Year Two Review

100 Places in the D’s Top Ten of Year Two


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 “better late than never” 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 – listed in no particular order, because ranking them would’ve been way too hard. They are all excellent!

20150926_141146 (1)

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’t go back and get them! Brew Detroit has a philosophy that once a batch of a particular microbrew it creates is gone, that’s it – 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’re 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 – I can’t. So. F@cking. Good. Le Petit Prince is more than legit; it’s 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!


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 – 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.


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 – 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


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!