The Real Deals - Staff Picks

Our staff counters with our own favorite places to plunk own them bones

Best Rocktitude

Showtime Clothing's Dan Tartarian
5708 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-875-9280

When Dan Tartarian opens his shop's doors, he doesn't wait long to see his first customer stroll in. Said customer's usually a musician or is in some way tied to the city's music community, or is a kind of sartorial strutter into a particular scene, or it's likely they've known Tartarian for years and play into his penchant for shootin' the shit.

Coming up on 22 years in business, Tartarian's approach to being a clothier follows the old adage about ailment and doctors; as long as one exists we'll need the other. As long as there's a thriving music scene, there's a need for Showtime. The shop carries staples, with hats, shoes, pants, T-shirts, buttonups, motorcycle jackets, trench coats and even guitars. And, it's the only place where you can buy a mandolin, a set of handcuffs, killer miniskirts, a Nashville button-up, a gas mask, a riding crop, a head-to-toe Kiss brand Gene Simmons outfit, and a Made in Detroit zip-up and creepers. It's as if Tartarian raided closets of Janis, Hendrix, Trent Reznor, Stone Temple Pilots, Rancid, Slade and Sgt. Pepper's-era Beatles. Guitar cords, picks, strings and slides are in close vicinity to rolling papers and incense. Tartarian knows his client.

Many of his visitors — from, say, your average customer to Crud to the Contours — often arrive ready to talk Detroit. See, Tartarian's a concerned citizen, an old school Cass Corridor guy — a Detroiter through and through. He sees, for example, the recent Midtown rebranding and subsequent efforts to commercialize the cultural district, where his shop is located, as an attack on the neighborhood.

What's the difference between Cass Corridor neighborhood and Midtown, you ask?

"We lost our blind pig customers, guys with cash in their pockets. The guys who ran numbers would come in here, the mob guys, the motorcycle gangs, they'd all come in," Tartarian says.

From the '70s to the '90s, Detroit's underworld helped support this clothier. "They're pushing the motorcycle gangs farther and father out of the city. They all had money from illegal enterprises, but they had money. Unlike the casinos, who are the guys running numbers now, don't put the money they make back on the streets. I'd rather have the guy on the street running his private, neighborhood enterprise than greedy big business."

Tartarian sees the positives of rejuvenation, but says "At what cost? Fuck Whole Foods. Fuck Trader Joe's."

And don't get him started on the "hipsters."

Actually, do, but bring him a coffee and a CD of something local that you're listening to.

"I've seen and dressed a lot of bands, a lot that've been able to break out of here," Tartarian says. "There's been Trash Brats, Sponge, Kid Rock, Eminem and ICP. There's Sista Otis and Brothers Groove, Ty Stone, The Sights, Doop and the Inside Outlaws, and Whitey Morgan." Sponge's Vinnie Dombrowski is probably his fave.

"I like music, so I'm always out seeing bands." he says. "My social life is my business life. What can I say? I'm hands-on."

A perennial MT Best-of winner, Dan Tartarian's Showtime Clothing is a Detroit cultural hub; there's no other place like it. - Travis R Wright


Best Way to Get Free Culture

Museum Adventure Pass

Available at more than 200 libraries in nine southeast Michigan counties, the passes grant patrons free admission to dozens of museums and other cultural institutions. Use your library card to check one out for a week. They're available on a first-come, first-served basis, using a library card, and allow two or four people entry on each pass, depending on the location. Sponsored by Macy's, the passes are in their fourth season. We'd suggest you make a small donation during your visit.


