What's the real Zingerman's (in Ann Arbor) like?
- GGG Nov 5, 2004 02:10 PM
The stuff in the Zingerman's catalog looks incredible. But it's also incredibly expensive. Does the actual Zingerman's store really charge such high prices? Do they have the same selection as the catalog?
Also, on the catalog - when they ship such things as bread and cheese, are they really top-notch, after a few days in the mail?
I just ate at Zingerman's this past Monday, after a business trip to Ann Arbor. Oh, what a fantastic meal! My friend and i shared a fabulous, flavorfull Pastrami sandwich, built in the best bread i've had in ages (I bought a loaf after), and a platter of various fish (what was it called, Manhattan Platter?): smoked chub, trout, lox, and a whitefish salad, served with a bagel, tomatoes, onions, capers. Outstanding flavors, the smokiness complimenting the fish, not overwhelming it. We also bought some magic brownies to eat on the plane back, rich and dense chocolate heaven!
Theyre selection is big for such a small space, and the prices looked OK to me, given the high quality and the variety they offer. Not cheap, but pretty well worth it!
Now I never ordered anything from their catalog so I dont know how their cheeses travel (although given their high quality standards and the amount of business they do, Id guess that they have that shipping well figured out!)
The deli is wonderful, and the prices are comparable to what you see in the catalog. As the previous poster mentioned, they're quite high, but the stuff they carry is high quality.
I've ordered the breads. They ship them next day fedex (IIRC), and they arrive pretty decent. I've only ordered the chocolate cherry bread this way (it's AMAZING). I just sliced it immediately and put it in the freezer. Mmmmm, a slice of it toasted is wonderful.
While the sandwiches are somewhat expensive, keep in mind that not only are the ingredients top-notch, but the sandwiches are quite large. My husband and I usually split a "small" sandwich ($8-10) along with a couple of smaller deli items. I love the sandwich w/ whitefish salad, cream cheese, scallions, but my husband likes the chicken breast, green chile, bacon, etc. on farm bread. That one you're almost certain to want to split. Sorry, but I don't remember the actual names.
Thanks for the comments. I'll have to check Zingerman's out at some point - it sounds worth the trip. Now, if I could just convince myself to shell out, for example, $25 for 2/3 lb. of French caramels from the catalog...
But I have to say - the bread prices, even in the catalog, are totally reasonable - $5-7 for sourdoughs, ryes, etc., and $10-15 for breads stuffed with things like cherries, chiles and chocolate.
What I like most about Zingerman's is if you go in person. They will let you try anything you like first. Which I love for the cheeses I try a few I haven't had everytime I go in there. I always end up buying some too. They have the best salami, cappicola, etc around as well (that I have found). The only bummer is it is usually so crowded you feel like you are imposing on everyone in line by taking your time and really looking around. So for cheeses I usually go to Zingerman's Creamery itself. The back house if next door as well so you can get bread pastries and cheeses without the crowd if you are like me and prefer less hussle and bussle.
I have eaten there and had things shipped from there, and have never been disappointed, EVER. Matter of fact, Zs is the litmus test with regard to quality of product and service. Whether it is at the counter, on the phone, or even email, Zingerman's rocks.
Mr. NYC, I always enjoy Katzinger's, I really do. That said, I can't help but wish I was at Zingerman's. On the other hand, I LOVE going to the Wexner Center. So there it is; six a one, half a dozen of the other. :)
Greek & MrNYC -
You two should be aware that the 2 restaurants, Zingermann's and Katzinger's, are NOT related. In fact a nasty lawsuit a few years back (Z sued K) determined that Katzinger's did not impinge, in whole or in part, in any Zingermann's copyrights or intellectual property.
That said, they both have absolutely Miraculous sandwiches, worth e very dime of their $12-18 price tags. Also Zingermann's is a big supporter of the Slow Food movement, and therefore wins a lot of points from me.
i had heard that. what you should be aware of is that columbus has a rep as being big on "restaurant business concepts" and they took one look at ZING's and said," we can do that, too!" still, i did like KATZ just as much.
as an aside -- clevelanders shouldn't be too smug about that kind of thing, PANINI'S is a similar ripoff of PRIMANTI BROS of pittsburgh...maybe they should try to sue as well, heh!
During graduate school, I lived down the street from Zingermans. I would treat myself once a month and go down and get a sandwhich. For someone on a grad school budget, the sandwhiches were a bit expensive, but I would buy a small one, only eat half, and save the rest for later. I usually went on Sunday mornings, and they would have someone standing outside giving out samples of bread to those of us in line. They also had little tasting stations set up inside with bread so you could try the different olive oils and balsamic vinegars. So, it was almost like getting two meals instead of one.
Great place. Great memories!!
