Overview

100 Places in the D’s Top 10 Places Visited in Blog Year Six!

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The exterior of Post (Visit #416)

It’s time to relive the magic of Blog Year Six of 100 Places in the D, via a [DRUM ROLL]: Top 10 List!

After every blogging year on 100 Places in the D, I review all of the places I visited during that timeframe and tally up my ten absolute faves. So here they are, in no particular order: the ten places that most enchanted me in Blog Year Six. I hope, if you decide to visit them, that they enthrall you as much as they did me!

Mint 29 (#443, Dearborn): Inarguably the fanciest meal I had all year was the exquisite 16-Ounce Bone-In Ribeye I dined on at this West Downtown Dearborn-based restaurant. Its swanky-yet-down-to-earth ambiance beckoned me to make it my Cheers bar.

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The 16-Ounce Bone-In Ribeye at Mint 29 (Visit #443)

POST (#416, Detroit): Ah, POST, I had such a blast taking a woodworking workshop at you in June! You are an excellent facilitator of creative classes – and a supplier and champion of beautiful and interesting artisan-crafted goods, to boot!

Chili Mustard Onions (#392, Detroit): Of course Detroit has a vegan Coney Island restaurant – and it’s really frickin’ good. Those Chili Cheeze Fries! That Beetball Sub! That Snickers cake! [Cue Homer Simpson-esque drooling.]

Vast Kitchen and Bar (#457, Shelby Township): My heart still swoons at the memory of that meatloaf I ate during my January visit to Vast – so exquisite! Stellar drinks, service, and ambiance rounded out my experience at this cozy East Side establishment that is so worth visiting.

El Taco Veloz (#429, Detroit): I declared at the time of writing my post on the Southwest Detroit-based purveyor of Mexican cuisine (which works out of food-truck-based kitchens) that its Al Pastor tacos were the best food I’d eaten the whole blogging year. In hindsight, that statement stands true; those tacos were SO, SO, SO, SO GOOD!!!!

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Lost River (Visit #459)

Lost River (#459, Detroit): Stepping into this tiki bar is like stepping into another dimension, one where beachfront vibes and utter whimsicality rule the day – and that feels really, really hard to leave.

Unburger Grill (#435, Dearborn): I STILL fantasize on the regular about the Mac Style burger with its Spicy Chickpea and Zucchini patty I enjoyed at this vegan fast-casual restaurant. It feels blasphemous to say this as a lover of red meat, but it’s true: I found Unburger’s plant-based burger to be better than the real thing!

La Noria Bistro (#417, Detroit): Two of my favorite cuisines (Italian and Mexican) under the same roof (and it’s a pretty roof, at that!) + fantastic taste and service = the gateway to my heart and stomach.

The Fifth Wall Escape Rooms (#437, Ferndale): My friends and I had a blast working to solve the brainteasers at this indie escape-room establishment where the staff is super cool, the room themes have local components, and the puzzles are elaborate enough to make the game feel like a real challenge.

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The patio at El Club (Visit #432)

El Club (#432, Detroit): I had so much fun seeing a show at this intimate Southwest Detroit-based music venue that I vowed I would become A Person Who Goes to Shows All.The.Time. That did not happen, but I still hope to pretend to be that person by attending more shows at El Club and enjoying its beautiful patio space, delicious pizza, and rocking good vibes.

100 Places in the D’s Year Six Review!

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The interior of American Coney Island (#423), a Blog Year Six visit.

Year Six of 100 Places in the D is complete!

It’s wild to me that this blog I started in February 2014 as a way to motivate myself to get out and visit awesome-sounding establishments I was seeing highlighted in local media is still going strong. To date, I’ve visited over 460 locally-owned, wholly-new-to-me establishments in the Metro-Detroit area. I must say, it feels like a pretty cool accomplishment! ūüôā

Every year of the blog’s existence, I’ve set at least one goal. My goal for Year One is hinted at in the blog’s title: to visit 100 new-to-me, locally-owned places – restaurants, bars, shops, parks, etc. – in the tri-county Metro-Detroit area (Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties) within a one-year span. I achieved that goal – and my obsession with new-place exploring was born.

In subsequent blogging years, I achieved mixed results with the goals I set; I hit some but not others. I’ve appreciated having them to use as guideposts, even when I didn’t end up accomplishing them. Working toward goals such as the Blog Year Six goal, to visit at least 50 new-to-me places in the city of Detroit, has enriched my life in indescribable ways. The thrill of an introduction to a restaurant, coffee shop, or bar that I end up loving . . . nothing quite compares to it!

Blog Year Six of 100 Places in the D ran from February 8, 2019 through February 7, 2020. I had that one goal for it: to visit 50 new-to-me places in the city of Detroit itself.

This was the exact same goal I set – and achieved – for Blog Year Five. Did I achieve it in Blog Year Six? Nope – I fell short, at 43 places visited in the city of Detroit.

I didn’t exactly set myself up for success with this goal. I took an unplanned, 5.5-month break from writing on 100 Places in the D in the first half of 2019 (the result of untended-to feelings of blogging burnout and the snowballing effect of prolonged procrastination) and didn’t do a Blog Year Five review post until July. While I’d still been visiting new places during my blogging hiatus, the months of unintentionality didn’t aid my pursuit.

Then, once I tried to ramp up Detroit visits in the fall and winter, I felt myself at times plagued with a sense of the visits feeling forced – which is definitely not how I want one of my favorite activities in the world to feel!

