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Ann Arbor Restaurants

Hi Midwest Folks,

I'm a DC Chowhound but my boyfriend just moved to Ann Arbor for a job. We are both major foodies but slightly clueless to the Detroit and Ann Arbor restaurant scene.

I'm going to be going out there to visit quit a bit---possibly once a month, so I would love suggestions of all sorts---all price ranges, food types, atmospheres etc.

Thanks so much!

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  1. You'll like it a lot. Better IMO for cheap eats than high-end; it's a student town after all. Try these amazing spots, and search the boards for more on them:

    - Zingerman's Deli. Renowned. Overly so. And over-priced for what it is. But very very high-quality deli food, and nice, and fun. Good for sandwiches, corned beef hash, pickles, baked beans. Also sells various savoury pies, coffee cakes, Vermont cultured butter, fleur de sel caramels, Applewood smoked bacon, chorizo, etc.

    - Culver's hamburgers -throughout Michigan- for butterburgers.

    - Blimpie's. Amazing hamburgers. Not unpleasant, as it's reputed to be - the banter's just a shtick. You order your meat and bun plus any grilled condiments such as grilled onions, egg or mushrooms - then wait to be asked about cheese, then condiments. Or they yell at you :-)

    - Miller's Bar in nearby Dearborn for hamburgers. Super-famous.

    - Angelo's for breakfast.

    - Washtensaw Dairy for doughnuts and milkshakes. Another institution.

    - Don Carlos for Mexican.

    11 Replies
    1. re: spigot

      No, no, no, the first question (whether verbal or not) at Blimpyburger is "anything from the fryer?" Delicious fried broccoli or cauliflower as well as fries. Then the grill. Then finally the ketchup-lettuce-mustard-mayo-etc.

      It's definitely worth a stop. On the high end try Eve in Kerrytown.

      Distinctive local cuisines are Middle Eastern. Ayse's Turkish. Any one of the Arabic places along Washtenaw between AA and Ypsilanti: Charlie's La Shish, Pita Pita, Al-Noor.

      1. re: Jim M

        God, you're right. I was emotionally scarred by getting the cheese out of order; I've blocked out the fryer question completely :-)

      2. re: spigot

        Don Carlos for Mexican? Don Carlos has been gone for years, sadly. I have yet to find a suitable replacement for good strong margaritas and their shrimp fajitas.

        1. re: annex

          This is all very helpful! Any non-cheap eats you would recommend besides Eve (which I've heard some great things about.)

          How about a birthday dinner in Detroit or Ann Arbor area?

          1. re: Elyssa

            In A2, try The Earle for traditional or Logan for contemporary.
            Emily's in Northville is a nice birthday spot, and only 20 minutes from A2.
            Tribute in Farmington Hills, or my personal favorite The Lark in West Bloomfield, are ~45 minutes away.
            In Detroit proper, you're going to have limited options for fine dining...and I don't recommend heading into Detroit @ night if you're a 1st time visitor (before you folks bag on me, I managed a restaurant / nightclub / theater in Detroit for 3 years while residing in the Cass Corridor...I know of what I speak).

            1. re: g rote

              Oh I have no intentions of wandering around Detroit at night. I was looking more around Farmington Hills, West Bloomfield, Troy etc. I've heard of the Lark...it's my bf's grandmother's favorite restaurant of all time. :) Maybe we'll check that out.

              1. re: Elyssa

                I grew up in West Bloomfield and go to the same places when I am home to visit. The Lark is great for a finer meal. The Uptown Parthenon is also good for Greek food and Larco's serves great Italian. As for lunch places, I love Greek Islands (greek salads), and Sunny's for great omelettes. The Stage and Steve's are both good delis. You should definitely check out Birmingham for Cameron's (steakhouse) Mitchell's (seafood) and Forte (Eclectic), which are all excellent! Good luck!

                1. re: Elyssa

                  Try Tomatoes Apizza (two locations in Farmington Hills) for the best pizza in the Detroit metropolitan area. I started a whole thread on chowhound a while ago on this (think the thread is titled Best Pizza in Detroit area), so do a search for other's comments on it. Classic New Haven neapolitan style pizza, so good it will haunt you! One location is at 14 Mile & Middlebelt & the other at Grand River and Halsted, again both in Farmington Hills.

