need-a-buzz favorite of serious film buffs, continuing its deluge of titles (domestic and foreign — great, bad, but hardly ever indifferent) and avoiding the commercial crassness of the anonymous cineplex. Plus it’s got the cutest, snottiest and most helpful staff in town.

Best movie snack bar

Star Theatres

It’s a trend in movie theaters to jack up prices so that you pay a dime for every kernel of popcorn. Every movie theater considered for this position has inflated prices for all of their sweet goods. This being said, Star Theatres get the award for best movie snack bar. Their Southfield location includes a restaurant; the Auburn Hills location includes a coffee shop and an ice cream parlor, all items of which can be taken into the actual screening rooms. These two locations, the biggest of the Star chain, have kitchens to prepare hot dogs and pretzels, and adjacent shops for ice cream or coffee. If you’re on a budget and can’t afford the high-priced items, just revert to the old-fashioned trend of sneaking candy bars in.

Best used record store

Encore Records

417 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor

734-662-6776

A proverbial candy store for music junkies in the Detroit area, Encore records stands alone as the crowning jewel of the area’s record outlets. The inside is of the place seems to defy the laws of physics — thousands upon thousands of hours of music are filed along the tall shelves and narrow corridors of the tiny store. Novices, collectors and wax addicts alike could sped gleeful hours in the cramped isles rifling though volumes of stock for that perfect something. Encore deals in buying, selling and trading the finest sounds in all formats and boasts a massive selection of all genres (classical buffs and jazz heads will delight in their rare and out-of-print vinyl selection). Best of all, the turnover of the place is stunning, so if they don’t have what you’re looking for on the first visit, the next time it might just be waiting for you.

Most knowledgeable record store staff

Car City Records

29118 Harper, St. Clair Shores

586-775-4770

All your buddies keep on telling you that you’d love The Flamin’ Groovies, but you don’t know if they mean 1971’s Teenage Head or 1993’s Rock Juice. You need answers … fast. You need to ask around at Car City, where the members of the staff (many of whom are members of Detroit bands) treat rock ’n’ roll "Jeopardy" like a life and death matter.

Best place to get bent over the counter when selling CDs

Record Exchange

149 West Nine Mile Road, Ferndale

248-546-3244

Staring at a sizeable pile of CDs that you swore up and down you’d never pawn but because of certain economic woe you are forced to? Well, if you take a good year’s worth of hard-earned CD purchases to the trade counter at the Record Exchange in Ferndale, you’ll most likely walk out with just enough dough for a medium pizza, a six-pack of Stroh’s and maybe, if God is on your side, a pack of smokes. What’s more, you may also leave with sense of having been humiliated, what with the marked patronization of at least one of the store’s employees.

Best bicycle shop

Bill Freund’s Olympic Schwinn and Fitness Center

22031 Coolidge, Oak Park

248-541-8500

There’s something timeless about Bill Freund’s bicycle shop. Instead of a store cluttered with gaudy, hot-rod bikes and a commission-hungry staff, Freund’s has the kind of mom-and-pop atmosphere that makes you want to buy something (Bill himself has been coming into the shop to oversee operations for the past 43 years). But the best part of the place is their repair shop in the back — a room where mechanical miracle workers can transform the rusting hunk of junk in your basement into a smooth-riding vehicle of youthful escape.

Best thrift store (furniture)

Rescued Treasures

43584 Van Dyke, Sterling Heights

586-997-9942

Sure, when you think of the blue-blooded, SUV-cluttered streets of Sterling Heights, a thrift store doesn’t make much sense. But maybe that’s the secret to Rescued Treasures’ load of gems. The place is jammed with great furniture finds — everything from lamps, rugs and other home accessories to huge dressers, tables and an occasional piano, parlor organ or musical instrument. The real kicker is that on the first Saturday of every month everything in the whole place is half off — making for ridiculously great deals.

Best thrift store (clothes)

Salvation Army

5600 E. Eight Mile Rd., Detroit

313-892-6644

Shopping at a "Salvys" can be kind of sketchy, but the Salvation Army location on E. Eight Mile is a fashionable cheapskate’s dream. The clothes are clean and sorted by style and color, and the deals will have you dressed to the nines for under $5. This is the crème de la crème for cheap style.

Best hat store

Henry the Hatter

1307 Broadway, Detroit

313-962-0970

Henry the Hatter has been a Detroit institution for 100 years, (making it this city’s oldest retailer) and walking through the shop’s door is like taking a walk into a bit of Detroit history. The A-list of designer hatmakers are all present and neatly displayed along the walls and the staff is more than happy to lend a hand. They have felt evening hats with colorful plumes, plaid and leather urban caps, fur winter hats, engineer’s caps, and even a selection of baseball lids. There’s truly something for everyone.

Best place to buy hip-hop clothing

4 Men

Eastland Mall (313-372-9923)

and Fairlane Town Center (313-323-3600)

If you’re looking for the perfect hook-up, whether you’re just chillin’ or actually stepping out, 4 Men has something for you. With racks and racks of the latest trends and the hottest label names, including Girbaud, Guess and Sean Jehn, you can dress like a rapper even if you don’t have the skills. And, if you don’t know what to buy, just ask Gary or Reese, they’ll hook you up with the proper hook-up.

Best place to buy ’gators

City Slicker Shoes

164 Monroe, Detroit

313-963-1963

Some might say you’re not really a baller unless you own at least one pair of ’gators — preferably a pastel color. Although the shoes average $700, the clientele at City Slicker easily fork over the dollars and walk out in style — often with a matching baby-pink or lime-green suit from the Broadway to match. Celebrities such as Steve Harvey have made a pit stop at City Slicker to complete their ensemble and stock up on Detroit’s flava. City Slicker has been serving those who like fine shoes for 22 years. Although the ’gator isn’t extinct, if Detroit players have their way, it soon will be.

Best overpriced vintage

Mother Fletcher’s

234 W. Nine Mile Road, Ferndale

248-398-4816

Not only does Mother Fletcher’s have just what you want, they also have you just where they want you. You see the shirt of your dreams and try it on. It’s the perfect color, the perfect fit, the perfect everything. Then … you look at the price tag. For both men’s and women’s apparel, Mother Fletcher’s is the place.

Best ill-mannered clothing store owner

Dan Tatarian at Showtime Clothing

5708 Woodward Ave., Detroit

313-875-9280

Showtime owner Dan Tatarian often offers an ill-timed insult to welcome you into his clothing store. Tatarian — a big guy with affable eyes and a gentle demeanor — may fire insults in your direction; he may smirk too, but it’s really all in jest. Turns out that, for whatever reason, the man is actually a sweetheart masquerading as a hard-ass. What’s more, Showtime offers the best selection of new and used clothes for the B&D-rock ’n’ roll-garage set in greater Detroit. 1960s pearl-button western shirts mix with Easy Rider-era biker jackets; Clash (cq) creepers mix with fetish wear and sheer knee-high stockings, antique deco watches, hot pants and leopard-print jackets. What’s more, the Showtime stock could easily be filed under affordable. Take the piss on, indeed!

Best pottery

Pewabic Pottery

10125 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit

313-822-0954

Thanks to Mary Chase Perry Stranton, Pewabic Pottery was established in Detroit in 1907 at the Jefferson Avenue location where her innovative iridescent and blue-green glazes are still produced. Stop by to see the potters in action. Or learn how to do it yourself by signing up for one of the many classes offered year round. Pewabic pieces are also on display and available for purchase. They’re open Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Best bead and oil shop

Djenne Beads and Art African Imports

1045 Beaubien, Suite No. 153 (International Building), Detroit

313-965-6620.

Hidden in Greektown’s Atheneum Hotel, facing the Greektown Casino, sits a gem of downtown Detroit. Here you’ll find a plentiful collection of African beads, including antiques, perfume oils, incense, African clothing, great jewelry and other items of interest. Mahamadou Sumareh, the owner, travels to Africa several times a year so you can enjoy the fruits of the continent.

Best hidden gift shops

Little Things

633 Beaubien, Detroit

313-964-5091

Spirit in the Park

635 Beaubien, Detroit

313-961-8995

Unless you hang out at the Detroiter Bar or live downtown, you aren’t likely to find the two little gift shops next door to each other on Beaubien. But Spirit in the Park and Little Things are well worth a visit, offering gifts from the inexpensive to the expensive, from little shaving kits for men to beautiful pottery bowls and hand-made stationary. No matter who or what you’re shopping for, one of these two exquisite boutiques will have what you are looking for.

Best place to buy incense

Eastern Market

Who needs Glade Air Freshener and Plug Ins when you can buy a stick of incense and enjoy the slow burn? There’s a guy at Eastern Market — who’s there every week on the main drag — who sells incense at $14 for 100 sticks in exotic scents like Tranquility, Sensational and Blue Nile. That’s a great price considering you can buy a "name brand" box of about 20 sticks incense at the same price. Throw on some cooling-out music, kick back and allow the incense to do its thing.

Best pawnshop

Zeidman’s Loan OFC

2669 Gratiot, Detroit

313-567-7170

Zeidman’s is the pawnshop that does all of the advertising. Of course, it has radios, DVDs and big-screen TVs, but its real claim to fame is the "previously enjoyed" collection of Rolex watches. Starting at $1,800 for a lady’s Oyster Perpetual, the store also carries Presidential and Masterpiece Datejust, to name a few. One other advantage to a "previously enjoyed" Rolex from Zeidman’s is that, with 10 percent down, you can layaway the watch and make monthly payments until the watch is yours. What time is it?

Best of Detroit 2002:

Civic pride
Party loyalty
Strong bodies
The wrong stuff
People's picks

Civic pride

Best movie line about Detroit

in Airplane!

Detroiters have become accustomed to Hollywood's cheap smack-talk. Jabs at Motown come via a boatload of mainstream films such as Working Girl, Grosse Pointe Blank, True Romance and The Goonies. But this line from Airplane! tops ’em all: Ted Striker: [flashback] I remember when we first met. It was during the war. I was in the Air Force stationed in Drambui, off the Barbary Coast. I used to hang out at the Magumba bar. It was a rough place, the seediest dive on the wharf. Populated with every reject and cutthroat from Bombay to Calcutta. It was worse than Detroit.

Best church names

In no particular order, as culled from the Yellow Pages

Jaws for Jesus; Fully Persuaded Church of the Apostolic Faith; Meeting the Needs of God's People Outreach Ministry; Straight Gate Church; Old Pathway Oneness Apostolic Church; Outreach Apostolic Overcoming Holy Church of God, Inc.; Chain Link Ministry For Christ; Faithful Mount Triumph; I Am Temple; Puritan Avenue Baptist; Cleansing Springs Missionary Baptist; Pillar and Ground Baptist; St. Mel's Catholic Church; Leap of Faith Community Church; Precious Blood Church; Last Days Ministry; For Such A Time As This Ministry; More Excellent Way Cathedral Church of God in Christ; The Lord's Team; Holy Ghost & Fire Deliverance; Power House Temple; Strictly Biblical; Military Avenue Church; Beam of Light Spiritual Temple; Encouragement Corner Ministries; Tell It Like It Is Ministry.

Best local TV show

"Detroit's Most Wanted"

Cable Channel 6, various times

OK, so the production values ain't so great, but no channel surfer could be disappointed with the content. Bad lite-jazz plays as this public service spot unfolds. The number of murderers at large is astonishing. Their photos appear in grim progression as an alarmingly upbeat announcer blurts lines like: "Earl Smith (pause for dramatic effect) Murder and sexual assault!" Some of the photos are predictably unflattering. But a disconcerting number of them look like full-on fashion portfolio shots. And we get the sinking feeling that somewhere, some tot is yelling, "Mommy, Uncle Earl is on the tay-vee again!"

Best place to hang with deadheads

Elmwood Cemetery

East Lafayette and McDougall, Detroit

313-567-3453

The roads and graves aside, here is your only glimpse of what Detroit’s hilly landscape looked like before the Cadillac conquest and all that followed (including the 1763 Battle of Bloody Run at the cemetery pond where Chief Pontiac and the redcoats (cq) got it on). Names out of our geography — Canfield, Joy, Lodge, Woodbridge and Buhl, for instance — dot the landscape. Some 29 former mayors, Coleman A. Young included, are here, along with other folks both noteworthy and forgotten, who have been arriving since 1846.

Best bottle return

Kroger’s

33300 W. 14 Mile Road, West Bloomfield Township

248-737-7280

Michigan’s refundable bottle law is a mixed blessing. Sure the money is great and really adds up after late-night house parties (often giving you enough for a pizza the next day), but taking back the stacks of stinky, cigarette butt-filled bottles for your refund can be tiring and gruesome. Even with the invention of the bottle machine that does most of the work for you, that doesn’t necessarily stop it from being a filthy procedure. Kroger’s in West Bloomfield Township offers up a quiet, clean area with unjammed-up machines, no lines and hand soap-aplenty, combining to make it the most enjoyable return in the metro area.

Best grassless urban park

Pope Park

Joseph Campau, downtown Hamtramck

Make sure you bring lots of sun block and an umbrella. While offering up a lot of colorful characters and semisolitude from the often-hectic city lifestyle, one thing that Hamtramck’s Pope Park doesn’t offer its inhabitants is the usual landscape befitting of most parks — grass. You can bask in the shade of the statue of Pope John Paul II which was erected in honor of his 1987 visit, feed the pigeons and in general get a hell of a lot of sun.

