I'm starving in Ann Arbor. . .
- Marianna Green Jan 28, 2003 12:44 PM
I recently moved to Ann Arbor from New York via Berkeley and, oh my, have I been missing good food and Zingerman's just isn't cutting it. Does anybody have any restaurant suggestions, even specific suggestions of what to order at said restaurants, provided they actually exist?
Here's my brain dump on eating in Ann Arbor:
One of the hidden gems in town is Jefferson Market. This little market hidden on a side street (Jefferson) in the old west side across from Bach school has an amazing kitchen in the back. Pretty much everything they serve is amazing.
Cafe Zola does a good brunch. Tapas at Cafe Felix is fun too. If you feel like venturing into Ypsilanti, there's good Vietnamese at DaLat. For Thai, I have two favorites - Tuptim in Ypsi is pretty excellent all round, but Siam Square (in the hotel across the street from Arborland) has better curries. Also in Ypsi, Memphis Blues smokehouse serves a smoked beef brisket that's to die for.
Earthen Jar on 5th Ave offers good, cheap, vegetarian Indian buffet by the pound. Jerusalem Garden, right next door, is the source for cheap and good Middle Eastern stuff - their falafel sandwich is an incredible bargain, at less than $3 last time I visited, and you can make two meals out of it.
Lots of places for good Korean in town. Either of the Korean places down on South University are good. But my favorite places for Bi Bim Bop is Kosmo Deli, the lunch counter in the Kerrytown Shops.
If you like Dim Sum, Great Lakes Chinese Seafood Restaurant is the place to go. They also have some great items on their dinner menu - as a Hong Kong style restaurant, they have some unusal items. My faves are shrimp in honey walnut sauce, Singapore Noodles, and Beef Tenderloin in Black Pepper Sauce.
For Szechuan, Szechuan West on Stadium Rd near Jackson is a an old favorite, although the last time I visited I was unimpressed with my usual favorite, the Szechuan Chicken. General Tso's was still awesome, however.
That's my brain dump for now. Hope that helps, and if you (or any other Ann Arbor Chowhounds) want to meet for a meal sometime, email me!
re: Tammy Coxen
while the summer roll at DaLat restaurant and a certain fish dish are delicious I have to make a comment on the quality of products used by this cooks (see chickens) as well as the hygiene in the kitchen (read food picked from the floor goes on to the pot).been there, behind the scenes, and is outrageous! beware!
I love Ann Arbor. Here are the places that I run to when I visit (about twice a year):
-Banditos--fifth street? (or fourth) best enchiladas and quesadillas
-Sabor Latino (main st) is also good for latin food (and cheap)!!
-Blimpy Burger- Get a triple with cheese, olives, lettuce tomato mayo.
-Red Hawk- good for lunches, sandwiches, bar food etc. State St.
-Original 60's sub shop: Ann Arbor/Saline Rd. (same strip mall as the Outback). Try the Saladino, chicago style italian beef hero. Good bread there, an east-coaster should appreciate it. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
My wife likes Zanzibar (also on State) but I've never been there so I can't say how it is.
As you can see my choices aren't exactly high end romantic dining establishments but they are all great IMO.
For the best Thai in the area try Thai Bistro on Ford Rd. in Canton. It's about a 20 min. drive from A2 but worth it. Angry Shrimp is a great dish.
Also there's a branch of Famous Famiglia pizzeria on State st. which is an nyc based chain. The pizza isn't so great here in ny so I don't imagine it being much better there (better than little caesars for sure).
Don't worry, after a year or two you'll get used to the brueggers and einstein bagels. Good luck!
I think there are numerous places to get good chow in A2 , but I must put my two cents worth in about Red Hawk . The most militantly anti smoking place I have EVER been to . And I don't even smoke . The bartender ( at a bar , in Michigan ) grabbed a lit smoke out of the mouth of a friend sitting next to me , and snuffed it out , and told us all to leave , ( a party of six waiting for a table on a Saturday ) Like I was gonna stay after that . She was a kahmeha kahmeha BIATCH . Food may be good , but that was inexcusable . I will NEVER set foot in there again . Ok , I'm done venting now .
