Does Your Detroit Suburb Suck? An Investigation.
Saying you're "from Detroit" doesn't always mean you're from Detroit. There's a massive expanse of Metro Detroit known as "the suburbs" that may root for the Red Wings and whatnot, but -- make no mistake -- is most assuredly NOT Detroit. Each of these towns is unique in its own way, but the question is, do they suck? A fascinating question, indeed. Let's investigate:
The only suburb outside of Detroit city limits that's "cool" to move to, that all of your judgey Detroit friends with their Midtown lofts and Corktown bartending jobs can agree is an acceptable -- nay, THE acceptable -- substitute for actually living IN the city. That said, there's a sacrifice people make by leaving Detroit's keep-it-realness for the fabulousness of Ferndale: the kind of tedious, self-important hipsterdom that comes with having money and approaching middle age but still trying to cling to that grittiness of one's youthful days in Detroit. In other words, you'll find an abundance of increasingly out of touch, "get off my organically fertilized lawn-slash-urban garden" types with elaborate facial hair and wool caps. Also, young mothers in flowery dresses who raise chickens in their backyards, sell handmade stationary on Etsy, and think it's totally okay to push through Imperial at 10pm on a Friday night with their baby strollers.
One-third Ferndale and two-thirds East side, Hazel Park is going to be the next inner-ring suburb to get colonized by hipsters -- they're already starting to trickle in from the other side of I-75. But for now, it's still pretty suburban redneck. Not quite Deliverance redneck, but still Sweet Home Alabama "You have a baby... in a bar" redneck. Don't confuse these with the Ferndale babies in bars; the distinction here is in the choice of attire. In Hazel Park it's more bottle blonde and inadvisable midriffs with booty shorts as opposed to vintage dresses and non-prescription plastic glasses.
For a city with such a large Hasidic population, you would think they would have some killer Jewish food. They do not. What's a person gotta do to kibitz over a lean pastrami on rye and sliced gefilte fish with a side of kugel and a slice of apple cake in this town?
No other Metro Detroit cities call to mind images of absolute nothingness quite as well as Farmington and Farmington Hills do. Just try to conjure an image of the place... what do you see? That's right: nothing. Or, if anything, the flashing red and blue lights of a cop car in your rearview mirror, because you were going 37 in a 35 and these cops have NOTHING ELSE TO DO.
Royal Oak is the most bro-tastic of all the Metro Detroit suburbs. Which begs the question: how did it get that way? Once upon a time, Royal Oak was all mopey goths chain-smoking at the Coffee Beanery and Hare Krishnas giving out free books on the corner. What happened? Were they beckoned? Is there some sort of dude-bro signal that went out that, much like a dog whistle, only dude-bros could sense? We may never get answers to these questions. What we CAN get, however, is a lifetime-supply of Ed Hardy shirts.
Berkley is sort of what Ferndale might look like if Ferndale's efforts to develop its Downtown commercial corridors had mostly failed. Some good spots have opened in the last few years, though, so we're not giving up on you yet, Berkley! At least you have Berkley Front to drown your sorrows in.
Huntington Woods is sort of the bigger but somewhat (just a little!) less upscale Pleasant Ridge to Berkley's Ferndale. An almost entirely residential area filled with big, beautiful brick homes hidden in plain sight right along the Woodward corridor north of I-696, but really only walkable to the Detroit Zoo if you REALLY like walking. Therein lies its downfall.
People who live in Clawson have a secret: Clawson is easily the most underrated city in Oakland County. With Royal Oak and Ferndale and Birmingham all nearby hogging the spotlight, Clawson is over there all, "Hey, us too!", but no one pays any attention because Clawson is next to Troy and everyone hates Troy. While Downtown Clawson might not be as vast as Royal Oak's, it still has all the essentials: great sushi, great Vietnamese, great Italian, great dive bars, a record store, a comics store, and a magic shop. A MAGIC SHOP. But that pleasant stretch of retail along the 14 Mile Rd and Main St intersections aside, it's still pretty boring, and with suburban soul-suck Troy bordering one side and bro-tastic Royal Oak on the other, there's no nearby safe haven to which one might retreat.
At the height of the housing market collapse, you could buy an eight-bedroom house here for like $100k. In fact, you probably still can. But hey, they’ve got good schools!