Finally, as I approached the conclusion of Blog Year Six and attempted to rally myself for a mega-visiting spree (like, seven places within a span of three days), I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Not only was it incongruous to the winter-hibernation vibes I was feeling to jaunt all about town on work nights, but from a financial perspective, it felt irresponsible.

The great thing about this type of exploring is that if you’re creative, it can be affordable (a visit to a bakery or coffee shop can run under $5, for example) or even free (yay to parks, admissions-free museums, and window-shopping!), but for the places I was looking to go in that last Blog Year Six run, I was going to be spending money, and it just wasn’t aligning with the state of my pocketbook (which, frankly, also needed to go into winter-hibernation mode). So I let the goal go.

Still, I feel grateful to that 50-mark goal, because it pushed me to visit 43 new-to-me places in Detroit, which is still pretty cool!

Looking forward to Blog Year Seven: continuing to blog consistently throughout the year and hitting the milestone of Visit #500 (which should happen before the end of summer!) are my main objectives; simply achieving those would make me happy. I’m also aiming to visit at least 36 new-to-me places in the city of Detroit itself (which feels much more feasible than 50 – even if it’s only about an average of one less visit a month!).

And here’s one that intrigues me: to visit at least 20 of the places that have been lingering on my to-do list for years. Some establishments have been on that list essentially since the blog’s inception; I want to more intentionally seek out those long unchecked-off places.

That’s a solid amount of goal-setting; Blog Year Seven is turning out to be more ambitious than I’d expected. Here’s to another year of exploring!

I hope that wherever you live, whether it’s in the Metro-D or elsewhere, that you’re getting a chance to check out those places in your neighborhood that intrigue you. Once you start exploring, you may find – like me – that you just can’t stop!

To conclude this post, here are some stats around Blog Year Six (because I love to nerd out on this stuff):

Number of places visited in Blog Year Six: 73

Number of cities visited: 19

Breakdown by county: Macomb: 8; Oakland: 17; Wayne: 48

Breakdown by city:

Detroit: 43

Ferndale: 6

Clawson: 3

Troy: 3

Clinton Township: 2

Dearborn: 2

Saint Clair Shores: 2

Auburn Hills: 1

Berkley: 1

Grosse Pointe: 1

Grosse Pointe Park: 1

Hamtramck: 1

Hazel Park: 1

Lake Orion: 1

Richmond: 1

Romeo: 1

Royal Oak: 1

Shelby Township: 1

Sterling Heights: 1

100 Places in the D‚Äôs Top 10 Places Visited in Blog Year 5!

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Detroit Vintage (Visit #359)

I’ve got some best-of-the-best magic for ya today!

At the end of every blogging year for 100 Places in the D, I pen a post highlighting my ten absolute-favorite new-to-me places I visited that year.

Blog Year Five ended wayyyy back on February 7, but in the spirit of better-late-than-never, here are¬†the ten locally-owned establishments (listed in no particular order) I visited that year¬†that I’m still swooning over.

Detroit Vintage (#359, Detroit):¬†Stepping into this¬†hidden gem of a coffee shop (located in the most unlikely of locations: between a liquor store and a marijuana dispensary on Eight Mile) is like stepping into another world –¬†a vibrant, cozy, supremely pleasant one¬†where I want to¬†reside forever. Pure MAGIC.

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El Barzon (Visit #335)

El Barzon (#335, Detroit): Speaking of magic, can we talk about El Barzon? This WONDERFUL¬†restaurant in an unassuming part of Southwest Detroit is serving up the fairy dust something fierce with its exceptional food, drinks, service, and ambiance –¬†plus one of the prettiest patios on which I have ever eaten.

Detroit Riverwalk/Cullen Plaza (#367, Detroit): I had no idea how gorgeous the Detroit Riverwalk and Cullen Plaza were until I traversed them on my birthday last fall. What beauties Рand both are free to visit, to boot!

Lady of the House (#308, Detroit): The meal I consumed at Lady of the House in February 2018¬†is¬†STILL¬†one of the best restaurant meals I’ve ever experienced. Those perfectly prepared chamomile-glazed donut holes! That Parisian ham with its sumptuous house-made butter! [Cue drooling Homer Simpson-style.]

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Pages Bookshop (Visit #357)

Pages Bookshop (#357, Detroit): The bookworm in me rejoiced when I finally visited this indie bookstore in Grandmont Rosedale. Sooooo much literary goodness is packed into this joint!

Loui’s (#368, Hazel Park): The pizza place that dethroned Buddy’s as my favorite purveyor of the Italian pie – which is a VERY big deal because Buddy’s is a beloved part of my family history. What can I say except that Loui’s is INCREDIBLE times infinity in terms of the saucy, cheesy goodness!

Sfumato/Castalia (#371, Detroit): The¬†dual identity¬†of this place alone is enough to land it on a top-ten list: it’s a perfumery by day, cocktail bar by night. Add to that the fact that its perfumes made with natural ingredients are¬†totally¬†beguiling¬†olfactory bouquets, while its craft cocktails, uniquely delicious concoctions in themselves,¬†are¬†inspired by its¬†fragrances¬†and come with scent-spritzed napkins.

Ottava Via (#358, Detroit): That gorgeous patio! That Ragout Alla Bolognese with its veal- and pork-loaded sauce and house-made noodles! OBSESSED.