Best place for mullet sightings

Downtown Hoedown

Hart Plaza, Detroit

Mid-May

Flannels and 40s of Bud give Detroit’s annual Downtown Hoedown true back-country flair, but perhaps the best reason to attend the free country music fest is for an entertaining eyeful of mullet, aka, the ape drape, the Tennessee waterfall, the mud flap. Hart Plaza becomes a magnet for drunk-off-their-ass, Camaro-cut honky-tonkers. It’s an even better place to get at least one hearty gratuitous laugh. Eat your heart out, Billy Ray!

Best local music festival

Concert of Colors

Chene Park, Detroit

Mid-July

You started small in 1993, just one show on one stage on one day. But, baby, look at you now. You’re a whole weekend’s worth of fun and music; a marketplace with crafts and goodies from all over the planet; a gathering that bridges cultures, colors and communities. We’ll even forgive Chene Park’s dubious acoustics because we love you like we do.

Best place to perform a glowstick enema

DEMF

Okay, look kids. We've had it. Put those goddamned glowsticks away before we do something really, really nasty. They're not cool and they're annoying to the point of forced insanity. We don't care how entrancing those waving little glowing buggers are to your chemical-riddled brain; put them the hell away or you won't need a night light anymore.

Best place to rock

Planet Rock

34 Rapid St., Pontiac

248-334-3904

82 April Dr., Ann Arbor

734-827-2680

Whether you’re a novice climbing for the first time or an old hand, Planet Rock is a primo place to go scaling. The Ann Arbor facility is a cavernous 22,000 square feet with walls up to 50 feet high, while the Pontiac spot offers walls up to 55 feet high in a 13,500-square-foot space. Both feature motorized climbing walls (like treadmills, only a hell of a lot more fun) and bouldering caves. We say, rock on.

Best place to roll

Airborne Skate Park

28070 Hayes, Roseville

586-776-7500

In-line skaters, skateboarders and BMX bicyclists (on selected days) can all spin on in style. Airborne offers 22,000 square feet of thrills and spills with an 11-foot half pipe, a bowl more than 6 feet deep and a 14-foot vertical wall. A daredevil’s delight.

Best place to watch drug deals and hookers

McNichols and Woodward Ave., Detroit

This particular crossroads of urban blight seems to be the spot of choice for Detroit's hard-working ladies of the night, as well as pushers, pimps and other shady characters from the wrong side of I-75. For a late-night cruise, it's not exactly romantic, but definitely fascinating — just be sure to lock your doors and load your Glock.

Best jam session for singers

Bert’s Marketplace

2727 Russell St., Detroit

313-567-2030

Lug your axe to Baker’s Keyboard on Wednesdays to have jam session leader Teddy Harris Jr. tighten up your craft. Take that axe to Bomac’s Lounge on Thursdays to let it all hang out. But if you’re a singer, the place is to pipe is Bert’s Marketplace on Thursdays where a different vocalist plays host each month. "The Shadow of Your Smile," "All Blues," "Cherokee" — you call the tune and the resident SBH Trio will swing ’em so you can sing ’em all night.

Best place to hear street buskers

Greektown

Beaubien and Monroe, Detroit.

Judging by the small number of participants, busking isn’t a very lucrative occupation in Detroit. Most street-corner crooners who give it a go tend to gravitate to the heart of Greektown, where on any given night you might be able to hear tenor sax "Pink Panther"-isms or twangy acoustic guitar blues. People who pay their dues and keep a keen eye out for buskers might even be blessed with the rare sighting of a charming middle-aged transvestite who tears through Strayhorn’s "Lush Life" in a falsetto tender enough to bring a tear to the eye.

Best new use of inner city space (large-scale)

Downtown Detroit

Complain all you want about "it might not be enough" or "who really wants to move here?" but the Motor City core is on its way back, and big-time. From the Campus Martius to Grand Circus Park, from Ford Field to Comerica Park, from the Gem and Century Theatres to the new Orchestra Hall high school for the performing arts, big projects are happening, and so are a whole lot of smaller ones, including mucho lofts and condos. Coming soon: Streetlights that work (just kidding).

Best new use of inner city space (medium-scale)

G.R. N’Namdi Gallery

66 E. Forest, Detroit

313-831-8700

Proprietor George N’Namdi has taken over a large building complex just east of Woodward Ave., renovated nearly half of it for his gallery and drawn up plans for a project that includes gourmet restaurants, other galleries and a bookstore. As it comes together, it’ll plug in another great addition to the quality of everyone’s everyday life, and help bring back the fine art of walking from one spot to another in the Cultural Center.

Best new use of inner city space (small-scale)

Southwest Detroit Business Association

7752 W. Vernor, Detroit

313-842-0986

Sun pours through skylights made from car windshields. A small plane wing serves as a handrail. Steel joists and drive shafts form two crooked columns. Scraps such as these were used to renovate a 70-year old building for the nonprofit group whose mission is to revitalize neighborhood commercial districts — and these digs fulfill this goal. It’s one of Detroit’s best-kept secrets. Visit Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Best film series

Detroit Film Theatre

The Detroit Institute of Arts

5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit

313-833-3237

Now in its 28th year (yes, that’s right), the DFT is simply one of the cinematic wonders of the world. Bringing us movies that we’d never see otherwise, in languages and styles we’ve never encountered before, it’s been the venue for breakouts, the place we saw our first Jim Jarmusch or Zhang Yimou masterpieces, our first Errol Morris documentary, our first Alloy Orchestra performance — along with restored prints of classics, retrospectives of great directors, premieres and all great things cinematic.

Best place to see planes, trains and automobiles

Henry Ford Museum

20900 Oakwood, Dearborn

313-271-1620

And Lincoln's death chair. OK, he didn't really die in the chair. He was merely sitting in it when John Wilkes Booth did the deed at — how eerie is this? — Ford's Theatre? The chair, fascinating as it is, is but a mote in the grand constellation of mind-bending stuff you'll see at the Ford. This is the Smithsonian Midwest. Seemingly everything under the sun, from prehistoric recreational vehicles and vacuum cleaners to the largest badass locomotive you'll ever want to see. And, of course, beaucoup cars. Plan to spend hours.

Best place to roll in your new set of wheels

East Jefferson, Detroit

You just got your new set of wheels. Of course, you want to style and profile, so you head down to East Jefferson. There’s always a crowd, so the traffic is slow enough for you to lean wa-ay back in your seat, pump your music and drive the dang thang. Except for the police telling you to speed it up, East Jefferson is the place to take your car for a Friday-night stroll.

Best public library

Royal Oak Public Library

222 E. 11 Mile Road, Royal Oak

947-246-3700

This library firmly believes in the tradition of saving old valuables. It houses everything from old movies to magazines from the 1950s. It's one of the oldest library organizations in the state, dating to the mid-19th century, when Dr. Brewster allowed fellow Royal Oak Township citizens to turn his reading room into a book exchange. Today, the multilevel building houses more than 112,000 book titles alone.

Best park that has everything

Kensington Metropark

2240 W. Buno Road, Milford

248-685-1561

This place is perfect for those weekend getaways to the trees and water. It's one of the most beautiful areas in Michigan. The park has areas for barbecuing, a lake (including a concession stand) for swimming, picnic shelters, playgrounds, trails, a petting farm and many other amenities.

Best new attraction worth its hype

Polar bear exhibit, Detroit Zoo

8450 W. 10 Mile Road, Royal Oak

248-398-0900

You ain't lived till you've seen a white, 800-pound Arctic carnivore do the American crawl over your head. With its see-through tunnels under the bear pond, the Zoo gives new meaning to creative habitat. The graceful creatures put on an unforgettable show, delighting kids of all ages while undoubtedly making the seals in the nearby tank very nervous. Bathing bears alone are worth the price of admission. Hey, do wolverines swim?

Best mall for elderly walkers

Great Lakes Crossing

4000 Baldwin Road, Auburn Hills

877-SHOP-GLC

The megaplex will kick off its mall-walking program on Saturday, Sept. 28, 1-2 p.m. The mall, built in an oval shape, is a mile around and perfect for those early-morning get-up-and-goers. The kiosks act as hurdles, but the restaurants, play area and stores serve as eye candy to help pass the time while exercising those limbs.

Best Michigan vacation spot

Warren Dunes State Park

12032 Red Arrow Highway, Sawyer

616-426-4013

For $9 a night, camp at the Warren Dunes State Park, where miles of dunes stretch along Lake Michigan. If you insist on electricity and a real toilet, the price is only $20 a night. Nearby towns like Union Pier are sprinkled with cafés, restaurants, galleries and inns. Need a break from the beach? Chicago is about an hour’s drive. It’s a great place to visit, but you might wind up wanting to live there.

Best Michigan tourist trap

The Mystery Spot

150 Martin Lake Road, St. Ignace

"Amazing!" "Weird!" Baffling!" These are only some of the words those lucky enough to survive their visits use to describe The Mystery Spot, which appears to have a unique sort of anti-gravity that upsets the proper functioning of the hand that controls the wallets of dazed tourists. The Mystery Spot's discoverers were so kind to share their discovery with the general public for only $5 a tour. Their compassion also inspired them to add such exhilarating attractions as a maze, mini-golf, an arcade, a gift shop and picnic benches. Wow, dad, are we there yet?

Best way to show tourists downtown

Detroit People Mover

At 50 cents a round trip, there’s no better way to provide visitors a tour of Detroit than the venerable People Mover. The art work — particularly that guy always there reading a newspaper — is fun, the view of the river spectacular, and some of the architecture amazing.

Best place to entertain out-of-towners

Heidelberg Project

Heidelberg Street (between Mt. Elliot and Gratiot), Detroit

This crazy, colorful collection of junk is the perfect introduction to Detroit. It draws attention to the city’s seemingly inescapable blight and, at the same time, manages to convey a wellspring of hope. The fact that its creator, artist Tyree Guyton, has made this neighborhood project thrive, despite the efforts of some city officials to bulldoze it, makes Heidelberg the quintessential Motown metaphor. From downtown, take Gratiot to Mack, turn right on Mack and go to Mt. Elliot, turn right on Mt. Elliot, go about a quarter mile and turn right on Heidelberg Street and behold. Or just follow the polka dots.

Best place to stroll for a fee

Cranbrook House and Gardens

380 Lone Pine Road, Bloomfield Hills

248-645-3149

More than 300 acres of gardens, ponds, lakes, fountains and sculptures make this magical destination perfect for a spring stroll or winter hike. The fall colors are breathtaking. But summer is great for sneaking a dip in the private pool north of the Lone Pine entrance. Admission is $5, $4 for seniors and students. The grounds are open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun.

Best place for a first date

Detroit Zoo

8450 W. 10 Mile Road, Royal Oak

248-398-0900

The zoo is the ideal locale for a no-pressure, no-hassle date. Dress is by necessity casual. The fledgling couple can wander from exhibit to exhibit, spending more time watching the playful animals (prairie dogs, polar bears, penguins, otters), speeding past the less energetic ones (rhinos, lions). The animals are can't-miss conversation pieces. If you can't amuse each other in this setting, you're doomed. It’s cheap, fun and a chance to see if any of the critters turn out to be more intelligent than your companion.

Best political spouse

Judy Bonior

Since her husband, David, won’t be a politician much longer (Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jennifer Granholm trounced him in the primary and he finishes his 13th term as a U.S. Representative in December), it’s time to honor Judy. Like David, the feisty woman has dedicated her life to protecting the environment and the rights of minorities, women and workers. No doubt she and David will continue to fight the good fight.

Best gay advocates

Triangle Foundation

19641 W. Seven Mile Road, Detroit

313-537-3323 or www.tri.org

First things first: The Triangle Foundation doesn’t just serve gay interests. Lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons also benefit from the work of this group, which battles discrimination. Whether its drawing attention to hate crimes, or fighting anachronisms like Detroit’s constitutionally questionable "annoying persons" law — which, until TF stepped in, was being used by Detroit police to harass gays at Rouge Park — the foundation is always ready to enter the fray.

Best labor news

Labor Notes

7435 Michigan Ave., Detroit

313-842-626 or www.labornotes.org

Since 1979, the nonprofit Labor Notes has been an organization that puts "the movement back in the labor movement." It’s not an idle boast. Relentlessly progressive, Labor Notes produces a monthly magazine that, in their words, "reports news about the labor movement that you won’t find anywhere else." In addition, the organization holds a national conference every two years that attracts activists from across the United States, as well as from Canada, Mexico and abroad.

Best new slogan for Detroit Public Schools

Democracy? We don’t need no stinkin’ democracy!

Best new slogan for Detroit

Our mayor can kick your mayor’s ass. Guaranteed.

Best bureaucrat

John Eddings

City of Detroit Ombudsman

If you have a question or complaint about city government, Eddings is your man. The jovial fellow, appointed to the 10-year, one-term post in 1995, loves serving Detroit’s citizens. He has held various civil service jobs since 1975 and claims to not have taken a single sick day. He uses vacation time instead. Eddings retires in December 2004, so catch him at 313-224-6000.

