Best cheapo cineplex
Macomb Mall, Gratiot at Masonic, Roseville
Sure, movies don’t show up here until they are about to hit video stores, but if you are loath to shell out $8 to see a first-run flick but still crave the movie-going experience, this place is just the ticket. With a matinee admission fee of $1.75, the price can’t be beat. Even better, the place is clean, and the seats comfortable. As Joe Bob Briggs used to say, “Check it out.”
Best mom & pop punk-rock shop
110 E. Fifth St., Royal Oak
Yes, there is hope for the kids beyond those corporate mall-slop shops. Helping to keep DIY clothing/knickknack stores alive and shouting, Cat’s Meow in Royal Oak is a little punk-rocker’s dream stop. With oodles of T-shirts, buttons, patches and bracelets to sift through, it also offers a nifty book selection and other accessories such as hair dye and flasks. The cozy atmosphere and friendly service is always inviting — helping to make it the ideal stop for last-minute birthday and Xmas gifts for all your rock and roll pals.
Best airline booze selection
8817 E. 10 Mile Road, Center Line
When grabbing a couple of 40s, one gets a hankering for a little something extra — but not too much. That’s when those little airline double-shot bottles of booze swim into mind. Skip’s Market in Center Line has a super-sized selection for any type of poison you crave. From the cheapest vodka to the sweetest schnapps, they stare you down as you check out. Along with a bin of $1 specials, it’s hard to leave without a few extra kicks for the evening.
Best alternative to sex
Planet Rock Climbing Gym
34 Rapid St., Pontiac
82 April Drive, Ann Arbor
Looking to exercise without using Astroglide? Climbing plastic rock outcroppings just might be the way to exhaust and stretch your muscles while maintaining intense facial expressions and, of course, pretending you’re goin’ to the mountaintop. Planet Rock has locations in Pontiac (13,500 square feet) and Ann Arbor (22,500 square feet). Each employee has climbed real rocks, and each skillfully instructs novices on safety and proper technique. Terms like crimper, dogging, pinch, slopper and smear are in play here. So it is a lot like sex in that sense as well. The experts at each location can help with the terms, but not the costs. Bring some cash — again, a lot like sex.
Best place to buy a Gretsch
Huber Breese Music
33540 Groesbeck, Fraser
Every weekend, the mega-music store launches a new sale — pretty much the same prices, different colored tags and same mostly inexperienced sales reps. Fortunately, there’s Huber Breese Music in Fraser, where employees learn more than to just up the sale. They’re pros. Privately owned since 1972, this place has all the equipment anyone could want to rock out, rock in or flub through “Margaritaville.” Huber Breese has everything from classical guitars to DJ equipment for any novice or cash-earning gigger. The little store that could has gone from 800 square feet to more than 10 times that.
Best place to buy a vintage guitar online
When Boss Guitars in Ann Arbor closed its doors, a collective “harrumph” was heard. But fear not, six-string-philes, local business owner and lover-of-things-vintage, Eric Stollsteimer is still peddling his wares. Check out his Web site to score your dream ax or other piece of vintage musical equipment.
Best nonchemical pest control
ACT Live Trapping
596 Brooks Ave., Pontiac
Since we humans rule the land, we must be rid of the pestilential creatures that scurry, crawl or slither into our castles. But who really wants to deal with an interloping squirrel, raccoon, rat, skunk, badger, muskrat, possum or snake when you can pay someone else to do so? Cry havoc, and loose the dogs of pest control! Bring in Q of ACT Live Trapping. Q is a fearless and ninja-like Jack Russell terrier who’s been sniffing, cornering and rooting invading animals from tough spaces for nearly five years. He’s got more than 450 successful trappings. He’ll also bring out the dead — you know, the ones that crawl into a wall and croak and stink up your joint.
Best $14 Detroit Tour
Diamond Jack’s River Tours
Twice a day, Thursday-Sunday, an excursion boat pulls away from Hart Plaza for a leisurely two-hour tour, motoring north on the Detroit River, almost to Lake St. Clair, then turning around and hugging the Canadian shore heading south as far as Zug Island. Even longtime Detroiters can catch new perspectives, such as viewing Manoogian Mansion from the backside. And over on the Windsor side there’s one of the planet’s most unusual sculpture gardens lining the riverbank.
