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Jul 1, 2010 12:34 PM

Ann Arbor--too many choices! Help narrowing it down. . .

I'll be in A2 for a food-related gathering, and will have a little bit of time to myself. I'll definitely have 1 breakfast, 1 lunch, and 1 dinner to myself, and will likely have 1 other late lunch, and maybe (a bit maybe) 1 other breakfast. I'm not so interested in upper-end dining options during this trip, but want homely fare, like diner food or the like. I'm not so interested in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, or Indian since I can get good examples of those cuisines in my city, but if there are some good Middle Eastern places, I'd love to try them. Mexican would be OK, too, though I've read there aren't any good Mexican places in A2.

Some background. . .I've been to A2 once before, but it was maybe 7 years ago. Didn't care for Afternoon Delight, Zingerman's Deli (Roadhouse wasn't open yet, I think), or Red Hook. Loved Dimo's breakfast bagel sandwich..

Here's my list based on researching Chow and elsewhere:

Dimo's (I want another breakfast bagel! And I want to try their apple fritters!)
Zingerman's Roadhouse
Blimpy Burger
Casey's Tavern
Le Dog
Ray's Red Hots
Jerusalem Gardens

Then there are the specialty food items:

Ice cream and Gelato:
Washtenaw Dairy
Zingerman's Creamery

Chocolates and other candies:

And the "Are they worth the trip" category:

Benny's Bakery in Saline for Saturday morning pretzels (and maybe some doughnuts)
Lev's Bakery in Tecumseh for doughnuts
Shatilla in Dearborn

Are any of the places on my list "must try" places?

Or are any of them "over-rated, don't bother"?

What about the "are they worth the trip" category? Are any of those really worth the trip? I'll be renting a car, so unlimited miles can take me anywhere within MI, though I don't really have unlimited time.

Are there any other suggestions for doughnuts, especially?

I'll also be hitting the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning, so if there are any special "must eats" at the Market, I'd be happy to hear about them!

Casey's Tavern
304 Depot St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Jerusalem Garden
307 S 5th Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Afternoon Delight
251 E Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Le Dog
410 E Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

4180 Luna Pier Rd, Luna Pier, MI 48157

101 E Superior St, Alma, MI 48801

Zingerman's Roadhouse
2501 Jackson Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48103

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  1. If you're coming with a car and unlimited mileage, then you absolutely *must* make the trek to Dearborn for some you'll-smack-yourself-it's-so-good Middle Eastern food. Sure, the added benefit will be that you can enjoy the heck out of Shatilla, but making the trek to Dearborn without enjoying Middle Eastern cuisine would be tantamount to foodie heresy. My personal fave in Dearnborn for ME food is La Pita, but that's hardly exclusive or exhaustive.

    If you want to meet me down there, I'd be happy to meet you for a meal. Actually, I've never been to Shatilla myself, so I'd be trying something new myself. Nice to see you on this board, prasantrin. August is coming quickly!

    La Pita
    22681 Newman St, Dearborn, MI 48124

    1 Reply
    1. re: boagman

      I think if the others decide on a Friday pm Mexican tour, I'll do Dearborn on my own that afternoon, or with whomever else is interested. If that happens, I'll let you know! Shatilla is pretty high on my list, so if I do go there, I may as well do a full Dearborn tour. :-)

    2. Honestly, I wouldn't categorize any of the places you've listed as "must try".

      Of your list, there are some that I like, but I wouldn't recommend a visitor really go out of their way for (especially given your tight schedule):
      -- Zingerman's Roadhouse -- pricey, very tasty, but you can probably get similar 'scaled-up comfort food' in your home city
      -- Casey's Tavern -- although the food is good, you can get this stuff anywhere
      -- LeDog and Ray's Red Hots -- both tasty, but if you're from NY or Chicago, skip 'em!
      -- Jerusalem Gardens -- good, but not the best Middle Eastern food in town

      Way overrated:
      -- Angelo's -- can be ridiculously busy, nothing unique/standout compared to other greasy spoons that I'm sure you have in your home city
      -- Blimpy Burger -- nothing spectacular about these burgers; it's Five Guys with more side dish options than just french fries
      -- Washtenaw Dairy -- most of these ice creams are not homemade, but seem to just be big tubs that any old ice cream shop can buy from a distributor

      So what would I recommend instead?