Best preacher

Dr. Charles Adams

Hartford Memorial Baptist Church

18700 James Couzens, Detroit

Jesse Jackson has nothing on Adams, who always provides a lesson in enlightened alliteration. At Coleman A. Young’s funeral, for instance, the pastor said that the former mayor fought racism and emerged, "unbroken, unbruised, unbent and uninhibited." He explained why his departed friend used expletives: "He would not stop cussing because his words articulated the feelings of those who suffered from marginalization, frustration and ghettoization. Adams is inspiring and entertaining. Services are Sunday at 7:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.

Best place to hold your nose

Michigan Humane Society Detroit Shelter

7401 Chrysler Drive, Detroit

313-872-3400

It’s no surprise that a shelter containing animals and their droppings should stink. But some days are worse than others. Weekends are particularly bad since crowds pack the place to pick up and drop off sad strays. The summer is also pretty ripe. Go adopt a pet, please, but take nose plugs.

Best Detroit golf course for Jekyll-and-Hyde golfers

Rouge Park Golf Course

11701 Burt Road, Detroit

313-837-5900

There are good, average and bad golfers. Some are all three, turning par-buster Jekyll to duffer Hyde — sometimes on the same hole. Rouge Park Golf Course plays into the minds of such whiz-bums. Cross the yawning Rouge River twice on the 440-yard first. The 11th requires a titanic drive and a midiron over water. Three short holes relieve, as the river waits suspiciously. Lose your balls here, even a club, but all return to Rouge.

Best golf course deals

(three-way tie)

Fern Hill G.C.,

17600 Clinton River Road, Clinton Township

586-286-4700

Hampton G.C.

2600 Club Drive, Rochester

248-852-3250

Southgate Municipal

14600 Reaume Parkway, Southgate

734-246-1358

A golfer who asks not "How many?" but "How much?" and angles for a higher score "to get my money’s worth" prefers playing with a light wallet. First, get a 2-for-1 golf coupon book (e.g., Michigan Golfers Map & Guide, PO Box 2612, Dearborn Heights 48123-2612). Then walk Fern Hill or Hampton for, oh, $15. Southgate Municipal is lively and cheap. Rates tumble like leaves in fall and spring. Senior rates abound. Play up that gray on top, then play all day for a 10-spot.

Best serenity

Belle Isle

off East Grand Blvd. and East Jefferson, Detroit

313-852-4075

Our Belle Isle has served many needs: Picnics. Runners. Grand Prix. Yachts. Serenity is sitting at a charred picnic table near a bush-lined pond. Friends, beer, a primitive grill flickering, cooking salmon till blinding sunset and mosquitoes descend. Again, at dawn, walk idly on shore pebbles, looking across to Waterworks Park – at the works of God and man in immense quiet. A whirring peaceful memory: riding round the island with close friends, 3 a.m., radio turned to WJR, just going on and on …

Best building to save

Book-Cadillac Hotel

Corner of Michigan Avenue and Washington Boulevard, Detroit

Officially, the jury is out as to whether the landmark structure on Washington Boulevard is salvageable. But people who know about such things say there’s enough steel supporting the place to sustain a nuclear blast. The hotel that once played host to royalty and celebrities has been vacant for too long now, bringing down an entire neighborhood. Reopen the Book and the boulevard will blossom again. To learn more about the effort to save this venerable building, visit the Friends of the Book-Cadillac Web site at www.book-cadillac.org.

Best haunted theatre

Grande Ballroom

Grand River and Beverly, Detroit.

Do yourself a favor and break into the Grande Ballroom — the abandoned theater at the corner of Grand River and Beverly which houses the ghosts of the best rock shows to ever happen in Detroit. Under the leadership of the one and only Russ Gibb, the Grande was something of a second home to the MC5 and The Stooges and its hallowed halls saw performances by the greatest ’60s rock groups (including Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Canned Heat and Cream to name a few). When Gibb stepped down and the shows started to trickle out at the end of the ’60s it was truly the close of an era. Though now in danger of demolition, the Grande still stands at that corner for urban explorers willing to risk a minor ticket to commune with the ghosts of legends.

Best place for free radiation therapy

The Metropolitan Building

25-107 John R, Detroit

The glorious Metropolitan Building has served as a retail and manufacturing hub for jewelers and watchmakers. The 1925 architectural delight would be a perfect candidate for urban renewal, but unfortunately the previous tenants left a mess of radioactive waste — radium, the detritus of years of watch repairs. The Metropolitan closed its doors in 1979 and has remained vacant since. The city did make an attempt in 1997 to free the Metropolitan from its toxic burden.

Best vacant hospital

North Detroit General Hospital

3105 Carpenter, Detroit

No health care to be found here. North Detroit General, soon making its Hollywood debut in Eminem’s new film, 8 Mile, is the place you wouldn’t want to end up if you’re in any serious pain. Located on the Detroit-Hamtramck border, the hospital’s busted-out windows and glass-covered parking lots and sidewalks are perfect for re-opening any existing wounds. Be sure not to miss out on the milk-crate recliners and the stripped chunks of cars and colorful trash that line the entire grounds and seem to change and grow on an almost daily basis.

Best place for illegal, urban spelunking

Michigan Central Train Depot

Michigan Ave. at 14th, Detroit

One of Detroit's most haunting reminders of better days, the hulking, crumbling mass of the former train station is an ominous, haunted beauty. Adventure-seekers have been known to sneak onto the premises after dark, dipping under the barbed wire with single beams of light guiding the way. Though thrilling, this urban exploration is also highly dangerous. Aside from the risk of getting arrested, you never know when those old floorboards may give way.

Best and biggest non sequitur

The Wyland Whaling Wall "Whale Tower"

David Broderick Tower

10 Witherell, Detroit

One would think that the world’s premier ocean artist could realistically depict Detroit wildlife. There aren’t any humpbacks roaming our Great Lakes and the only Moby (sans dick) we know of appeared at Pine Knob in August. Homeboy Wyland created the Greenpeace tribute in 1997 to share the beauty of marine life. It's a lovely change of pace. Now if they'd just bring back that bitchin' faint silhouette of Barry Sanders.

Best place to see graffiti art

The Dequindre Line

St. Aubin, Detroit

Running Parallel to St. Aubin St. from Eastern Market to Jefferson Ave., the Dequindre Line is an abandoned set of railroad tracks that has become an ever-evolving canvas for Detroit graffiti artists. Inspiring explorations into color fusion and B-Boy attitude cover the walls of every overpass and abandoned car along the mile-long stretch. A fine alternative to stuffy galleries. Works range from elaborate creations to quickly thrown tags. Pieces in progress allow the observer to witness the creative process in all of its varying degrees. This constant flux provides a different experience with each visit.

Best place to watch birds

Pointe Pelée National Park of Canada

407 Robson St., R.R. #1

Leamington, Ontario

519-322-2365

Open all year, this Ontario wilderness park on a peninsula jutting into Lake Erie is a stopover spot in the migration cycles of countless North American birds and butterflies, making it an ideal place to shut up and just look. Located southeast of Windsor, it's less than an hour from Detroit. Get out there early (like just after sunrise), wear comfortable shoes and leave your litter in the car as you partake of sublime encounters with the great chain of being. An info center and designated paths show you the way.

Best neighborhood for a walk

Corktown

Off Michigan Avenue, Detroit

Located in the shadow of Tiger Stadium, Corktown, the city’s oldest neighborhood, provides a safe and pleasant foot tour. Brightly colored lofts, houses and apartments adorn the streets, giving one the impression of stepping into a van Gogh painting. The few remaining ramshackle buildings are a reminder of the hard times, but the reclaimed and dignified buildings and lovingly tended lawns provide a triumph of spirit and an example for the whole city.

Best place to people watch

Detroit Metropolitan Airport

Sure your flight is late. Again. But rather than sulk about missing that connection in Chicago, settle in and soak up the scenery. Let your mind reel with questions about each passerby. Scrutinize the crowd for possible terrorists. Why is that dude going to Rangoon with no luggage? Actually, we don't care. We just love to say Rangoon.

Best view of Detroit from a car

Northbound I-75 at mile marker 46

There is no grander view of Detroit than when you are traveling north into Detroit on I-75 about three miles south of town. The highway rises onto an overpass that takes you above the industrial yards of downtown and magically, as you come to the height of the overpass, the skyline of Detroit and Ambassador Bridge dominate the horizon. In a word: majestic.

Best landmark

Uniroyal tire

Allen Park

That giant tire — 86 feet in diameter, in fact — along I-94 started life as a Ferris wheel at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. Back then it had 24 gondolas and cost a quarter to ride. Now it just has a big nail sticking in it. Still, always such a treat to see we never tire of it. Get it? Tire.

Best crime syndicate

The Purple Gang

The sons of Jewish and Russian immigrants, the Purple Gang started as small-time hoods on Detroit’s infamous Hastings Street. The moniker allegedly grew from a victim's utterance: "They’re rotten, purple like the color of bad meat, they’re a purple gang." Graduating from the ranks of street thugs, the Purple Gang built such a violent reputation that even Chicago’s Al Capone eschewed their turf. The gang achieved further fame when Elvis Presley sang, "The whole rhythm section was the Purple Gang" in his 1957 hit "Jailhouse Rock."

Best unknown city

Wyandotte

Downriver often evokes images of rednecks, polluted waters and industry. And that’s a darn shame, especially for Wyandotte and its 28,000 residents. The blue-collar town, which sits about 12 miles southwest of Detroit, has come a long way. While maintaining its Mayberry-like atmosphere, it has evolved with the times. Coffee shops, art galleries and appealing retail businesses dominate its main drag, Biddle Avenue. Every third Friday of the month, stores and galleries are open late, giving the public a chance to meet the artists and shop. It’s also home to one of the state’s largest art fairs, has ethnic festivals, parades and other events all year long. But what’s best about this sweet city is Bishop Park, which sits on the Detroit River and is beautifully maintained. Give Downriver a chance.

Best local zine

Geek Monthly

Ann Arbor

[email protected]

With its cover-to-cover irreverence, Geek Monthly is a highly evolved product of both classic zine culture and dork lifestyle. Off-the-cuff humor and well-crafted illustrations inspire heady giggles about comics, superheroes, video games, horror movies, action figures and classic staples of the daily pursuits of the pure geek. Brilliant in concept, perfect in execution, Geek Monthly is available at local comic book stores and other geek harbors in Ann Arbor or by e-mail.

Best bartender-turned-rock star

Meg White

Memphis Smoke in Royal Oak seemed right that long-ago night for ribs, a three-chord shuffle and a cold one. Behind the bar was a short girl with long hair, moving to a jerky internal rhythm as she poured suds. We sidled up and asked for a recommendation. "What’s good with spicy food? Maybe something light but interesting, with a little flavor to it?" She smiled and offered a Red Stripe.

Best reason to think there’s hope for radio in Detroit

WDET-FM, 101.9

News without hype — thoughtfully done stories that get all the time they need to be told properly. Sounds that span all genres, cultures and countries. Show hosts who actually know something about the music they play. Want to listen to a station that assumes you have both a brain and an attention span? This must be the place. Just remember to pony up during a pledge drive; then you can enjoy the programming guilt-free.

Best rock radio host

Willy Wilson

WDET 101.9 FM

Friday Midnight-Saturday 5 a.m.

Every self-respecting fan of quality local music knows the drill: Get out of the bar on a Friday night (Saturday morning) and tune in to DTE. With Willy Wilson behind the microphone spinning a discerning mix of everything from local upstarts to deep, ageless treasures from the rock ’n’ roll canon, he should be regarded as nothing short of Detroit’s own John Peel. Pop a couple Percocets (cq) and listen until 5 a.m. We promise you’ll learn something.

Best sports-talk radio show

"Inside the Lockerroom"

WXYT 1270 AM

Mon.-Fri., 3-6 p.m.

Forget the irritating doggie howls, the endless self-promotion, the juvenile sex jokes and moronic humor that dominate most sports-talk radio in Detroit. This is the show for the thinking sports fan. With former big leaguer Kirk Gibson and ex-Lion quarterback Gary Danielson teaming up with Eli Zaret, the show is insightful, provocative and intelligent — a rare commodity, indeed.

Best talk radio

"Inside Detroit"

WCHB 1200 AM

Mon.-Fri., 6-10 a.m.

You may not always agree with her, but you can always count of Mildred Gaddis to take on tough issues. With a politically astute audience, she pulls no punches when going after the powers that be. And you just know the Mayor’s office has her tuned in every morning.

Best morning radio show to be beamed in from somewhere else

Russ Parr Morning Show

WDTJ 105.9 FM

Mon.-Fri., 6-10 a.m.

With songs that vary from Prince to the Staples Singers, Russ Parr will get you rockin’ and rollin’ in the morning. He’ll also get you laughin’. Accompanied by sidekicks Olivia Fox and Super Ken on a show that originates in Washington, D.C., Parr is renowned for his uncanny impersonations, including all the Jacksons — Magic, Michael and Jesse.

Best comedienne on morning radio

CoCo

WJLB 97.9 FM

Mon.-Fri., 5:30-10 a.m.

With her shout-outs to the big girls and jabs about "Skittle-colored ’gators," CoCo serves up plenty of laughs to the sleepy-eyed folks downing that first cup of coffee. She doesn’t hesitate trading wits with her fellow radio compadres. CoCo is large and in charge and has a comedy club named after her to prove it. Do your thang, CoCo.

