Ann Arbor so far
- Phaedrus Oct 21, 2006 03:29 PM
So it has been a little over a month since I moved here and here my impressions.
Chinese food: The best place so far has been the T.K. Wu's on Liberty next to the DawnTreader book shop. The food is down home, and well prepared and very tasty. Shop is a little too small though. I went to the Paradise on Eisenhower just because it was close to where I was staying. Not horrible stuff designed for the gueilao but nothing to write home about. I went to a cantonese place on Carpenter just north of Packard that was pretty good. Not much energy there though.
Japanese Food: My friend took me to sushi.come. Good sushi but that is about it. I like it a lot. Cherry Blossom was very good, service was a little dodgy. Seoul Garden was very good but I consider it more of a Korean place, although they do have sushi and sashimi and usual stuff. Godaiko was very god but a touch pricey. I went for lunch and came away happy but broke.
Korean: Arirang is a family place that I liked. Very casual and good. Usual in that they try to do everything, usually the people who do the korean BBQ don't bother with the noodles but they have everything.
The Broken Egg: Great breakfast place. Real diner experience and the omelettes are awesome.
Arbor Brewing Co. Great beers, good pub like atmosphere. Food sucked.
Real Seafood Company: Incredible oyster stew. heart attack in a bowl but oh so tasty. Way too overpriced.
Rush Street: Excellent food, great fun atmosphere. Paid about the same for Rush Street as I did for the Real Seafood Company but felt like I got a better experience.
BD's Mongolian BBQ: Packed place but the food was a little above mediocre. Schtick was fun but nothing new. Just a solid concept done a more energetic way. I like Mongolian BBQ so I liked it.
Mediterrano: A caveat, I went with my boss and bunch of co-workers for a working lunch so my impressions may be skewed. In general I liked it. I had a good burger and the others had the generic fares, didn't really stretch the kitchen's imagination.
Sabor Latino: A little hole in the wall next to the Heidelberg on Main. Decent latin American food, half the menu is mexican the other half is a conglomeration of south american food. Its hard to do so many things well.
Pilar's Cafe: On State. A Salvadorean place. great tamales, pretty good facsimile of pupusas. Mind you, I am thankful to have any place in AA that knows what a pupusa is. They also do Horchata, which is really time and labor intensive.
Zingerman's Roadhouse: Had the fried chicken, it was OK, not slap-yo-mama good but not bad for Michigan. Great greens and decent mashed. The rest of the menu looked interesting, looking forward to the cabrito.
The Chinese place on Carpenter and Packard is Great Lakes Seafood, which IMO, is the closest to true Hong Kong Chinese you'll find in the Detroit area. Good fresh steamed fish as well as other classics like salt and pepper spare ribs.
I found their dim sum to be better than the dim sum in Windsor.
Don't let the quiet atmosphere fool you. They have late night hours when all the Hong Kong students at the university go there to eat. In addition, weekend dim sum is quite bustling there.
For breakfast, don't forget about Angelo's near the medical center.
A big second for Angelo's. Get there fairly early or be prepared to stand in line. I liked the Broken Egg too, but Angelo's was our favorite.
Zingerman's Deli, not the roadhouse, is also definitely somplace we will return.
I'd recommend Knight's on Dexter. It's a place for meat and strong drinks. Very Midwestern. Great crowd too (older "blue hairs" go there, but that's part of the charm.)
Zingermann's Deli really is amazing. It is easy to be bitter about their outrageous prices, especially if you're on a grad student's salary but they've got really good stuff there.
I'd also cast a vote for Angelo's. Their famous bread can be a bit gummy, but it's great ambiance, especially on a cold winter day.
I've always been disappointed with Japanese food in Ann Arbor. Consider trying Miki. It's been a few years since I've been, but they were always a cut above other Japanese restaurants.
For Korean, there's a nice place on S. University. Coffee Table? The red building at the end of the strip. It's basic lunch fare, but decent.
And I'd second a vote for Great Lakes Seafood. It's no Toronto Chinatown, but it's also a lot easier to get to!
There's lots of bad food and bad service in Ann Arbor, but there's also lots of places to choose from. Dine with caution.