Best old-school hardware store
17401 E. Warren, Detroit
Brian Rouleau, who bought M&M Hardware in 1976, is the heart and soul of the urban store with small-town customer service. He and his knowledgeable staff happily explain how to install a garbage disposal, snake out a clogged bathtub drain or tackle tricky electrical problems. Rouleau is a gem; so is his store.
“This is like crack for stoners!” the test subject enthused as he huffed on a valve attached to a heat-resistant plastic bag filled with a haze of THC, the magic ingredient in marijuana. It was brought to him by The Volcano, a product of Germany that takes the smoking out of weed. The Volcano is a vaporizer that removes the “active ingredients” in “herbs.” Users do not inhale smoke — they inhale straight THC that has only a hint of flavor or odor, and none of the toxic byproducts of combustion. Trying to quit tobacco? Get your nicotine fix without tar or the stew of poisons in cigarettes. The Volcano is highly efficient — your stash will go faaaaarrr, man. It’s well-made and, sans baggie, could sit in the kitchen and pass for a blender base. Warning: Do not lend The Volcano to friends; you will have difficulty getting it back.
Best bargain for gardeners
Russell Street, Detroit
If Adam and Eve had to cultivate a garden in Metro Detroit — on the cheap — they would do well to shop at Eastern Market. Where else can you buy petunias in May for $8 a flat or a lilac bush for $15? Opal basil, Roma tomatoes, other herbs and vegetables go for as little as a $1.25 a plant. Some prices drop even lower after 3 p.m., when farmers are eager to head home. As for the selection, even God’s original gardeners would be amazed. It’s paradise.
Best fabric store
905 S. Main St., Royal Oak
Fabric fanatics should leave their wallets at home if they plan to set foot in this textile emporium. It’s hard not to buy at least a couple swatches from the huge supply. Silk organza, linen, velvet, etc., are all on hand at the 45-year-old family-run establishment. The well-lit and spacious new digs dramatize the rich, colorful cloth. If you go without a penny in your pocket, think of it as a visit to an art gallery with the added bonus of fondling the work.
Best dry cleaners
Belding Dry Cleaners
15139 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe Park, 313-822-5800
Do you have a sage green raincoat you absentmindedly soiled by dragging it across a tar-covered parking lot? Probably not. But if you do, take it to Belding Dry Cleaners. The 71-year-old business dissolves tar and other stains that you might have thought were permanent. Customer service is amazing. Kim, who has been a clerk at Belding for years, not only remembers what garments you dropped off, but how they turned out.
Best independently owned hair salon
3301 Edwin, Hamtramck
Owner and hair-banger extraordinare Sandra Kramer-Shaw has brought the groovy to the glamour. Having remodeled her cozy Hamtramck residence/business into a sophisticated retro salon, this little piece of hair heaven is just about the most fun one can have with peroxide and scissors.
Best suburban oasis
309 S. Troy, Royal Oak
You really haven’t attained yogic peace till you’ve “om”’d your way through an evening of yoga with the background cacophony of Harleys and drunk twentysomethings pouring from downtown Royal Oak watering holes. Namaste though — both despite and because of its proximity to nightlife — is an oasis of mental clarity in a desert of distraction. For the relatively minor pittance of 12 bucks, one can wind and unwind with the assistance of Namaste’s staff of informed and honey-voiced instructors.
Best tattoo shop
27815 Woodward, Berkley
This funky and highly professional little shop has an outstanding array of award-winning artists; there’s barely room for flash art with all the accolades crammed into this joint. Each artist has a unique specialty, and some are considered to be the top of their genre, so whether you’re looking for a custom new-school piece or a classic portrait, you’ll be in good hands. And safe hands too — sanitation and sterilization is top-notch.
Best one-stop kink shop
124 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak
Keith Howarth is a Detroit institution. Throughout spiking rent prices, copycat competition and protesting conservative blowhards, his nifty little perv-shop-that-could has persevered. Whether you’re looking for a huge pink dong, nipple clamps, a sexy rubber minidress or just a plain ol’ black spiked dog collar, Noir Leather’s got you covered. Or uncovered.