      There's great Mexican food NEAR Ann Arbor:
      Taqueria Alameda (very much worth the drive)
      906 S Wayne Rd
      Westland, MI 48186
      (734) 727-0945

      La Casita (warning: inconsistent quality)
      2866 Washtenaw Rd
      Ypsilanti, MI 48197
      (734) 434-0815

      For Middle Eastern:
      Haifa Falafel
      4585 Washtenaw Ave
      Ann Arbor, MI 48108
      (734) 677-4410

      For Doughnuts:
      Sid's Bagel Fragel
      1754 Plymouth Rd
      Ann Arbor, MI 48105
      (734) 332-1555
      -- get a fragel--it's a fried bagel, so not a doughnut per se, but something different/unique

      A unique lunch:
      415 N Fifth Ave
      Ann Arbor, MI 48104
      (734) 668-4070
      -- interesting Korean-American diner fusion, mixed reviews, but interesting/unique food

      For your "are they worth the trip" category:

      Never been to Benny's or Lev's, so I can't comment on those. As for Shatila, the sweets are worth the drive, but I suggest you couple it with a lunch at Hamido (some of the best shawarma in the state!)

      13701 W Warren Ave
      Dearborn, MI 48126
      (313) 582-0660

      La Casita
      1355 Bethel Rd, Columbus, OH 43220

      Hamido Restaurant
      13251 W Warren Ave, Dearborn, MI 48126

      407 N 5th Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

      Haifa Falafel
      4585 Washtenaw Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48108

      16 Replies
      1. re: jjspw

        But I'm looking for homely diner-type food! All those places are homely diner-type food, aren't they?

        But I understand your points. Some further background, I'm from the Prairies (Canada), so we don't get a lot of diner-type food here, at least not good diner food. My favourite breakfast place in North America is Al's Diner in Minneapolis (caveat--haven't been to Hell's Kitchen, yet). If you're familiar with it, that's sort of the experience I'm looking for.

        In my city, for whatever reason, all the "famous" small hamburger places put chili on their burgers. And we can't get good hot dogs here at all! It's even difficult to buy a good quality hot dog to cook at home. I'm not really set on hot dogs in A2, but I figure if I happen to be near a good hot dog place, I may as well try one. I would like a good burger, though. If No. 9 burgers had their brick and mortar place, I'd go there for sure!

        Blimpy's and Casey's Tavern were my picks for burgers. Are there any other interesting burger places?

        I put Kosmo(politan), Haifa, Sid's Bagel Fragel, and Taqueria Alameda on my list. Also Hamido. If I go to Dearborn, I won't bother with Haifa.

        If Washtenaw isn't a good choice (I think I had read they didn't make their own ice cream anymore, but they have peppermint stick, and I'm a sucker for peppermint stick ice cream!), what about Stucchi's?

        I'm actually not a huge ice cream fan, but I looooove chocolate malts. Do you know a good place for those?

        Casey's Tavern
        304 Depot St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

        Hamido Restaurant
        13251 W Warren Ave, Dearborn, MI 48126

        101 E Superior St, Alma, MI 48801

        1. re: prasantrin

          For burgers, you might want to check out Sidetrack in Ypsilanti--it's in a quaint part of town and there's outdoor seating where you can watch the occasional train go by. Their burger has been named to many "best burger in the USA" lists.

          If you like classic cars, there's a cruise night on Thursdays.

          Also in Ypsi there's an old fashioned drive in, Klucks, right on Michigan Avenue. Despite living several years in that area, I've never been there but it looks like an experience!

          Kluck's Restaurant
          1313 W 117 St, Cleveland, OH 44102

          1. re: coney with everything

            That will go on my list, too! I'm a little afraid of Ypsi. What if I get lost, stop at a White Castle, and get shot?

            I kid, I kid!

            1. re: prasantrin

              Seriously--I wouldn't wander around too much. Depot Town where Sidetrack is will be perfectly fine.

              1. re: coney with everything

                *rolls eyes*
                You'll be fine in Ypsi if you're goign to Sidetrack. I've lived here my entire life and have never been shot, stabbed,robbed, or carjakced. Trouble is for those who go looking for it. Sidetrack is a good burger option , but Kluck's is closed. If you want a drive up/food stand experience try Chick Inn on Holmes or Bill's Hot Dogs on Mich ave ( they make their own root beer.) If you really want the greasy spoon Ypsi experience try The Bomber, also on Mich Ave.