The South U Korean place used to be called the Coffee Break and still answers to that name, but has gradually taken on the name of Kang's. The Korean places in that area (there are three within a block and a half) benefit from competition--they're lunch counters, basically, but good. Another good one with slightly fancier digs is Bewon, in northeast Ann Arbor on Plymouth near U.S. 23.
Knight's is the old steaks-and-chops Ann Arbor. Weber's is another old standby that can hit the spot when you're in the mood.
If anybody is looking for the "Great Lakes" restaurant that is often recommended here and is having trouble with searches, note that it is actually called Great Lake. I agree with the recommendations in its favor. Yes, if you have a Chinese guide in a city with zillions of Chinese restaurants, you can eat better, but the seafood dishes there are fresh and flavorful.
My only complaint about Angelo's was also the bread. Mine had great texture, but I actually salted it.
I really enjoy Great Lake for dim sum. And it's nice that it's open late.
Also, for a great breakfast, try Northside Grill at the Broadway Bridge. Unless you get there early, there's usually a wait, but it's definitely worth it.
There's a little hole in the wall in the Broadway Plaza next to Cottage Inn Pizza called Broadway Cafe that has a weird menu, there's either cheese steak hoagies or Bi Bim Bop. It's cheap but good. Don't know how the owner makes a living, but it's been there for years. And there's an Indian grocery a few doors down that has pretty good carry-out.
I'm impressed by the amount of culinary ground you've covered in only a month.
Great Lake Seafood Restataurant has been around for quite a while. Over the years I've seen their quality go up and down, but on my last three visits, they seem to be on an upward trajectory. I think Wah Court in Windsor has better dim sum, but it's a long hike from Ann Arbor. So we pretty much default to Great Lake for dim sum and seafood.
Rush Street is great.
I prefer Grizzly Peak (food and beer) to A2 Brewing Co.
Try the Quarter Bistro in Westgate shopping center. I've enjoyed it a lot more that Zingerman's Roadhouse, which is also in Westgate.
Zingerman's deli - pretty good but I still maintain my rating of overrated on Zingermans. They do make a mean pastrami sandwich, if you're willing to part with $12 or so.
Taqueria La Loma on Michigan Ave., just west of Ypsilanti has great tacos. Better than Sabor Latino. You can get pupusas there too. I think the place is owned by Salvadorans as well.
The tacos (al pastor, chorizo, carnitas etc.) are very good.
For Japanese, try Sadako on S. University. Not great, but definitely better than any of the other inexpensive Japanese places around campus.
Seoul Garden is my choice for Korean.
Believe me, I have tried to get in at Angelos and at Zingerman's Deli. It was impossible to get in. I stopped by Zingerman's last Sunday, it was drizzly and there was a line around the block. Like Yogi Berra says:"nobody goes there anymore, it got too crowded." C'est la vie.
I did go to the Gandy Dancer for brunch, it was very good, your standard brunch selection but very well done. Good price, and a gorgeous space. Nice rehab on the old train station.
I also went to Shalimar's. Food was so-so. I was less than impressed, the service was good but it was all show and very little substance as far as flavors go.
I went to a place close to home, Creekside Grill too. Nice atmosphere, most people were there for the World Series but the foog was very good American. Just don't go on Tuesdays, Senior Night.
BTW, can anyone fill me in Metzger's and Weber Inn?
The deal with Shalimar's is just get the buffet, cheap, good variety, quick, good. Service is as good as you are, since you help yourself.
Metzger's is the oldest restaurant in Ann Arbor, except it's not in AA any more. Started about 1920, closed downtown 5-10 years ago, took a few years off then reopened where they are now. Food's about the same, and the beer's just as good. Go there. Best German around. The room's ugly, but a pitcher or two of dark beer and some sauerbraten will make you think it looks ok.
Weber's Inn (no relation) does American/Continental cuisine. If that's what you're after they do a credible job. A lot of people swear by them, and they've been doing it a long time. Steaks, prime rib, lobster, that sort of thing. At night they're the middle age meat market night club.
You can find Horchata at La Fiesta Mexicana on Cross St. in Ypsilanti. I've mentioned here before that I think they have as good of Mexican food as there is around here.