Here's my "brain dump" on AA (including riffs off of others' recs)
I think the Red Hawk is only so-so.
I LOVE Zingerman's (in fact, am planning a trip to Detroit all so I'm close enough to AA to drive over for some sandwiches, and don't even get me started on their blueberry muffins) so also don't understand the problem with Zingerman's.
I second the recommendation for Sabor Latino (yummy and cheap). There at least used to be a Mexican place on an east/west street just north of downtown that had lots of hot sauces. I never went because I never heard anything but AWFUL stuff about it.
I totally second the earlier posting re: bi bim bap at Cosmo (sp?) Cafe in kerrytown shops (the owner is superfriendly, but you gotta get there before 5:00 ro 6:00, they don't do dinner).
I never much cared for Paleo (mediocre Italian in my mind) and the same for the seafood place across the street.
There used to be a chinese/vietnamese place on South U., sort of towards the east side of the strip there, that I actually thought had some yummy vietnamese dishes (and I normally completely turn my nose up at places that try to do vietnamese/chinese or japanese/korean--usually they do neither well). Somebody mentioned Dalat in Ypsi; I liked it but wasn't crazy about it.
I also second the recommendation for jerusalem garden and their falafel. A friend hated the place, thought the folks who worked there were rude and didn't wash their hands enough. Frankly, both are true, but it never particularly bothered me.
I think Zanzibar is so-so. They seem really intent on trying different flavor combo's just to say they use different flavor combos, not because they necessarily work together.
I actually liked Shalimar (on Main, I think?) for Indian. It's definitely not great, but I thought it was ok.
I loved the Blue Nile for Ethiopian. Maybe it was good because it was the only game in town, but I thought it had more than that going for it.
I went to the Kerrytown Bistro with my husband and parents once, and thought they did a nice bistro thing.
I love AA--dig around, and you will find good food!
Mysore Woodlands has great veggie Indian food. It's only good for takeout - very tiny place.
Godiak has great sushi as well as sushi.come.
Grizzly Peak has pretty good food but Ann Arbor Brewery has better beer.
Eastern Accents is a great Asian bakery.
Almost all of the Thai places - with the exception of the one in Kerrytown - are quite good.
Monaghans seafood market in Kerrytown has several good to go items.
Kerrytown Bistro closed but is opening soon with a new chef.
Despite all of the resturants in AA I have to agree that the chance of finding really good food is slim. It seems like a lot of places are more interested in their concept rather than imaginative and exceptional.
Don't even think about getting Mexican food. Sabor Latino, Latin American food, is great.
How could anyone be starving in A2? I just ran across this post and I'm too tired tonite, but will ruminate on this and be back tomorrow - hopefully - for many, many suggestions.
The neat thing about the area is that you are so close to the Detroit/Plymouth/Canton area and you can branch out so much.
To start with I would recommend checking out restaurant reviews in the A2 paper or the Free Press. Try a few and then make up your own mind. To many of us in the area, Ann Arbor is super dining - at all prices. More later, D.
P.S. I have mixed feelings about Zingerman's, but mostly positive.
We moved here from Seattle, and before that NJ and the Bay area (and lots of other places) so I understand what you are talking about- there are nice/ok places in AA but nothing ohmygodfabulous.
Consider cooking more - Sparrow Meat Mkt in Kerrytown is very good especially around the holidays, Mr Dee's on W. Jackson has wonderfull fish (last years Copper River salmon was as good as anything I got in Seattle and cheeper too)they also have v good frozen filled pasta. Trader Joe's is in Farmington Hills (and one other location) and supposedly they are thinking about coming to AA. Come summer the farmers market in AA is good. There are more and more organic producers.