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Holy Moly Donut Shop’s donut ice-cream sandwich (Visit #322)

Baker’s Keyboard Lounge (#331, Detroit): Enchanting live music paired with PHENOMENAL ribs¬†made¬†for a night at this legendary jazz club (deemed a historic site by the state of Michigan) that can only be described as spellbinding.

Holy Moly Donut Shop (#322, Detroit): I still do a gleeful internal happy-dance every time I think about the donut ice-cream sandwich Holy Moly made for me the spring before last, which was hands-down one of the very best things I have ever eaten. That melt-in-your-mouth glazed donut bun slathered with rich chocolate ice cream and warm Nutella . . . YES, YES, YES! I recently got a sour-cream donut slathered in chocolate frosting from its West-Grand-Boulevard-based location, and let me tell you: they still got it!

100 Places in the D‚Äôs Year Five Review!

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#358, Ottava Via of Detroit, a Blog Year Five visit

You guys! I am FINALLY doing a review post for Blog Year Five of 100 Places in the D, which ran from February 8, 2018 through February 7, 2019.

To say I got behind on the blog this year is an understatement; what is more accurate to say is that I took an unplanned five-and-a-half-month break. To be honest, I¬†was feeling¬†pretty burnt out on blogging last year, and after going on a two-week vacation this past January, I found the prospect of delving back into it challenging,¬†especially¬†with all of the other to-dos I had swirling around in my brain. So I just . . . didn’t.

Days of inactivity¬†turned into weeks turned into months – until I finally¬†tired of feeling plagued by the bigger and bigger backlog of posts and impulsively logged¬†on one afternoon last¬†month to pen the piece on¬†this past¬†December’s Pewabic Pottery visit.

So¬†I’m back in the blogging¬†saddle again, refreshed by my unplanned break and working, slowly but surely, to catch 100 Places in the D up to the present-day, however long it takes me! Because despite not posting on the blog for over half a year, I was still out there making visits to awesome¬†locally-owned, new-to-me establishments in the tri-country Metro-Detroit area (an¬†obsession that I never see myself burning out on!).

At the end of every blogging year in 100 Places in the D’s history, I’ve done a year-in-review post, to¬†state whether I’ve achieved the goal(s) I set for myself for the year, to declare my goal(s) for the next blogging year, and to share some stats I find fun.

I only had one goal for Blog Year Five, but it was a big one: to visit 50 new-to-me, locally-owned establishments in the city of Detroit alone. And I did it!!!!!!

I’m super proud of this accomplishment because while I LOVE going down to the city, I often feel resistance around the driving-down-there-and-parking part. Having this 50-visits-in-Detroit goal to keep me accountable helped make visits less of a daydream and more of a planned-out reality. And you know I loved trying those oodles of new-to-me places in the D!

The goal I’ve set for Blog Year Six (which is already almost halfway over!)¬†is the same: to again visit 50 new-to-me places in the city of Detroit alone. I’ve currently got some catching up to do¬†on this goal to be on pace¬†with achieving it by early February of next year; I’ve only done 14 visits in the city so far when I should have done around 22. But I’m optimistic that by being majorly intentional for the rest of the year, I can do it – and I look forward to having an excuse to spend ample time in the D this summer, fall, and winter!

I’ll close out this post with some stats about the visits I made to new-to-me, locally-owned establishments during Blog Year Five – in case any readers enjoy nerding out on such numbers as much as I do. ūüôā

Number of places visited in Blog Year Five: 86

Number of cities visited: 21

Breakdown by county: Macomb: 14; Oakland: 17; Wayne: 55

Breakdown by city:

Detroit: 50

Sterling Heights: 5

Ferndale: 4

Clinton Township: 3

Saint Clair Shores: 3

Grosse Pointe Woods: 2

Hamtramck: 2

Mount Clemens: 2

Troy: 2

Waterford: 2

Berkley: 1

Birmingham: 1

Bloomfield: 1

Bloomfield Hills: 1

Chesterfield: 1

Dearborn: 1

Hazel Park: 1

Rochester: 1

Rochester Hills: 1

Royal Oak: 1

West Bloomfield: 1

My next post will showcase my top-ten favorite places that I visited during Blog Year Five, so look out for that to appear soon!

100 Places in the D‚Äôs Top 10 Places Visited in Blog Year 4!

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The Keep (Visit #273)

It’s time for one of my favorite posts: a top-ten post!

Today I’ll be highlighting my absolute fave visits completed during the recently ended Blog Year 4, which ran from February 8, 2017 through February 7, 2017. There are some goodies!

Seven¬†of the top ten¬†happen to be¬†places located in Detroit, which may¬†reflect my bias toward the city¬†– but in my defense,¬†Detroit does house a¬†boat-load of magical places. And frankly, I’m happy to favor the D whenever I can, because it deserves some love!

So here they are, listed in no particular order [DRUM ROLL . . .]

100 PLACES IN THE D’S TOP 10 PLACES VISITED IN BLOG YEAR 4:

‚ÄďStache International (#294, Detroit): Those Firecracker Bites! That Turkey Mondulo sandwich!¬†The kitchen crew at this Eastern Market sandwich joint/watering hole¬†are culinary wizards.

‚ÄďThe Keep¬†(#273, Detroit):¬†If I brought a stack of books to¬†this¬†dimly-lit, cozy basement bar with a friendly vibe and delicious craft cocktails, I would most decidedly never leave. The Keep is a KEEPER!