Granted the original deli does not have many places to sit. They opened a more sit down friendly restaurant, Zingerman's Roadhouse, down the street that I'm told does amazing breakfasts. Its off Jackson near 94.
Zingerman's is wonderful -- when I'm there, my eyes are inevitably bigger than my stomach and I take half of it home. Living an hour from Ann Arbor, it was a special treat to go there. Now that I'm living in California, I just bought the "Guide to Good Eating" and have to make do with drooling over the catalog!
Bottom line, I'd have to agree with other posters-- Ari has done his homework when it comes to really high quality stuff. Zingermans is my benchmark; if they recommend something, it's pretty much set that it's good.
I have guest lectured for two semesters at U of M. Both times I insisted on living in close proximity to Zingerman's. It's run by two guys who scour the globe looking for the best of everything.
I have a family member who works at Zingerman's, she has convinced me to try a lot of new things (it's hard to stray away from a favorite!). I have never been disappointed.
I would say that the prices are worth it, but it's definately more of a special occasion place than an everyday deli. It's the type of place where you take your out-of-town guests.
As for their restaurant, Zingerman's Roadhouse, I have not heard good things about. I live in A2 and my friends/family who have eaten there have agreed that the portions are huge, overpriced, and only average tasting. I have heard rumors that it has been improving lately. Maybe someone here can confirm.
Twice I shipped a sandwich and cheese selection from Zingerman's to my now-ex Ann Arbor native boyfriend. I remember they arrived quickly and were extremely high quality. The shipping was more than the sandwich if I remember (Saturday delivery so it would arrive on his birthday) but it was worth it for the experience.
I really don't like to be negative but I find all the accolades bestowed on Zingerman's hilarious. IF you LOVE bread that can be used to roof your house then certainly this bread is for you! When I tried to bite into it, I scraped the top of my mouth and it's texture is exactly like a roofing shingle. How this is appealing to so many people astounds me. It reminds me of the Emperor's Clothes, everyone is nodding their heads and saying "DELICIOUS!" when it is really horrible. A really fun place, though, is the "Earthen Jar", it is vegetarian but with no ambience at all and very inexpensive - (it may remind you of someone's garage! no extraneous trappings at all!) but all dishes are homemade and exquisite. Very fun to try but totally lacking in snobbery.
I love zingerman's bread. When they first started making their own bread (5-10 yrs ago...?) it was a little too crusty, it's gotten much better. I love the flavor in it. Bread should not be able to be wadded up into a ball of dough like soft store bought bread.
Is zingerman's overpriced? yes
Is it occasionally worth it? yes, at least in my opinion (and obviously plenty of others)
Visiting the shop is often the cheapest way to go. Zingerman's is overpriced, and people here in AA love to complain about it. But they do have lots of good stuff that's hard to find anywhere else in the area. An example is Montreal Smoked Meat. You can buy a half-pound at the store itself, take it home, and make a couple of sandwiches that are a) half as expensive as eating their sandwich, and b) pretty darn good.
re: Jim M
I think Jim just about sums it up. The quality of most of what they carry is excellent, the selection is impressive, and the prices are much too high.
Examples of things you can find at Zingerman's that are difficult to find in the Midwest (including in Chicago):
Black mole paste ($16 for a small jar, the jar would probably only make enough mole for 6-8 servings, if that)
Niman's "Salametti Napoletani", excellent tiny salamis that are smoky and sweet and spicy and porky
Truly excellent bread, especially the rye and sourdoughs.
I used to pass through Ann Arbor a few times a month, and it was always difficult to 1) not stop at zingerman's and 2) spend less than $50 while there.
I love the place, and I think every city out there would be ecstatic to have the Zingerman's stores and restaurants. Also, the service is also excellent and highly knowledgable almost without fail, especially in the cheese and meat section.
If you're going to be in or near Ann Arbor, I definitely think it's worth a visit.
I wrote the following a while back for a food forum in which I participate.
I think it will give you an idea of what Zingerman's is about.
I don't work there but I am a big fan.
After a few recent questions about Zingerman’s and yet another wonderful experience at The Roadhouse and the deli Friday night I am inspired to sing their praises yet again.
There are few places in the country where one can find such extensive offerings of meats, cheeses, honey, oil, vinegar, spices and so on. Every item that is sold by Zingerman's has been thoughtfully selected for very specific reasons of taste, methods of growth and production. Few other places offer such exquisite artisinal breads like Zingerman's and none that I know of in the region. Really, their breads are from another time and place.
I find what they do at Zingerman’s important for many reasons. First of all, they provide their employees a friendly, fun, interesting place to work and they pay them well, a living wage with good benefits. They know that taking good care of their Team members is not just the right thing to do but it contributes to the bottom line. Educated, well-paid and empowered Team members are happy people who take good care of customers and company assets. Zingerman’s also has a true and deep commitment to the community where they do business.