Try Pacific Rim by Kana. Kana was strictly Korean for years, then the parents retired to do their missionary work (in Africa, last I heard), and now the son just sold out to his partner and is moving to Hawaii. Pacific Rim is pan-Asian, and pretty good. Did you know there are more Korean restaurants in AA than any other kind?
Try Logan. Higher end, but nicely done. Try the Earle, the best wine list/beverage service in the state. And the best table service in AA. They need to kick the food up a notch, but they probably never will.
You've done a lot in a month - good work!
re. Zingerman's Deli - avoid on weekends, especially lunch. Dinner is not nearly so busy. My favorite time to go and shop for cheese, olive oil, etc is in the evenings, like 8 pm.
Sabor Latino has a nice horchata. I really like their Carne Al Pastor tacos.
My one experience with Logan was really disappointing. Check out Cafe Zola and Eve for dinner. Zola goes white tablecloth for dinner, but they're also worth checking out at brunch. Eve is over in the Kerrytown Shops.
If you're ever downtown for a weekday lunch, Le Dog is a don't miss. It's that little red hot dog stand on Liberty near Borders. Don't be fooled by appearances. And don't get a hot dog. CIA trained chef Jules makes and serves amazing soups from that hot dog stand. Thursday and Friday are lobster bisque days.
I second Le Dog. And I second "don't get a hot dog". The Lobster Bisque is the best I've had for the money ($3.50? $4.00?). I'm taking a couple of Fridays off in November and I'm definitely hitting Le Dog. There is a second location on Main St. in the atrium near The Chop House, or there was one a couple of years ago. I think that they are open only from 11 to 1 or 2PM, and I think no weekend hours.
Current hours: 11:30-2, M-F. Lobster Bisque is Thurs. and Fri. only. Tuesday and Wednesday often have specials that are amazing. Main St. location is still there, but I think the specials are only at the Liberty St. location. Even the hot dogs are not bad. Proprietor is brusque, but if you order crisply you'll be in good shape.
re: Jim M
Brusque indeed. My wife got into a snit with him when he first opened, back in 1979 or 1980 and we still talk about it from time to time. It put us off Le Dog for a while, but we got over it a long time ago. The food is just too good to worry about a high-strung chef. Le Dog is the essence of what chowhounding is all about (which implies that it's not about places like The Chop House). I'm gettin' hungry.
It's a Mainstreet Ventures restaurant (like Real Seafood, Palio, Gratzi, etc) and it's nothing to write home about. We went there for my husband's birthday because he likes steak and Mainstreet Ventures gives you a free meal on your birthday. It was okay, but if we'd had to pay full price, we would have felt majorly ripped off.
Miki's is pretty bad. Been there a few times. The fish is stale and slimy. Rice is not very good. I would recommend against going there.
I had the cabrito at Zingerman's this past Friday. It was the best of the 'cue offerings I've had there.
Real smoky and suprisingly lean yet moist. Good stuff. I believe they modeled it after Cooper's in Llano, Tx. I've never eaten it at Cooper's, but when I live in the Austin region I sampled plenty of quality 'cue and this is right up there with some of them.
I found a lot of their barbecue isn't quite as smoky as I like it.
My dining partner had a wild boar sirloin that he also gave high marks too.
I went to Charlie's La Shish. Very raucous and really very good. The tabbouleh was awesome and the hummous very tasty and creamy. The grilled meats were excellent except that the chicken was a touch dry, but that is a sticky wicket anyways given the size of the operation.
I went to Metzger's last night. Nothing to write home about. I got there way early so I was surrounded by geriatrics. I had one of their specials and went home thinking :"why all the fuss?"
Went back to Great Lake with the intention of having dimsum and then realized that I had gotten there too late. So I used the chance to try out the regular cuisine. The beef was tough, the veggies were OK, and the seafood hotpot was excellent. The west lake beef soup needed more beef.
Finally, can anyone recommend a place to go for Thanksgiving? My first one in town so I would like to make it a little special.
Much thanks for all of your recs. Needless to say, I will try to work my way around to all them sometime.