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Narrow Way Café and Shop (Visit #271)

‚ÄďNarrow Way Caf√© and Shop¬†(#271, Detroit): What a delight this place is!¬†From the¬†beautifully mod,¬†soothing ambiance to the wonderfully friendly staff to the delicious coffee drinks and pastries, I kinda-sorta-most-definitely fell in love with this Avenue of Fashion-based coffee shop.

‚ÄďTaqueria Alma (#240, Center Line): Mexican food is LIFE to me. Taqueria Alma crafts Mexican food of the ultimate life-affirming variety (try the steak tacos –¬†SOOOO good).

‚ÄďApparatus Room (#274, Detroit): Housed in a former fire station and the current Detroit Foundation Hotel, this chic restaurant is about more than its stunning ambiance: the food is mouthwateringly good (heck yes, Crispy Confit Chicken Sandwich!).

‚ÄďAxle Brewing (#258, Ferndale): Heaven is . . . a summertime evening spent gorging on some of the best food of your life with friends at a super-sweet brewery (whose beers are¬†pretty damn good, too).

‚ÄďWright & Co. (#251, Detroit): If¬†I was stuck repeating a day from my¬†past in a

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The Fresh Potato Chips from Wright & Co. (Visit #251)

continuous loop à la Groundhog Day, I would not be disappointed if the one that repeated was the day I visited Wright & Co. To be trapped in a scenario where I visit a gorgeously classy establishment with KILLER food and drink again and again and again Рyes, please!

‚ÄďKouZina (#250, Royal Oak): Once I finally visited KouZina, I was like “How have I never been here before?” Building my own signature Greek bowl loaded with fresh meat, rice, and veggies¬†was a legit highlight of my summer. That spicy feta sauce is STELLAR!

‚ÄďTreat Dreams (#283, Detroit): I’m admittedly not a big ice cream person – unless the¬†ice cream is¬†next-level good like Treat Dreams’ is. The dark chocolate variety with sea salt and olive oil that I had on my birthday there was a revelation. Now THAT is ice cream!

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The life-changing tacos of Taqueria el Rey (Visit #286)

‚ÄďTaqueria el Rey (#286, Detroit): The carnitas tacos I¬†got from¬†this unassuming Mexicantown restaurant were unequivocally the best tacos of my life thus far. I cannot emphasize enough how amazing they were, so fresh and juicy and flavorful, with that creamy jalape√Īo sauce . . .. They are the¬†MIC DROP of tacos! They are a shining example of the wondrousness that can be found when venturing outside of the familiar and¬†into the unknown – and why I adore working on this blog so much!

100 Places in the D’s YEAR FOUR REVIEW!

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#256, Red Crown of Grosse Pointe Park, a Blog Year Four visit

Hey, guys – happy Friday! I’m so excited to bring you today’s post: 100 Places in the D’s YEAR FOUR REVIEW!

I love doing these reviews of¬†recently ended¬†blogging years because they give me an opportunity to geek out over stats about the kinds of places I’ve visited for¬†100¬†Places in the D¬†over the last year, which I find so, so fun. So¬†I’ll dive right in and¬†chat about Blog Year Four, which ran from February 8, 2017 to February 7, 2018 (I base the blogging years¬†around the anniversary of the¬†date of my first visit for 100 Places in the D, which was February 8, 2014).

I’ve gotten into the habit of creating goals for myself for each blogging year, and my goals for Blog Year Four were as follows:

Visit 71 new places, so¬†I can¬†hit 300 overall visits since the blog’s inception.

Have at least 12 of those visits be to establishments located in new-to-the-blog cities (cities in the tri-county Metro-Detroit area that have not yet been represented on 100 Places in the D).

Visit at least 20 places in the city of Detroit itself (because I heart going down to Detroit, and this blog is after all named 100 Places in the D, so I want it to be the city I represent the most).

I’m happy to report that I achieved all three of these goals! I visited 76 total new places in Blog Year Four, hitting 305 total visits for the blog. Twenty-five of those visits were within the city of Detroit. And I visited these 12 new-to-the-blog cities:

-Beverly Hills

-Center Line

-Chesterfield

-Farmington Hills

-Grosse Pointe Park

-Grosse Pointe Woods

-Hamtramck

-Highland

-Keego Harbor

-Lake Orion

-Romeo

-Utica

I was especially excited to achieve the 12 new-to-the-blog cities milestone because I attempted it in Blog Year Three and fell short (I only visited six new-to-the-blog cities that year – wah wah). I want to continue to expand the list of cities I’ve covered on the blog, so I aim to keep that in mind during Blog Year Five.

That being said, I only have one official goal for Blog Year Five – but it’s a big one, and I’m very excited about it. In Blog Year Five, I plan to [DRUM ROLL. . .]: Visit 50 new places in the city of Detroit!!!!

Yes, 50 new places visited in Detroit alone from February 8, 2018 through February 7, 2019! It’s a HUGE endeavor – an average of about one visit¬†per week to Detroit – but I’m psyched for the challenge.

I LOVE Detroit; I love visiting it, and while driving around its streets with their oft-confusing mash-ups of one-ways and circuitous routings periodically throws me into near-panic-attack mode (driving is SO not my fave thing in the world), I believe that with intention and planning, I can totally achieve this goal.

