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Ann Arbor Business Dinner

Hello. I will be hosting a dinner for about 8 professors from University of Michigan (in Ann Arbor) on Wednesday, November 8. Could you receommend a place with a fairly quiet atmosphere and $15-25 entrees? Hopefully the food is good but not to exotic. Any ideas would be GREATLY appreciated!! Thanks in advance!

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  1. Mediterrano on Eisenhower across from Briarwood might fit the bill. I believe that most of their entrees fall into the $15-$25 category. The food is usually well-prepared, the waitstaff is usually excellent, and they have a decent wine list. Caveat: I haven't eaten there more recently than two years ago.

    My recent steak at the Earle was $29, but I think that there are a number of dishes that fall between $15-25. The Earle, of course, is an Ann Arbor mainstay.

    1. I have to say I thought of the Earle first, it's definitely quiet.

      I prefer them to Mediterrano. IMO, the Earle is tops in town (and more) for service and beverage service. Best wine list in the state, if that matters.

      Food is good rather than great, but that could sum up Ann Arbor as a whole. The Earle is country French/Italian. I'm talking about the original Earle on Washington, not the Earle Uptown, which is more expensive.

      I haven't been there in a while, but some people whose opinions I respect really like what they've done at Pacific Rim by Kana. It's Pan-Asian, and pretty reasonable too.

      But as noted above, the Earle is an AA institution, so you'd get style points just for taking them there.

        1. The Earle?? Yech. Ate there a year ago. Totally overrated. What an undergrad's vision of a "fancy restaurant" is.

          I'd rather eat at the West End Grill, The Moveable Feast, or the old standby, The Gandy Dancer. Travel a little distance out to Chelsea to the Common Grill.

          2 Replies
          1. re: FoodGroupie

            The Gandy Dancer was good 20 years ago. They have definitely gone down hill in the intervening years.

            I've yet to have a decent meal in my four trips to the Common Grill.

            The Earle has been consistent over the years, and I would hardly describe it as fancy. It was always casual. Plus, you get to hear very good jazz (at least I did).

            I don't think that the Moveable Feast exists any more.

            1. re: Summerfield

              I like the Earle for appetizers and wine, which could be a very good setting for conversation. I'm always a little bit disappointed in their entrees--not terrible, but I feel like I could've made them myself.

              Moveable Feast is long gone, and the Common Grill is not quiet, and it's a bit of a drive. For U-M professors I would try the Bella Ciao--very small, personal, sophisticated Italian place. Very quiet. Entrees would be toward the top of your range. If you get the feeling that there are some more adventurous eaters in your group, try Eve in Kerrytown. That one could go over $25. Paesano's on Washtenaw is also good--looks like a chain Italian place, but it's not. Ann Arbor Italian lovers know it for the real thing.

          2. I might have to give Bella Ciao another try. My wife and I favored it for our anniversaries, but the last time out (a few years ago) everything (and I do mean everything) was way off from what we were accustomed to at Bella Ciao. Since we don't get out that much any more, we've stayed away, which is too bad because that restaurant has some nice space for eating.

            I second your opinion on Paesano's, which really has taken over Italian duty from Bella Ciao for me. I was just looking at their on-line fall menu and it looks great.

            What happened to Amadeus?

            1 Reply
            1. re: Summerfield

              Amadeus is still there, but you remember it's a very small place. 8 people in there would be about a quarter of the restaurant.

              I really am not a fan of Gandy Dancer. Really. I haven't been to Bella Ciao in a long time, because they weren't too good the last couple times. Common Grill is fair, but if you want to have a conversation, well it's one of those rooms designed to be loud.

              Paesano's has a good rep, but I don't know it.

              I recommended the Earle, but I didn't rave about their cooking. It's a nice room, with very good service, great beverage service, and you can find something decent to eat. Not great, but okay.

              Frankly, there is no great food in Ann Arbor restaurants.

              Moveable Feast has been gone for 10 years.

            2. How about the West End Grill? I think it is way better than the Earle.

              1. I love bella ciao - imo one of the best restaurants in Ann Arbor. The Earle is only good for their happy hours, otherwise i've usually been fairly underwhelmed by their food. have you considered pacific rim?

                i would just make sure to stay away from the chop house/gratzi/real seafood restaurants - those establishments make me cringe.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ckbear

                  Note that Bella Ciao has gotten a new chef within the last year, so if if you haven't been in a long time, it is likely to be different than it was when last you were there. I hosted a group dinner there in the summer, and we had a great time.

                2. I would also recommend Eve's in Kerry town.
                  I've haven't been there for dinner, only Sunday brunch.
                  A friend, who's a professor at UM, does a lot of his faculty recruiting dinners at Eve's because it's quiet. Good food and wine. The Westend Grill is excellent. I haven't been there in a while. It may be out of the price range you've set.
                  Both restaurants are quite small.

                  1. I would second the short drive for dinner at the Common Grill in Chelsea.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: rjsweeton

                      Just wondering, do you own stock in the Common Grill? I've read three recent posts of yours, all recommending the Common Grill. I wonder what one has to do to get a good meal there? I've been three times in recent memory, all mediocre to no good. Soup good, salad good, entrees off. What's the secret to ordering? Personally, I cannot recommend the place.

                    2. I've never had a bad meal at the Common Grill, ever. In fact, I just had a great meal there this evening. What are you ordering????

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: momskitchen

                        I don't own stock in them, I've just never had a bad meal there either.

                        1. re: rjsweeton

                          As long as I'm reading, I may as well chime in. Never had a bad meal there, either. It's not groundbreaking, but I've always felt I get my money's worth there. That's not something I can say for a lot of other Ann Arbor-area "upscale" (debatable, I know) restaurants. In fact, I think I could count them on one hand.


                        2. re: momskitchen

                          The last time I was there, with my daughter on a beautiful evening a couple of summers ago, I ordered some pasta tubes stuffed with sausage, spinach, and ricotta cheese in a tomato cream sauce. I expected it to be laden with, you know, sausage. But it turned out to be mostly filled with ricotta with little specks of sausage and spinach. It was a clumsy, disappointing dish. I can't remember the main dish I had on my visit before this one I just described, but I do remember thinking that it was not value for dollar.

                          Anyway, being that momskitchen, rjsweeton, and gromit are insisting that the Common Grill is good, I will give it one last chance to rise up and impress me, sometime in near future. Geez, I hope you guys are right.

                          1. re: Summerfield

                            I've only eaten fish there, but I've been pretty satisfied with it--good, bold flavors in the toppings, not overcooked.

                        3. Summerfield, I'd expect more sausage, too! Next time, tell them and let them fix it. I did have one problem at Common Grill. I took my family there and my son ordered something off the kiddie menu--the fried whitefish. It accidentally came broiled, and when you are 8 years old, this can be a big problem. I let the waiter know, and Craig Common himself grought out my son's fried fish and apologized profusely to him. He was really sweet to him. To this day, my son beams when he sees him in the kitchen, like he is his own personal friend or something.

                          As for me, I have really enjoyed their paella and the mixed grill off their menu. I love their house salad with the house salad dressing, and their bread. I wasn't bowled over (ha ha) by their 3 onion soup - it was good, but not great. I almost always order whatever the special is - the other day, it was a shrimp and chicken pasta in a gorgonzola sauce, and it was awesome. Maybe if you try whatever the special is, you will be pleased. Let us know!

                          1. I went to the common grill in Chelsea on the 14th Feb for annvrsy and although it was nice and enjoyable I would say its a bit overpriced and somewhat noisy