Secondly, their business supports farmers, cheese makers, ranchers and producers who have deep commitments to their crafts- farmers who grow beautiful organic, heirloom vegetables, ranchers who raise grass fed, hormone free beef and thoughtfully care for their herds, family businesses that make pasta with only the best wheat, spring water and hand cut bronze dies that have been used for generations and one’s that make oil the right way with stone presses and no heat. Zingerman’s supports these artisans of their crafts not just by carrying their products but also by educating consumers and sharing their love and passion for thoughtfully produced foods which helps create more of a market for and appreciation of these wonderful goods.
Equally important to the consumer as the fine products offered is Zingerman’s commitment to and passion for really great service. Whether one is trying to select just the right meat, cheese, honey, oil or balsamic vinegar or dining at the deli or Roadhouse, you always have the undivided attention of a knowledgeable and courteous team member. You are encouraged to sample anything that interests you and you not only get a taste but a history of where the product comes from, how it is made, what its qualities are and how it may compare to other like items. Michael, Andy and Carlos who work at the deli are always spot on with their descriptions of flavours and qualities of meats and cheeses. These guys are masters of their domains. Because Zingerman’s creates loyal employees, there is relatively little turnover, which means that as a customer you get a chance to develop relationships with great team members.
Finally, as a customer of Zingerman’s you are a respected part of the business. Going beyond even the commitment to quality products and service the opinions, time and dollars of each customer are treated with consideration as demonstrated by the Zingerman’s guarantee “If you experience any problem with any of our products, customer service, shipping, or even if you just plain don't like what you bought, please let us know. We'll do whatever it takes to make it right for you” and “if you are at all unhappy with anything you’ve gotten from us, please let us know so we can quickly replace it or refund your hard-earned cash”. I don’t know of any other business that recognizes the value of each and every dollar a customer chooses to spend with their business.
There are two elements that make a guarantee meaningful: one, it must be easy to understand and two, it needs to be unconditional. Well, the Zingerman’s guarantee couldn’t be more plain and not only is it unconditional but a customer is NEVER chastised for voicing a concern or complaint. How many of us have had experiences that fall bellow accepted standards or our expectations that we fail to address because we fear a deaf ear or worse being chastised for expressing our disappointment? That never happens at Zingerman’s.
When people say that Zingerman’s is expensive, I ask them to remember a few things.
First of all, Zingerman’s pays its employees a living wage and gives them decent benefits. Secondly, you are paying for convenience. There are not many places where you can find the selection that you can find at Z’s. Thirdly, the employees are educated and can give you knowledgeable answers about everything they carry. Fourth, you can taste ANYTHING before you buy it. Fifth, their return policy. All of those things put the prices at Zingerman’s into perspective for me.
Friday night when we had dinner at The Roadhouse Steve and I had burgers made from house ground, Niman Ranch beef served with double fried french fries, house-made ketchup, Zingerman’s baked buns and house-made mustard. Each of our five tasting burgers was topped with a different American made cheese, each of which was amazing. We each selected a glass of fairly priced wine from an exceptional by the glass list. Steve’s daughter had perfectly roasted pheasant that had been hand boned (one of the chefs spent 6 hours Friday doing nothing but boning pheasants) and was served with organic root vegetables that included heirloom celery that knocked her socks of (mine too). She also had heavenly hot cocoa made from Scharfenburger chocolate. Our server Chris took great care of us as he has in the past. We were also attentively looked after by and had great conversations with General Manager Ric and Manager Kathleen.
So, for all of you who are passionate about food and thoughtfully produced foods and interested in the stories and history of food but can’t get to the deli, I highly recommend “Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating” by Ari Weinzweig. This is the one of the best food books I’ve read. The amount of research that went into this book represents a lifetime of love and learning about food. It is an unparalleled reference book in its easy to read and engrossing writing style. I devoured this book as I learned about the cultural significance of balsamic vinegar to the Italians and of cheese to the French, Swiss, Italians and English and of bread’s history and importance from biblical times to present and on and on and on.
Zingerman’s is business that goes far beyond its retail store, Bakehouse, Creamery and restaurants which are themselves important. Zingerman’s is an institution that is affecting the marketplace by being the steward of truly good food, thoughtful business and respectful service. They are supporting the return of a way of life from a bygone era that includes small batch production, family farming and community consciousness.
As a native Ann Arborite, I feel I must chime in:
I would take any visitor to town there to try it. It is a great place to take visitors to...people have heard of it and love the idea of going there once or twice.
HOWEVER, as a person that lives here, I avoid going to the deli if at all possible. Parking sucks, it is stressful to shop there. It's always crowded; you can't find anything you are looking for without help.