I considered making the goal to actually¬†visit one new place in Detroit every week of the blogging year, but that quickly felt too restrictive. I realized that I didn’t want to put myself in¬†a position where I felt like I¬†must go downtown every single week, even when it didn’t make sense: to feel¬†compelled to¬†sit in rush hour for over an hour post-work on a Tuesday¬†to drive 30 miles downtown, pay $10 for parking, and spend half an¬†hour eating a sandwich bought somewhere convenient¬†before again entering¬†the¬†thick traffic¬†on my pilgrimage¬†back home just¬†so I could¬†get a visit in for the week¬†(as I found myself attempting to do this Tuesday before opting for the blessedly¬†more flexible goal). I never want going downtown to feel like a chore; I want it to feel like the magical foray that it is.

So that’s my big ol’ goal for Blog Year Five! In case you’re interested in¬†a geographical breakdown of where the¬†76 new-to-me restaurants, bars, shops, venues, parks, and the like¬†I visited in Blog Year Four were located, the following stats provide further illumination (I love nerding out to this stuff!):

Number of places visited in Blog Year Four: 76

Number of cities visited: 27

Breakdown by county: Macomb: 16; Oakland: 30; Wayne: 30

Breakdown by city:

Detroit: 25 (nearly one-third of all the visits!)

Ferndale: 6

Rochester: 5

Saint Clair Shores: 5

Grosse Pointe Woods: 3

Royal Oak: 3

Troy: 3

Beverly Hills: 2

Clarkston: 2

Harrison Township: 2

Pontiac: 2

Rochester Hills: 2

Romeo: 2

Center Line: 1

Chesterfield: 1

Clawson: 1

Clinton Township: 1

Farmington Hills: 1

Grosse Pointe Park: 1

Hamtramck: 1

Highland: 1

Keego Harbor: 1

Lake Orion: 1

Macomb: 1

Mount Clemens: 1

Utica: 1

Warren: 1

Look out for a related Blog Year Four post to drop next week showcasing my top-ten fave visits of the 76 achieved over the last year (always a fun round-up!).

100 Places in the D’s Top 10 Places Visited in Year 3

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Cornerstone Barrel House (#198)

OK, this post is months and months and months overdue. Usually after the end of each 100 Places in the D blogging year (which ends in early February, given that the anniversary of the first post on the blog is February 8), I’ll give a top-ten list of my favorite places visited during that timeframe. I¬†still hadn’t done that¬†for¬†Blog Year 3 – until now (FINALLY!).

Given that it’s Thanksgiving Eve and that many of my fellow¬†Metro-Detroiters will have ample time to go out and explore¬†this holiday weekend, I thought¬†it would be an ideal occasion¬†to¬†post this belated-yet-still-relevant¬†top-ten list for Blog Year 3, which specifically encompassed February 8, 2016 through February 7, 2017.¬†So here they are,¬†my faves of the bunch,¬†listed in no particular order; they¬†are¬†all Number 1s in my heart!

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Detroit Institute of Bagels (#164)

Detroit Institute of Bagels (#164, Detroit): Turkey, Bacon &¬†Avocado¬†sandwich with gouda and¬†spicy mayo on a toasted Everything bagel – be still my heart!!! Loved the friendly staff and pleasant vibes of this Corktown bagel shop, too; it’s the kind of place I could hang around all day. A must-visit.

Cornerstone Barrel House (#198, Detroit): Classy and contemporary yet down-to-earth, the Woodward Avenue whiskey bar is the perfect place to enjoy both the company of friends AND an excellent meal (tomato caprese salad AND juicy sirloin steak AND bread pudding made with Krispy Kreme donuts? OH YEAH.).

Natalie’s Bakery (#208, Madison Heights): This bakery’s got the goods! The rosemary-garlic ciabatta and seven-grain loaves of bread I picked up from¬†Natalie’s were¬†fantastic – perfect for Thanksgiving stuffing – while the pumpkin-mousse-filled fried croissant pastry is as ridiculously delicious as it sounds.

Chartreuse Kitchen and Cocktails (#194, Detroit): I had probably the best dining experience of my life at this gorgeous restaurant with exceptional food (those tender spare ribs! That killer corned-beef sandwich!). The fact that it happened during my 32nd birthday lunch made it that much more special.

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Tom’s Tavern (#204)

Tom’s Tavern (#204, Detroit): I felt a wave of sadness while writing this when I realized that I have not been back to Tom’s Tavern, that most venerable and glorious of Detroit dive-bar establishments – because Tom’s Tavern is¬†EPIC and demands to be experienced first-hand at least once a year. One of the most¬†magical places I’ve ever been.

Mabel Gray (#175, Hazel Park): You know how Mabel Gray has gotten a crap-ton of accolades? The reason for that is totally legit, I discovered, when I enjoyed one of the best restaurant meals in my memory (I’m sensing a trend here) in¬†its ribeye steak (perfection!) and chocolate torte.

Le Petit Zinc (#169, Detroit): This charming, colorful crepe café off the beaten path in Corktown was inherently lovable. That citron sucre (lemon-sugar) crepe! I recently read that Le Petit Zinc is currently location-less after its landlord gave it the boot from its once-home on Trumbull Street РWah Wah. Hopefully it will be back soon!

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Source Booksellers (#195)

Source Booksellers (#195, Detroit): My heart was grabbed by Source the instant I walked into the Cass Corridor bookshop. Small, thoughtfully curated, and with an owner who is downright lovely, it emanates this welcoming, community-fostering vibe. SO. GOOD.

El Patr√≥n (#193, Pontiac): With an extensive salsa bar and carnitas enchiladas that equal YUMMM times INFINITY, there was no way I was not going to fall hard for this place. Mexican is LIFE when it’s done right, and El Patr√≥n does it RIGHT.