For restaurants - Five Lakes Grill (I think thats their name) in Milford is worth the drive - need reservations.
If you're looking for ohmygodfabulous in Ann Arbor, the best experiences I've had -- food, service and atmosphere -- have been at the Chop House on Main Street.
It's too pricey for me to do unless it's an occasion, but everything about it knocked me out, from the appetizers to the cocktails to the entrees. Better service than I've had anywhere in town, too.
Note: you get a free meal there on your birthday. For me, that meant knocking about $45 off our bill.
Still, I do think there are lots of other good places -- Yotsuba for sushi, D'Amato's for Italian, the Earle for happy hour wine and appetizers ...
There's no reason to starve!
I second many of the suggestions already listed. Here's my take on the places I most treasure:
Cheap Eats: Blimpy Burger on Division (not even a dead chowhound could turn down a Blimpy); LeDog for gourmet soups for lunch; NYPD for New York style pizza by the slice; Anthony's Pizza for the best pizza ever--get an Anthony's Gourmet with your favorite toppings. This is a serious pie.
Ethnic Treats: El Sabor Latino can be uneven, but when it's good...it's very good; La Fiesta de Mexicana in Ypsi has wonderful soul--get the Carne Sinoloa or another one of "the specialities". If you're vegetarian, potato tacos are a fun starch fest; Yamato in Kerrytown is a quiet Japanese restaurant, sushi and bento offerings are all good. The Transylvanian restaurant in Ypsi is a hoot; but Amadeus downtown has a lighter touch with Central Europen dishes (favorites are the desserts, chicken paprikash, and the pierogies). Mr Rib has the best ribs, but he goes out of business ever few years or so. Right now he's at the Airport Market.
High End: I've heard fabulous things about the West End Grill; The Earle and Bella Ciao are always reliable; the latter is more Italian and more romantic.
I'm sure I'll think of more later, but have to say, for the Midwest, Ann Arbor is not doing too shabby in the food department.
How could I have forgotten Blimpy Burger?! It's just been too long since I've indulged, I guess.
As to Sabor Latino - I've tried a few different things there, but won't need to try anymore - I'm completely hooked on their Carne Al Pastor tacos. Incredible.
Another favorite, that I don't think I mentioned before, is the Cream of Garlic and Onion soup at Prickly Pear. So good... I've often wanted to do a progressive restaurant dinner in Ann Arbor, and that's where I'd go for the first course...
My absolute favorite place to eat in Ann Arbor is Exotic Bakery. It's at Plymouth Rd. and Murfin by North campus. It's basically a deli-style place for Syrian home cooking and French pastries. Amazing good for take-out or eat in, and very cheap.
My favorites are the chicken cheese round, spinach, makmoor, baba ghanouj, and my wife loves the tomato burgle. But everything I've ever had there is delicious. We even had them do the wedding cake for our wedding. Tell them Scott sent you. :-)
If you are a gourmet, you absolutely must get lunch at Le Dog -- only open weekdays from 11:30 - 2, but amazingly good gourmet soups and other items. Take-out only. The Yo-berries is surpisingly good.
I also second the other recommendations for Yamato and Earthen Jar. Yotsuba on Carpenter is another excellent and authentic Japanese place. I actually don't like the Korean places on South University as much, but I do like the food at Eastern Accents at Fourth and Liberty. They have the best Be Bim Bop I've had in town.
A relatively new Indian take-out place at Fifth and Detroit is excellent -- good vegetarian southern indian food.
For subs, try Sotino's, also on Fourth between Liberty and Washington.
There are two excellent and authentic chinese restaurants in town: Sze-Chuan West on Stadium near Jackson, and Great Lakes Seafood on Carpenter. Sze-Chuan west does amazing General's Chicken, and I also really like the King Pao Jumbo Shrimp.