My two cents: I spent three years in Ann Arbor, and in my opinion, never really had a fantastic meal there. There are some okay options, but from a college town that calls itself the "Berkeley of the East," there was no comparison (went to Cal for undergrad and that was an awesome eating scene).
Some of the things that I did like:
TK Wu on Liberty, but only if you stick with the right dishes. The beef chow fun and sauteed pea sprouts are quite good.
Middle Kingdom on Main - possibly the "best" chinese in town.
Surprisingly, A2 has decent Korean. I love stone bowl bibimbap, and two of my favorites are Seoul Korner, that place that looks like it used to be a gas station, and Arirang, as mentioned. Seoul Garden is pretty pricy and not worth it - but I tend to like more homey oriented type places.
Not really great. After all, Ann Arbor is pretty landlocked. Sadako is okay for cheap sushi, i really did not like sushi.come. Miki is pretty bad.
Red Hot Lovers makes a decent hot dog, their waffle fries are also quite good.
Le Dog - the soup as everyone has been saying, avoid the hot dogs.
Zingerman's - good, but way overpriced since there's no competition for that type of product in town.
Angelos - decent brunch but the parking is terrible. Northside Grill is a better bet.
Cafe Zola - my favorite brunch spot in town.
The Earle - good for their happy hours, formal dinner is sort of ehhh.
Bella Ciao - italian - probably my favorite restaurant in A2. big fan of the duck with Michigan peaches.
I really didnt like the Chop House/Gratzi/Real Seafood/Palio on main street. all owned by the same corporation, all fell short.
Seva - vegetarian restaurant, do quite a bit with their offerings. goat cheese in an omelette? im there!
I made the trek to Angelo's this past Saturday. My omelette was nice -feta and spinich- but not wait for hours in the cold nice. The toast with raisin was underwhelming. Of course I went the morning of the Michigan Ball State football game so I was surrounded by misty eyed alums.
Does Middle Kingdom have a separate Chinese menu?
I ageee with all of ckbear's recs. I also lived in the SF bay area for a few years before coming here (for 5 yrs) and the food quality and taste just aren't even in the same plane for comparison. You can get such tasty food across a wide price range (from a taco stand in oakland to high end french bistros in berkeley and places like 'greens' in SF) but in A2 the prices are generally high, especially considering the quality. It is not a case of you get what you pay for!
Ok, I'll end my rant on A2 food. All of that being said, ckbear's recs are spot on.
I'd only add:
Pacific Rim - best dinner I've had in town. creative, tasty, quality ingredients.
The buffet/bar at the food co-op/cafe verde is great for affordable, healthy, usually tasty eating. Some of their dishes are blech but their charmoula is great. it's the first place I go after I've been traveling to get some crunchy hippie american food.
Grizzly Peak is a solid, low to mid-priced stanby. When my parents, who aren't chowhounds, come to town, we often end up there. Good standbys for them and some more creative combos for me. the curry vinagrette is delicious.
Rush St is terrible on a hundred different levels - quality, service, "scene", price...
Zingerman's - totally overrated and overpriced. roadhouse even more so. best thing is their bbq sandwiches outside the deli in the summer.
I agree with cmcd and ckbear. I was an Ann Arbor townie, grew up there, went to undergrad and grad school. Moved to the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and now in Portland. I have been back to Ann Arbor, once for about 2 years and occasionally to see friends. None of the restaurants are stellar, most (i.e. Zingerman's being the most notorious) are completely overrated. Most of the places downtown are owned by the same corporation and have that bland corporate taste. I do like Grizzly Peaks. Good sandwiches, decent beer. Cafe Zola is good, although service is iffy, especially on weekends. I like Tuptim, halfway to Ypsilanti for Thai. Yotsuba, somewhat nearby is pretty good for Japanese. Godaiko in the opposite direction is reasonable for Japanese. Seoul Garden is pretty good. West End Grill, Common Grill are also pretty good. Shalimar isn't too bad for Indian
Some of the worst places I've tried:
Tio's. What kind of burrito do they serve? It's kind of a slurry. A burrito abomination to burrito purists.
Miki. Old gross fish.
I would definitely try out Zingerman's Deli as well as Casey's, a nice bar right across the street from the Amtrack station (on Depot Street, just off of Main Street).