You've sat in gridlocked traffic on Northbound I-75 trying to get to a concert at the Palace once or twice in your life, right? Now, imagine that you live there and you have to deal with that on a weekly basis. That's how terrible it would be to live in Auburn Hills. Aside from all of the other reasons.
Incredibly McMansion-y, sort of like if Troy and Auburn Hills had a bastard baby with a kind of cute Downtown that it stole from Birmingham. It's not that there's anything wrong with Rochester or its Hills. It's just that there's not all that much right with it, either. You can only get so much mileage out of quoting the "$5 shake" scene from Pulp Fiction at Red Knapp's Dairy Bar.
Has Clarkston been officially annexed by Kid Rock yet?
A fascinating mix of meth labs in one-bedroom apartments and large lakefront homes owned by well-to-do professionals who want to "get away from it all" when they come home at night.
If it weren’t for The Root, 97% of the people reading this wouldn't even be able to point White Lake out on a map that had "White Lake" written on it.
Most of the rest of the decent Asian restaurants in the Tri-County area, and an IKEA, where everyone outside of Canton believes everyone in Canton actually lives.
Basically still Northwest Detroit.
Grosse Pointe Woods, Shores, and Farms
Remember The Captain, played by Kyle MacLachlan on How I Met Your Mother? That's all of the Grosse Pointes. EXCEPT Grosse Pointe Park...
Grosse Pointe Park
Ohhhhhhhh, you want SO BADLY to not be Detroit, we know, we know! You even built a barricade! But, GPP, you ain't no Grosse Pointe Farms. You ain't even no Grosse Pointe Woods. You are, essentially, East Detroit, and we allllllllllllllllllll know it. Even you. Even you.
Technically, Eastpointe was, once upon a time, East Detroit. But they changed their name to disassociate themselves with Detroit's bad reputation, and then managed to get even crappier. No one WANTS to live in Eastpointe. They just do. For reasons.
Look, if you can get past all of the drug-addled redneck neighbors, vandalizations, car thefts, break-ins, sexual assaults, and occasional stabbings, Roseville isn't so bad...
Fraser used to be a pretty nice place, but a city can only be neighbors with Roseville for so long before Roseville starts to bleed over. Literally. What with the occasional stabbings.
Mt. Clemens has a historic and rather picturesque Downtown, thanks to the mineral baths that made "Bath City" world-famous as a spa destination in the late 1800s through World War II, attracting the likes of Mae West and Clark Gable. With the Clinton River running right through the city and tons of outdoor festivals held along its banks, as well as some impressive Downtown architecture (including the C. Howard Crane-designed Emerald Theatre), respected cultural institutions, and a large collection of public art, you would think "The Clem" would be known for something other than biker bars, Kid Rock, and Gibraltar Trade Center. But it’s not.
St. Clair Shores
This is a blue-collar boat town if ever there was one. Michiganders love them some boats, and when you live in such close proximity to Lake St. Clair, it's pretty much mandatory that you own one. (Or at least a couple of jet skis.) St. Clair Shores has all the amenities of lakeshore life with none of the lakeside residential living -- instead, the shoreline is dominated by marinas and remarkably bad restaurants -- meaning it's still affordable to live there AND you get claim lake views. Basically, it's a low-rent version of waterfront living. We mean "low-rent" in that bad way.
Home of Metro Detroit's gourmet produce market empires owned by the Three Families: Randazzo, Salvaggio, and the Vitales of Vince & Joe's. For this reason, Clinton Township is full of nouveau riche Italians living in gated communities... and then the unfortunate folks living outside the gated communities, plus the anomaly that is Moravian Dr.
The hell is with all those roundabouts? When did so many people move here? When did this stop being farmland? Why is it full of brick-and-vinyl middle-class McMansions? And why so many gourmet produce markets???
What else is there to say that Judgmental Map of Detroit hasn't already said? Rich strippers.
Much like Detroit, there was a time when the city of Pontiac looked like a bombed-out, post-apocalyptic, dystopic nightmare left for dead. And, much like Detroit, Slows is coming to save it.
Where people think the rich people live.
Where the rich people actually live.
For those who want a Bloomfield address at Novi prices. Also for those who want to proudly display plaster statues of the Virgin Mary on their lawns.
A city that sprang forth from strip malls and shopping centers multiplying like cancer. Also, Asian automotive companies. Corollary: some of the more decent Asian restaurants in the Tri-County area.
