Ann Arbor -- best dishes at the best restaurants
Hey Michigan 'hounds, I'm visiting my girlfriend in Ann Arbor soon and was wondering if anybody could recommend their favorite dishes at any of the following restaurants (all of which have gotten rave reviews on here):
Also, if you could recommend a good burger (other than Zingerman's) or any other classy establishments, I would appreciate it. A romantic atmosphere is a plus, too.
The crab cakes at Pacific Rim are particularly well made. They were highlights of MANY meals at Pacific Rim when we lived in Ann Arbor. I'll be the latest commenter to break the rules and stray outside the four restaurants. Call me crazy, but we developed a hankering for the polenta fries at Grizzly Peak. They joined the menu when Peak expanded to include the old Del Rio space.
Polenta fries certainly won't change the culinary world, but they were darn good to munch on, and they resulted in several trips to GP that might not have happened, were it not for the fries.
A very nice Italian restuarant with a romantic atmosphere and an authentically Italian chef serves the best chicken parm in America at Paesano's.
I much prefer the steak sandwich at Zingerman's Roadhouse to their hamburger. I'd also recommend the fried chicken or the monterey jack mac n cheese with grilled chicken.
I'm from New York City but I visit Ann Arbor several times a year and those are the four dishes I always eat before coming home!!
So we only got a chance to go to Zingerman's RH and Eve, but I thought I'd write a little report on both since I got so much helpful advice here.
At the Roadhouse we shared a basket of maize and blue hush puppies, which were the perfect texture (crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside) and were served with two delicious sauces--a hot sauce with a surprisingly "complex" flavor and some kind of garlic mayo. I got a bottle of an imperial oatmeal stout, which was very good and very alcoholic. For our entrees I got the pimento burger with fries, since I had heard how good the burgers are at the Roadhouse. It was HUGE and cooked exactly as I asked, tender and juicy. The pimento cheese was delicious and I noticed that even the tomato slice was ripe and juicy. Overrall this was a fantastic burger, as expected. Some people complain about the prices but when I consider that this was $12.50, about the same price as some of their sandwiches across town in the deli, it felt entirely reasonable to me. I wasn't terribly impressed by the twice-cooked fries, but that's my only complaint about this otherwise fantastic meal. My companion got the grilled sea scallops special, which came with spinach and garlic mashed potatoes. Everything on her plate was delectable as well. Although there were only four scallops on the plate (we were joking about how massive my plate was compared to hers), each was seared just right, that perfect scallop texture inside. Total for the two entrees, two drinks (she got a glass of wine), a cup of coffee, and an appetizer, with tip and tax, was about $60. A bit steep for lunch, but we had a lot of grub to take home with us. Service was fine but somewhat indifferent. The decor was nice and rustic, as you might guess from the "Roadhouse" name, although it jarred somewhat with the prices.
We received just "OK" service at Eve, but the room was quite romantic with exposed brick and pipes set off by cool light bulbs. As a starter we had the mussels in a creamy curry. Usually I'm not too enthusiastic about shellfish, but I liked these a lot. The sauce they were bathed in was aromatic and had a delicate flavor. I was glad they gave us some chunks of bread to mop it up after we had finished the mussels. Unfortunately my girlfriend, who was in the mood for scallops again, failed to notice how similar the description of her entree's sauce was to the mussels' sauce. Her dish, torn pasta with scallops and prawns, though good, tasted very similar to the starter. We wish the waitress had noticed this overlap and forewarned us but perhaps that's too much to ask. Also, though the scallops were very good, she actually slightly preferred the scallops at the Roadhouse. Additionally, the chardonnay that she recommended with her dish did not taste like a $13 glass of wine. It was somewhat bland. On the whole, I got a much better deal: a wonderful glass of cabernet sauvignon that interacted nicely with the beef tenderloin with stilton. The tenderloin was just that--incredibly soft and supple and flavorful. Everything on the plate, from the asparagus to the sweet potato gratin to the dried apricots and figs (it seems like they had been cooked in some of the beef's gravy) was divine. We also shared a triple chocolate pot de creme which was heavenly, even though, again, chocolate isn't normally my favorite thing. Overall I was very pleased, but my girlfriend was slightly less impressed. It's also worth noting that Eve was quite expensive. Two glasses of wine, two entrees, one appetizer, one dessert was about $130. My point of reference is Chez Panisse in Berkeley. It was more expensive across the board than the cafe upstairs, but overall not quite as good, although the "room" was a lot fancier. Still, if you haven't had the tenderloin at Eve, and you live near AA, then "run, don't walk" as they say.