Angelo's is also great for breakfast, make sure you try the French toast.
Pizza House has great pizza as well as chipatis. Their homemade chipati sause is so good on salads, sandwiches, and as a dip.
Amer's Mediterranean Deli on State - Try an iced mocha coffee (I dream of these). I also like the huge sandwiches, the Georgia Reuben was fantastic! Desserts look amazing, but I've always been too stuffed from the deli-hugewiches! Not as big-bucks as Zingerman's.
If you're going to Zingerman's Roadhouse, order their donuts.
They're fried fresh when you order them, and are head and shoulders above pretty much any other donuts out there.
(next to Grizzly Peak)
has great breakfast & crepes
Lai Lai on Carpenter & Ellsworth has OK dim sum on weekends
Dalat- Vietnamese in Ypsilanti
100 W. Michigan Ave
Bahn Na (Thai & Laotian )on Washtenaw is another favorite
Red Sea Ethiopian Cuisine
1785 Washtenaw Rd
Taqueria La Fiesta
4060 Packard St- owned by La Fiesta (but cheaper than Downtown Ypsi location
)on Packard past Carpenter
re: Michigan Mishuganer
I believe Lai Lai has dim sum every day. I'm pretty sure I took my brother there on a week day when he last visited. Of course, things do change. Lai Lai also has excellent Cantonese Chow Mein (pan-fried noodles).
Lucky Seven (very near the Red Sea above) has well-prepared Chinese for carry-out. They also have a small eat-in area. They also deliver.
I have to reply to the donut poster. Washtenaw Dairy has the world's best donuts, they sell them around town (Sweetwater's Cafe). I can't make eye contact with a coconut donut, because I WILL buy it and eat it.
I like the Korean lunch counter in Kerrytown, I don't recall the name. The bebimbop, tempura, and eggrolls are excellent. I've been going there since I was a little kid and the food hasn't changed.
Sabor Latino is a great place for cheap quick mexican, it's not too greasy and I love their little tacos. Some of their specials I haven't liked, but their ala carte has been consistently good.
Bella Ciao is a great atmosphere, a nice place to eat a intimate dinner. We go there for all of our family member's birthdays, and the food can be inconsistantly fantastic. We went there mid-November, it was the best it has been in a long time.
I like eating outside at Real Seafood, I need my oyster fix once in a while. Their oyster stew is excellent and raw oysters always are fresh.
I happen to like the food at the Earle despite the earlier negative comments. I always get the duck though. The atmosphere downstairs isn't to my liking, I like to eat outside in the summer.
>>Has anyone tried their new place??
Has anyone tried Vinology?
Also over near North Campus is a fantastic Syrian food and pastry shop--called Exotic Bakery. The handmade chocolate raspberry truffle is my favorite, and the spinach pie is wonderful.
I like the Korean place in Kerrytown too. I've been going there for a long time and it's always good, even though, I believe, the original owners no longer, er, own it. I take my son there now, and he likes it too. Hafta say, the outcome of their remodelling left me a little baffled. It's like they added space, but not really much more seating. So what? It's good food and a real chowhound place.
I love Kosmo's Lunch Counter. Not open for dinner, and if you get there around 6:00 or so, they'll only reluctantly serve you. But they've got yummy bibimbap.
I agree with the person who recommended Dalat.
I like zingerman's. I don't think the reason they're so expensive is because of lack of competition. They sell a really high quality product, across the board, with great customer service. I'm particularly fond of their blueberry muffins.
I'm not really a fan of Angelo's (and I was a student in the medical complex, so walked by it literally every day). I always got a slice of the toast and drizzled honey on it, but for breakfast/brunch type things, it just isn't all that.
Let me admit, by recs are from when I lived there in 98-99.
ETA: I forgot to mention Durham tracklements over in Kerrytown. It's not a restaurant, but GREAT smoked salmon.
While you're there, step on over to Foods & Flavors Indian grocery and try some of their great cheap takeout curries from the counter in the back. Takes the guy a little while to make them, but you can browse the store, watch the proto-matrimonial action in the aisles, and/or nosh on one of the samosas available up front. A real neglected gem in Ann Arbor, esp. in the summer when you can take the food out to the little park by the stream. If you have kids with you, they can hit the playground equipment while you eat and relax. You can stuff yourself for seven or eight bucks.