The Old Miami (#196, Detroit): The dive bar majorly captured my affections with its charmingly grandma-esque backyard area. How many days until summer?

Reflections on Year Three of 100 Places in the D

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The patio of #196, The Old Miami, Year Three

As 100 Places in the D celebrated its three-year anniversary on¬†February 8 (woo-hoo!), it’s time to reflect back on the last year and how I stacked up against the goals I set for the blog.

OK, so overall, I kind of sucked at achieving the Blog Year Three goals. The Type A part of me is annoyed about that, but the fun-loving, relaxed¬†part of me is like, “Hey, it’s OK –¬†there’s always this year!” I’m liking the latter perspective. The journey of doing the exploring for¬†and maintaining of¬†the blog this year was fun, and fun is the reason I’m doing all of this. Still, I plan to better prioritize this year’s goals – which I’ll¬†reveal here, too – for the sheer enjoyment of the challenge of pursuing them.

Getting into last year’s goals:¬†the first¬†one was¬†to visit 60-75 new places. I achieved that one, visiting 66 new places (YAY!). To be honest, I didn’t remember that¬†I’d given myself such a number range; somewhere along the line, I¬†forgot that and fixated on¬†my goal being 65 specifically. No matter – I hit the¬†mark either way.

My second goal was to visit at least 25 new places in Detroit proper and to get more comfortable driving down there by making solo visits to the city at least once a month. I ended up visiting 19 places downtown – not the target number, but decent. And I was awesome about pushing myself to drive down to the D regularly for about the first third of the year; then I fell off in the spring. Whoops. I’m still easily flummoxed by the cray-cray network of roads in the downtown epicenter – I was just driving¬†down there Monday¬†en route to¬†a new place and¬†doing my usual¬†death-grip-the-steering-wheel-and-try-not-to-hyperventilate routine¬†– but can we all agree that it’s advanced-level driving down there? Seriously, those roads are WILD!¬†I’m at a point where I’m at least proud that I push myself to drive downtown despite my fear of it. I¬†love visiting Detroit, and I’m not going to let my nerves around being behind the wheel stop me.

I flat-out failed at my third goal, which was to visit one new-to-the-blog city a month. Given that I didn’t even write¬†my Year Two reflections post and goals until March 5, nearly one month into the start of Blog Year Three, I was already setting myself up for failure on this one. Poor planning and prioritizing of this goal further exacerbated things, and a few months in, I’d already pretty much abandoned pursuing it. In the end, I only ended up visiting six new-to-the-blog cities in Year Three, those being:

Bloomfield Hills

Bloomfield Township

Harrison Township

Hazel Park

Oakland Township

Pontiac

To these six fine cities: you are a delight РI am happy to have gotten to know you better!

What are my goals this year? Well, for one,¬†I’m¬†vowing to reattempt¬†this quest¬†to visit an average of one new-to-the-blog city¬†per month. The goal intrigues me, and I think with even a little¬†bit of¬†planning and foresight I can achieve it, because there are still quite a few Metro-Detroit cities where I haven’t visited places for the blog. I’ve¬†compiled a list of 12 prospect¬†towns so I can plan ahead. I visited one¬†of them last¬†weekend (post forthcoming!) and will be¬†hitting another next week, so I’ve got a good start.

In terms of overall volume of visits, my goal is¬†71 new places (so I can hit 300 lifetime-total places visited by the end of this blog year!). That means I’ll need to visit an average of six places a month, which seems doable – but again, it will take intentional planning. My third goal to visit at least 20 places in Detroit – about two a month – which should also be easy enough to hit if I actually track it.

These goals are worth tracking, I’m realizing, because they involve stuff that is fun to me, and fun stuff is important stuff. So I’m going to make¬†them a priority in my life, for the sheer¬†pleasure of achieving them, because one thing I’m realizing as an adult is that finding enjoyment in every day¬†is critical to¬†ensuring one doesn’t become one of those shriveled up, miserable people.

It’s too easy for me¬†to get caught up in responsibilities and to-dos and mortgage payments and with-what-money-am-I-going-to-buy-that-new-dryer scenarios? But I’ve decided I won’t¬†not¬†let myself¬†stay mired in all of that stressful adulting. I’m going to continue eating dinners at former auto shops (here’s looking at you, Katoi!), taking in music at the dive-iest of dive bars (Tom’s Tavern, my love!!!!!!), and searching for the ideal¬†coffee shop (Eos Caf√©, you are pretty damn near perfect). ~Sigh.~ Sounds like a delight.

In case this kind of analytical numbers stuff interests you as it does me, here’s a breakdown of stats for the Year Three visits:

Number of places visited in Year Three: 66

Number of cities visited: 23

Breakdown by county: Macomb: 12; Oakland: 27; Wayne: 27

Breakdown by city:

Detroit: 19

Plymouth: 8

Royal Oak: 5

Clinton Township: 3

Pontiac: 3

Rochester: 3

Saint Clair Shores: 3

Clarkston: 2

Ferndale: 2

Madison Heights: 2

Rochester Hills: 2

Shelby Township: 2

Warren: 2

Auburn Hills: 1

Berkley: 1

Bloomfield Township: 1

Bloomfield Hills: 1

Harrison Township: 1

Hazel Park: 1

Mount Clemens: 1

Northville: 1

Oakland Township: 1

Troy: 1

And to recap, my goals for Year Four (February 8, 2017 through February 7, 2018) are:

-Visit 71 new places.

