Real Detroit Weekly released the annual Best Of Issue featuring their favorite people, places, and things around Metro Detroit. Here are PLAYGROUND DETROIT’s Best Of the “Best Of” picks:
*Best Thing About Living In Detroit – Music Scene (We totally agree!!)
While other aspects of the city have suffered their ups and downs, the music scene in Detroit has only continued to grow. In addition to the huge concert halls and theaters that reside in the city, plenty of clubs are constantly showcasing and developing musicians and performers who eventually make it to the top. The growing hip-hop scene, techno offerings (where the hell did dubstep even come from?!), indie rock haven and ever-present pure Detroit rock n’ roll have only grown Detroit’s legacy as “Detroit Rock City” and a music Mecca in its own right.
Best Band You Haven’t Heard – Phantasmagoria
One of the most common criticisms of electronic music is that it’s too cold, too inhuman-sounding. But Phantasmagoria blows that stereotype out of the water, with gorgeous, expansive soundscapes incorporating inventive samples and instrumentation. With this remarkable sound and the haunting vocals of Lianna Vanicelli and inventiveness of Chris Jarvis, Phantasmagoria is a killer duo that you may not have heard yet. But following a prolific four releases this year, we’re predicting a banner 2012 for this duo. Catch up now before everyone else does. And with an upcoming full-length on the horizon (courtesy of Five Three Dial Tone Records), you’ll get your chance!
Best Solo Artist – Danny Brown
Danny Brown has definitely had a banner year. His latest release, XXX, topped numerous “best of 2011” lists. He announced an upcoming tour with nerdcore savant Childish Gambino. And, in his crowning achievement (according to us, anyway), he took RDW‘s 2011 “Artist of the Year” award. The floppy-topped rapper has distinguished himself as a great solo artist with his ridiculously funny lyrics and unique high-pitched delivery. We’re looking forward to seeing where our cover model’s quickly ascending career goes next.
Best Rave – Nightsneak
The NightSneak team consistently puts on the craziest underground parties in the city. Commandeering more off-the-beaten-path venues like Bert’s Warehouse Theater, Nightsneak brings in incredible talent lineups, featuring top-of-the-line DJs and EDM artists from across the country and overseas. Whether you hit Nightsneak’s infamous DEMF afterparty or one of the other events the crew puts together throughout the year, you can be assured a wild, neon-swathed crowd and stellar music. Prepare to dance until the soles of your shoes wear thin.
Best Club To Hear Metal – Harpo’s
Really, is there anywhere else to see a metal show in the D? Well, of course there is, but Harpo’s is the go-to spot for Detroit metalheads. The legendary venue regularly books both local acts and some great touring national acts. The grit, sweat and grime of Harpo’s makes this east-side spot the perfect place for a memorable night of headbanging. And if you’re wild enough for the chaos of the pit, our hats are off to you.
Best Place For a New Band To Get a Gig – PJ’s Lager House
The Lager House doggedly recruits both established and new local bands, sometimes filling up its schedule with a solid seven shows a week. The venue makes it easy for up-and-coming bands to get their foot in the door, presenting detailed instructions on its website for bands to submit their work and promote a show if booked. And of course, the friendly Corktown location and intimate setting of the bar and entertainment room make PJ’s a pleasure for both bands and audiences.
Best Undercover Indie Venue – The Magic Stick Lounge
The Majestic Complex offers a wonderful array of rooms, from the enormous Theatre down to the oft-used Garden Bowl lanes (seriously, we’ve seen some fantastic bands perform literally on a stage built over the bowling lanes). But one of the newest and most interesting mini-venues is the Lounge. Constantly offering a rotating list of up-and-coming, indie and cult-followed bands from the world over, it’s a very intimate space that allows for a real music experience.
Best Martini Bar- Centaur
Is it possible for a bar to be upscale and still very much approachable at the same time? Centaur does a wonderful job of looking like an incredibly laid-out and very hip establishment, yet you will no doubt walk away (a few martinis later) feeling not a single ounce of pretentiousness has been tossed in your direction. At last count, you’ve the luxury of choosing from 30 different martinis – all equally delicious, although we’re partial to the Detroiter – and while we know this is the Best Martini Bar category, their food is truly, truly amazing as well. Also, please do yourself a favor and go throw a few back during their happy hour – these delightful cocktails at $5 each is a steal!
Best Liquor Selection – SUGAR HOUSE
Craft beer has been huge for a while now. Craft foods have been inching their way up (c’mon, who doesn’t love homemade BBQ?) But you know what’s all the rage? Craft cocktails. There’s nothing like getting a delicious drink, made with all the best ingredients, with the love and attention that it deserves. As they prefer to rotate their cocktail (and beer and wine lists) seasonally, you’ll likely want to check out their website to keep on top of what unique and jaw-dropping deliciousness they’ll have in store for you ahead of time.
