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Oct 16, 2007 10:32 PM

fun Ann Arbor anniversary dinner suggestions for SF visitor?

I'll be visiting Ann Arbor from San Francisco in a couple weeks to visit my boyfriend, and I'm looking for a great place to celebrate our anniversary.

I'm looking for food that's great quality (free-range poultry, grass-fed beef, organic if possible!)- ingredient-focused. I don't want a stuffy atmosphere.

Looking to spend about $100 on dinner for two with a couple glasses of wine. I was looking at Cafe Zola. I'm not familiar with Ann Arbor at all and would love some suggestions- thanks!

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  1. Try Eve. I believe they have a web site. It would be perfect for you. Congratulations and please report back.

    1. Eve or the Earle are probably the places you're looking for. There's also Common Grill in Chelsea (15 miles from Ann Arbor) that has great quality seafood and has a loud, un-stuffy atmosphere. All three of these places have their menus on their websites.

      Haven't tried Zola in a long time, used to be just a breakfast and lunch place. Their dinner menu looks intriguing though...

      1. I second Eve. Don't know for sure about organic ingredients, but the chef identifies herself as a member of the slow food movement. See "chef background" on website:

        West End Grill is the place known for its steaks. Again, don't know about organic food, but it's darn good. When they suggest reservations, they actually mean it.

        Cafe Zola is fine, but it's simpler--actually evolved from a coffeehouse. Run by Turks and has great lamb chops.

        This is the Midwest. Whatever our flaws, stuffiness is hard to find here.

        I'm trying to think of a place in AA that touts grass-fed organic beef, and I'm not coming up with one. Anybody? Zingerman's Roadhouse might.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Jim M

          I agree that West End Grill is darn good, but to me, that is the first restaurant that came to mind when envisioning "stuffiness." I've found that they take themselves waaay too seriously. Logan, another good restaurant (which might also fit the bill for you, mchan) also take themselves seriously, but throw a little humor into the mix too.

        2. thanks for all of the suggestions! It sound like Eve might fit the bill. Keep 'em coming!

          1 Reply
          1. re: mchan02

            You might also consider Bella Ciao.


            It's Italian (natch), does have free-range chicken, romantic setting.

            Quiet and elegant, but I wouldn't call it stuffy. Hard to say--charlesbois above could have a point about West End Grill, but I think that coming from San Francisco, a city that has a Social Register, you wouldn't find these places stuffy. Eve, though it's the foodiest of all, is a bit more informal.

            One thing about Eve: she's not afraid to pour on the spices. I love that aspect of their food, but not everybody does. A dish I've ordered there and liked is a curry seafood pasta, for example, and it's got quite a curry kick. All the talk about the French philosophy of cooking on the site tends to obscure the fact that much of her food is pretty contemporary.

          2. I am a native Ann Arborite who has returned there from current home in San Francisco area annually for 25 years. If I was looking for this: <<free-range poultry, grass-fed beef, organic if possible!)- ingredient-focused. I don't want a stuffy atmosphere>> that is unique to AA, I would only think of Zingerman's Roadhouse. I know there are some criticisms of it on this board, but of the AA places I know--and I have been to all mentioned in this posting--it is the one that fits this description and is unique to AA. Owner Ari is involved and nearly always present, food is of quality albeit not adventurous or unique and atmosphere is far from stuffy. "Roadhouse" says it, and its a quality one. Eve gets cudos for trying to do cuisine really its own and lovely atmosphere, but I found lovely main ingredients completely dominated by overly-spiced/thickened sauces; like they were trying too hard. Other places mentioned are not up to what similar places in SF area would provide. No one has mentioned Knights, which is as definitively midwest as Chez Panisse is definitively Bay Area: big steaks, big martinis, big cars in the big parking lot. Not organic, however, and not a valet parker or leaf of arugula anywhere near either. For SF dwellers, it seems positively exotic.

            6 Replies
            1. re: alfairfax

              Surprised nobody mention Logan for a fun chef-driven dining experience right downtown. the menu is inventive, the space is romantic, the ingredients are top notch, and the service is always attentive.


              1. re: g rote

                see above for a Logan mention, albeit not very detailed. I agree, Logan's ingredients are par excellance. I love their amuses bouches. I love it when they have fresh baked cookies served with a glass of milk for dessert.

              2. re: alfairfax

                Good to know about the over-spicing/saucing. Thanks alfairfax. I'm looking at Logan's dinner menu and it's sounding delicious!

                This may be a better fit. Zingerman's roadhouse sounds great but not necessarily a destination for a special occasion.

                To clarify- when I said "not too stuffy," I didnt' necessarily mean the clientele (although I certainly wouldnt want to be around stuffy people- but I trust midwesterners to not be so :). I'd like to go to a place that's not too quiet or stifling. My bf and I are both 25 and it would be great if we could find a place that's a little bit bustling. Not that either of us are loud people, but I like not having to whisper. Know what I mean?

                That said, is Logan a good option? Food-wise it sounds perfect.

                Thanks again for all of the recs!

                1. re: mchan02

                  If you're 25, I would suggest not going to The Earle. My folks go there for special occasions and it seems more suited to their 60-something demographic.

                  I've only been to Logan 2x...both for late dinners on weeknights during the summer...which tend to be very quiet times in A2. I seem to recall it being 1/2 full both times, and while it may have been quiet or slightly subdued, it was in no way stuffy. I imagine that during the school year when grad students, professors and student parents are around it's a bit more bustling.

                  You also might want to check out Pacific Rim.

                  1. re: mchan02

                    Logan is great, and the last time I looked, they had their summer menu up still on the website (summer risotto was a dead giveaway) but I bet it has changed at the resto. They do the seasonal thing. The food is really fantastic and the service is attentive without being over solicitous. Unfortunately, I've never perused their wine list, but they have a very nice bar, so I would assume their wine is on par. I would think Logan is an excellent option for you. The dining room is long with high ceilings, with warm orange walls and funky lighting accents. If the place is full, there is a hum of conversation, but you'll be able to have a nice conversation.

                    Just to give you a sample of the first meal I had there, the amuse bouche was a warm potato soup. They serve homemade biscuits. I had Oaxacan short ribs, which were amazing, spiced exactly right and it was a huge portion. My dining companions had a big bowl of some cheesy pasta and a chicken fricassee in blueberry sauce. For dessert, I had a fig torte with minted whipped cream. Sorry I can't remember more particulars re ingredients, etc. All the food was wonderful. My dining companions were notoriously picky eaters, and I was nervous about taking them there without first trying it myself, but they put Logan on their list of places to go in A2. Wow, I'm making myself hungry.

                  2. re: alfairfax

                    My dad's favorite restaurant in Ann Arbor is Knights. He's 80 years old - they serve roast beef and instant mashed potatoes, the interior has lots of vinyl booths. It's not where I'd send someone from SF, but I take my dad there every time he visits me.