There are only a few things I find worth spending my "everyday money" on that Zingerman's makes: the bread and coffee beans - go to their Bakehouse out by the airport or their trailer called the "Roadshow" by their restaurant, or the various retailers that sell their stuff. Their gelato is good, too, you can get it that their Creamery, by the airport. Their cocktails at the Roadhouse restaurant are wonderful, the food only so-so. They make good fried chicken, but for $18, it should be good. They make good BBQ brisket, too, but it is outrageously expensive, too.
There is no sandwich they sell at the deli worth the money (well over $10 usually) but it is much better to buy deli meats and a loaf of bread from them and make it yourself for less than half the cost.
Bottom line: Zingermans is a great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there....
Weekends are extremely busy, but if you go during the week or in the late evening, it's not so bad. I was there at 5:45 last night and had no wait to buy chocolate from Next Door. There was one person ahead of me at the cheese counter. Even the sandwich line was only 4 or 5 people deep at that point.
In their Zingerman's 2020 plan that was just completed, one of the things they talk about is doing some major construction of the Deli and Next Door - it would be great if they could eek out some more space!
Did anyone read the recent article in the financial section of the New York Times (Sept/Oct 2007). It tells not only the story of the two friends who started the business but it also tells how little profit they make at year's end. They're wonderful employers and they purchase only first grade product so that everyone benefits including themselves - only not as much as some people would believe. It's a good read article and I'm sorry I don't have the link.
All right, this post comes about three years late, but what can I say? I'm a new chowhound (well, new to this site, not to chow or hounding after it). I grew up in Ann Arbor, but now reside in VA, where grad school enslaves me. I've spent much time and money at Zingerman's, and usually darken its doorway right quick after setting foot back in AA. I will give a few points on Zing:
1) The sandwiches are good to great, although quite expensive. A native New Yorker pronounced the Reuben as good or better than anything to be had in Manhattan when treated to one by me.
2) Many great food items may be had there that are hard to get (like piquillo peppers from the Llodosa appellation in Spain), specialities in Spanish foods, of course the olive oils and vinegars, great cheeses, meats, baked goods, bread. Their Paris Brest pastry (both regular and mini-size) can be outstanding, their gelato is good (although I miss the crazy flavors of Italy), good chocolate selection, the Pullman Loaf white bread is a wonderful French toast choice, etc.
3) Ari and Paul, the founders, spend huge amounts of time searching high and low across the globe for great products, promote the Slow Food movement, and stand behind everything they sell, total satisfaction guaranteed. That brings me to my final point,
4) Zingerman's has some of the best customer service I've ever experienced (equivalent to such famous exemplars as Disney), and I worked in customer service or account management for multiple years in the IT field, so I feel I've had at least *some* basis for inside comparison. The workers are knowledgeable, friendly, polite, and are trained with a "servant leadership" ethic (discussed in detail in the Zingerman's customer service book they sell) that I find to be wise both philosophically and economically. When I moved here to D.C., I made a trip to Dean & DeLuca in Georgetown, hoping to find a Zingerman's replacement (proxy?). Unfortunately, the snobbery and elitism I experienced were completely off-putting, so much so that I didn't bother giving them my business, nor do I recommend them. Others may have had different experiences-I speak only of mine. However, I would highly doubt there are many people who can say they've experienced similar attitudes at Zingerman's. Perhaps it's the Midwest ambience? I don't know, but when I walk through that doorway in the deli, into the lovely-smelling, warm and welcoming interior, I know I will be served as a respected customer, whether I am spending $100 on wild salmon, or $5 for some olives and cornichons. Zingerman's lives to serve its customers-I have occasionally been dissatisfied with their food (which they've made right), but I've *never* been dissatisfied with their customer service, and I've been going there since the late eighties.
I would encourage anyone to give Zingerman's a try, knowing of course that it is expensive, and perhaps not for any regular shopping (certainly not on my grad school budget), but that it is a business that believes in great food delivered with great service.
I have been going to Zingerman's for years and each and every time I get sticker-shocked. BUT, you get what you pay for. This is not your every day deli (unless you are rich), but for a treat every once in a while, it is totally worth it.
Like others have mentioned, their customer service is top notch. They will let you try anything before you buy it....it is an experience.
The bake house by the airport is the best place to get their chocolate bread. It is sourdough with chunks of semi-sweet chocolate that is still melted when you hit the shop at the right time. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
I just saw this thread when i was searching to see what people made of Zingerman's
I was there recently as research for my book and worked for a day in the deli at Homecoming and a football match (both of which remain an utter mystery to me)
While I agree it may be over priced ( unless you come from London in which case they are giving it away) the quality is usually high ( their Neal's Yard cheeses are the best kept I have seen in the US) and they have some very interesting items that I have not seen anywhere else.