Another hard-to-find place is Bev's Kitchen -- authentic, home-cooked carribean food. The chicken dinner is great, and they have a variety of spicy carribean dishes. It's on Packard between Stadium and State.
Arbor Brewing Company is a nice combination of good food and good, home-brewed beer if you like that kind of thing. So is Grizzly Peak (try the hand-pulled cask ale), but ABC is cheaper and easier to get into.
For pizza I prefer NYPD on William, which is just around the corner from La Famiglia.
El Sabor is excellent. Note that there are two, and each is different with it's own style (though they are run by the same people). I frequent the one on State St., and love both the chicken enchiladas and anything with carne al pastor in it. They also carry some lovely Mexican soda. I often get the Jarritos grapefruit (toronja) flavor.
Zingerman's is great, but there are definitely LOTS of other good food options around! I hope you enjoy some of these.
Yeah, I always sort of think that food should be better than it is in Ann Arbor, but I do think it's better than it was.
A few places:
* Pacific Rim, an upscale pan-Asian joint, is excellent. It used to be a good, homey Korean restaurant, but the owners' son took over and built on that foundation to make it a better, much more refined version of itself.
* I second Cafe Zola for breakfast. Definitely the most interesting breakfast food around here. There are other places, but I can't get over how uninspired people are with their eggs, pancakes and bacon.
* Great Lakes Chinese is going to be the best dim sum you get around here. It's a good, fun place.
And as far as Zingerman's goes, its a much better place to go for food shopping than food eating. The exception to that, though, is their early-morning breakfast and the occasional sandwich.
Lived in Ann Arbor, NYC, Portland (Oregon), done a lot of traveling, yada-yada.
Zingerman's? C'mon. You know it, we know it. It's a top-rated deli in the US. And let's face it, it compares VERY well with any deli in NYC. True, the sandwiches are not what they used to be-- a casualty of the place leveraging themselves deeply and growing a little too fast, cutting corners on their sandwiches. I KNOW they are not trimming the corned beef like they used to, and not piling it on, but the mix is still pretty damned good-- nice ratio of meat to a suberb rye with a crust that says "bread", and a healthy respect for red pelican mustard. Bread, very good; bagels- better than many. I prefer the Detroit Bagel Comapny-- it's a Detroit bagel, which is a wonderful thing of a very different breed than it's NY cousins.
Lots of opinions on A2 food from others... of course I have my own, as you can tell.
Lots of nice restaurants in A2. A2 does have world class fare, food that would be considered good in NYC, SF, and... well there really aren't any other benchmark cities in the US. Granted, this is more rare in a town the size of A2, but as a former long-time resident, take heart. You will find the goods.
You missed some excellent BBQ-- ask people who recall DeLong's. For those who like a sweet and hot red-sauced fall-off-the-bone BBQ, this was a gold standard. Family owned and operated. Alas.
He orders his dogs from a special recipe direct from Koegel's. Large, meaty, but still wonderfully light with a perfect fat content and delicately seasoned. Yet somehow, he still understands the perfection of the soft white bun. Living in Portland now, my peeve is places that seem to think that a tank of a bun somehow makes the dog better. Oh, and while his soups all tend to be excellent, he has the best lobster bisque anywhere. I would put it up against any, anywhere. Any man running a dog shack who says "know your supplier" when you comment on his strawberries in his shake... is special. Also try the Callebaut chocolate shake. Beware-- he is the soup nazi's cousin. I once saw him refuse to sell his bisque to a woman who mentioned that she was going to take it home and reheat it later. By the way-- note the way the onions are chopped at the Liberty location when Jules is working-- you can tell he was highly trained. As a matter of fact, the rumour is that he was a chef at a 4 star before he pitched it all and moved to A2 to do this gig. This is a place not to be trifled with. The Liberty Street location is the real deal, but his wife works the Main Street locale, and she's a sweetheart.