Best jazz radio host

Lopez Loving, "The Jazz Show"

WDTR 90.9 FM

Saturdays, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Knee-jerk orthodoxy would give WDET-FM’s timeless Ed Love the prize, but truth must be told: Lopez Loving incarnates all of the great jazz broadcasting qualities. From his hard-edged, blues-inclined, always swinging play list (an awesome mix of modern jazz masters, particularly Cannonball, Coltrane, Miles and Jackie McLean, plus lesser-known stars such as Woody Shaw and more youthful fare) to his terse, hip delivery (keeping the blab to an absolute minimum), Lopez is the man.

Best alternative to alternative radio

The Internet

Screw the artists! Screw the RIAA! Forget the corporate music machine! Napster was just the beginning, and with the ever-expanding technologies of MP3 players, you can create your very own custom-tailored DJ set list for your computer at work or home. Hell, everyone else in town and their mother claims they're a DJ, so why not you too?

Best Web site about Detroit

Tie: www.forgottendetroit.com

and www.detroityes.com

David Kohrman and Lowell Boileau, creators of "Forgotten Detroit" and "Fabulous Ruins of Detroit," respectively, are waging their wars to save Detroit’s historical legacy. Both sites offer a glimpse of our city’s past, present and future with a wide selection of stories, photos and cultural ephemera. Dozens of sites on Detroit have sprung up in the past few years, but it’s no surprise that people are learning to love the originality and rich history on these pages.

Best spot for egregious cell phone abuse

Any sporting event or restaurant

It never fails. You want to enjoy a quiet dinner with your sweetie or take in a ballgame with a pal. Just when you’re really starting to enjoy things, some yahoo whips out a cell phone and starts to talk to somebody stupid about something stupid. It’s never an emergency — it’s just some show-off trying to prove how (self-) important they are.

Best place to get Medieval

Michigan Renaissance Festival

Dixie Highway (between Pontiac and Flint)

800-601-4848 or www.michrenfest.com

Surely we joust. Ribald wenches, naughty knaves, the queen and her court. Handmade handicrafts supreme, from swords to goblets to candles. Plus, the best barbecued turkey legs this side of Saxony. All this and more makes for a great time every year at the Michigan Renaissance Festival, held from mid-August until the end of September at the shire known as Mt. Holly.

Best pro sports franchise

The Detroit Pistons

No one can argue with world championships (as in three recent Stanley Cups), but the Red Wings are only the second-most-exciting club in town. What’s even more thrilling is being on board as a team shifts into gear and starts putting it all together — as in our beloved Pistons, what with a new point guard, a revamped front court, returning dynamos Barry, Robinson, Stackhouse, Wallace and Williamson, and a smart yet humble young coach. Now if they'd just move downtown!

Best stupid trade for the Tigers

Bobby Higginson for a vodka bottle and a crackhead to be named later

Mike, you traded your one good starting pitcher, Jeff Weaver, for some nobodies. You can’t fill the seats even when you give them away. You can barely make payroll. We can’t recognize most of the names on the roster. And where are all of the wonderful things that were supposed to happen in Detroit after Comerica Park was built? Why not just complete the demolition of this once-proud franchise? Not that anybody would notice.

Best trailer park

Flamingo Trailer Court

22600 Middlebelt Road, Farmington

Next time you need a dose of good old-fashioned kitsch, make a stop at the Flamingo Trailer Court. Its sign is a little piece of 1950s Americana, featuring two incandescent pink flamingos worthy of any Miami Beach shuffleboard haven. What it is, exactly, that distinguishes a trailer "court" from a trailer "park" is a mystery, but the semantic quandary only adds to the overall charm of the Flamingo Trailer Court.

Best parade

Thanksgiving Day Parade

Call us traditional, but the Thanksgiving Day Parade is the best. Whether you choose to watch it from the comfort of your living room or bundle up and head downtown to fight the crowds for some wholesome family fun, the parade is never a turkey. The grand finale with Santa is nothing compared to the clown brigade, which features corporate execs dressed in clown suits who spray the crowd thoroughly with silly string.

Best parade that’s not on Thanksgiving

Cinco De Mayo Parade

Clark Street and West Vernor, Detroit

May 5

Winding and grooving through the streets of Mexican Town, the Cinco De Mayo parade is one of metro Detroit’s most colorful celebrations all year. But a couple things make the marching fiesta a completely unique and cherished event to Detroiters. First, it is a festival that has the obvious love and support of the community that surrounds it. Even more importantly, the parade offers glimpses of what makes Detroit great: harmonious multiculturalism fusion and a spirited pride in the reviving neighborhoods south of Eight Mile.

Best Detroit statue

Gateway to Freedom memorial

Hart Plaza

Detroit is a city full of interesting statues. All of them are worth appreciation because they help to distinguish the city, but the one that deserves special recognition is the newest addition, located in Hart Plaza right on the riverfront. It is a statue commemorating the Underground Railroad that headed out of slavery and straight into the freedom of Canada. The location memorial — a bronze grouping of eight figures — as well as the history and characters represented there, could not have been done better.

Best Riverfront View

Riverwalk

Joe Louis Arena to Renaissance Center, Detroit

One of the best additions to Detroit in recent years has been the city’s riverfront promenade, which eventually will extend all the way from the Ambassador Bridge to the Belle Isle bridge. At least that’s what the hope is. But at least we have a start, and Detroiters are finally able to stroll along their river and enjoy the view. It’s a long overdue view.

Best Barbie Doll import

Pamela Anderson

Obviously the reduction wasn’t enough. Pamela continues to spread her famous cleavage throughout the Motor City. With greased-down boobies and lace-up leather minis, the former "Baywatch" babe can be frequently spotted at Bleu, X/S and cruising the Nautical Mile. If you wear a wife-beater, your hair’s long and sing songs about pimpin’, you just may have a chance to appear in your own stolen home porno.

Best fashion trend to kill

Overdosing on cologne or fragrance

Wandering down Main Street in Royal Oak on a Friday night, one will literally choke on the pungent clouds of Drakkar Noir and Eternity that hang thick in the air. Geez, guys, just use a little dab — don't knock the chicks out with an overpowering wall of overpriced masculine stink. And ladies? When your special man leans over to nuzzle your neck with a delicate kiss, you don't want him gagging and sputtering, desperately gesturing for water to wash the taste of your perfume out of his mouth. Talk about a mood killer.

Best cure for city blues (aka best afternoon getaway)

Downtown Windsor

OK, Windsor isn’t the pastoral oasis we crave on a gray, dirty, down-in-the-dumps Detroit day. But the lovely Canadian city’s proximity might be one of the best things about Detroit. So grab your passport, driver’s license and birth certificate, if available, and head to Canada. The tunnel will spit you into downtown in 15 minutes. Once there, you can park and actually, gasp, walk. Shops along Ouellette, the city’s main street, are plentiful and there are plenty of pleasures in the area around University West, including coffee shops, numerous bars and a great Ethiopian restaurant. The park along the river will bring out the green in any Detroiter. Plus, for our money, Detroit can look its best from a foreign country. We’ll just leave it at that.

Best art museum (best collection)

The Detroit Institute of Arts

5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit

313-833-7900

With its awe-inspiring Diego Rivera murals, its gorgeous Italian, Dutch and Flemish masters, its African treasures and stunning modern collection, the DIA wins hands down. Specific areas such as the American, Ancient, Islamic or Asian galleries are so intensely poetic that you’ll want to spend hours in each. And the Graphic Arts galleries keep expanding minds with show after show of adventurous photographs and works on paper, from Max Ernst to Robert Frank to Gordon Newton to high fashion. The DIA has no set admission price, but asks that students and children contribute $1 and adults give $4 — mere pittances for the value of what you are getting.

Best art museum (most intimate)

University of Michigan Museum of Art

525 South State St., Ann Arbor

734-764-0395

Impressive not so much for its holdings (world-class collections of Asian art and surrealism) as for its enlightened attitude and serious intellection, UMMA offers a year-round encounter with the sublime details of art. Hosting a series of fascinating, intimate shows (e.g. Joseph Beuys drawings, Monet waterscapes, ancient Chinese scroll paintings, Kara Walker silhouettes, etc.), this museum can almost be experienced in an afternoon. Don’t miss the traditional Japanese teahouse, where shakuhachi flute concerts and tea ceremonies take place each month.

Best art museum (most contemporary)

Cranbrook Art Museum

39221 Woodward, Bloomfield Hills

248-645-3323

This past year Cranbrook took a leap forward with its installation of the Dr. John & Rose M. Shuey collection, a gift of such overall quality and contemporary relevance that "leading edge" becomes a motto the museum can truly live by. Modern masterworks by Joan Mitchell, Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella and Larry Poons, among many others, combine with excellent year-round curating of the challenging kind to make the site a must-destination for anyone committed to the best of the new.

Best new gallery (city)

Tangent Gallery

715 E. Milwaukee, Detroit

313-873-2955

If the white, wide-open spaces of modern art turn you on, then Tangent (part of the mammoth new arts complex on East Milwaukee) is your best bet downtown. The enormous gallery project has just celebrated its first year of presenting big, blustery, color-mad shows by some of the most intriguing artists in Detroit. With mile-high walls and great expanses of floor space, Tangent can show virtually whatever it wants: large canvases, sculpture, installations and anything else its smaller cousins can’t.

Best new gallery (suburbs)

Susanne Hilberry Gallery

700 Livernois, Ferndale

248-541-4700

Relocating is often hard to do, but in the case of Susanne Hilberry’s new digs, the results are spectacular. Handsomely rethinking a 1950s light-industrial site, the gallery blends in with its green surroundings yet suggests all kinds of new aesthetic possibilities. Hilberry has created a base from which to represent her wonderful stable of contemporary artists (Richard Artschwager, Joel Shapiro and Elizabeth Murray, among them) and overnight becomes a model for anyone planning a contemporary museum in Detroit (wink, hint).

Best bar art

Cass Café

4620 Cass, Detroit

313-831-1400

It seems like many of our bar and restaurant owners fancy themselves armchair gallery curators. The result: Bar art almost always equals bad art. Almost. Sitting in a midtown bar and not being forced to look at your waiter’s girlfriend’s hackneyed attempts at aping Kirchner are few and far between. For relief, you shouldn’t look much further than the Cass Café. The shows (usually set up by midtown artist and former Creem art director Robin Sommers) are typically just as tasty as the restaurant’s avocado melts.

Best Detroit haiku

40s on Belle Isle

Abandoned house fires by night

Romance in Detroit

Best of Detroit 2002:

Celebrating capitalism
Party loyalty
Strong bodies
The wrong stuff
People's picks

Strong bodies

Best soul food
Franklin Street Restaurant
1440 Franklin St., Detroit
313-393-0018
There may be a wait, but it’s the place to be after church on a Sunday afternoon. It’s the same food you ate coming up: catfish, pork chops, meat loaf, fried chicken, ribs. But it all tastes so good and you don’t have to do the dishes. Two sides and cornbread come with your entrée. The greens have a kick and the yams are candied with a buttery syrup. Save room for the peach cobbler. In Detroit’s warehouse district, the building was a machine shop in a previous life, and is now beautifully restored.

Best porkless soul food
Aknartoon’s Eatery
10310 Woodward Ave., Detroit
313-867-3102
Some of the best traditional and nontraditional soul food fare around — but with a Muslim tilt. This means no pork. But if you think that takes any of the soul out of the food, then you’re oh-so-wrong. They have some of the best yams to be found in the city, and they also occasionally feature live entertainment that adds to the comfortable, no-frills atmosphere.

Best barbecue
Bert’s Jazz Club
2727 Russell, Detroit
313-567-2030
Bert’s Jazz Club is one of the places that make Eastern Market so wonderful. On summer Saturdays, Bert’s spills into the street. There’s live reggae, outdoor tables, and the biggest barbecue pits you’ve ever seen. The ribs are seasoned for two days. Bert Dearing scoffs at people who boil their ribs first. “The key to it is turning them,” he says. “Turn, turn, turn.” With an industrial-sized pair of tongs, the slabs are endlessly rotated over hot coals. It takes about an hour and half, then they go into a smoker. Yummy.

Best greens
Misha’s
8027 Agnes, Detroit
313-821-5133
When Lillie Howard wanted to deepen her knowledge of cooking, she wrote to famed Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme and volunteered to work in his New Orleans restaurant for two weeks. “I told him I was a lady who would like to cook with him, no charge,” she remembers. Prudhomme inspired her use of spices. She makes her greens with a (secret) mixture of 12 different spices, but no salt and no meat. They are dished up in a little storefront eatery in Indian Village, where chef Howard serves all kinds of home cooking.

Best ribs
Loving Spoonful
27925 Golf Pointe Boulevard, Farmington Hills
248-489-9400
The ribs are to die for. Chef Shawn Loving slow-smokes ’em, basting with a honey-pineapple sauce. Ribs are best when the sauce is cooked in, and that is just the way it is done here, with a little extra sauce on top. Ribs are served with corn ya-ya and a warm redskin potato salad. Chef Loving, a graduate of Schoolcraft Community College’s culinary arts program, describes his menu as “upscale comfort food, with a twist.” It’s the twist that makes it so special.