The staff do care and, although the Brit in me finds the super service element a bit "Kool-aid" it is nice to see people in stores who smile at you
If I lived in Ann Arbor, I would not quibble about a few over priced things, I would be glad to have a place (or places) like Zingerman's around
re: Simon Majumdar
Yeah, you know, I was in there the other day and had the Hot BLT, with avocado spread, mayo, some hot peppers, bacon. It was great. Yes, it was expensive, but the place has a huge menu with quite a few items (like the avocado spread) that take some work to keep right on top of. Definitely a satisfying treat from time to time--maybe for dinner rather than lunch, since the sandwiches are definitely a dinner-sized meal. Plus, if you hit it around 9, you sometimes walk out with a free loaf of bread.
re: Jim M
Def agree with the choice of sandwich! love their huge sandwich board. it's worth a trip for lunch.
I've also had cheese shipped to me in NYC (a soft sort of cream cheese I wanted for a recipe) - cheese by mail is quite fun. I know the in house and catalog cheese prices are comparable
Lived in Ann Arbor 20 years, still visit often, and I can say this with 100 percent authority: You will be thrilled with Zingerman's, and its Roadhouse, almost all the time. If you're not, and mention it even casually to any employee, every effort will be made to make you happy. Their service should be the standard for every restaurant and deli in America.
Evidently, I'm not allowed to go there. It is owned by my sister-in-law's cousin, and everytime I mention wanting to go there (including when we were all in Ann Arbor while my niece was at Mott) I am told of the family relation and that is it.
I will vouch for Katzinger's, though. And, as a suburbanite, there's always the Bread Basket.
re: Fibber McGee
Yeah, dang ol' Zingermans. Overpriced? yes. Overzealous? Sure. Do I love them? yes, dammit, yes. How can you deny it? you can't. They really do have it going on, and, as others have mentioned, they take decent care of their employees.
Luckily I live in kalamazoo, so i can't regularly founder on their food, which is good for my waistband and pocketbook.
I do have to say that they finally have serious competition, though--Journeyman in little Fennville Michigan has better bread than zingerman's. yeah, i said it. While I don't necessarily agree that Zingerman's bread has the consistency of roofing products, it is a bit hard on the mouth (but delicious). journeyman bread is crusty without being painful, and the texture and flavor are orgasmic. Try the Seedy Salty loaf and weep weep weep.
After eating at Zingerman's for over a decade (all of them, including the roadhouse and creamery), having a friend who's mother works at the bakehouse, and being a fervent mail-orderer I can say that it's a mild obsession. I dream about it. The family reunions in A2 consist of meticulously pouring over the menu, coordinating sandwich and brownie purchases as to not overlap, and making purchases for our trip home based on sustainability vs. distance traveled. It's sad. very, very sad. I nave never been disappointed with the topping density on a nosher, their new and old pickles amaze, and the mushroom-barley soup is epic.
I live about an hour away from Zingerman's. I've been waaaaaay too many times over the years. I can't imagine why any one would avoid the delli because of the parking. It''s Ann Arbor! Go with the flow. You can almost always find a parking spot within a block except game days. Prices in the catalog are higher than in the deli for the same product. That's the only way I find Zings over priced in any way. I can't see complaining about the cost of a sand big enough to feed two for less than the cost of an entree at some chain restaurant. I completely dissagree with the poster that said the bread was bad. It's some of the best bread I've ever had any where. No place is perfect. If you get something your not happy with they will make it right. I love that they carry big slabs of smoked bacon and they will slice it as thick as you like. Smoked salmon, cheese, pate...I feel my wallet shrink as I close my eyes and imagine all of those wonderfull deli meats including the best corned beef you can imagine. For B'days I always choose a trip to the delli over some fancy restaurant. I get basket full of cheese, bread, Pate and brownies then grab a nice bottle of Duckhorn and head home to feast like a viking! One of the very few places I just simply can never get enough of. If you haven't been to the deli and your going to be near Ann Arbor Don't miss it.
As an Ann Arborite, I can tell you that you are enjoying Zingerman's the best way - buying individual items for a picnic or make your own sandwich. I agree with you on the bread - it is outstanding! I do want to correct you on parking - pretty much any Saturday (not just game days) will be a parking hassle, because of the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market, in season. (which is also worth going to).