Best Michigan-made Product- McClure’s Pickles
Joe and Bob McClure have taken the world by storm with their New York/Detroit pickle connection. Delectably spicy pickles? They’ve got ’em. Pickle-flavored potato chips? Those too. A hometown production facility? Yessir. Actually, that latter fact just became bigger news, as the brothers (whose mom and dad assist in their family recipe pickle endeavors) announced that they will be moving their current – and grossly undersized – Troy facility to the old American Axle plant in Detroit proper (just outside Hamtramck). The step up in size means even more dill amazingness, but don’t forget they also make a fantastic bloody Mary mix). A true story of turning your dreams into reality, the accomplishments the McClures have made through basic hard work and determination are something we’re obviously all proud of here in the Motor City. Thank for the inspiration, guys, and thanks even more for the frickin’ awesome pickles!
Best Place To Buy Couture Clothing – Complex
With two levels and 6,000 square feet, Complex was bound to be the best place to buy at least something and we are certainly not surprised our readers picked this downtown Birmingham shop as their favorite place to pick up something couture. The shop is actually more similar to a mini-mall with several pop-up shops that sell everything from games and gadgets to home décor and books. There are even beautiful selections of high-end accessories like handbags (think: Romy Gold, Heather Belle and Sir Alistair Rai) and a dazzling selection of women’s scarves. Hoping to become what Fred Segel is to Los Angeles, the folks over at Complex carefully selected the designs sold at the store, and they’re looking to offer more than just a sale, but rather a concept of a culture where beauty, design and style are perfectly synonymous.
Best Place to Buy Women’s Jeans – Caruso Caruso
For most women who aren’t Victoria’s Secret models, the perfect pair of jeans is often mysterious and elusive. The just-right rise, the forgiving waistband, the exact amount of stretch, the well-fitting rear and the floor-dusting length hardly ever seem to amalgamate themselves into one pair of shining, shimmering immaculate pants. But if that perfect pair does exist, you will find it at Caruso Caruso. The sublime combination of reasonable prices and honest-to-goodness salespeople who eat, breathe and sleep denim seem to create the perfect atmosphere to coax your favorite pair out of the woodwork. From stuff you just won’t find at the mall to designer collections, this place will certainly never leave you wanting more. Even if you’re just in the market for a cute, soft cotton tee, this denim heaven has got you covered.
Best Mall – The Somerset Collection
As Midwesterners, we love malls. There’s just something about that department-store smell that stirs our blood and keeps us warm all winter long. So when we think of Somerset, the crowned head of suburban retail, we can do no more than to bow down in esteemed reverence. Packing a one-two punch of a north and south wing, this deity of department stores has over 180 stores ranging from Build-A-Bear to Louis Vuitton.
Best Vintage Store – Lost and Found
This store isn’t just rife with vintage finds from every decade, it’s also a pretty awesome space. The Royal Oak location is huge for a downtown storefront and it’s even got two levels. And while in most vintage stores, you might have to eyeball it when it comes to sizing, there are dressing rooms where you can try on any of their mint-condition, gently-used pieces. Aside from one-of-a-kind clothes, they’ve also got a pretty stellar collection of shoes, jewelry and sunglasses.
BEST PLACE TO BUY ART – 323East
For four consecutive years, 323East has enjoyed an accolade of recognition from RDW, starting with Best New Gallery in 2009, and once again being singled out by our readers as the perfect location to purchase paintings, prints, photos and objets. Many of you mentioned that 323 embraces eclecticism with hearty enthusiasm. THIS is the place you go to for works by Glenn Barr and Audrey Pongracz; for a retrospective of pieces created by MALT, BASK, FEL3000FT, or The Silent Giants; to peruse the past or current efforts of Mark Heggie, Matt Eaton, DeEtta Harris, Julia Cohl, Michael Segal, Dennis Jacobs and a host of others.
BEST MUSEUM – The Detroit Institute of Arts
The average Detroiter would sooner see the Manoogian turned into a bed and breakfast than witness a single painting or sculpture leave the DIA. The municipal muse temple that has stayed true to its mission – to cultivate an appreciation for works of beauty and to bring shared distinction to every person in our city – for decades. We love the fact that every one of your ballots mentioned a particular work – the Rivera Court, the Van Gogh portraits, the Native American artifacts and more. In fact, one fan letter summed up the whole matter with this observation: “I have ten ready answers whenever anyone asks me why I’m crazy enough to live here. Nine of them mention the Institute of Arts. Makes the tenth answer almost redundant, don’t you think?”
BEST STREET ART – Dequindre Cut Greenway
Ever notice that brilliant ideas are frequently simple ones – and vice versa? The Dequindre Cut Greenway is merely a below-street level walkway that runs parallel to St. Aubin between Mack Avenue and Woodbridge Street. It’s also a running thread of colorful urban scenes and graffiti murals fashioned by a modest army of Detroit artists. No oversight, no red tape, no trouble. It will be three years old come this May and so far it’s proven to be one of the most successful and least expensive projects the public has enjoyed in the last four decades.