Year One Review

100 Places in the D’s Year 1 Top 20

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Public House (#47)

Yeah, I’m in a bit of a review mode right now. I like the process of tying a bow around a major project. And, to be honest, I need a reminder of which places were my absolute favorites this year now that I’m allowing myself to ease up a bit on this project and to fold some revisits back into my life. I’ve been in such a do-new, tunnel-vision state for the past year that I’ve forgotten the pleasure of having tried-and-true places you look forward to going again and again (well, almost. My one exception, El Charro in Fraser, wouldn’t let me forget it; that’s the one restaurant I’ve visited multiple times in the past year, because it is such an absolute favorite of myself, my family, and friends that it wouldn’t be denied. The allure of its Chef’s Choice combination is just too strong. I actually went there yesterday and got it!)

Working to narrow this list down was much harder than I thought it would be. I visited a lot of great places this year, many more than 20. But some places obviously stood out more than others, and I thought they should be recognized. So here is my list, in no particular order, of 20 of my most memorable favorites from Year 1 of my 100 Places challenge.

-Public House (#47, Ferndale): Those sliders were frickin’ amazing! Great vibe, great food, love the record player playing actual records, and love those boozy milkshakes. I can’t wait to get back here.

-M-Brew (#76, Ferndale): Another Ferndale bar that’s right up my alley, with excellent Michigan craft beers and those vintage ‘80s arcade games that catapult me back to early childhood.

-The Bird and the Bread (#83, Birmingham): Great food, drinks, and ambiance. What more do you need?

-Cellar 59 (#1, Clinton Township): The first placed I visited to kick off the 100 Places challenge, it’s still one of my favorites. It was so intimate and cozy feeling – though I definitely need no excuse to love an establishment that serves good wine.

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One-Eyed Betty’s (#19)

-Green Dot Stables (#5, Detroit): Drinks at affordable prices, more slider-amazing-ness, and a setting that is charmingly, wonderfully Detroit.

-One-Eyed Betty’s: (#19, Ferndale) I still fantasize about the garlic aioli on its Betty bacon cheeseburger on a regular basis. Need to get back there ASAP, as I’ve also heard about their freshly-fried donuts with chocolate sauce, which at this point have become near mythical in my mind.

-George George Memorial Park (#36, Clinton Township): It’s possible my yearnings for warmer weather are building this place up in my head, but man, it’s so soothingly gorgeous! I bet it’s even gorgeous now in winter.

-Goldfish Tea (#59, Royal Oak): This is the perfect place to curl up and have a cup of tea and a chat with a friend, or to study if you’re in school. In fact, the last time I was there, I found myself envious of the college girls sitting across from me, wishing I had an excuse to visit it more often.

-La Saj (#46, Sterling Heights): I’ve only been here once more since first visiting it in August, but in my mind I’ve already visited hundreds of time. A must-try if you love Mediterranean food.

-Bad Brad’s Barbeque (#50, New Baltimore): Pretty damn good barbeque, and I’ve had some damn good barbeque in my day.

-Love and Buttercream (#7, Royal Oak): Such a cheery and charming bakery. And those macaroons!

-Oakland Art Novelty Company (#43, Ferndale): Visiting is like stepping into the most pleasant of time warps and being handed a carefully crafted, delicious cocktail upon arrival.

-Inn Season (#98, Royal Oak): Scrumptious vegetarian dishes that even meat-eaters (like me) will love.

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Motor City Brewing Works (#31)

-Motor City Brewing Works (#31, Detroit): In my mind, I’m already pleasantly sweating my butt off on its gorgeous rooftop patio.

-Vinotecca (#24, Royal Oak): I told you I love wine. Fabulous happy-hour specials here, including some really good small plates.

-Blake’s Ciderhouse and Winery (#53, Armada): Its hard cider is really great. Like, obsessively great.

-El Guanaco (#38, Troy): As my brother would say, those Salvadorian pupusas are chronic! I’m definitely planning to go back here.