The Coffee Break:
Best Korean in the A2/Detroit area, outside of someone's home. Other places are more posh, the typical kind of upscale mid-town NYC crap. The Coffee Break is a little lunch spot on S. University that started as a place to buy egg salad and was bought by some Koreans, probably from the Seoul area, guessing from the style of the cuisine. The menu selection is limited, but great. My only complaint is that they don't offer T'ong Kalbi-- only L.A. style. Still the marinade is perfect. Forget the Be Bim Bap-- don't get me wrong, it's fine, but that's not what Korean is about despite what Brad and Muff say. Oh, but they're eating at Steve's Lunch down the street. All other Korean in A2 is EMINENTLY missable.
Trattoria Bella Ciao:
I love this place. It's not that it is the best Italian ever. It's just that it is so unhyped in comparison to it's neighbors on Main Street, and it is SO much better. The company that own's Gratzi and Palio's (Main Street Ventures) should have its staff collectively shot for: 1) calling it "Gratzi"; 2)serving utter crap; 3)charging money for the experience. Bella Ciao? A meal you'd pay 50% more for in NYC, served without too much attitude. Go head on in with a t-shirt and jeans on, they'll treat you the same. Other good Italian exists in... (whisper this) Windsor.
No good Central American food. Good Mexican in Ypsi-- I forgot the name of the place, but it's next to a bar called Cross Street Station. The lady is from Mexico City and serves regional specialties, including some from coastal areas. Otherwise, more Mexican-American in Detroit, SW side. People will tell you about Xochimilcho's, but there's better.
For good food, but even more for relaxed ambience, I'd go to... I can't tell you that, c'mon! But Angelo's you must do. Tell Jessie I said hello. Their eggs benedict is a thing unto itself-- nothing fancy on the Hollandaise (I understand it's Knorr) but they bread they use instead of muffin is a vast improvement on the standard recipe and they put on a really huge and satisfying, well-browned piece of canadian bacon-- ask for it extra browned if you can. Their bread is an interesting thing. The only thing I can compare it to is a Pain St. Denis: a bread fortified with butter. But there is no butter in it. And yet it's not undercooked. It's an odd thing. They also have a great meatloaf special on Thursdays, but this sells out fast at lunch. Beware the garlic, they're not shy about it. This is wonderful comfort food.
What you NEED to know, and have is the Middle Eastern. SE Michigan is home to a greater concentration of people from that general area of the world than any place in this hemisphere. And you can tell in the food. Bullshit walks. Even the worst places serve food of that ilk better than anything I've had in the US, and yes, that includes NYC and LA. In fact in most other places, I consider that food nearly inedible.
The best place is La Shish, simply because they turnover a lot of food (being rather popular) and so meat tends to be fresh. What does this mean? Halal meat, my friend. For you and me. The lamb tips in garlic with hommous? The kibbeh (real kibbeh, and yes it's raw)? Wow. The location in nearby Canton is the super-sized one, and on weekend nights you get to see someone's grandmother on this little stage, working the pitas and cooking them by hand-- not the big round dry flatbreads, but airy, warm, delicate pockets the size of a large hand, with hints of sesame. It's kind of odd, the set-up, but who can argue with the result? Get the lentil soup with the bread and that's all you will need. But you still might want the carrots and honey. Oh, and once you have tried baklava from Shattila Bakery in Dearborn, or from Astoria Bakery in Greektown/Detroit, you will be ruined for life.
Best of luck to you.
Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger. You must know what you want before approaching the grill. There is a protocol there. This is old school-- balls of fatty meat thrown onto the grill and splatted forcefully into thin flat patties (up to 5 on a bun) by a disgruntled short-order cook who'd just as soon kill you. Try the grilled salami on top, and don't forget the side of french-fried caulifower.