                1. re: moose734

                  Homemade root beer!! Now I'm sold! Does Bill's Hot Dogs have good burgers, so should I stick with the hot dogs there? (I know, I know, it's called Bill's Hot Dogs for a reason, but I'd rather have a burger than a hot dog!). Ok, I didn't my research, and they only have hot dogs. Another question, does anyone know their hours? I can't find them on any website.

                  Speaking of root beer, are there any good locally brewed root beers I should know about? Last year I did a Kansas root beer quest, so perhaps I can add a Michigan root beer quest, too.

                  1. re: prasantrin

                    I'd just do a yelp search for thier hours and such. Michigan specific root beer ? I'm no help there and I loveeeeeeee root beer. I'd love if some of the microbreweries decided to start making some pops like they do in Chicago and Wisconsin.

                    1. re: moose734

                      If you're going up north, the Vierling in Marquette makes an excellent home-brewed root beer.

                      1. re: moose734

                        I did. It's not even on their Facebook page, but I asked in a comment there. Hopefully someone will reply, but it's annoying. Why have a FB page and not put up some of the most crucial information?

                        1. re: moose734

                          Doesn't Dragonmead make their own root beer? I know they have a black cherry soda, and grape, which are both nice. It's not in AA anyway, but if you're compiling a list of Michigan brews...

                          1. re: tokyo

                            Dragonmead is on my list! Maybe I can convince my travelling partner to swing by on the way to AA. We need to have lunch somewhere, after all! The pub opens kind of late, though, so I don't know if it will fit into our schedule. (not late, but it might be late for us)

                            Does Dragonmead bottle their root beers and sell them to retail shops? I saw on their website that their products are available at various markets in A2, but I'm not sure if that goes for their soft drinks or just their beers.

                            I should probably call them to make sure.

                            1. re: prasantrin

                              If you do, in fact, stop at Dragonmead for a meal, the thing to do would be grab some take-out at nearby Lazybones Smokehouse and bring it to Dragonmead to accompany your brews.

                              Sorry, I'm not sure about market availablity for their sodas.

                              Lazybones Smokehouse
                              27475 Groesbeck Hwy, Roseville, MI 48066

                              1. re: tokyo

                                Great! Lazybones would be perfect for my low-carbing friend! I only hope our timing gets us there around 11 or later, otherwise we'll probably have to skip Lazybones and Dragonmead. I really want to try Dragonmead's root beer, so it's high on my list!

                                1. re: prasantrin


                                  This is my personal favorite brewery in the state. Although I have never had the root beer....

                                  Not too far from Lazybones.

                      2. re: moose734

                        No disrespect to Ypsi, moose...I lived there myself several years with no problems, but I'd say the same thing to someone going to Chicago--my SIL lives in Oak Park IL in a nice neighborhood but you wouldn't want to go more than a couple of blocks east of her.

                        Sad about Klucks...I hate hate hate to see places that have been around for a long time close up.

                    2. re: prasantrin

                      I'd have to disagree with jj.
                      Both Mrs. Sippi and loved Blimpy Burger. It's better than 5 Guys and in fact, of all the burgers I've had, I'd hit them first.
                      The food is a solid "A"
                      The place is kinda neat but very small.
                      The Seinfeldian ordering regimen is something I enjoyed.

                      I wouldn't say go out of your way but if you're in AA then do it.


              2. If you're at the market on Saturday morning, go into Kerrytown shopping center and try the oyster po' boy at Monahan's fish market. It's a bit expensive, and you may have to wait, but worth it on both counts.

                Also, the point at Le Dog is not the dogs but the soups. Some of the best anywhere. Especially try to go on Tuesday or Wednesday for occasional specials. Chef is a genuine Hungarian, and Central European soups are often the best.

                1. My suggestion would be to skip Road House (I wasn't that impressed) and go to Grizzly Peak Brewing Company. The food is great and their Bear Claw Porter makes my father happy every time he comes from PA.

                  The Cupcake Station is great if you love cupcakes. Kilwins is definitely worth a visit just for the smells alone.