-Visit places in at least 12 new-to-the-blog cities.

-Visit at least 20 new places in Detroit.

Thanks for nerding out with me on this post and for following The 100 Places journey. Here’s to Year Four and to your own exploring this year!

100 Places in the D‚Äôs Top Ten of Year Two

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Two James Spirits (#162)

This list is a few months overdue. Year Two of this little project ranged from February 8, 2015 through February¬†7 of this year, to be precise. But as a recovering perfectionist with way too many interests and way too little time, in my opinion, to pursue them, I’ve found it best to operate from a ‚Äúbetter late than never‚ÄĚ philosophy. Much more fun than being rigid and self-punishing! So here, just in time for spring (hopefully! How about that snow this past weekend, my locals?) are my top ten favorite visits from Year Two ‚Äď listed in no particular order, because ranking them would‚Äôve been way too hard. They are all excellent!

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Brew Detroit (#141)

Brew Detroit (#141, Detroit): I visited some awesome breweries in Year Two, but Brew Detroit was the awesome-est in my book. The fantastic beers (a lavender- and chamomile-infused saison and a blonde flavored with vanilla beans and cacao nibs) I tasted during my visit still pleasingly haunt my memory – especially since I can‚Äôt go back and get them! Brew Detroit has a philosophy that once¬†a batch of a particular¬†microbrew¬†it creates is gone, that‚Äôs it ‚Äď they go back to the flavor drawing board and¬†dream up¬†another. Love that spirit of innovation and creativity and that you never know what you‚Äôre gonna get when you go there. Also love the chill industrial vibe and the friendly bartenders of its tasting room.

Le Petit Prince (#110, Birmingham): The almond croissant ‚Äď I can‚Äôt. So. F@cking. Good. Le Petit Prince is more than legit; it‚Äôs legendary.

CC Plus at the Center (#114, Mount Clemens): Friendly, accessible drop-in fitness center that hosts Zumba, toning/strength-training classes, yoga, boxing, you name it. Affordable prices for a variety of drop-in pass options. Love going there and getting my ass kicked!

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The Meeting House (#122)

The Meeting House (#122, Rochester, MI): Great food, innovative cocktails, and classy environs make this restaurant stand up to it name. The Fat Elvis French toast is very probably the best French toast I will ever have. Brunch is not f@cking around here.

The Nautical Ride (#136, Saint Clair Shores): It was a rocky start: I can’t remember another time I was more terrified on a bike (the loaner I was using was rough!). But once I got into the swing of things, I thoroughly enjoyed this (impressively) organized large-scale group ride around neighborhoods of Saint Clair Shores surrounding the Nautical Mile. Looking forward to heading out on another of its jaunts this summer.

Two James Spirits (#162, Detroit): Nondescript on the outside, gorgeous on the inside, Two James is a lovely, lovely bar and distillery that crafts its cocktails and ambiance with care. The perfect setting for some nice and easy Sunday day-drinking.

The Clean Plate (#104, Shelby Township): Excellent vegetarian/vegan café in an area that is sorely lacking such options. The Clean Plate is doing the good work.

The Heidelburg Project (#129, Detroit): Once I finally made it over to this legendary outdoor art installation on Heidelburg Street in Detroit (my first visit at 30 – how?), I was incredibly moved ‚Äď by the vastness, the vivacity, the resourcefulness and inventiveness¬†of it. Whether you’re passionate about contemporary/found art as I am – or simply love our great city and this monument to it¬†– I have no doubt that you’ll find¬†witnessing it to be an inspiring, thought-provoking experience.

Luxe Bar and Grill (#160, Birmingham): The standout barbeque burger and craft cocktails make the wait in the cluster of the lobby (beyond tiny!) completely worthwhile.

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Mercury Burger and Bar (#162)

Mercury Burger and Bar (#161, Detroit): Love the cute and cherry vibes of this lovely little Detroit diner/bar. The Southwest Detroit burger ‚Äď PHENOMENAL. Definitely in my top-ten list of best things I have ever eaten. And poutine tater tots, people!!! How did I ever live without poutine tater tots in my world?  

Reflections on Year Two of 100 Places in the D

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Photo of #129, The Heidelburg Project, Year Two

The two-year anniversary of 100 Places in the D was February 8! I’m so excited to have sustained this project for so long and am grateful to all of you who have¬†visited the blog and come along with me on my adventures. Whether you’re a fellow Motor-City citizen looking for cool restaurants to check out downtown or¬†a reader¬†located far away¬†overseas but perhaps looking to visit the Detroit area someday¬†(you totally should!), I hope this blog has been helpful. Perhaps it has inspired you to embark on your own 100 Places challenge, whether you live in the D or another amazing city. No more same-ol’, same-ol’ national-chain restaurants in your repertoire!