One last comment: you know the lobster bisque at Le Dog? WAY better than what I got at The Lark, which was thin, greasy and separated. I am very down on The Lark, Opus One, and Tribute. These are Zagat's dives, and not worth the trip. Now Lelli's (on Woodward, Detroit)... I don't know if that's still open. That;s good and fun and right outta 1957. Another place like that is Mario's (Second Ave, Detroit). Food's not as good as Lelli's though, but the ambience is old Detroit (pre-riot) back when Detroit had a stronger Cosa Nostra connection with NYC.
lelli's on woodward closed several years ago after an "accidental" fire -- the entire building has since been leveled and it's next to impossible to tell that anything used to be there. just a cracked-asphalt meadow of weeds now. lelli's new place (gee, wonder how they paid for it..) in auburn hills is so-so. one of my favorite lelli's dishes from the time i was five or six was their escargot appetizer. bad news: they've changed the recipe, and what used to be a delicious thick buttery/garlicky sauce is now runny and just not very good. beware. minestrone, as ever, is still on point.
i actually got hooked on lobster bisque at the golden mushroom back when it (the soup) was fantastic. i'd say the last 4-5 years of the mushroom everything, especially service, was mediocre when i went there, and something changed about the bisque. when i moved to a2 for school and discovered that le dog did lobster bisque twice a week, i was in heaven. and it's mos def the best around. (my other favorite is veal tarragon; i'm back in detroit now so i don't know how often jules is doing it, or if he's doing it at all.)
mr. spots has what is afaik the only philly cheesesteak in town, but they without fail would upset my stomach within a few hours (not so good on football saturday) so i finally had to stop eating them.
Better late (?) than never on A2 recommendations... I'm from san francisco/berkeley, so feel your pain.
1) You MUST MUST MUST go to the Common Grill in Chelsea. Fresh. Delicious. The food outdoes A2 upscale (including the West End Grill) by a mile, though the ambiance is totally casual. About 15 min. from ann arbor and worth every bite. They specialize in seafood and baked treats, but also treat their vegetables beautifully. They have a more affordable lunch menu *and* a take-out counter in back. Definitely try their zesty seafood chowder. (Btw, I noticed that chelsea's local greasy spoon close to the freeway has been renamed "the Chelsea Grill"--accept no substitutes! Go to the real one downtown.) Fri. and Sat. nights are crazy busy, as they only take reservations for groups of 6+.
2) Also MUST MUST MUST: Anthony's deep dish pizza is hands down the best pizza I've ever had. Chicago style that beats any pizza I've had in chicago. Way better than zachary's in berkeley! My favorite is the "popeye," but any "gourmet" (which is stuffed but w/o the top crust) is excellent. Take-out & delivery only (delivery usually takes an hr.). They're located in the weird little georgetown strip mall on Packard near stone school. http://www.apin.com/anthonys/
3) Mexican: nothing here does it for me compared to sf. BUT. La Fiesta Mexicana in ypsilanti (on w. cross right across from campus) is authentic and very tasty if you need a fix. El Sabor downtown a2 is pretty mediocre on vegetarian food--but I hear their roast pork is the real deal. They also opened up a little market on Maple that sells their tamales (again, haven't tried them).
4) BBQ/Soul Food: Hawkins Place in Ypsi (at Harriet and Huron, near the fwy). Take-out only. Excellent bbq!
5) Ditto on the Great Lakes dim sum.
6) Indian is excellent here. Shalimar on Main, Raja Rani on E. William, and the take-out from the store on Broadway & Maiden Lane (if it's still there) was great for S. Indian.
7) Most of the Vietnamese restaurants here underwhelm me, but Saigon Gardens (I think this is the name?) on Forest and S. University is the best I've had here, if you need a fix.
8) Chia Shiang on Packard (next to the Big 10 Party Store a few blocks s. of Stadium) has excellent Malaysian food (meat or veggie). Try the nasi goreng! They also have excellent vegetarian chinese with a large selection of fake meats--kung pao soy bean skin roll is a treat. Not that remarkable for regular chinese, though.