Best Wedding/Event Planner

Adrienne Nutter, Fandangle Event Designs
Grosse Pointe Park; 313-566-9221;

From 300-guest weddings to corporate gigs to small retirement parties, Fandangle's proprietor Adrienne Nutter makes them all special for those lucky enough to attend. If brides, grooms and other party hosts are looking for a personalized event, Fandangle is up for the challenge — as big or as intimate as the clients want. Nutter, who has a degree in art history and is a bit of a font-phile, coordinates graphic design elements and color schemes in printed materials from the Save-the-Date to the Thank-You cards. Ordering online is easy, but who wants what everyone else had? One of Nutter's clever favorites: elements that are multi-use. Think wedding favors that double as seating cards, centerpieces that double as favors. Saves money and impresses guests with the creativity factor.


Best Unique Wedding Venue

Model T-Plex
461 Piquette St., Detroit;

Formally known as the Model T Automotive Heritage Complex, the T-Plex brings that perfect blend of Detroit grittiness and automotive history assembled with a creative approach to modern entrepreneurialism. Where else would a largely intact factory be rented out for formal parties? A Motor City original for a Motor City event, that's what the T-Plex can be. And don't worry, with the right designs it can be plenty elegant. Located in the New Center area, the building maintains its red brick exterior, albeit with modern graffiti on some walls. Inside, it's a step back in time with original fixtures, firewalls and flooring. Various Model T's and other early 20th century Ford models are on display. Anyone can rent strolling swans; who can have vintage cars?


Best New Reason to Join a Gym

Love's Pies
Eastern Market Shed 2

Stumble upon Love's and you won't find a phone number, website or Facebook page. There's no fancy packaging, slogan or suave marketing guru vying for your hard-earned dollars either. All there is are small, custard pies, sold four at a time. And they're to-die-for. Perhaps the best kept secret (not for long) in Eastern Market, these silky and sweet pies blend classic Southern technique with French finesse. The Chess Pie and sweet potato custard pies transcend expectations. Taste it to believe it.


Best High-End Audio

David Michael Audio
4341 Delemere Court, Royal Oak; 866-961-4423

Get this out of the way first: DMA wins this award every year for good reason: There's no better place in southeastern Michigan to buy the world's best-sounding stereos. More, its shop owners, David Kasab and Jeffrey Block, are not audio snobs. They are, in fact, two rather amiable gents whose childhood music obsessions turned into an adult belief that everyone who cares about music should be able to hear it as it was intended to sound by its creators. The shop carries the world's most killer handmade brands from this country and the U.K., such as Harbeth Pass Labs, Esoteric, Bel Canto, Nordost and more. And whether you're in a high tax bracket or saddled with pocketbook problems, the DMA guys can work with most any budget to assemble a killer two-channel stereo that will see you rediscover your whole music collection. Sound matters and music is important, why devalue and short-change it?


Best Record Store on the West Side

Dearborn Music
22000 Michigan Ave, Dearborn; 313-561-1000

No, music on hardcopy is not dead. Nor will it die. Music on vinyl or disc is simply a paradigm that's shifting over to those who care about music enough to not want to trivialize it with sonic reducer MP3s and unsexy computer files on barely imaginable clouds. Some like to own. Some like to hold. Some like to collect. Some like records scattered around them as they lay around listening on the bedroom floor. At Dearborn Music you can count more than 50,000 titles in stock, including up-to-the-minute imports from Europe, Japan and elsewhere, and a whole room (with listening stations) for blues and jazz freaks. There's another area for classical heads, and a sunken room for Rock 'n' roll and R&B, and so on. DM's expanding vinyl section includes thousands of new (including 180-gram pressings) and used, and one can't skip DVDs, Blu-rays, pop culture trinkets and assorted ephemera. This well-run, organized shop has lasted more than 50 years in these parts.