                  Gernsey Dairy in Northville would be my recommendation for local icecream.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Stusher22

                    Guernsey Dairy, in Northville. is on my list of places to visit this summer. They have wonderful creamy ice cream in lots of flavors. It's a premium ice cream. The favorite at my house right now is Granpa's Blueberry Way. I can't imagine that it's more than thirty minutes from AA.

                    1. re: grouper

                      At Guernsey's....It is all about the Butter Pecan! :)

                      As for skipping the Roadhouse for Grizzly Peak.....this confuses me. Really confuses me....

                      1. re: JanPrimus

                        Grizzly Peak is not just about the beer. I find their food to be extremely good. I have been to the Roadhouse twice without much excitement to report. Just my opinion.

                  2. May I also ask if there is a good source for specialty liqueurs in or near Ann Arbor? Would someone be able to give me an estimate for the price of Cointreau in Michigan? I'm wondering if it would be cheaper to get some at duty-free or at a regular store in MI.

                    I'm also looking for St. Germain, and I'm hoping to pick some up. It's hard to find in my part of Canada!

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: prasantrin

                      Morgan & York in Ann Arbor sells 750ml of Cointreau for $45.31. Any other place in MI will be about the same(+/- pennies). Get it from duty free. They'll sell you a liter for a lot less.

                      1. re: bellmont

                        This is basically true...liquor prices have a MI state minimum price, so you're basically better off (most likely, anyway) going duty free.

                        1. re: boagman

                          Not only is duty free better than Michigan retail liquor prices, so is every other state in the union.

                          If you're looking for a taqueria, try Taqueria La Fiesta, 4060 Packard Rd. just east of Carpenter between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. Food's as good as any place in Ann Arbor, and I'm not just talking about Mexican.

                          The same family runs a Mexican Restaurant in Ypsilanti at 529 West Cross St., which is also excellent, and a different menu. Neither place serves alcohol.

                          Taqueria La Fiesta
                          4060 Packard St, Ann Arbor, MI 48108

                        2. re: bellmont

                          Holy smokes! The 750mL bottle is only C$31+change in Manitoba. I can't believe prices in MB are cheaper than in MI. Alcohol is heavily taxed here, so I always assume our prices are higher than anywhere else. Now I''m wondering what the prices at duty-free are like. Cointreau is a little more expensive in Ontario, too, so at the duty-free between Ontario and Michigan, it might still be more expensive than in Manitoba.

                          But if I find St. Germain in MI, I'll probably still buy it. Can't get it in Manitoba or Ontario!

                          1. re: prasantrin

                            Prasantrin, I'll check at Holiday Market in Royal Oak tomorrow to see if they have St. Germain.

                            1. re: boagman

                              Thanks! It's been very difficult for me to find.

                              1. re: prasantrin

                                According to St. Germain's website, Holiday does, in fact, carry it. What I'll be double-checking tomorrow is whether they'll actually have it in stock or not. Query: do you want me to pick you up a bottle if they have it?

                                1. re: boagman

                                  Really? If you're going there anyway, I'd really appreciate it! (If it's under $40, that is. I'm poor, but I really want this liqueur!) I can pay you in August in A2, or send you a money order now. Either is OK with me!

                                  But if it's out of your way, or a special trip, please don't go to too much trouble. I checked the St. Germain website (I've looked at that website many times, and I *never* even saw the "where to buy" link), and they carry it at Tippins in A2, so I may be able to pick some up there.

                                  1. re: prasantrin

                                    Well, if it's under $40, it'll be *just* under $40. The MI minimum price for St. Germain, I found out today, is $37.47. If Holiday doesn't have it tomorrow, I'll order some from a grocery store near my gym at the $37.47 price, and they'll have it in a week or so. Certainly in plenty of time for the August event.

                                    I'm sure you're good for the money.

                                    1. re: boagman


                                      BTW, they're looking for event/dish confirmation from you elsewhere. :-)

                                      1. re: prasantrin

                                        You're right...I totally forgot that Tammy sent that. I've been *really* feeling odd/bad last night and today. I think that perhaps I overdid it a bit in the heat yesterday, and I'm paying now. I'll get back to her today.

                        3. re: prasantrin

                          I've found that with few exceptions, liquor can not be bought any cheaper than at Duty Free.

                          I paid $29 for 1L of Cointreau at DF last week.