Even though this thread is 4 years old, and some of the restaurants mentioned have closed, it's always good to give your fave restaurants a little press. A LOT of the great restaurants in A2 have gone, being replaced by cheap chains. But there are hidden gems, not only in A2 but in Ypsi as well. Try these establishments. They aren't A2's fanciest restaurants, but they all offer good food with quality ingredients that won't break the bank.
La Fiesta Mexicana, Ypsi -- order the El Dorado. La Fiesta also has a tacqueria on Carpenter & Packard.
Sottini's, A2 - order the wolverine, freshest deli meat in town
Pizza Bobs, A2 - try the Favorite sub, or for vegetarians, the LSDelight
Bell's Diner - Korean/breakfast joint, try the Dak Bokum or Chapche
Chick Inn, Ypsi - Nostalgic drive-in with killer pineapple shakes
Bill's, Ypsi - roadside chili dogs and homemade root beer, it's all they sell
Back room, A2 - best pizza slices in town, only $1
Jerusalem garden, A2 - the king of all cheap eats
Seriously, Backroom is a bog standard pizza slice, heavy and cheesy greasy, ok after four beers but not the best. For quality slices try Silvio's on North University, in the same hallway as Sushi.Come. it's a bit more expensive but you get what you pay for. Organic Italian pizza, made by a real Italian baker. Vegetarian and meat pizzas and all with the most original toppings I've seen, one of the best being blue cheese, potato and rosemary, or the saffron and mushroom but really it's hard to draw a favourite, they're all good and several are cheese free for those who like it like that. Environment is pretty basic, but the pizza is the reason I go.
re: Scots Export
everyone likes different things. And if you like potatoes on pizza, then go for it. But personally I prefer the classics, i.e. cheesy slices. Much better and cheaper than NYPD. I've heard Silvio's is weird atmosphere, weird ordering process and just too much hassle to deal with. Probably should try it to get a first-hand view. And as far as bog standard, I think that that's a bit harsh. I'd rate party store slices as bog standard. Back room is just fresher and better quality than bog standard.
Nay, nay, nay...bog standard would be Little Caesar's. That stuff is just the Lowest Common Denominator of "pizza" (it doesn't deserve the actual term itself). While party store slices may well be nasty, it says something when LC can't even make their food look appetizing in *their own commercials* at all.
I guess I am a bit of a pizza snob, but hey: this board has that element, too.
Ah, see now, I can stomach Domino's far more than I can eat the garbage that LC's puts out. But hey, why should I order either of them, when Loui's Pizza in Hazel Park is less than 10 minutes away? I'd rather spend my money on quality, and they've been a part of the community for decades. Recommended highly.
No really I wasn't dissing Backroom, I've eaten slices from there happily enough and true enough everyone's tastes are different although really it's not _that_ much different from NYPD, Backroom is perfectly good for a slice, and a good price for it too. I'm not a pizza snob, I virtually had a tab at Mr. Pizza (good prices, reasonably good pizza) however Silvio's is something different, and I'd argue, better than the regular choices we get in A2. And Silvio's isn't especially weird, unless you count the large contingent of Italians and foreign types like myself who eat there as weird, and I would not argue with you on that! They do have normal cheese pizza, marguerita, siciliana and other types. But the ordering process is normal, just select your slice and pay. They _will_ normally heat the slice up in the pizza oven so that it's piping hot when you get it but they won't if you don't want that.
re: Scots Export
Some of the divergent opinions on Silvio's come from the fact that it isn't good if you let it sit around--or even take it home in a car or on foot. It has to be hot out of a very hot oven. Also, it's true that their track record in hiring employees who have it together is spotty. But when they hit the mark they are superb. Mushroom pizza with truffle oil straight out of the oven--incredible.
Backroom is unspectacular to me, but the price is hard to beat.
I know what I have to say isn't going to be popular but it's the truth.