Best Record Store on the East Side

Melodies and Memories
23013 S. Gratiot Ave., Eastpointe; 586-774-8480

OK, there ain't a store like this anywhere. It's also, strangely, one of the more overlooked ones in this part of the country. Don't get started on the Motown history here, it's so rich you'll sometimes even run into an old Motown artist — or his sister — shopping here. It's Eminem's favorite record store in Michigan, and he says so. You'll find the Midwest's largest selection of boxed sets. It's a digger's dream and you can peruse tens of thousands on LP, tens of thousands more on CD, cassette, 8-track and 78, from country, rock 'n' roll, jazz, blues, avant-garde, gospel and so on. It takes whole rooms to house the shop's selections — a couple even for its dance titles alone, another for its classic and pop rock, one for its jazz and R&B, one for its kraut rock, punk, techno and used, and another room for its blues and soundtracks. It often has three stereos going at once, playing different music in different rooms. The place is huge and doubles as a lovely altar to pop culture and music from every decade.


Best Strictly Used Record Store

Record Collector
327 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-548-9888

Back when the Record Collector was located at Grand River and Lahser in Detroit, it was the only area record shop that'd carry albums by punk rock racists Skrewdriver. Why? Because they thought it humorous to see supremacists having to 1) cross Eight Mile into Detroit and 2) purchase it from the owner's sole employee, an African-American, who also thought it funny. That's the kind of place RC is — erected with a refreshing shortage of self-seriousness — and one of many reasons why we dig it. It's also beautifully ramshackle, it employs local indie band members, it isn't self-consciously hip; it just, well, is. It doesn't have to try. And its thousands and thousands of titles are wide and varied and all pre-owned, from punk rock underground to new age modern classical to Midwestern Disco funk to rare modal jazz to all the country, pop and rock 'n' roll shit you can swallow. Let's all lift a toast because this RC celebrates its 30-year anniversary this year.


Best Record Store for In-Store Performances and to Buy New Detroit Music

512 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak; 248-545-5955;

In the last decade, Royal Oak hasn't had much to crow about cool-factor wise. It's become your basic open-air mall. In recent years, the opening of a vintage clothier, sushi lounge, contemporary lowbrow gallery, crêpe joint, beer corner store and vinyl art shop have helped to bring back some true funk to this bursting burb, but did little to make up for the closing of at least three record stores.

But all hail the opening of UHF records! In-store performances, tons of hip merch — posters, bumper stickers and nickel-size buttons — and bulging bins of vinyl, and lots of it local, has us frequenting this joint and upholding its fuck-the-odds philosophy.


Best New Indie Label

Five Three Dial Tone Records

Making up for their Eat This City blog, baghead Jasper and blowhard Jay got their shit together last year to actually do something productive. That something: A vinyl-heavy record label featuring some of the city's more promising indie acts. The first release on 53DT was Deastro's Spritle in 2009, a release that was, in old-school record biz lingo, downright visionary. The label was quiet for about a year, then, starting with 52 Week High's Eznovah, they went on a "visionary" tear, dropping two Lettercamp records, then a couple seven-inch EPs from the Satin Peaches and Illy Mack. During Blowout this past March, they sold 333 cassettes of their White Stripes tribute, Hello Operator, featuring high talent in Mick Bassett, Will Yates, Child Bite, Carjack and Lightning Love, to name a few contributing acts. Speaking of Blowout, on May 21, 53DT will release Phantasmagoria's debut EP, on vinyl, at the Belmont. Dudes have their finger on Detroit's indie rock's emotive energy.


Best Video Store

Thomas Video
4732 Rochester Rd., Royal Oak; 248-280-2833;

The original and still the champ, Thomas Video was the pioneer back in the hazy days of Betamax and LaserDisc, and now with Netflix, streaming and the mammoth chains continuing to bellyflop, they seem intent on being the last video store standing. Eternal punks Jim Olenski and Gary Reichel still firmly believe that a video store should be a repository of cinema art and wisdom, not just an anonymous grocery store box you dump Cheeto-stained copies of Yogi Bear into. The vastly knowledgeable and occasionally friendly staff at Thomas will guide you through the video wasteland into a wide world of cult, sci-fi, horror, foreign, anime, comedy, classics and more that you can't get anywhere else anymore.