                2. re: g rote

                  Emily's in Northville has also closed, sadly.

            2. re: spigot

              I've been to both Zingerman's and Blimpie's before. Excellent burgers at Blimpies---worth every calorie! :)

              But what is a butterburger? That's a new one for this East Coaster.

              1. re: Elyssa

                Culver's is a fast-food chain based in Wisconsin known for frozen custard and the burgers they call "butterburgers". www.culvers.com
                Also, Emily's in Northville closed last fall.

            3. Elyssa,
              A fantastic place for soup is Cafe Du Jour, which is right next to the Earle at 177 W. Washington. A few of us regularly make the drive from Farmington for the soup, especially in the colder months. They also make good sandwiches and salads. I think it's run by a grandma/mom/daughter team, and the service is friendly and loving.
              Across the street is Cafe Zola, which is a nice place for breakfast or lunch (their specialty is crepes), and they have very good coffee and espresso to boot.
              Other coffeehouses on the same block are Sweetwaters and Starbucks.
              If you do eat at Cafe Du Jour, consider going west about 3 or 4 doors to Sweetwaters for some of their fantastic pastries for dessert.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Jeff from Michigan

                Thanks so much Jeff! All those suggestions seem right up our alley.

                1. re: Elyssa

                  I would be remiss if I didn't mention some other Ann Arbor favorites - Blimpy's for burgers, Gandy Dancer for the Sunday Brunch and the Broken Egg for breakfast.
                  Also, while I haven't eaten there myself, I got it from a reliable source that Logans (right next-door to Cafe du Jour) has possibly the best food in all of A². Other than the 18-ounce Ribeye, he said that most items are $30 or less, and that is dinner pricing. I believe they also serve lunch. Hopefully, someone reading this thread can give a first-hand report of the place.
                  Be sure to call ahead to any place in town before you go, to make sure they're open on that particular day.

                2. re: Jeff from Michigan

                  I actually like Cafe Zola quite a bit for dinner. They go white tablecloth at night, and I've never had a bad meal there. Excellent Mediterranean Bistro style food, reasonably priced, and so much better than the usual Main St suspects.

                  1. re: tammylc

                    Lamb dishes there, as so often with people from this part of the world (they are Turks, I think), are superb.

                    1. re: Jim M

                      And food is half price before 6pm, which makes it taste even better.

                3. I used to live in AA and miss some of the fine foodie things they have there for a smaller town.

                  Zingerman's was mentioned already and I agree especially for purchasing deli items like cheese and jamon serano.

                  You have to check out the farmer's market there. The market is the main thing I miss most.

                  In Kerrytown there are some gems. Monahan's seafood market and Sparrow meats - not restaurants but should be noted if you are a foodie. These are good if you want to cook at home.

                  My favoraite restaurants were Eve, also in Kerrytown, and the West End grill. Another nice place is the The Common Grill in nearby (to the West) towm of Chelsea.

                  May I also recommend Mr. Spots if you are a chicket wing or cheese-steak lover.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: chateauneuf

                    I cook...my boyfriend unfortunatly does not. But its nice to know there is a good fish market in town if I want to put together a meal when I'm there.

                    We're both really excited about the Farmer's Market since we are huge fans of the one in Dupont Circle in DC.

                    1. re: chateauneuf

                      Monahan's actually can be considered a restaurant -- you can buy a piece of fish and they will cook it for you, unless something has changed in the last year or two (haven't been by in a while). Very simple, but very delicious.

                      A little surprised nobody has mentioned Red Hot Lovers. Can't speak to the dogs as I never got past the burgers (and I'm not a huge red hot person anyway), which are one of my faves. They also have an incredible fountain coke machine, calibration is top notch imho.

                    2. You should search earlier threads on this board. There are quite a few talking about this. Some good reccos here already, but Don Carlos has happily been replaced in the area by some real Mexican food, the kind Mexicans eat, like La Fiesta Mexicana and Taqueria La Fiesta, a couple places run by a pair of sisters where the food is authentic and great.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Chris Weber

                        For Mexican, I also like Sabor Latino on Main. The carne al pastor taco is out of this world.