Best bistro jazz track
Camillian Café
300 Monroe, Detroit
313-964-4815
Considering the jarring assault of most music-while-you-dine experiences — anywhere from blaring Britney to raging machines — it’s cool to eat in a place with real intelligence. The Camillian plays a steady stream of jazz cuts by Charles Mingus, Pharoah Sanders et al (mixed with other sonic fare) to go with its sunny menu of sandwiches, salads, coffees, juices, sprouts and avocado. On Saturday evenings, the jazz is live and cover includes a basket of wings. As the ’50s hipsters used to say, “Tasty, man.”

Best Greek
New Hellas Café
583 Monroe, Detroit
313-961-5544
The New Hellas is Greektown’s oldest — founded in 1901 and still in the family. It’s one of the few that serves rich, tangy, house-made Greek yogurt — with a pitcher of warm honey on the side. The bean and vegetable soups are superior, as is the omelet with feta. Most ordered: lamb chops and the “Hellas trio” — moussaka, pastitsio and spinach cheese pie. Be careful to ask for Greek coffee, not Turkish.

Best non-Greektown Greek
Athens Souvlaki
21738 W. 11 Mile Road, Southfield
248-356-6463
Who knew that a little Greek-coney spot, long loved by Southfield lunchers, was the home of the most consistently satisfying gyros in Michigan? You can’t be blamed for missing it, it’s so cozily hidden in the corner pocket of a strip mall. Although the longtime brains behind the operation, ace gyro-master Vacili, has moved on to other things, the new management knows not to mess with a classic. It’s jammed at lunch but that lovely lamb sandwich is so very worth it. The pita is grilled to order.

Best Coney Island
Lafayette Coney Island
118 Lafayette, Detroit
313-964-8198
Head downtown to Lafayette Coney Island when you’re looking for a Coney Island hot dog. Though not as thick as a porkophile might hope, they’re the real deal — not from the “they’ll never know the difference” school of cereal-and-filler production At many coneys, chili cheese fries come with iridescent liquid cheese. Lafayette heaps on real shredded cheese, which melts from the heat of the freshly fried fries. The waitstaff shouts your order from the front of the restaurant to the kitchen; it’s a nice touch — that way you can never get away with ordering a salad and a Diet Coke.

Best vegetarian
Inn Season Cafe
500 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak
248-547-7916
You know the restaurant syndrome — you’re really hungry, you eat too much, you feel bad afterward. Chef George Vutetakis has imbued Inn Season with his commitment to good health. “We’re not just concerned to try to present the food well, or to create nice flavors. We’re concerned with how the food sits with you afterwards, digestively and health-wise,” he says. Carnivores like the food too. Dairy-free or wheat-free is easy here. But before you feel too virtuous, the food tastes as good as it is for you.

Best healthy eating
Atom’s Juice Café
345 Fisher Road, Grosse Pointe
313-885-0095
The bill of fare is 100 percent cholesterol-free, with as many organic ingredients as possible. “Cream” soups, like broccoli, are made with organic soymilk and organic soy creamer. Raw, organic juices go beyond the humble orange to kale, garlic and wheatgrass. It’s disorienting to eat sausage guilt-free, but the meatless Sunday brunch wannabe is a reasonable facsimile, and the whole-grain pancakes are superb. Salads are not just greens but heartier shiitake noodle with sesame seeds, pesto pasta with roasted garlic and almonds, and mjadra. Healthy garbage too — most containers and utensils are biodegrade, all others recyclable.

Best Italian
Maxine’s Italian Cuisine
20217 Mack, Grosse Pointe
313-882-1044
Maxine’s has a great ambience. Chef and owner Bujar (the “j” is silent) Mamushlari, looking elegant in a tall white toque, cooks in an open kitchen, and regulars will wait for a seat at the counter where they can watch. The kitchen is remarkably calm and neat, and the food is sensational. There are specials most nights, but the regular menu items are creative and sophisticated. Lots of lemony flavors, great linguine con vongole (clams), a variation on chicken Marsala that features walnuts, hazelnuts and dried cherries.

Best Italian in Windsor’s Little Italy
Pasticcio Ristorante
854 Erie St., Windsor
519-253-3329
It’s hard to choose in Windsor’s Little Italy, but Pasticcio’s terrace gives it a leg up. Start with garlicky calamari and bruschetta and a glass of the house red, then move to rigatoni alla boscaiola, musky with long-stemmed mushrooms. In the veal Marsala, the Marsala is just a suggestion, the veal tender. They’re not on the menu anymore, but ask anyway for sumptuous pasta carbonara, smoky, faintly sweet and rich, or penne with salmon and baby shrimp in cream sauce. You’ll spend $14-$19 for pastas, more for veal.

Best pasta
The Cook’s Shop
The Pasta Shop
683 Ouellette, Windsor
519-254-3377
These two little restaurants are upstairs and downstairs from each other. If you find yourself waiting in the foyer of The Pasta Shop, you’ll be sharing the space with a gigantic pasta maker, which is rolled out of the kitchen when things get busy. The egg-and-semolina pasta is made in-house, which may explain why it tastes so good no matter what sauce is on it. At The Cook’s Shop, anything that can be flambéed, is, and the pyrotechnics are fun to watch.

Best pizza
Goombah’s
316 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak
248-398-9500
Gary Ellis wanted to create a neighborhood pizza joint. Like in the old days, before chains of every description took over the world. He eschewed the conveniences that modern capitalism offers (like frozen pizza dough) and comes in every morning to begin chopping mushrooms. He makes the dough three times a day. Guess what? It tastes better that way. Also available: calzones, grinders, pasta and good salads. Eat in or carry out.

Best gourmet pizza
Terra Cotta
318 Pelissier St., Windsor
519-971-0223
For those who’ve vowed never to eat pizza again. It’s gourmet, yes; snobby, no. The co-owners wait tables and make each thin-crust pizza to order in a wood-fired clay oven. It’s the height of sophistication to disdain tomato sauce, so try La Blonda, with roasted yellow peppers, pesto, mozzarella, artichokes and chicken. Or have your red sauce, but expect juicy cacciatore sausage instead of pepperoni. Design your own pie with housemade tapenades, asiago, calamari, feta, salami. Top-notch soups, salads, calzones, focaccia and bruschetta, a liquor license and Canadian prices. What else do you want?

Best authentic French
Elaine Bistro
5880 Wyandotte E., Windsor
519-948-0693
How can you tell if it’s really French? If horse is on the menu, look no further. At a time when any mammoth chain feels free to call itself a “bistro,” Valérie and Laurent Devin’s charming 30-seat spot serves the same traditional foods you would find in France: those tournedos de cheval (similar to beef in a red wine reduction), foie gras, salade du Périgord, confit of duck, cassoulet, Châteaubriand, duck magret, duck terrine, flamed crêpes suzettes, French cheeses and wines, crème caramel. The service, however, is not French (rude). Valérie dotes on you. Vive la France!

Best continental
Emily’s
505 N. Center, Northville
248-349-0505
It is hard to find a fault with this elegant spot. The setting is stylish and romantic, the rich hues on the walls underscore a sophisticated dining experience. Chef and owner Rick Halberg, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, cooks what he loves. The food is creative and elaborate, a French- and Mediterranean-inspired menu that emphasizes seasonal ingredients. The menu changes frequently, and always includes “something fantastically vegetarian.” On Saturdays, four courses are included in the price of the entrée; during the week you can order à la carte.

Best French-Japanese
Shiro
43180 W. Nine Mile Road, Novi
248-348-1212
The French and the Japanese each have their own elegance, and the two cuisines are beautifully engaged here in an exquisite 1930 Greek Revival mansion. It’s not fusion; you’ll find sesame-crusted ahi tuna and salmon teriyaki alongside oysters Rockefeller, scallops with ginger-citrus aioli and rack of lamb. Essence of mushroom soup, gyoza (potstickers) and a light vegetable tempura of sweet potato, mushroom and turnip are some of the standouts. The tatami room is for those who want to sit on the floor, Japanese style.

Best Mexican
Taqueria Lupita’s
3443 W. Bagley, Detroit
313-843-1105
Don’t come here for chimichangas, fried ice cream and margaritas, but for down-home atmosphere (if home is Jalisco). The decor is Virgin of Guadalupe and gilt-on-velvet matador pictures. Branch out from the tacos and enchiladas you can get anywhere (though Lupita has those too). Sample posole (a pork and hominy soup); or shrimp and pulpo (octopus) cocktail, graced with cilantro; or horchata, a sweet drink based on rice. Authentic dishes include carne asada, lomo (shredded pork), cabeza (head), menudo, ceviche, hot chorizo con huevos (sausage with eggs) and the best pinto beans in town.

Best Mexican outside Mexicantown
Margarita’s
27861 Woodward Ave., Berkely
248-547-5050
Located right smack in the middle of the Woodward corridor suburbs is a Mexican restaurant that would never even dream of pandering to the Chi-Chi’s crowd. This is authentic Mexican cuisine that is heavy on the veggies and true to its roots. This place is right under your nose — don’t miss it a second time.

Best Mexican seafood
Mariscos, El Rincon Taraxco
1414 Junction, Detroit
313-843-6595
Everything a chalupa is not. Start with smoky fish soup, oyster cocktails or ceviche (raw fish “cooked” in lime juice). Progress to tilapia or red snapper done in the styles of Jalisco or Sinaloa, or catfish garlic-style or devil shrimp. If you can’t conceive of Mexican food without cheese, the mozzarella in the shrimp quesadilla marinera makes a crisp crust that does not overpower the delicate cod. The Mexican mural tradition is honored with a wall-size portrait of Selena as a sultry mermaid.

Best Mexican lunch
El Cafetal
6716 Michigan Ave., Detroit
313-894-3170
El Cafetal, an underrecognized spot, focuses on making the second half of your day better than the first. The chips are perfection and the salsa is mild with a cool fresh tomato base. The Mexican sandwich is a construction-worker’s dream: three soft echelons of flour tortillas with layers of rice, homemade beans, veggies and cheese. You simply can’t be hungry after that. The chimichanga, best with chicken, is a luncheon special worthy of consideration if you’re up for something very filling.

Best guacamole
Zumba Mexican Grille
121 N. Main St., Royal Oak
248-542-1400
Zumba translates as energy or buzz. Modeled after taqerias (taco stands) popular in the Southwest, this tiny spot is a standout presence in Royal Oak. Even though the menu features only five entrées, you can mix and match and your options will increase exponentially. Everything is good, but don’t skip the guacamole. Made fresh several times a day, it is priced to encourage indulgence. A large (12 ounce) portion is $4.25.

Best taco
Taqueria La Tapatia
4314 W. Vernor, Detroit
313-841-5044
What the high-school cafeteria has done to the taco is a crime against Madre Nature. One of the simplest of foods, the taco needs only to be adorned with a sprinkling of cilantro and enfolded in a soft corn tortilla. At Taqueria la Tapatia, a buck buys one of these staples-of-life filled with carne asada, carne al pastor, brains, barbecued goat, tripe, head, tongue or chicharrones (the translation “pork rinds” doesn’t do justice to these tender morsels). The menu’s not limited — a $2 quesadilla, ceviche and golden fried trout are also outstanding. Take home a dozen tacos for $10.

Best beans
Taqueria Lupita’s
3443 W. Bagley, Detroit
313-843-1105
Lupita’s pinto beans have nothing in common with the stiff, refried purees you find in most Mexican restaurants. They’re whole, not mashed; a pretty pink; and cooked with onion, hot peppers, and visible bacon, for a rich, comfort-food flavor. The bacon-lard content is so high, in fact, that if you don’t watch it, a forkful will slide right down your throat. The moist rice that comes with the beans is flecked with tomato. Carry out a chico-size rice-and-beans for $2 or a grande for $4.

Best Central American
El Comal
3456 W. Vernor, Detroit
313-841-7753
To branch out from Mexican, start here. Most spectacular is the Colombian bandeja paisa: sausage, a corncake, the city’s best fried plantains, beans with bacon, yucca, empanada and chicharrones. It’s a lot, and each component brings glory to the chef. The Colombian tamal, wrapped in a banana leaf, is moister than a Mexican one, the cornmeal soaked with juices from chicken, pork and bacon. Guatemalan típico is a thin, tough, tasty steak with black beans, plantains and sour cream. And El Salvador’s national food, the quesadilla-like pupusa, is exquisite served with black beans and more plantains.

Best seafood
Streetside Seafood
273 Pierce St., Birmingham
248 645-9123
With just 60 seats and a well-deserved reputation for great fish, this tiny eatery fills up fast every day of the week. Chef Sharon Juergens believes that fish should be simply prepared and well seasoned. The menu seems to travel the world to present the fish in its best light. Gumbo chowder, lobster and shrimp scampi, seafood jambalaya, bouillabaisse. Lots of places serve decent fish, they’re not all as fun as Streetside to be at. There’s a beautiful copper bar, and a loyal clientele that’s very happy to be there.

Best steakhouse
Mackinnon’s
126 E. Main St., Northville
248-348-1991
The menu only sports two true steaks, but Mackinnon’s has that traditional, masculine, moose heads-on-the-wall-so-it-must-be-steak kind of feel. Stalwarts like beef Wellington, duck, wild turkey and rack of lamb share space with the New York strip (peppercorn reduction sauce) and filet mignon (roasted garlic demiglace). “Scotch grill” combines salmon, duckling and lamb chop, for a meat-eater’s hat trick. All are prepared with impeccable care. Bill Clinton ate here, and he looks very cheerful in the photo.