-J. Baldwin’s (#17, Clinton Township): Another great place for happy hour. Loved those delicious martinis in their little iced glasses!

-Clubhouse BFD (#16, Rochester Hills): An impressively in-depth beer selection and the holy grail of all fried-potato creations, The Sweet Potato Tot, reside here.

-Town Tavern (#37, Royal Oak): One of those places that has so much amazing-sounding stuff on its menu that you can’t decide what to get – but then, whatever you do pick is amazing, so does it really matter what you pick?

Reflections on Hitting 100

When I started this little challenge last February, I honestly thought it would be hard. Visit 100 places in the Metro-Detroit area – that I’ve never been to before – that are Michigan-owned-and-operated establishments? How many places are there really around here that aren’t national chains and that I’ve never been to?

A LOT, it turns about. I’ve barely scratched the surface.

One of the main reasons I decided to embark on this little quest was because I was sick of seeing local places that looked really cool, saying I was going to go to them, and then never doing it. Instead, I became a collector of somedays and maybes, compiling pages ripped out of Hour Detroit and The Detroit Free Press in a binder full of things I wanted to check out and places I wanted to try. The 100 Places challenge was a way to finally push myself to see some of the intriguing local businesses featured in those pages.

I pulled the binder out and went through those pages last week, excitedly assuming that I must’ve visited most of the places in there in this past year. How wrong I was! Check out the photos below and see how many from that little compilation I actually got to.

Framed in a certain light, the blog can definitely feel like a failure. It’s named 100 Places in the D, and only ten of the places I visited were located in Detroit? My goal was to hit at least 20 in the city proper. And while I did visit 33 different cities while visiting these 100 places, when you think about it, that’s not a lot, considering that there are about three times that amount of towns located in the tri-county area. Plus, a whopping 30 of the places I visited were in Ferndale and Royal Oak alone (sorry, I like it there!). I guess what I’m saying is, I could have done better. I could’ve went even bolder and bigger, been more strategic, more adventurous. But at the end of the day, I still I accomplished what I set out to do, and I enjoyed every moment of it. I visited 100 local restaurants, bars, boutiques, parks, tea shops, bakeries, bookstores, and venues that I had never been to before – and supported local business owners while I did it. How cool is that?

I encourage you, wherever you live, to give the 100 places challenge a try. Modify the parameters as you see fit – visit 50 places instead of a hundred, or focus on one local county – or five, whatever you want. I think as long as you’re focusing on trying new places that you’ve never been and that are locally based and, therefore, more directly supporting your state’s economy than some national chain, that’s the essence of it. I myself plan to continue this blog and aim to visit at least five new places a month for the rest of this year – so at least 60 total. I aim to visit a more diverse mix of cities and to hit more places in Detroit City; I’ll aim for the 20-mark again there.

In case you’re curious, here are some geographical breakdowns of where I went.

Breakdown by county:

Oakland County – 54

Macomb County – 27

Wayne County – 19

Breakdown by city:

Ferndale – 16

Royal Oak – 14

Detroit – 10

Clinton Township – 8

Birmingham – 4

Shelby Township – 4

Clarkston – 3

Grosse Pointe Farms – 3

Northville – 3

Rochester – 3

Saint Clair Shores – 3

Troy – 3

Berkley – 2

Eastpointe – 2

Grosse Pointe – 2

Macomb – 2

Plymouth – 2

Sterling Heights – 2

Armada – 1

Auburn Hills – 1

Clawson – 1

Dearborn – 1

Fraser – 1

Lenox – 1

Madison Heights – 1

New Baltimore – 1

Oak Park – 1

Pleasant Ridge – 1

Rochester Hills – 1

Roseville – 1

Warren – 1

Westland – 1

And here are the pictures of all the complied pages showcasing places I ended up going to, with what number visited they were written on them:

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And here are all the pages representing places I haven’t visited yet:

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