                      2. I like Gratzi in Ann Arbor too.
                        And I've heard good things about Pacific Grille.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: cherie

                          Do you mean Pacific RIM? Excellent.

                        2. If you're ever downtown during the day, don't miss Le Dog, which is little red hot dog stand on Liberty near Maynard (IIRC). Don't get the hot dogs - get the soups, which are always excellent. Jules is a CIA-trained chef who decided to do something a little unusual with his degree. Thursday and Friday are lobster bisque days.

                          1. Hi Elyssa,
                            You could also try Terry B's in Dexter, just a few mins from AA. If yiou are a foodie then you will love Terry B's. They pride themselves in made from scratch cooking. They butcher all their own meats, all the charcuterie is made in-house, not to mention the desserts prepared by their pastry chef. Check out their website, it has their menu and some nice pics of the restaurant. www.terrybs.com. Welcome to Michigan!

                            1. Well, you're in trouble. The restaurants here are owned by mostly one INC. and it's really hard to find better than mediocre. If you know good food you'll see what I mean soon enough. Common Grill in Chelsea (94 West ext 152 North 1 mile on West side of main street) is the only one true restaurant serving fine food. Quarter Bistro & Tavern (734) 929-9200 300 S Maple Rd, Ann Arbor is well above average. DO NOT GO TO ZINGERMAN'S completely over rated, not high quality and completely over priced.
                              Pizza here is 90% the same exact thing everywhere (bad). Try NYPD for a slice or Little Brown Jug both on University, closest to Chicago and NY pizza. Get to know Troy and Detroit or just get disappointed.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: BigCityCritic

                                Silvio's Organic Pizza is where I always go for a slice. They're open until 3am, and they have some of the best pizza and pasta I've ever had. It's run by Silvio himself, and he comes from a family of bakers so the crust is actually delicious and well-made (unlike most places). The toppings are interesting and it's a great deal. I'll just say this: I ate a similar piece of pizza at the cafe in Chez Panisse.

                              2. I recently moved from AA area to Dallas and here are my choices.

                                1st. I highly recommend the West End Grill, anything they serve a great, notably the Steak Au Poivre using Kobe beef, lamb chops, or venison. Top Notch service, the beignets served with compound butter are my favorite. Located downton on Washington, need reservations.
                                2nd My favorite afterwork informal hangout.. The Quarter, on S. Maple off of Stadium, good cocktails, tap beer, excellent fresh Oysters, Oyster shooters, homemade hummus served with fresh bread.
                                3rd. Knights Restaurant, AA institution known for their steaka and generous cocktails, also affectionatly known as the "Old folks home", located on Dexter Ann Arbor Rd off of Maple, they also have a store on the corner Miller and Spring st. where they sell the same steaks (prime beef) they serve in their 2 restaurants. The other is located in Jackson Mi.
                                4th Gratzi's for anything Italian on main st.
                                5th anyone of the 3 microbrewery's. Grizzley Peak, Ann Arbor Brewing Co, and Leopold Bros.


                                3 Replies
                                1. re: MOOSE63

                                  you gave away Knights! That's a secret known only to locals. Everybody, forget that you read about it here, it's already too hard to get a table there at dinner time.

                                  Seriously, I take everyone from out of town to Knights when they're hungry for steak or a real cocktail. My friends from NYC adore it. Every town used to have a Knights and we are lucky to have it. They do no advertising and they don't need to. They also do a fine job with seafood. Just prepare for time travel, back to the 50s, and be ready to walk through the cigarette smoke on the way to the non-smoking section.

                                  Here are my Ann Arbor picks (born and raised here, came back here to live after years on the East coast)

                                  1) West End Grill. On the classic American side, but its quality can stand up to any good-sized bistro in Manhattan. The Border's folks take authors here regularly.

                                  2) Monaghan's, both to sit and eat and take home. I am in love with their lobster salad, the best I have found outside Sandwich, Mass. They make a fine chowder, too. Wonderful selection of fresh fish, and oysters but no bargains here, sadly.

                                  3) Zingerman's Deli and the Roadhouse. Zingerman's is well-described here; what you might not know is that if you're there after about 9:15 p.m., they often give out free bagels and pastries. You can get a taste of anything. The service is not rushed, but you won't be either. Just take your Amex card. The Roadhouse has amazing fried chicken and BBQ and an nice Sunday brunch. It's a good idea to reserve a table.