Best Indian
Rangoli Indian Cuisine
3055 E. Walton Boulevard, Auburn Hills
248-377-3800
We liked so many things at Rangoli that we felt comfortable randomly exploring the menu. This system led us to nargisi aloo, a potato stuffed with a mix of nuts, vegetables and cottage cheese. And chicken tikka masala, with chunks of breast meat roasted in a tandoor oven, then cooked in the thick and luscious sauce. If you’re new to Indian food, go for the lunch buffet. You can’t beat the price and the hooded copper chafing dishes are beautiful, lined up like a row of minarets.

Best vegetarian Indian
Udipi
29210 Orchard Lake Road, Farmington Hills
248-626-6135
Vegetarians have free rein of the menu at Udipi, which features food from chef-owner Thilagam Pandian’s native state of Madras in southern India. Carnivores will hardly miss the meat in the rich flavors of Pandian’s cooking. Dosa is fun to eat, a huge crispy crepe made of rice flour and overflowing with tomatoes, potatoes and onions. There are vegetable curries cooked in coconut and yogurt, and a savory lentil-flour donut called vada. If you are an adventurous cook, Pandian has written a cookbook which is for sale at the restaurant.

Best kosher
Milk and Honey
6600 W. Maple, West Bloomfield
248-661-2327
OK, it’s also the only kosher restaurant, but that should not detract from how good it is. It’s a gourmet restaurant that happens to be kosher. Seafood and vegetarian entrées are elaborate and unusual, such as pistachio-crusted sea bass with a sauce of passion fruit and black currants. Ahi tuna is seared on the outside, red and luscious inside. Great corn chowder, spiked with diced pickles. Located inside the Jewish Community Center, Milk and Honey is open to the public. Full bar.

Best deli
Steve’s Deli
6646 Telegraph, Bloomfield Hills
248-932-0800
Everyone has a yardstick to measure a good deli, but nothing beats a pastrami sandwich. Served on perfect rye bread, hand-cut, brimming with meat, but not so much that you can’t get your mouth around it, mustard but none of those chi-chi garnishes, and two pickles on the side, one new, one old. With a line for tables, bright lights, hanging salamis and dishes clattering on the other side of the wall, you’ll swear you’re in New York. (Though New York delis would not put bacon the menu.)

Best Spanish
Alegrias
38123 W. 10 Mile Road,
Farmington Hills
248-478-7780
It takes a lot to transform a cavernous Holiday Inn dining room into a Spanish posada (inn), but when Mari and Lisa Montes dance the Flamenco, you can believe. It is a treat, on Friday and Saturday nights, to watch the show over a dinner of tapas and paella, with a pitcher of sangria. Tapas, the little plates that Spanish bar patrons enjoy with a glass of red wine or sherry, come in 26 varieties, with an emphasis on meat and seafood. Many ingredients are imported from Spain.

Best Chinese
Hong Hua
27925 Orchard Lake Road, Farmington Hills
248-489-2280
Hands down, the best Chinese food you’ll find in the Metro area. The menu promises “Fine Chinese Dining” and that promise is fulfilled. The setting is elegant, white tablecloths set with white china. The food is authentic and out of the ordinary. Try the soup of shredded duck and mushrooms in a smoky broth or shredded meat wrapped in bean curd skins. Our favorite: spicy squid stuffed with shrimp mousse — the squid is delicate, bright white and so meticulously wrapped around the filling that it looks like a plate of shrimp.

Best Mediterranean
Assaggi Mediterranean Bistro
330 W. Nine Mile Road, Ferndale
248-584-3499
Assaggi’s creative menu is truly Mediterranean, not just Italian and stretching it. A semiopen kitchen lets diners in on the action. Pita bread is baked in a brick oven at one end of the kitchen, and it’s so nice when a hot and puffy pita comes to the table. Your server will pour olive oil onto a pretty plate and then stir dried herbs into it. The menu is divided into sections titled “Amuse” and “Innovations.” Psst … that liquor license finally came through.

Best Middle Eastern
Steve’s Back Room
19872 Kelly Road, Harper Woods
313-527-7240
An east side institution since 1988, Steve’s is the back room of a retail store where you can buy take-out, bulk spices, olive oil, or baklava made next door. Walk through the swinging saloon doors, and you are in the little 66-seat restaurant. You’re not going to be the first to discover Steve’s, but you will understand why it is such a popular spot. Great soups, a wide-ranging menu that includes lots of vegetarian choices, plenty of kebabs and some interesting desserts made from apricots.

Best Japanese
Cherry Blossom
43588 West Oaks Dr., Novi
248-380-9160
The menu at Cherry Blossom, now in its 10th year, is more extensive than many area Japanese restaurants. There is a sushi bar as well as a yakatori (grill) bar, with sake, wine and beer available. All the standard entrées are offered, as well as more unusual things, such as kamonabe — sliced duck cooked in broth at your table, with vegetables, tofu and noodles. Ask about the dessert specials. One evening they had rice cake filled with sweet red beans. Interesting, different, clearly authentic.

Best sushi
OJ’s Sushi Bar
29429 13 Mile Road, Farmington Hills
248-553-5080
Sushi is something of a performance art, and at OJ’s you can sit at the sushi bar and watch the maestro at work — a blur of fingers reaching, patting, rolling, wielding the long sushi knife. Chef OJ Suzuki believes in serving traditional Japanese food. Everything here is authentic, and each piece of sushi that emerges is stunning as well as delicious.

Best Thai
Rexy’s Bangkok Cuisine
30923 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak
248-288-0002
Rexy’s is the newest of the Arpachinda family’s eateries, this one owned by son Rapeepat. Thai cuisine is fiery hot; at its best, it combines extremes like hot peppers with sweet sauces, creating harmony from opposites. Rexy’s relies less on fire power, more on the flavors that characterize Thai food: citrus, basil, cilantro, and, yes, chiles. Bold murals create a unified atmosphere with images of tropical leaves and stylized flamelike arches into the dining room. Painted table tops repeat the rich colors.

Best Vietnamese
Annam Restaurant Vietnamien
22053 Michigan Ave., Dearborn
313-565-8744
The decor is spare and elegant: wicker chairs, jasmine candles, white linens and graceful chopstick rests. The food is subtle and fresh, influenced by the cuisines of China, India, Thailand and France, but lighter than any of them. This is sometimes called “temple food.” The secret is in the delicate noodles and fresh herbs — cilantro, mint, lemongrass — stir-fried with few oils. Outstanding are Annam’s appetizer sampler, bouillabaisse and gingered chicken with eggplant. Finish with a slim warm banana rolled in sesame seeds and floating in coconut sauce.

Best Nepalese
Everest Express
23331 Orchard Lake Road, Farmington
248-474-8024
Detroit is one of a handful of cities that sports a restaurant featuring the cuisine of Nepal. Chef Pradip Poudel (aka Rocky) was raised in the capital, Kathmandu. Nepalese cooking uses a rich and complex mix of spices; cilantro, coriander, cumin, ginger, garlic and lemon juice prevail. Most entrées mix chicken or lamb with interesting vegetables and grains like popped rice. Eleven vegetarian choices feature beans, chickpeas, cauliflower, or potatoes. Try chiya after your meal. It’s a tea that is mostly milk, infused with pods of cardamom.

Best Asian fusion
Eurasian Grill
4771 Haggerty Road, West Bloomfield
248-624-6109
Restaurateur David Lum explains that the concept of the Eurasian Grill is reflected in the black-and-white photographs of his nieces and nephews that line the walls. “They’re all Eurasian kids,” he says. “I told them, ‘I’m going to name the restaurant after you.’” Michael Fung is the young and adventurous chef. The menu is a mix of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Italian and French approaches. Fung says, “The idea is Asian-based, new-American cooking. It’s traditional American cooking with Asian spices to give it a new flavor.”

Best Japanese noodle house
Noodle House
24267 Novi Road, Novi
248-348-5580
Oodles of noodles. Your major decision will be to choose among the many varieties offered: 16 variations of ramen (egg noodles), seven of udon (soft wheat noodles), and five of soba (buckwheat noodles). Can you read Japanese? Enjoy bound comic books. There are also Japanese TV shows (sorry, no subtitles). All will recognize that they are having an authentic experience.

Best Korean
New Seoul Garden
27566 Northwestern Highway, Southfield
248-827-1600
A Korean custom that elevates a simple meal to a feast is the array of condiments that fill your table. Ten or 12 little bowls filled with tidbits like the fiery fermented napa cabbage called kimchi to silver dollar-sized pancakes studded with bits of scallions and red peppers. Table grilling adds to the fun. Shrimp, chicken or beef is marinated in a sweetened soy and garlic sauce, then grilled. You can eat it dipped in soy sauce, or wrapped in a leaf of lettuce, dabbed with a spicy ground soybean paste. It’s delicious.

Best Polish
Two Sisters
121 Main St., Rochester
248-656-3092
Hamtramck hipsters old enough to remember the Workmen’s Co-op #1 restaurant on Yemans will feel right at home in Rochester at the Two Sisters, which offers down-home Polish cooking and the no-nonsense ambience of grandma’s kitchen. Specialties include pierogi, kielbasa, stuffed cabbage, and naleshniki (blintzes or crepes, depending on your ethnicity), as well as Polish-American hybrids like city chicken. The sisters (yes, they are real) cook up several rich, thick soups every day; a bowl can make a meal. Comfort food, and comfortable prices in a comfortable setting.

Best Russian
The Fiddler
6676 Orchard Lake Road, West Bloomfield
248-851-8782
If the old country were like this, our grandparents wouldn’t have left. Specialties include veal Rasputin, Siberian pelimeni, Ukrainian borscht, gefilte fish and blini garnished with caviar. Some customers come because the food is reminiscent of their childhoods. Others come because of the quality. Owner Michael Kuchersky emigrated from Russia in the 1970s. The food is made “how it’s done in Russia a long time ago.” Even the strudel dough is made on the premises. There is live music on the weekends.

Best Hungarian
Hungarian-American
Cultural Center
26257 Goddard Road, Taylor
734-946-6261
You don’t have to be Hungarian to feel at home; a sign over the bar says “Isten hozott” (“God brought you”). The HACC’s fare is the best kind of home cooking: rich, generous, health-take-the-hindmost. Chicken paprikas with dumplings pours on the sour cream. Meat loaf cooks with bacon on top and has a mellow, hammy flavor. Rakott kapusta, with ground pork, curly cabbage and sour cream, exemplifies the best of the casserole-maker’s art: a blend that brings out each flavor separately. Open for dinner Fridays and the first Sunday of the month. More hours possible; call.

Best Ethiopian
Blue Nile
545 W. Nine Mile Road, Ferndale
248-547-6699
221 E. Washington, Ann Arbor
734-998-4746
Still the best, since 1983 and despite this year’s move to the suburbs. The chef says folks like Blue Nile because it’s authentic — and who’s to know? Everyone likes to eat with their hands, but that wouldn’t be enough if the food weren’t terrific: chicken, lamb, beef, collards, cabbage, split peas and lentils are spiced, onioned, garlicked and cooked very tender. Their juices mingle with one another as they soak into the flat bread underneath. All you care to eat, $17.90 ($14.90 vegetarian). Full bar, too. This winter, look for a new downtown location at Gratiot and Brush.

Best West African
African Kitchen
635 W. Seven Mile Road, Detroit
313-369-1111
The Gambian owners offer what they call “food from the Motherland, real African soul.” If superkanja with smoked turkey, smoked fish and greens is too pungent, try chicken yassa, with lemon, onions and peppery gravy. Cheb is more like fried rice, and chue with lamb or chicken comes with a spicy, slightly sweet sauce. Vegetarian dishes include plasas — greens, palm oil and raw ground nuts over rice – and cassava with black-eyed peas. Don’t be afraid to ask the very gracious owners for suggestions, explanations, a free taste, or to substitute fufu for rice. A TV plays African music videos.

Best Cajun
Howe’s Bayou
22848 Woodward Ave., Ferndale
248-691-7145
You could start your visit with a Cajun martini — gin and pickle juice — but there are plenty of other N’awlins-style drinks under the stamped tin ceiling. The crawdad boil appetizer is worth the work, or make it easy on yourself with crisp crawfish cakes or voodoo barbecue shrimp. Collards are spicy and loaded with pork, but you might want to ask them to up the spice level on other dishes. Finish up with bread pudding in a thick brandy sauce.

Best wine list
The Lark
6430 Farmington Road, West Bloomfield
248-661-4466
Restaurateur Jim Lark is a master sommelier of French wines. He travels to France every year to visit vineyards. He goes to trade tastings and reads a ton of wine publications. But the last thing Jim Lark wants is for customers to feel uncomfortable in his restaurant. Believing that the wine list should be a part of the menu, 100 wines are listed on the back of the fixed-price menu. Another 910 varieties are available for connoisseurs, and those are listed in one of those big, fat, intimidating wine books.