Best Local T-Shirts

Down With Detroit

The simple screen of Tom Selleck's face under a Detroit Tigers cap is captioned with "W.W.M.D." Or perhaps you'd love to sport "I partied at the Manoogian." Other shirts pay homage to Russian Red Wings, Wayne Fontes and "M.F.I.C., 1974-1993." Designs reflect the state and city borders, neighborhood names and lakes and rivers. Sometimes they're timely: "Ernie is my Tiger" was a best-seller in the weeks following his passing. For quirky slogans, vintage images (Boblo boats, anyone?) and unique showings of Detroit and Michigan pride, shop here.


Best New City Brand

Aptemal Clothing

Here are a few gem phrases we've seen plastered on T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts around town in the past year; chances are you've seen 'em, too: "Brown Weed is for Suckas!" ... "Make Moves Not War" ... "Hoes Hate Me." You've seen them, right? Yes? No? OK, try this one: "Detroit Hustles Harder." That one's inescapable, to the extent that it's become somewhat of a new Motor City mantra. The Aptemal crew (now selling a killer $5 Detroit Hustles Harder compilation CD) can be found hustling at Eastern Market's Division Street Boutique and hustling harder at almost every local hip-hop show around town.


Best Vintage Clothing Store

Rachel's Place
2124 Pine St., Detroit; 313-964-9008

This two-year-old shop in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood is chock-full of vintage duds, from triple-digit designer pieces to breezy summer dresses available for less than $20. Occupying two floors of an ancient brownstone, the shop's wood floors practically creak under the weight of countless garment racks filled with top-notch men and women's vintage wear in a range of sizes and styles. The shop also features a wide selection of hats, jewelry, coats, purses and shoes. Intimidated by so many choices? Just rely on the bubbly and ever-smiling proprietor Rachel Leggs to steer you in the right direction.


Best Reuse of Old Skirts

Lovely Bag Ladies

Two nimble-fingered art history grads joined creative forces to form Lovely Bag Ladies. The product they're hawking? Stylish purses created from vintage fabrics and materials, mainly, vintage skirts. Sharmila Majumdar and Kaytee Querro hand-sew their fabulous and functional bags in Ferndale, and each one is made from at least 98 percent recycled materials, making them environmentally as well as style savvy. They come in a variety of colors, styles and materials, featuring simple design ranging from birds and pandas to hot air balloons and flying saucers. Many also sport the original buttons, zippers and pockets of the skirts they're fashioned from. You can buy your very own through their Etsy shop or at Hybrid Moments in Ferndale.


Best Place for a Splurge on a Dress

Third Floor at Saks Fifth Avenue, Somerset Collection
2901 W. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-643-9000;

Ascending the escalator into this wonderland of silk and taffeta is a combination of Alice falling down the rabbit hole and Charlie discovering what's inside the chocolate factory. Sure, it might cost you (or your significant other) the better part of a paycheck, but there are sales where deals can be had. And there are times when, frankly, quality wins out over the thrill of a bargain find. Sales manager Denise Kulak understands all that. She'll work with your budget, your figure and your personality to help you into the perfect flirty cocktail dress or elegant ball gown.


Best Food Delivery Business

Hot Spokes

Take-out delivered via bike may not be big news in most major cities, but as are many things, it's a bit of a novelty in Detroit. But novelty or not, it also makes sense — pedaling from Midtown to downtown takes noticeably less time than fighting traffic and hunting down a parking spot (and who ever has change for the meter?) Enter Hot Spokes, a recent upstart delivering lentil burgers and dumpling from three Midtown eateries — Shangri-La, Union Street and Cass Cafe — to New Center, Woodbridge, downtown, Cass Corridor and the medical center. Delivery is available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and costs a mere $3. Just call the restaurant to order, then sit back and relax while your food speeds toward you on two wheels.