Had my first visit to AA from San Francisco:
Thanksgiving dinner at Webers was delish - turkey with a choice of light or dark meat, good prime rib, excellent cocktails and a good bottle of wine. Pumpkin pie was respectable. The room had an inviting, comfy feel. And the service was fine.
Lunch Friday at The Witchery where they served excellent sandwiches, soup and beer.
Zingerman's Roadhouse was almost too much fun. Great cocktails. The BBQ oysters were out of this world and could become addictive, a ham and cheese plate that was unlike anything I've ever tasted - domestic procuitto maybe - but not salty - it was amazing. Served with a beautiful, creamy cows milk cheese. A beet salad that I salivate trying to describe. Four of us split two entrees - coffee rubbed wild boar that was beautifully cooked and the fried chicken - which was perfect. I'm going to stop here except to say that service was exceptionally friendly and professional.
Saturday's lunch at Cafe Zola did not disappoint - it was goood.
And then a late dinner on Sunday at Eve in Kerrytown made it a perfect foodie weekend - we had a great meal there - Moroccan chicken was sensational, lamb sirlion was beautiful, incredible starters and soup, beautiful desserts. Loved the atmosphere (even the music which rarely happens), great service.
Can't wait to be back in Ann Arbor and while I'd like to try some more places next time, I'll definitely have to revisit Zingerman's Roadhouse and Eve.
There's a very good Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant called MisSaigon in the mini-mall on the corner of Ellsworth and Stone School. General's Chicken and the Curry Chicken are EXCELLENT--so much so that my wife and I can't get by those 2 dishes to try more! Potstickers and vietnamese spring rolls are all good, too. Service is excellent.
I second the recommendation for MisSaigon. I had a Vietnamese friend clue me in on their existence when they just opened. I personally found the service to be inconsistent (the waitresses were usually young and bored) but the food is top-notch and authentic. The appetizers are delicious. The pho actually comes with the proper sides of sprouts, basil and lime, and is made with a stronger, star anise flavored broth but I found the portions a bit on the stingier side when compared to portions at Dalat and Saigon Garden. They really shine on the dishes like the com dia (rice plates) and my favorite, the Vietnamese crepe (a omelet like concoction stuffed with meat or tofu), which I highly highly recommend.
As for some of the other recommendations, I have to say that sushi.come is abysmal for sushi. Totoro, a nice little establishment on State, between Buffalo Wild Wings and State Theater serves consistently well-made sushi and hot entrees. Yotsuba on Hogback is also really good, but a bit on the pricier side. I stop in there for their lunch specials.
If you're looking for a hidden gem, I'd pop back into Kerrytown and walk a little bit past the Kosmo Lunch Counter to Monahan's Seafood Market. During lunch hours, they do double duty as a seafood counter AND affordable DELICIOUS lunch spot. There's a few set items on a short menu as well a daily rotating list of nicely conceived specials from their chef. They'll also let you choose something from the display and will cook it to order, in a variety of sauces they offer. It's very casual and low-key, everything served on paper plates and sometimes the portions may not be as huge as you'd want but it's really a great deal for seafood that is far better prepared than the overpriced stuff you get at Real Seafood Co.
MIsSaigon is pretty good, but they are still catering to an american fear of straying from the familiar (which is also why they have so many Chinese items on their menu).
I asked the owner whether it was possible to order pho with tendon, and he apologized profusely, but said that the market here just wouldn't justify him offering it. The beef that is in the pho also tends to be cooked, sometimes to death. MisSaigon does offer bean sprouts, basil and lime, but they don't offer hot peppers or sawgrass.
If you've got the time to make a trip out of it, the places in Madison Heights listed in a prior post are your bet bet in the area.
When I was in school there here were some of my favorites:
Cafe Zola for brunch
Pacific Rim for Pan-Asian
Oasis on South U for quick, cheap and very good middle eastern food
Amer's does make a good and cheaper sandwich than Zingerman's. Their salads are quite good too.
Afternoon Delight for lunch or breakfast