Best wines by the glass
Lepanto
116 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak
248-541-2228
Ever feel resentful that the big spenders (or big drinkers) could experiment with a diversity of fine wines, while the poor by-the-glass patrons were stuck with a yucky house red? At Lepanto, house policy is to serve, by the copa, a selection of Italian and American vinos that most restaurants would offer only as full bottles; you can sample some fancier wines without breaking the bank. Lepanto is proud of its hearty Amarone Classico Superior, a ’95, at $14.25 per — elsewhere you’d be plunking down $57 or giving it a miss. Fifty-eight choices, averaging $7.50. (The creative Italian food is quite wonderful too.)

Best Detroit institution
Traffic Jam
511 W. Canfield, Detroit
313-831-9470
Thirty-seven years ago a patron of the Dog House Bar lost an ear — to a fellow patron. The owner bellowed, “Anybody want to buy a bar?” — and TJ’s, a Detroit institution, was born. Ben Edwards and Richard Vincent served beer and burgers to Wayne State students till 1976, then turned toward quality. They made their own soups, breads, and eventually beer and cheese. Scott Lowell and Carolyn Howard, owners since 1998, have kept TJ’s comfortingly the same — which is to say, eclectic and always trying something new. The blinking traffic light and moose head will always greet you at the door.

Best top-dollar Detroit institution
The Rattlesnake Club
300 River Place, Detroit
313-567-4400
Winner of a Gourmet magazine award; site of star sightings. This is where Jimmy Schmidt — fresh from whiz-kid status at the London Chop House — started a new approach to food in Detroit. Downtown bigwigs make deals over lunch here, overlooking the river. Schmidt’s new American dishes offer made-for-each-other couplings like silky duck foie gras wrapped in duck prosciutto with mission fig chutney. His double pork chop is enhanced by tart cherries, roasted figs and fried rosemary. A dozen finfish, shellfish, steaks and chops are simply “from the grill.” White chocolate ravioli is the signature dessert.

Best big splurge
Tribute
31425 W. 12 Mile Road, Farmington Hills
248-848-9393
Rest assured that you are spending as much as can be spent in any Metro Detroit restaurant. The silverware is gold! The over-the-top detail extends to the food. Chef Takashi Yagihashi, regarded as one of the top chefs in the United States, changes the menu constantly, as exotic ingredients ebb and flow. Yagihashi describes his cooking as “contemporary French with an Asian twist.” A special degustation menu allows you to sample small portions of many of the magical items created in this award-winning kitchen.

Best ambience
Fiona’s Tea House
945 Beech St., Detroit
313-967-9314
Housed in a 19th century brick cottage, Fiona’s Tea House is a quiet respite in a sea of parking lots. Inside, the urban jungle fades away to a genteel world of tea and scones. Soft music plays. The walls are the color of raspberry sorbet, and the tables are draped with rich fabrics. Best of all is the mismatched china; it looks like you’re at someone’s summer cottage, until you notice how beautiful and delicate each piece is. Breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea are served Tuesday-Friday, brunch on Sundays, and dinner on Fridays.

Best place to have your parents buy you dinner
McCormick & Schmick’s
2850 Coolidge, Troy
248-637-6400
Lots of green velvet, lots of brass, lots of mahogany, terrific seafood, Coke served in the original curvy bottles, and a full bar. The fish is delivered twice a day from around the world. The crowd here is well-heeled and leans toward middle-aged and up. If you’re awkward with your parents, there’s plenty of commotion to fill the silences. If you want to hit them up for a loan, ask for one of the “snugs” where you can draw the heavy curtains and speak in privacy.

Best place to buy your parents dinner
Maria’s Front Room
215 W. Nine Mile Road, Ferndale
248-542-7379
This is time-warp Italian, with red-checked tablecloths and Sinatra on the stereo — or is it the hi-fi? The folks will love Maria’s time-tested dishes, the candles stuck in basketed Chianti bottles — and the homemade wine. This, you feel, is how someone decided long ago that a family-run Italian restaurant should be, and never changed her mind. Standout dish: fettucine al tutto mare (seafood), but Dad can order pasta with meatballs or one of the seven veal scaloppines and feel just as welcome.

Longest wait, but worth it
Josephs
345 Victoria Ave., Windsor

519-253-5218
Crafting dishes as superb (and as handsome) as Joseph Petrinac’s takes time, so bring someone you like — or a good book. Petrinac, trained in France, swears to use only seasonal, local and certified organic and wild ingredients, and the result is perfection. The summer menu included wild Quebec guinea hen with morel foam; wild black bass with heirloom tomato vinaigrette; wild Ontario partridge confit with mission figs; and wild mushroom strudel. Heaven. It’s worth growing old for.

Best original menu
Alan Manor
3203 Peter St., Windsor
519-253-9212
Where else will a vegetarian find chickpea-leek ravioli with Cyprus cheese and pomegranate honey? Alan Manor’s chef, who hails from Turkish Cyprus, doesn’t hesitate to mix cultures, pairing a filet mignon Diane with Yorkshire pudding or flambéed apples with wonton crisp. Everything from pickled onions to blackberry iced tea syrup to peach chutney is made on the premises, and often grown in the back garden. Must-tries are the Turkish appetizer platter, the Manor Delight dessert (phyllo with apricot, coconut and liqueur) and the signature eggplant dish Imam Bayildi, or “the priest fainted” — we expect he was shocked by the sensuality.

Best romantic café
Harlequin Café
8047 Agnes, Detroit
313-331-0922
What could be more seductive than good food, wine and candlelight? Perhaps a jazz musician to lull you and your beloved. The Harlequin Café has it all. Sherman Sharpe, owner and chef of the West Village restaurant, is a virtual cupid, serving up delicious entrées such as salmon with ginger, garlic and lime or jumbo shrimp and pesto. It’s a great place for a first date or to rekindle smoldering embers. Open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner; call for reservations.

Best place to pop the question
The Whitney
4421 Woodward Ave., Detroit
313-832-5700
Face it — one of the things that makes a dinner out romantic is the idea that he (or she) is spending a lot of money on you. The Whitney, a three-story 1894 mansion, is happy to oblige, and throws in 19th century notions of elegance to nurture the fantasy: gold- and silver-washed plasterwork, Tiffany windows, crystal chandeliers. Most romantic dessert: cheese and fresh fruit. Most romantic entrée: bouillabaisse. We’ll always have Paris.

Best place to impress a date
Sweet Georgia Brown
1045 Brush St., Detroit
313-965-1245
Two left feet but, oh, so neat has Sweet Georgia Brown. This is Southern cooking so upscale that it’s off the charts. The dining room is stunning, dominated by a raised platform with a bar and a grand piano that plays like butter. Jazz nightly. Check out the floor — a river runs through it! The food is terrific and the service will make you feel like a VIP. Sweet potatoes come as soup, fries or pie. Pralines on salad, soup, potatoes, dessert.

Best dinner theater
Century Club
333 Madison, Detroit
313-963-9800
This glorious Mission-style building has been lovingly restored and it is a pleasure to step inside. The Gem Theater and the Century Theater are housed within, as well as a lovely restaurant, the Century Club. Ask about dinner-and-theater specials. Sunday brunch and theater is a bargain at $47. The food is upscale American, with plenty of selections for meat-lovers. Attention to detail takes this restaurant over the top: pats of butter molded into two different flowers, lemons wrapped in yellow cheesecloth to strain out the seeds. Impeccable service in an exciting setting.

Best breakfast
Russell Street Deli
2465 Russell, Detroit
313-567-2900
After a hard morning choosing raw goodies at Eastern Market, let someone else do the cooking, at ultrafriendly Russell Street. Go for a huge omelet or scrambled egg special, and you might luck into double-smoked bacon, fontina, roasted red peppers and oregano. Or go Greek with feta, plum tomatoes, spinach and black olives. Green eggs and ham — Bavarian ham with pesto and provolone. Hash browns are made from scratch. So are pancakes, served with fresh fruit and Traverse City maple syrup. Breakfast is served only on Saturdays, 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Best ham and cheese omelet
Ham Shop
1219 St. Antoine, Detroit
313-965-0088
If your life depended on your ability to obtain a ham and cheese omelet the size of a hubcap, the Ham Shop in Greektown would be your salvation. The chef slices the ham off the bone as you look on, salivating. The succulent meat is wed with fluffy eggs — apparently very big eggs — and somehow crowded onto a plate alongside a truckload of home fries and toast. Even the help is impressed, serving us one with the declaration, “Now that’s an omelet!” We couldn’t agree more.

Best bagels
New York Bagel Factory
23316 Woodward Ave., Ferndale
248-548-2580
Nowhere in the metro Detroit region, and probably the state, can you find a better bagel. Biting into one of these babies is like taking a trip to Manhattan, where real bagels abound. We suggest arriving early so you can pick up a warm batch just out of the oven. It’s also a great place for lunch. Try the tuna fish on a salt bagel. The smell of the sparse joint alone is worth the trip.

Most original bagels
Elaine’s Bagels
2847 Coolidge Highway, Berkley
248-543-1539
A bagel is supposed to be glassy on the outside and chewy on the inside, and that’s just the way you’ll find them at Elaine’s. They’re boiled in water first, then baked, just like it’s done in the Big Apple. Brothers Andy and Steve Shifman opened their first bagel shop (named after their mom) almost seven years ago, and now have locations in Troy, Eastpointe, Clinton Township and Berkley. Fifteen varieties are available daily and two specials rotate; you might want to call ahead to see if it’s raspberry-white chocolate day.

Best French toast
Plaka Café
535 Monroe, Detroit
313-962-4687
Who knew that a tiny 24-hour diner in Greektown would have not only the best French toast in the city, but in the entire universe? All the food at Plaka is good, and moderately priced, but the French toast is truly inspired. A consistency that is not too eggy but not too dry. The perfect dusting of cinnamon and sugar will make you say, in the immortal words of the French, “Sacré bleu.”

Best doughnuts
Tie: Krispy Kreme Originals
and Apple Charlie’s
Krispy Kreme: Dearborn Heights, Roseville, Warren and Livonia (www.krispykreme.com).
Apple Charlie’s: 38035 S. Huron Road, New Boston
734-753-9380.
Warm is wonderful: What these two fat-and-sugar fests have in common is that you can eat them hot out of the deep fryer. Look for Krispy Kreme’s “Hot Now” sign (5-10 a.m. and 5-10 p.m.). At Apple Charlie’s — a U-pick orchard with petting zoo — watch the doughnuts float down the vegetable oil river and get flipped by the mechanical flipper. Krispy Kreme doughnuts are best because they’re lighter than air (till they get to your stomach). Apple Charlie’s are best because you’re out in the country and you eat them with fresh-squeezed cider.

Best desserts
Traffic Jam
511 W. Canfield, Detroit
313-831-9470
Just to read the dessert menu is to gain five pounds. The most famous, and long-lived, selection is Carlotta Chocolatta. Is there anyone in town who hasn’t tried this union of chocolate cheesecake, coffee ice cream and bittersweet hot fudge sprinkled with ground espresso? Equally satisfying are the house-made ice creams, bread puddings (studded with chocolate chips and rum-soaked raisins, or spiked with Grand Marnier and blueberries) and the warm crisps and pies (strawberry-rhubarb or peach-raspberry), always à la mode. Weirdest combo: coffee ice cream floating in Java Porter from TJ’s brewpub.

Best chocolate dessert
Molten lava cake
The Hill Seafood & Chop House
123 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe Farms
313-886-8101
The ingredients aren’t that different from a brownie’s, but oh my Lord. What chef Michael Connery does to Belgian bittersweet chocolate, butter, eggs, sugar and flour is not of this world. The outside is more or less the best brownie you ever ate and the inside is a river of dark, hot liquid chocolate. He slaps it upside the head with some Wells Blue Bunny peppermint stick ice cream, and it’s better than sex.

Best upscale carryout
Dish
18441 Mack, Grosse Pointe
313-886-2444
The food produced in this tiny kitchen is way too classy to cart home in a box, but when packed in plastic will maintain the quality if you scurry right home. You might find a special of salmon en croute with goat cheese and red peppers, or veal ragú with asparagus, mushrooms and redskins, or penne primavera with roast-garlic sauce. Just slightly lower on the culinary food chain are the grilled asparagus salad or the spinach and artichoke calzone. Dish’s east-side clientele is loyal; the regulars don’t even have to order out loud.

Best upscale comfort food
J. Alexander’s
2800 Big Beaver Road, Troy
248-816-8379
J. Alexander’s is the kind of place where chicken fingers and coleslaw get all the attention that [insert fancy food of your choice] or [another fancy food] might get at some gourmet joint. The lime chicken with garlic smashed potatoes looks like a meal that can’t be finished. But you eat all of it and leave feeling uncommonly satisfied. The blue cheese coleslaw is simply wonderful. It may look like a swank establishment, but the food is hearty and unpretentious.

Best chocolate shop
Sydney Bogg Chocolate
18932 Woodward Ave., Detroit
313-366-1366
Sydney Bogg’s is one of Detroit’s oldest chocolatiers. Mr. Bogg began his career as a streetcar driver and made candy as a hobby. He sold it to his passengers. Bogg apprenticed to a Highland Park candy maker, Harold Vair, who made his fortune with a patent on poppycock. In 1936, when Bogg began his business there were hundreds of candy stores in the city, each making its own chocolate. Jim McGuire bought the business in 1995, and he also has a day job. “We all have our passions,” he says. “And mine is to help this company survive.” The store has maintained its old-time feel and taste. The candies are a chocoholic’s wet dream and a dieter’s nightmare. The simple secret is a refusal to use anything but the best ingredients. One bite into a chunk of their dark chocolate tells another story. A taste this rich and delicious can’t be mass-produced. The taste comes from experience gained through perseverance and a sincere desire to make something bordering on an opiate.