Marianna, as someone who lived in southern California all their life, I have to completely agree with you. I miss going out and getting amazing food that won't break the bank. Yes, Zingerman's has a great selection of products - things like the very good fleur de sel, great italian and spanish olive oils, fairly good bread, good cheese and meat. Yet, if you were to transplant that shop to L.A. or NYC - it might not do so well. Yes, you can find some decent dining here in Ann Arbor - but I believe it's best to know in advance that it'll always be "pretty" good. Save your amazing-food expectations for your trips back home to CA, NYC.
By the way, Chicago is the closest city that can do you justice.
I think there are also some very good outlets in Detroit and suburbs (Canton/Dearborn or even Hamtramck) for the food-deprived, including both restaurants, as well as grocery stores and bakeries, such as Alcamo's Italian grocery and various Arab bakeries in Dearborn, and Eastern Market in Detroit.
Although I agree in general with your sentiment, cafemonamie, there is one place in Ann Arbor that's consistently great, and ranks right up there with the great restaurants of the world: Red Hot Lovers. Chicago dogs, charred, Clancy's on the side. Cheese fries with onions and hot peppers. Hard to beat.
While were on the subject of great Ann Arbor area food, Gabriel's on Michigan Ave. east of Ypsi has a cheese steak and a "lunchmeat special" hoagie that really hit the spot. Pretty much all they do and with the red pepper garnish they will cure what ails you! These are Philly style, very tasty and worth the drive out to get them.
I love Ann Arbor but the food scene is no where near New York or Berkeley. In truth, there is no "great" upper end dining experience. My husband and I enjoy Grange because the owners try to source locally and do change their menu frequently. The staff is great. Unfortunately the wine list is mediocre at best. Logan's is good, the wine list much better but the creativity is missing-essentially the same menu all year. If you enjoy wine try the Earle a quicky basement restaurant with 60's decor. Great wine list and if you choose carefully (keep it simple) the food will surprise you. Jerusalem garden is very good for take out Middle Eastern food. I too have high expectations for Osteria Mani. Ann Arbor needs an upscale pizza wine bar. What Ann Arbor does have is excellent local farm produce--take advantage of the farmers' market and cook!
EllenAG and others with similar experience in the great food-cities of NA, I have to agree with you. I am here by way of Seattle after spending most of my life in Vancouver and I have come to the conclusion that "pretty good" is as good as Tree Town dining gets. There are occasional 'finds' here & there; for example, Monaghan's chowders (in the Kerrytown market) are VERY good, just make sure you get there in time to eat (lunch ends at 2pm) and they will cook up anything you see in their display for you to eat there. The Taqueria on Carpenter & Packard (looks like a hole in the wall) makes good Mexican-style tacos (simple, but cheap & tasty) -- nothing to compare with SoCal, but consider the distance. I have almost given up on finding anything but pedestrian sushi -- sorry but Yotsuba falls in the 'acceptable' category only -- although I haven't tried Yamato yet, but I'm not really expecting much. So sad, but looks like I will be doing my sushi eating in Chicago. I have enjoyed the Middle Eastern cuisine around here & recognize that I am eating far more authentic dishes than I could get anywhere else, but can't recommend a specific place.
Finally, I, too, am looking forward to the opening of Mani osteria, but I have come to the conclusion that eating GREAT meals in Ann Arbor is only going to happen by cooking at home with the really good ingredients available. To that end, I second shopping the farmer's markets & also recommend the Produce Station which specializes in Michigan products: Michigan morels anyone? cherries? and, dare I say it, ramps! (in season).
Do consider making a trip to Forest Grill in Birmingham. Brian Polcyn, a true nose-to-tail guy, is Chef/owner and the reviews here on chowhound have been quite favorable. I also recommend Matsuchan in Canton for the only ramen in the area (in Michigan I suspect) that has anything approaching the real deal. Family-run, cheap & tasty, it's a good answer for lunch.
Forest Grill Restaurant
735 Forest Ave Ste 100, Birmingham, MI 48009