Best Barbershop for Football Talk

The Clip Joint
8260 Cooley Lake Rd., Commerce Township

For 54 years, Jim Bastas has trimmed, shaved and cut hair, first at his northwest Detroit storefront, now in Commerce Township. And for 54 years, his customers have experienced his love for the Green Bay Packers. It's pretty obvious in his two-chair shop adorned with photos, signed helmets, ticket stubs and other memorabilia. Bastas, a Detroit native, switched allegiances from the Lions when one of his high school classmates was drafted by the Pack.


Best Way to Be on a Boat

Detroit Princess
Docked behind Cobo Arena; 877-DET-BOAT;

If you're ready to prance on an upper deck, wave at your friends on shore and proclaim, "I'm on a boat, take a good hard look," buy your ticket for a Detroit Princess cruise. Captain Scott will pilot the riverboat while guests eat, drink, dance and stroll the five levels, inside and out. You'll get stunning views of the Detroit and Windsor skylines, a bird's-eye view of Belle Isle and a great look at the expanse of Lake St. Clair. Enjoy a red wine on the starboard bow for weddings, birthdays, lunch outings or evening outings. Tuxedos, flippy-floppies and blow-up dolphins optional.


Best Happy Fishmonger

Diane Finken at Blue Bay Fish & Seafood
19561 Mack Ave., Grosse Pointe Woods; 313-824-3474

You'd smile too if you sold the freshest fish in town, crafted some of the best seafood soup and sent it all home with customers who you know will be more than satisfied. Diane Finken last year moved her fish and seafood retailer and catering from Grosse Pointe Park to a higher-traffic storefront in Grosse Pointe Woods. She's lost none of the quality and gained customers. Try the tart key lime pie, the creamy whitefish spread and the ever-changing specials Finken makes. Cooking classes have started too, so you can try to re-create her magic at home.


Best New Specialty Food Shop

Giuseppe's Oil and Vinegar
The Mall at Partridge Creek, 17420 Hall Rd., Space No. 199, Clinton Twp.; 586-263-4200;

And you thought "oil and vinegar" was simple, right? Sterling Heights residents Joe and Wendy Cucinello have just established this new business in Clinton Township, and the concept is novel: High-quality oils and vinegars. Right now, they stock a dozen different all-natural virgin olive oils from all over the world — including Australia, Sicily, Portugal, Tunisia and Chile. Not only can you learn each oil's "crush date," but they rank each on an "intensity scale." They also sell almost a dozen flavored extra virgin olive oils, in addition to white and black truffle oil. You'll also find more than a dozen dark balsamic vinegars (including blueberry?) and five light (including peach?). With their personal expertise, this sounds like a place to kick your salad dressings up about 10 notches.


Best Store for Locavores

15104 Kercheval St., Grosse Pointe Park; 313-432-2373;

Business partners James Folden and Michell Danel opened this store a few months ago, and held the official ribbon-cutting last week. Hoping to offer the widest possible dietary options for an increasingly sophisticated public, they both have agricultural backgrounds and have been involved with several urban farms in Detroit. What do they sell? Everything from local Michigan fish from North of the Huron to local organic free-range chicken, even local free-range eggs. Their cheese is from Detroit's Traffic Jam, and they offer locally roasted, fair-trade coffee, as well as smoothies and raw juices. This summer, they'll even have fresh, whole-fruit, sugarless popsicles. You can even mix up your own bowl of grain, salad, and other raw, cooked or cold ingredients. Sounds like a promising food business on the east side.


Best Leftover Advertising for a Former Business

Bricks in the outside wall of the Anchor Bar
450 W Fort St., Detroit; 313-964-9127;

It's a subtle, lingering bit of history, that geometric brick pattern on the outside walls of the Anchor Bar, watering hole of Detroit's ink-stained scribes. The Anchor building is the long-gone office of a brick company. The building was planned as a skyscraper but only made it up two stories when the Great Depression hit. As a sample display, the owner used a variety of bricks on the outside walls. Their variety of colors and textures make the walls one of the most unusual downtown.