Yes I agree. I had forgotton about Saturday Mornings. I just drive a block off on a side street and find a spot. I can see how some might find it frustrating with the one way streets. I'm in Rochester Hills so heavy traffic seems normal, if not mild compared to Detroit and to be honest I'd battle an army of rabid foot ball fans to get to the deli! ;)
Yeah, but look on the bright side! After eating one of those sandwiches, you'll want to walk it off! Parking recommendations: the structure at Ann and Ashley, three blocks away, always has spaces. If you want to park for free, the key is to go away from downtown and campus; head north on Fourth Avenue down toward Depot, and either park on Fourth or go right on Depot and take your chances coming back up Fifth.
Warning--check a map! The designation of streets and avenues in Ann Arbor makes no sense. There are numbered streets, running parallel to numbered avenues. Zingerman's is on Detroit Street, which runs diagonally to the main grid and is only two blocks long. One-way streets add to the misery; Fifth Avenue is one-way southbound.
The deli is also at its most crowded on Saturdays, football game or not. Try a weeknight--very quiet, and a sandwich, soup, and soda is a great $20 dinner. Going picnic-style definitely saves money, and you can try a selection of cheeses and unusual salamis that way.
One of the best meals I ever had in my life came when an employer rented out the seating building for a night, closed it down, and had them set up a selection of food for us to graze. Needless to say, this was during Michigan's boom years!
I love the scones and the quiches at the Bakehouse!! The first time we visited Ann Arbor we visited the Roadhouse Restaurant, it had JUST opened and I was horrified to see the price of fried chix on the menu to be $20.00!! My husband had a patty melt that was like a grease sponge. I was so disgusted that I emailed Zingerman's a long letter about my deli and restaurant visits..two nights later the phone rang and it was Ari himself explaining to us why things were the way they were and thanks for all the feed back so he could improve on the negatives (that pattymelt!) The service and employees are always terrific. Soo even though the place is $$$$ I know the owners care and therefore I will always go back because they do have a great quality product in the end.
I once purchased a very nice EVOO from Zingermann's. I liked it so much I bought more. Much to my chagrin the second bottle tasted like grass clippings in oil. I contacted Zingermanns and they sent a replacement. Same story. I re-contacted them and received a call from Ari. He explained that the oil was a bit young and he wasn't very happy with it. He refunded my money and went on to explain that I should store the oils for six months or so. I did that and they turned out marvelous in the end. This is why I don't mind paying a little more. Great customer service from people who actually care and understand the product they sell.
Just so others that may be tuning in and might not be aware the Road house is a seperate restaurant on the other side of town from the Deli. No place is perfect. IMO it's how the establishment handles the problems that really counts. I remain a Zingermann's fan.
Zingerman's lives up to the hype & even the prices. the roadhouse, the deli, the 6.99 half pitn of gelato, all worth every insane penny. it's zuni cafe in the culinary wateland of southeastern michigan. Heaven would be a job behind their cheese counter. go, quickly & hungry.
I lived in Ann Arbor for a few years, have eaten at Zingerman's many, many times, and have ordered from their catalog. Their quality cannot be beat, their selection is phenomenal, and the knowledge of their staff is dazzling. Sandwiches as big as your arm, and excellent bread.
That said, in my opinion, because of their prices, Zingerman's is over-rated. A loaf of bread, no matter how good, should not cost $7 (and up!). Hard to find olive oils and vinegars? Fine. But $38 for a camembert? Please. Bread, cheese, and meats of the same quality are available throughout much of Europe, at a fraction of the price. And after shopping a few times at Zingerman's, you might be better off to get a ticket to Paris, where you can shop in any of the local boulangeries and charcuteries, and eat like a king for a few bucks. Don't get me wrong: their quality and selection are excellent. But their prices are over inflated. Ditto for the Roadhouse: though in that case, it's just OK food, at outrageous prices. That feeling about the Roadhouse is a common one of many I know in the Ann Arbor area.
If you want a specialty product, Zingerman's is great. But if you want a sandwich, you can make it yourself, using ingredients of similar quality, and save $10 in the process.
I suggested this earlier in this ancient thread, but it is worth repeating again. To have a great Zingerman's sandwich and save money - make it yourself. Buy day old bread (always in the basket to your left when you walk in the door on Detroit St.) or buy bread of the month, you can buy a loaf fresh for $4.25 at the bread counter. Then, if you go up to the deli counter, buy the deli meat you like by the pound and make it yourself. Cut the loaf in half longitudinally, and then scoop out the bread from the inside, and add your deli meats. I sometimes buy fancy condiments there, or just make my own italian dressing. You could feed your whole family Zingermans for less than $20 this way...we do it on occasion.
I actually prefer doing something similar at Morgan & York (another AA store) because they have a better selection of cheeses and deli meats. And it is easier to park there, and they sell wine!
I worked at Zingerman's Deli for 7 years, in the Retail department, and I have really loved reading all of the praise here! However, I'd also like to address several of the concerns people have voiced, since hopefully I can provide an insider perspective.