The ironic thing about right now? I’m sitting in a national-chain coffee shop¬†as I write¬†these words. Whoops. OK, so avoiding corporate-chain establishments 100 percent of the time is¬†nearly impossible¬†for¬†many of us (Clinton Township entrepreneurs, we need a cool little independent coffee shop here!). But one thing that the 100 Places challenge engrained in me that I’m really grateful for is the habit of looking for new and local over tired and generic. The 100 Places Challenge made going out – dining, shopping, socializing – much more of an¬†experience for me than it ever was. Going out has become an exciting¬†adventure again, full of novelty, exploration –¬†specialness. I go out less now¬†than I did two years ago, in large¬†part because I have been really trying to behave myself with my budget (Boring budget! I can’t hate you because you work!), but also because I am willing to spend more when I do go out to ensure a more special experience than when I was¬†regularly¬†doing the happy hour at TGI Friday’s or¬†weekly visiting my local Buffalo Wild Wings.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with visiting such places. My love affair with B’Dubs’ chicken-tenders wrap with Spicy Garlic sauce –¬†extra Spicy Garlic on the side to dip my chips in –¬†will never die. But I’ve definitely noticed¬†the personal shift¬†since starting this project, where going out has become an event rather than something I feel I have to do because it’s a Friday or Saturday night. It’s brought more value and meaning and excitement to my everyday.¬†And I love¬†helping to support so many badass local businesses in the area and showcasing the D in the positive way it deserves to be showcased. It’s a win-win any way you look at it!

Because I’m one of those creative souls who also appreciates a good analytical breakdown, I wanted to do a little summary of trends I noticed in Year Two as opposed to Year One and to share my goals for Year Three.

OK, so in Year One – February 8, 2014 through February 7, 2015 – I visited 102 new-to-me places in Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties. I knew going into Year Two that I wasn’t going to sustain that pace. I’d achieved the 100¬†Places challenge, and going forward, I wanted to sustain the blog¬†1)¬†Because I loved¬†doing it and 2)¬†To ensure that I kept visiting new places on a regular basis.¬†¬†My goal for Year Two was 60 places, a pace of about five new places a month. I visited 61 – not bad!

Disappointed by my lame representation of Detroit Proper in Year One (I visited only ten places in Detroit City that first year),¬†another goal was to visit at least¬†20 establishments in Detroit in Year Two. I visited 21. Yes! That¬†equaled about a third of all of my total visits – woo-hoo! Detroit Days – extended visits to the city with friends,¬†often exploring several new establishments per visit¬†–¬†were also born in Year Two. I love me a good Detroit Day! Come on, summer!

One goal for Year Two I wasn’t great at achieving? Visiting a¬†more diverse¬†mix of cities.¬†Nineteen different¬†cities were represented¬†by the 61¬†establishments I visited in¬†Year Two – not too shabby. But only four of those¬†(Commerce Township, Mount Clemens, Southfield, and Waterford – here’s looking at you!)¬†were cities I hadn’t¬†previously represented on the blog. So that was pretty lame.

I am conscious of the fact that certain cities – ermh, Royal Oak, Ferndale –¬†and areas have been represented much more than others on this blog. I don’t care if I represent Detroit ad nauseam – I’m happy to be a Detroit champion! – and continuing to go down there more and more regularly is one of my goals for Year Three. But I would like to¬†represent a greater diversity of¬†the surrounding suburbs in Year Three. While there are truths¬†and¬†patterns to¬†my life that are hard to deny¬†and that¬†I’m not sure I want to deny (for instance, that I¬†live relatively close to Royal Oak and Ferndale,¬†that I enjoy hanging out in those cities, that my friends¬†enjoy hanging out in those cities, and that they are ever-evolving in terms of the restaurant and bar scenes),¬†I can’t forget that¬†there are over a hundred cities in the tri-county area. I want to represent them better!

OK, so I don’t see myself driving all the way out to Novi or Taylor from Clinton Township¬†on the regular. While I do love exploring, I’m not a fan of long car drives where I have to do the driving – especially during the dark, icy winter months. I am sort of a pussy of a driver when it comes to unfamiliar territory. I make myself do it, because I know that getting out of my comfort zone is important and worth it. But it’s not something that comes automatically to me. Still, I know that by being conscious about it, I can showcase¬†at least one place located in a new-to-the-blog city a month. It’s a small goal, but I hope that by being intentional, I can¬†represent some of the cities that are integral parts of our community that have been heretofore missing from 100 Places in the D. I aim to start tomorrow!

It is crazy, because Month 1 of Year Three is nearly over. Where has the time gone this year? We are in March, people! The Corktown 5K/Parade is next weekend (I’ll be there)! I’ve visited four places so far in Year Three – three of them in Detroit,¬†during two solo visits where I drove myself down to the city, a major accomplishment for me given my fear of driving the cray-cray roads in that city.

OK, enough words – it’s numbers time! Here’s a breakdown of locations visited in Year Two:

Number of places visited in Year Two: 61

Number of cities visited: 19

Breakdown by county: Macomb: 7 (lame, given¬†that¬†it’s my home county!); Oakland: 32; Wayne: 22

Breakdown by city:

Detroit: 21

Royal Oak: 9

Ferndale: 5

Birmingham: 4

Shelby Township: 3

Madison Heights: 2

Mount Clemens: 2

Northville: 2

Rochester: 2

Waterford: 2

Auburn Hills: 1

Berkley: 1

Clinton Township: 1

Commerce Township: 1

Dearborn: 1

Oak Park: 1

Rochester Hills: 1

Southfield: 1

Saint Clair Shores: 1

And here are my Year Three goals.

Goals for Year Three (February 8, 2016 through February 7, 2017):

-Visit 60-75 new places (I’d love to hit 75, but I’d be happy with at least 60).

-Visit at least 25 new places in Detroit; drive down there myself¬†at least once a month, rather than primarily relying on friends who don’t mind driving around down there.

-Visit at least one new-to-the-blog city a month.

Happy exploring to all of you!