                                  4) Yotsuba for sushi. I am very picky about sushi having lived in Japan, and theirs is excellent. Other dishes such as chicken katsu and sake chazuke as well. Often a good idea, though, to get carryout because they get really busy on weekends. You can call ahead or email an order on the web.

                                  5) For pizza, try Pizza House or Cottage Inn. NYPD is okay for a slice. Pizza here generally sucks and don't fall into the Chicago Deep Dish pizza trap. It's glop.

                                  6) For Chinese, Gourmet Gardens on Stadium. They recently upgraded their menu and redecorated. I love the Fong family and the service is terrific. Again, it's not NY Chinese but it will do.

                                  I'm going to disagree with the recommendations on Eve. I have eaten there several times, I found the food to overreach and they ignored my requests to leave sauces/dressings on the side, etc. Likewise, Common Grill has become a tourist destination. It's noisy and they don't take reserves, plus there's no room to wait. I'd skip the trip, and go to Knights. (Forget that I said that.)

                                  1. re: brendastarlet

                                    I say head in to Detroit, drive to MexicanTown, and eat at Mi Pueblo. Oh my God, Mi Pueblo.

                                    1. re: tmassie

                                      I second that; Mi Pueblo is so good!

                                2. Hi Elyssa, You have already gotten a lot of good suggestions. Definitely try the Turkish eggs at Cafe Zola! I would add Amadeus for fabulous Polish/European food and great ambience (plus live classical piano on many nights). I'd say it is in the mid to expensive range depending on what you order. I am also a huge fan of Kerrytown and Sparrow meats has actually started doing dinners there once a month. They clear out the space where the produce market is and set up tables. We went to the St. Patrick's Irish dinner and had a great time (there were 5 courses from smoked salmon to Irish lamb stew, etc...). They just did an Italian dinner last week and I know they have a Mexican themed dinner party coming up this month. They provide different courses of excellent food and you bring your own beer or wine. It is definitely worth checking out. Everyday Wines is also now doing lunch on the second floor of Kerrytown. I haven't checked it out yet but the menu looked pretty good.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Morebutter

                                    What we should all take from this great thread, packed with personal opinions, is that A2 is a great little place to grab a fork (or chopsticks, or in the case of The Blue Nile, no utensils at all). And on the subject of personal opinions, mine are:
                                    1) OK, Zingerman's prices are preposterous and it's a tourist destination, but find me a better Price-No-Object deli sandwich outside of NY and I'll crawl there bare-kneed over a trail of coarse sea salt just to catch a waft of whatever's cooking in their kitchen. Did I mention the prices? Since the subject of heading into greater Detroit suburbs has been broached, another great deli is the Vineyard on NW Hwy., just south of 14 mile.
                                    2) I know the original request was for the higher end, but I'm blown away that nobody has noted the legendary Fleetwood Diner. Hippy Hash must be experienced at least once. To be clear--this place is a dive.
                                    3) We love Casey's for great, consistent quality food in a cool pub atmosphere. But it's much better than your basic bar food. Oops--much like Knight's, I'm "outing" a bit of a local secret.
                                    4) Blue Nile. Ethiopian excellence.
                                    5) I agree with an earlier post that the Common Grille is pretty common.
                                    6) Great sushi at Godiako.

                                    1. re: Morebutter

                                      This is great! All these suggestions are giving me hope for the years to come of a long distance relationship! :)

                                      1. re: Elyssa

                                        1) The absoulte BEST PIZZA in town is Anthony's. There is one on the corner of Miller and Maple. I think there are two locations but that is the only one I go to. Chicago Style Pizza (and others if you perfer)

                                        2) Prickly Pear is awesome for Mexican-ish food.

                                        3) My fav restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor: Palio's. It's Italian. Pesto sauce is awesome.

                                        4) The best beer for cheap: The Arena (kiddie corner from Arbor Brewing Company).

                                    2. When I visit my son in Ann Arbor, we like to eat at Tio's for Mexican, less than authentic, but tasty; NYPD or the Brown Jug for pizza and Cottage Inn for a casual sit down Italian meal or pizza. My favorite spot, however, is Stucci's, for ice cream!