Zingerman's practices Open Book Management, which means that every employee knows and discusses in weekly meetings what the cost of goods, labor costs, etc. are for their department. So, I can tell you from personal experience that the prices at the Deli are not overinflated. They just aren't.
The Deli has something like 150 employees, each of whom has had and continually receives a great deal of training, and is paid a living wage with some benefits.
Foreverhungry, you praise the knowledge of the staff at Zingerman's as "dazzling". I thank you for the compliment! Just as in any other industry, people capable of "dazzling", professional service cost a lot to attract, train, and retain, and you will see that cost reflected in the prices of the products. Consumers often overlook this part of what you pay for in retail establishments which actually invest the cash to actually train and educate their staff. Doing so is expensive.
Plus, the cost of all of the free samples that are available of *every* product sold at Zingerman's is included in the prices you pay, including the open bottle of 100 year old balsamic vinegar that is available for anyone to taste.
"Bread, cheese, and meats of the same quality are available throughout much of Europe, at a fraction of the price."
Well, no kidding! Of course, when you factor in the price of the shipping to get them here, (or the price of a plane ticket to Paris and the hotel room), how different is it, really? Another thing you might not realize is that there are some significant import tarriffs, particularly on French food products (some are 100% or higher), that are included in the prices. Plus, much of Europe's specialty food production is heavily subsidized by their repective governments and the EU, and Europe generally operates under universal, government-paid healthcare systems, so their cost of operations are lower. Everyone is aware of the high cost to businesses of employee benefits here in the US, and Zingerman's does provide benefits, the cost of which are included in the prices.
I hope this information has been helpful in increasing understanding of the great place that I loved working (and eating) at.
Nator that was an excellent response. I was going to say the very same thing about taxes and the cost of importing fees to the poster above that suggested it would be more cost effective to fly to Paris. Apparantly they over looked import fees and taxes not to mention that pesky exchange rate.
There are very few places like this around. I think we are lucky to have Zings here and their customer service is top notch as well.
nator - thanks for the post. it was great to get an "insider's" view. i agree with everything you said - it takes money to run a business, and a lot of money to run a business that serves excellent quality products and where the staff is knowledgeable. i have sampled many of zingerman's products (including the balsamic), and that is an excellent service - taste before you buy.
great point too about the tariffs and taxes - they do double the cost of the product in some cases. perhaps "over-inflated" was the wrong choice of words. "too expensive" is maybe a better choice.
if your budget is unlimited, and you want one-stop shopping, combined with superior products and a great staff, zingerman's is a great place.
but, my point is that you can get similar products at other shops. part of the zingerman's cache is that it's in ann arbor - a bastion of food in the midwest, in a city where the average income is fairly high. go to south philadelphia's italian market, and you'll get the same quality from 3 generation run family shops, at a fraction of the price. ditto for other places in the country. you can find camembert and bread of similar quality for a lot less elsewhere.
i'm not bashing. zingerman's is great for the folks in the ann arbor area. but, in my opinion, it's reputation is over-rated.
Zingerman's is like the church of Scientology, in fact it may be an off-shoot, a cult to be sure.
I have been to Zingerman's on many occasions, but growing up in New York, I must say that it is overpriced and overrated.
However, for this area, it is an excellent deli. It is quality stuff, but I don't really believe in Niman ranch pork. Yes, it tastes better, but not for the markup. Bottom line: Certain items are both rare and tasty enough to warrant the sticker price, but when it comes to sandwiches, I can find better in NYC for less. (I am not bashing, but this is a fact.)
I re-visited Zingermans yesterday. Things have changed considerably. Most noteably their bread. It is no longer the great artisinal bread it once was based on the two loafs I purchased yesteday. Both tasted like typical mass produced bread. The braided challah was dry and the exterior was over done. Like another poster I am shocked that they are now charging a flat $7 per loaf. Worse yet they about 1/3 smaller than they were in the past. What I find rather disconcerting about this is that Nino's carries Zingerman's bread and sells at $5.99 per loaf. Clearly they still make a profit even at a dollar less per loaf.
I also purchased a four pack of brownies. $12.98. Price for the same four pack of Zingerman's brownies at Nino's? $7.98. OUCH!
I still find the specialty meats and cheese a fair value. Most of theese products you would not find any place else in SE Michigan and many might not even be available for mail order. I did purchase 4 oz of cold smoked salmon ($39.99 lb) that had been sliced improperly. Not good.
However the apple smoked bacon is still divine and the cheese, truffle mousse, duck pate and sausages were all divine and made an excellent meal with a nice bottle of wine. I will return again but my bread in the future come from The Give Thanks Bakery in Rochester. A vastly superior product at a fraction of the price.
I will add that the service was friendly, and with the exception of the salmon slicing very knowledgable.