Best downtown eatery
Tom’s Oyster Bar
519 E. Jefferson, Detroit
313-964-4010
The latest outpost of Tom’s Oyster Bar, right across from the RenCen, is noisy and cheerful at lunchtime and after work. Tom’s gives a very convincing impression of a well-preserved 19th century pub with dark wood and a stamped tin ceiling. The oyster bar is prominent, and a variety is offered, identified by their beds in Wellfleet, Mass., or Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, or Chincotegue, Va. You can sit around the bar and have a drink with your oysters, or settle in at a table and enjoy a seafood dinner.

Best fast food
Baja Fresh Mexican Grill
1357 Coolidge, Troy
248-822-9000
What’s your definition of fast food? Greasy, cheap, unhealthy? Baja Fresh expands the definition. Specializing in Tex-Mex, this is fast food that is made to order right on the premises. The motto on the wall says it: “No microwave! No can openers! No freezers! No lard! No MSG!” You can eat food that is fast and tasty, and not overwhelmed by a dunk in the deep fryer. Grilled chicken or steak are featured in most of the choices, and be sure to try the Baja salsa made of roasted tomatillos. Baja Fresh started in 1990 as a Mom-and-Pop eatery in California. It now has 169 franchises in 16 states and is coming soon to Rochester Hills, Farmington Hills and Southfield.

Best cheeseburger
Third Street Saloon
701 W. Forest, Detroit
313-831-3434
Third Street Saloon has been a low-key neighborhood staple for years. Seriously renovated on the inside, Third Street is evolving into quite a gathering spot for the hip set. It’s an intergenerational, integrated, working class, gay-friendly bar in the heart of one of Detroit’s most appealing neighborhoods. It’s great to see more and more people making time for a little Third Street. Saloon in their lives. The hidden secret? The cheeseburger, aka The Third Street Everything Burger, is unbelievable. It’s fresh and thick and goes down delicately with a Bell’s beer.

Best burger
Diamond Jim Brady’s Bistro
26055 Town Center, Novi
248-380-8460
Diamond Jim Brady was a turn-of-the-century railroad tycoon who is no relation to restaurateur Tom Brady or his wife, chef Mary Brady. A look at Diamond Jim’s portrait behind the bar shows that he liked to eat. Mary is a certified executive chef whose many awards are displayed on a wall in the back. But she isn’t above serving a great hamburger. And if you like her burgers, the menu goes off in all sorts of interesting directions, from fish and chips to shepherd’s pie. Everything is made from scratch.

Best fries
McCarthy’s Pub and Pizza
1600 Fort St., Detroit
313-996-0626
For postal employees and newspaper workers, McCarthy’s is a home away from work. It’s your basic working-class Detroit bar, but there is a catch: the french fries. Crispness without greasiness is tricky. But McCarthy’s strikes the perfect balance: these light, snappy little fries are just what you were looking for. Fresh from the deep fryer, flavorful as anything, they leave your fingers lube-free. It almost defies science.

Best malts
Comet Burger
207 S. Main St., Royal Oak
248-414-4567
Remember the ’50s? Remember Formica with little imprinted boomerangs? Remember pink vinyl and stainless steel chairs? It’ll all come back to you at Comet Burger. The malts are worth the trip. The ice cream is whipped up with real malt and you will come across bits of malt as you slurp. They come in those huge stainless steel cups, frosty on the outside, so you can re-create that ’50s image of Archie and Veronica sipping together through his-and-hers straws.

Best all-around cheap eats
Small World Café
111 E. Kirby, Detroit
313-874-2233
A stone’s throw from the DIA and Wayne State, Small World does lunch for dozens of discerning diners a day. They come for a real meal from several world cuisines — Indian, Middle Eastern, Italian (and vegetarian) — and they leave barely poorer than when they walked in. The most expensive item, at $6, is the Indian combo, a couple of curries. The $5 Mideast Feast combines crunchy falafel, hummus and tabbouleh. For $4, get a veggie quesadilla or pizza (pesto pizza is the best). Sadly for the impecunious gourmet, nothing can convince Small World to open for supper.

Best $2.50 sandwich
Eastern Market Seafood
2456 Market, Detroit
313-567-8359
Check out this sausage-lover’s heaven. Bratwurst, knackwurst, chorizo, Cajun-andouille, two kinds of kielbasa … about 15 in all. Uncertain about what to take home? You can have ample samples of any three stuffed in a pita pocket for $1.95, plus cheese, lettuce and tomato for another 55 cents. Amenities are minimal — your goodie comes swaddled in paper toweling. You’ll be asked whether you want this “to go,” but since sausage juices quickly soak the pita, we suggest devouring posthaste.

Best slider
Telway
6820 Michigan Ave., Detroit
Unlisted phone
You go in for those lovely little greasy cheeseburgers, you stay for the Michigan Avenue gossip and the retired eccentrics glued to the counter. Order their famous-in-the-neighborhood coffee (go for a “double-double” — a creamy, sugar-spiked caffeine bomb) or their crispy fries with “hillbilly chili.” And by the way, they fry their coneys.

Best shrimp hut
Dot & Etta’s Shrimp Hut
9100 Mack, Detroit
313-921-6753
5207 E. Seven Mile Road, Detroit
313-368-5119
26035 Greenfield, Southfield
248-443-1990
The spot on Mack is Dot & Etta’s original location, and it has been there since before the ’67 riots. One regular patron had this to say: “The chicken? Oh my God. They’ll make Col. Sanders pack up their bags and go, baby.” And the Colonel — now KFC — doesn’t do shrimp. Batter-fried shrimp. Great big batter-fried shrimp. And fish too.

Best biscuits
Mama’s Place
15250 W. Seven Mile Road, Detroit
313-342-6120
Grills are smoking out back; you know you’re in for a treat at this soul food place. Two sides and a corn muffin or honey biscuit come with dinner at Mama’s Place. The buttermilk biscuits are light enough to float, and brushed with honey while hot. They’re suitable for strawberry shortcake. Scratch or mix? Manager Ed Sasnett assures: “Miss Pat and Miss Cora, they make the biscuits. Everything is made from scratch. We put the black-eyed peas up to soak. We cut up the yams, the greens. Everything.”

Best fish & chips
Music Menu
511 Monroe, Detroit
313-964-MENU
These ain’t no fish sticks. Three fabulous flaky filets fried just crispy enough, served with fries as big as Gumby’s body. Your choice of a dinner salad or cole slaw staves off cardiac arrest. Trust us — you’ll be a fan.

Best crepes
Café Zola
112-114 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor
734-769-2020
Crêpes are pancakes, but not really. At Café Zola you can watch the chef making paper-thin, delicate crepes one at a time, as ordered, behind glass. Management recommends that you order three: an appetizer, an entrée and a sweet crepe for dessert. Fillings for the savory crepes include the champignon (mushrooms, onions, and porcini mushroom sauce); smoked salmon with sour cream and fresh dill; ratatouille; spinach and Swiss cheese. The daintiness of the sweet crepe is perhaps compromised when you fill it with Nutella, sautéed bananas, toasted almonds, crème chantilly and raspberry sauce — but who cares?

Best place for soup nuts
Soupersonic
2917 Trowbridge, Hamtramck
313-870-1510
What makes a restaurateur devote himself to soup? When Soupersonic was Café Zuppa, under the previous owner, Dan Sordyl was on the call list for certain soups. When the café closed, he was heartbroken. So he reopened the place himself, serving a rotating mix of six to 10 soups per day, plus upscale sandwiches at Hamtramck prices. A wildly diverse crowd orders standards such as chili and chicken noodle (“we’re not just soup nouveau”) or one of the many vegan entries, like gazpacho, spinach-potato-leek or carrot-ginger. Get on the call list for African peanut with sweet potato.

Best fall soups
Paint Creek Cider Mill
4480 Orion Road, Rochester
248-651-8361
The secret is to roast fall vegetables, says the chef, which magnifies their flavors. A chicken-stock base makes the soups rich. The pumpkin soup is like a perfectly spiced pie, but not as sweet, and buttery. The sweet potato with parsnips is spicy and nutty — with a few scallops to add an unexpected hint of the ocean. Butternut squash is flavored with a bit of maple syrup; ginger carrot uses fresh ginger and some pineapple juice. Paint Creek’s other dishes, like glazed pheasant and smoked trout, are just as good.

Best strange soup
European-style Restaurant
30600 John R, Madison Heights
248-588-3886
Wanda Seterlet, the chef and owner of European-style Restaurant, learned to cook from her grandmother, and she makes some unusual and tempting homemade treats. Sorrel soup is wonderful, made from the perennial weed, sorrel (Rumex acetosella), that plagues many a gardener. It has a tangy lemon flavor. In America, Wanda plants it in her backyard, but in Poland it grows everywhere. Customers are delighted to see it on the menu. “They want to find things like their grandmother cooked,” Wanda says.

Best urban coffee house
Urban Break
10020 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck
313-872-1210
Living proof that Hamtramck is hip. Brunch on Sunday, surrealist games and “indie jazz” various weeknights (check out the Carl Smith Trio). In its own way, Urban Break lets you know that Hamtramck is an international city. On the wall is a world map with a sign: “Where Were You Born?” Colored pins are provided for visitors to locate their motherland. The Midwest and Eastern Europe are heavily pinned-up, but so is Africa, south Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Smoker-friendly, in case you’re feeling oppressed in that department.

Best suburban coffee house
Xhedos
240 W. Nine Mile Road, Ferndale
248-399-3946
Xhedos is probably the most consistent singer-songwriter open-mic space around these days. It also has nice healthy lunches, great coffee drinks, and a commitment to live local music. If you live anywhere at all near Ferndale and you need to pick up some whole bean or ground coffee for home you should taste what Xhedos has to offer. In keeping with true coffeehouse traditions, the art on the walls is local.

Best teahouse
Fiona’s Teahouse
945 Beech St., Detroit
313-967-9314
Fiona Palmer has done a dandy job of converting a tiny brick house into a sweet space for a spot of tea and shepherd’s pie. The “shabby chic” decor is a treat. But due to the casino expansion downtown, Fiona’s is moving to Forest Street between Cass and Woodward. “The new place will be bigger and more beautiful,” says Palmer, who is unsure of her moving date. Till then, visit her at the Beech Street locale. The ginger cake is fab. Open for lunch Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Friday dinner 6-10 p.m., Sunday brunch 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Best bread
Avalon International Breads
422 W. Willis, Detroit
313-832-0008
The biggest seller at this Cultural Center mainstay is the farm bread, a traditional French white sourdough. But if you like your sandwiches made for you, show up at lunchtime as the focaccia comes out of the oven. It might be topped with organic roasted zucchini, tomatoes, basil and Parmesan. Avalon has branched out from the baguettes and crusty peasant loafs like Leelanau Cherry Walnut and Dexter Davison Rye that brought bread-starved customers flocking five years ago. Now brioche, scones and cinnamon rolls expand the meaning of “bread.” But it’s still the best. Look for “Italian month” in October.

Best bakery
Josef’s French Pastry Shop
21150 Mack, Grosse Pointe
313-881-5710
Josef Bogosian began working in pastry shops just out of high school. He opened his own little storefront bakery in 1971, turning out fine pies, cookies, cakes, mousse torts, roll cakes, fruit flans, almond tea rings, and other goodies. He sells only what he likes, “though I don’t really eat pastries” (just enough to check out the competition). Cakes can be prepared any way you’d like them — he’s sculpted cakes into birds, cars, pickles, flowers and mayonnaise jars. Josef’s favorite is his chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. The secret? Extra cocoa.

Best traditional bakery
Give Thanks Bakery & Cafe
225 S. Main St., Rochester
248-601-1542
An oasis of Old World taste and ambience in downtown Rochester, the pastries are made with European butter and the breads are all cold-risen via a traditional process that takes several days. You can’t rush such pure goodness. Check out the exquisite tortes and be sure to take home a loaf or two of the seeded levain. You can munch a delectable almond croissant (be careful! — they’re addictive) and enjoy a cup of fine coffee tableside, surrounded by heavenly smells and classical music. Let us give thanks, indeed.

Best Middle Eastern bakery
Shatila
6912 Schaefer, Dearborn
313-582-1952
On Friday nights during Ramadan, this bakery is take-a-number packed with ravenous break-fasters. Other nights you can comfortably linger over coffee and pastry at one of six tables. One long series of cases carries a dozen types of baklava, burma, bassma and fingers with walnuts or pistachios. They are sold by the piece, half-tray or tray. Along another wall are highly decorated cakes with thick, sugary icing. Shatila also makes its own ice cream in 11 flavors. Decent American-style coffee is served.

Best gourmet grocery
Holiday Market
1203 S. Main, Royal Oak
248-541-1414
Holiday Market will have you humming this refrain from “Alice’s Restaurant”: “You can get anything you want. …” How many groceries have their own sommelier to help select the perfect wine to go with that sushi-grade tuna? How many have their own bakeries? OK, some do, but their stuff tastes like it’s made on an assembly line.