Best dollar vinyl
Car City Records
29118 Harper, St. Clair Shores
For those who still have turntables and love their dusty, old vinyl, nothing is greater than finding a long-lost gem in the lonely dollar bin. Car City Records in St. Clair Shores is a vinyl junkie’s dream come true. Always loaded up with fresh stock — but not too many to discourage foraging — a little digging goes a long way. Hidden treasures await those who wade through the stacks of old Foreigner and Bryan Adams LPs.
Best used records
417 E. Liberty,
For true music collectors nothing can really match the nearly sexual rush of chemicals to the brain triggered when walking through the disheveled labyrinth of Encore Records. Behind every corner there seems to be an undiscovered gem or an old chestnut in prime shape for a reasonable price. Because of the store’s massive turnover, you never know what you might find. But the best part is the staff of indie-rock stars, artists and photographers. Even though they deftly field questions about everything from Satie to SVT, they seem to have discovered the vaccination to the snobbish-record store-asshole disease. God bless Encore. May their doors never close, their stock never get fully organized, and may they spawn little Encores all across our fair land.
Best new CDs
202 N. Old Woodward, Birmingham, 248-647-1707
Does the nauseating ubiquity of the corporate record-store chains piss you off? Do you get steamed thinking about all the mom-and-pop record shops that big-bad-evil Tower Records has run out of town? Well, toughen up, champ. Fact is, if you’re looking for new CDs no place around here can match the big-box store consumerist delight of Tower. And, get this, the place ain’t run by a bunch of corporate Johnnies. It’s remarkably in touch with local music, releases and otherwise. Just dig their 313 Spotlight series (currently Detroit’s only in-store performance venue). And apart from their local-music racks, they have everything. Sure, it’s a little overpriced. Sure, we all miss putting records on order with our tight bros at Harmony House and getting them eight months later. But, at Tower, life is pretty good. Besides, Bootsey X works there.
Best discerning record selection
503 S. Main St., Royal Oak
It’s not the size of the record store that counts, but whether you can find a sealed print of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, a copy of Aphex Twin’s Donkey Rhubarb EP, and the new Soul Jazz Records comp with only three pivots. Neptune in Royal Oak has trimmed the fat — so you don’t have to. A record-geek’s dream, Neptune comes complete with a staff of High Fidelity proportion that’s as knowledgeable as they are sarcastic. Size matters, indeed.
Best thrift store
5600 E. Eight Mile Road, Detroit
1627 W. Fort St., Detroit
5850 W. Fort St., Detroit
There is nothing in this world that feels better to a fashion- and clothes-whore than finding a brilliant outfit, replete with a vintage 1960s fur-lined coat, for less than $20. Throw in a killer velvet chair for $5, a bike for $20, and a set of Christmas tree lights for $1.50, and you’re set to party. Of course, the only place you can get this “I got something for nothing” high is at a thrift store. Our pick for best in the metro area is the Salvation Army. There are two on Fort Street (one downtown) and one on Eight Mile. The mad shopper stuck in your broke body can go wild at any of them. The Eight Mile store receives 2,000 pieces of clothing every day, and so kindly arranges the pieces by color and type for easy perusal.
Best Antique Shop
Detroit Antiques Mall
828 W. Fisher Fwy., Detroit
If you’ve got a little dough and want to find a beautiful antique, this is the place to be. With 12 dealers and 12,000 square feet of display space, this store is not filled with junk. It’s got gorgeous wood furniture, Art Deco pieces, vintage clocks, lamps and collectibles from the ’50s and ’60s, stained and beveled glass, jukeboxes — you name it. There are deals to be made, or you could pay thousands for exquisite furniture in perfect condition. We had some reservations about some of the pieces — there are piles of iron castings and moldings obviously salvaged from old Victorian houses. Ask the guys that run the place, and they’ll tell you they’re doing the best they can to prevent against stolen artifacts, and see their venture as a capitalist quest to preserve the beautiful architecture of Detroit, Philadelphia and other places. If they didn’t buy the pieces for resale, someone else would, they say. The mall logs every piece received to help prevent against stolen property.