I was there at two in the after noon on Saturday and the sandwhich line was out the door for the full hour I was there.
I can't comment about quality but if memory serves, this was about the time of a bad U.S. wheat crop. There'd been frequent rains and much of the wheat sprouted on the stalk before it could be harvested, rendering it useless for most applications. The price of all things wheat rose a LOT. Sadly, it prices don't seem to have fallen very much since.
As an Ann Arbor native that lives all of a mile away, I feel I must comment.
First of all, the catalog *is* more expensive. You are not going to get a huge savings eating in-house but it is somewhat cheaper at least. And the selection is the same, though some of the items would perhaps only be available at the bakehouse, on the south side of town.
Second of all.....Not sure what standards most people use for sandwich size, but I am kind of surprised that everyone seems to consider them so large at Zingerman's. They're not....I think a good 15-20 years ago they were a fairly decent size but I can name any of several places in town that have larger sandwiches. (Maize-N-Blue Deli comes to mind) I am not just talking about the sizes of pieces of bread (which are still cut fairly large for the Fresser size) but the volume of ingredients used.
You order the Oswald's Mile High, for instance, (which is a plain corned beef sandwich with mustard) and you are lucky to get *maybe* a quarter pound of corned beef. (oddly enough it always seems like the Reuben has more corned beef, even with all the other ingredients) You go down to any number of the well regarded delis in the Detroit area (mostly in Oakland county) and get a similar sandwich that is *stacked* with corned beef. The Breadbasket in Oak Park, for instance, easily gives three times as much. (now THAT'S a big sandwich) And it is of the same exact quality. Oh and cheaper.....
Their BLT, for instance, has a ridiculously small amount of bacon on it....yeah, yeah, I know it is awesome bacon and all (and I am not saying the sandwich does not taste good) but they need to put the B in lower case I think to represent the real proportions of ingredients to one another.
I have seen sandwiches very sloppily put together more times than I like. Lately I have to say things have been pretty good in that department, but I am still on the lookout for it......
As far as it being overcrowded......well, you are just plain silly if you want to try going on a Football Saturday or during Art Fair or something like that.....just go on a weekday night. I almost never have a wait. And it was previously the case that there was no seating in the Deli, but they bought an entire house next door some years ago and there is a ton of space there. (as well as lots of picnic tables in the back and even a heated tent) It's also a standalone coffeeshop-desert place.
Some of the goods from the store are just absurdly marked up. I have purchased the identical chocolate bar at Trader Joe's for less than half the cost sold at Zingerman's.
But all this being said, I still love the Deli.
The taste is the taste........you can't go wrong with the ingredients used, even if sometimes they need to be straightened out a bit..... And I love the atmosphere there, except when it is overrun with tourists (no offense :-P )
I may have my complaints, but I will more than likely never stop going.
I too feel compelled to weigh-in on the Zingerman's discussion:
I have been eating at Zingerman's since my eldest sister first started at the University of Michigan in 1991. I have seen the sandwich prices go up, I have seen them expand their inventory and I have seen their business expand from just the deli to the coffeehouse, bakery, creamery, etc. My brother in-law now works at their creamery. Overall, it is a family institution for us and a trip home to Michigan involves at least one stop at Zingerman's.
Is it expensive? Yes. Do they utilize the best ingredients available? Yes. Becoming a customer of Zingerman's is a question of taste and opportunity cost. Some people don't like good food and those people won't like Zingerman's. Along the same line, some people refuse to pay Zingerman's prices because they don't see the value in paying for good food. This is not an issue that is restricted to Zingerman's alone, however.
You must also keep in mind that Zingerman's is very service oriented and the associated cost is rolled into their prices. I can provide a prime example of their level of service. Recently one of my friends was stuck in SE Michigan one evening due to a flight cancellation. He called me up wanting for some recommendations for places to go in Ann Arbor since he was going to get a hotel there. I, of course, told him to go to Zingerman's. He got there just before they were about to close and he just happened to run into Ari Weinzweig, who is one of the owners. Ari was more than happy to give my friend the true Zingerman's experience by having him sample various cheeses, breads, oils and vinegars. It is that kind of experience that sets Zingerman's apart from other delis and other gourmet grocery stores.
Personally, I am not inclined to order much from the catalog. Some of the same products they carry can be found in local shops depending on where you live in the country. On the other hand, certain products are so rare or unique that it'd be very hard to find them. Furthermore, the products that they produce in-house (cheeses, breads, brownies) cannot be found in stores outside SE Michigan. So for me, I only order things out of their catalog that are true rarities or that they produce themselves. For example, I cannot find good bread like theirs where I live so I'm willing to order that. After all, their Parmesan Pepper bread truly is a gift from the gods.