All of the remaining decent Asian restaurants in the Tri-County area, and also a Sonic. That's your claim to fame, Mad Heights: a Sonic.
Editor's note: turns out that Sonic is just across the street in Troy! Whoops. Also, ouch Mad Heights. Ouch.
Sterling WHITES, as people like to say -- but technically that's only 85% true. In addition to a small Black and Asian population (5 and 7%, roughly and respectively), there's a small but growing number of ethnic Arab residents -- so much so that if you drive along Dequindre and Mound around 15 Mile Rd (where it is 15 Mile Rd and not Maple), the signs are bilingual English and Arabic. Which means Dearborn isn't the only place you can get a good shawarma.
If you live in Dearborn, you are probably of Arab descent, and you are definitely sick of being asked if you know any terrorists or if one of your relatives owns a gas station. First of all, you don't know any terrorists, and second of all... well, you may answer in the affirmative to the latter question, but really, that's beside the point.
Sorry, but tacking "Heights" onto your name does not make you fancy, Lower Redford. You're not fooling anymore.
Home of much-loved local breweries, the General Motors Tech Center, Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant, and the highest concentration of strip clubs this side of 8 Mile. Also, where Eminem actually grew up. And that is everything you need to know about Warren.
A city-sized office park with its own dedicated highway system.
Once called "America's Whitest City," the city has since been bested by Portland (of course) for the title, but that doesn’t mean it's not still really, really white.
Pleasant Ridge is just a cloister of architectural perfection tucked away and shielded from the meh-ness of its immediate surroundings; an impossibly idyllic neighborhood hidden in plain sight. Obviously, there must be human sacrifices involved. Even the name reads a little too... well, pleasant. Something sinister is clearly at play.
Similar to Pleasant Ridge, only Plymouth is an entire self-contained community with its own retail and entertainment district isolated from surrounding cities. The housing stock is a bit less idyllic, save for the residential stretch of Penniman Ave, which is perfection. Hope you're into anglocentricity though, because, wow, there is not a brown person for miles. But hey, at least it's not Livonia! It is, however, right next to Livonia.
See: Plymouth and Pleasant Ridge, only the houses aren’t so much architecturally interesting as they are just simply big. Downtown Northville's Main St is plucked straight out of a Norman Rockwell postcard, hence the creepy Stepford vibe.
Once home to the other Gibraltar Trade Center, the only gun shows happening in Taylor now are from guys in muscle shirts driving IROC-Zs with T-Tops and sporting mullets unironically. How about THESE guns?
Romulus only exists for precisely two reasons: Detroit Metro Airport and Detroit Metro Airport parking. End of list.
Inkster proudly boasts a crime rate of 249% the national average. Way to achieve, Inkster!
Westland is a city named after its mall. And that is everything you need to know about Westland.
Allen Park's greatest contribution to Metro Detroit culture is the 24-hour Meijer on "the Hill," which is a lifesaver when it's 2am on a Tuesday and there is no place open serving food in the entire city of Detroit and all you want is a pizza, and since you're here you might as well grab some toilet paper and a six-pack of Hanes, not that the two needs are in any way related, not that any of us here at Thrillist would know anything about any of this first-hand.
Where you end up when you accidentally take the Eastbound Oakwood exit instead of Westbound when you're trying to get to the Allen Park Meijer at 2am. On a Tuesday.
A city full of people who are REALLY into Linkin Park, and not ironically.
It seems pretty nice and suburban and relatively pleasant, if kind of big-box sprawly in all of its safe, inoffensive suburban-ness. Plus, it's next to Woodhaven, which has the BEST Target.
Home of the BEST Target. Seriously. There are none better in the state of Michigan. Fact.
The saving grace of Downriver, Wyandotte makes driving through the industrial wasteland along I-75 South of Detroit almost worthwhile, provided you can hold your breath long enough to pass through it without having to experience that smell. So yeah, anyway, Wyandotte's pretty nice.
Grosse Ile is Downriver's answer to Grosse Pointe Farms, Shores, and Woods, in that it is where all of the area's REALLY rich people live in quiet sequestration. At least the Pointes are still connected to a major landmass for the insincere semblance of cross-city collaboration; Grosse Ile is an island, because f*** everyone.
If you've seen The Road, you've seen Wayne.
You know, some jokes are just too easy. Keep your chin up, Ecorse.
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