The Arena is so terrible that it's awesome.
things go poorly
I've been wanting to write this forever but only got around to it because TOC reminded me I should do it. I'll update this if I forgot anything and as warranted by changes.
via Angelo's, but don't get this because it doesn't have hollandaise on it.
So, you're coming to Ann Arbor to watch football. Welcome! Sorry about the frat guys who talk crap to you. At least they aren't throwing beer cans! (They totally would, but those things are ten cents, and in this economy DO YOU KNOW WHAT I AM SAYING.)
I'm not much use when it comes to getting tickets or finding accommodations but I know where to eat and drink in this town. I had to go to Paris to confirm this, but it's true: Ann Arbor is a fantastic food town. You can get virtually anything here, and get it done well.
Unfortunately, some of the famous things are terribly overrated and it's really easy to walk into an overpriced restaurant run by Main Street Ventures. But that's what this is for, to prevent this from happening to you. There is also no doner kebab. I can't do anything about that, or I already would have.
If you need something to eat after you hit town and want quick takeout for tailgating, go to Frita Batidos or Satchel's. If you want to watch football go to Bar Louie. If you want to drink, go to Ashley's. Dinner is harder. Right now I'd say The Ravens Club is the most versatile.
I want to wait in line for some Hollandaise.
Angelo's is the quintessential Ann Arbor breakfast place, and it deserves its rep. They'll serve you raisin toast for a little bit extra and all the tables have a cinnamon sugar shaker and they've got deep fried French toast. I hear this is all very good.
I don't know because I didn't understand what the BFD was about Angelo's until about the third time I went there and I got eggs benedict. The hollandaise. This is what you should order. Accept no substitutes.
On a Sunday morning go early or late or prepare to wait. Your best bet is to avoid the church rushes; they don't take reservations.
I want a ridiculous pile of food no one could hope to finish.
The Broken Egg is Ann Arbor's premier purveyor of 2000 calorie breakfasts. They aren't great, but they're huge. It's not really my style—I'd rather just hit up one of the copious diners—but if you could eat a horse this is your jam.
I want brunch. Like brunch with crepes.
Café Zola is the best brunch-with-crepes sort of place in town. They also serve ludicrous waffles and… uh… half-pound burgers. Pricey for dinner. A tiny bit pricey for breakfast, but high quality.
I want eggs, toast, and coffee.
There are plenty of diners. The Cloverleaf is the downtown one I'm most familiar with. It is a diner. Benny's is also a diner, but it's famous because Michael Phelps ate there. If you're not from Michigan, a Coney Island is a diner that will serve you a hot dog with chili on it if you want them to.
I would like to participate in the deli sandwich blood war.
When Andy Staples came to town he ran down the Great Sandwich War of Ann Arbor with exacting accuracy. Choose as you will.
I brought a jacket and would like to eat at the best restaurant in town.
Since Eve Aronoff closed her eponymous restaurant, this is almost certainly Logan. It will run you fancy dinner prices; it will be worth it. Reservations are a good idea. Get the fresh baked cookies for dessert.
That Eve person mentioned above opened a new place when she shut down her old one: Frita Batidos. They serve fritas, not burgers. Fritas (right, via Kitchen Chick) are Cuban sandwiches on round buns that are basically burgers except they're made of glory and chorizo. And can come with a fried egg and tropical coleslaw and avocado spread and Munster on them. Or be fish or turkey or a really really good black bean thing. And you can get milkshakes (batidos) with them and fried plantains. Or you could just get the Cuban sandwich, or some fried smelt, or churros that descend from the heavens accompanied by a chorus of angels. Just go here.
They do takeout. Therefore, this is the best possible idea for spur-of-the-moment road game "tailgating." You know what I'm talking about: you roll into a town you know nothing about and get Subway and wish you were at a home game. Frita will cure you of that malaise. The most convenient way to get there from the highway is to take the Main Street exit off M-14.
If you refuse to do this there is a Five Guys. You are disappointingly average. Boo you!
I would like to eat a fancy dinner or some small plates in my sports-themed attire near hipsters.
You are destined for The Grange, which opened about a year ago. The Grange is the only reason there's a qualifier before Logan's status as the best place in town.
It's one of those places that will tell you the life history of the pig you are eating. You will actually enjoy this because you will be having a burger with bacon jam—bacon jam!—and a little blue cheese croquette that is glorious, or duck poutine, or, like, food for adults that's just as good.
When we went we were the only people not in t-shirts. If you want someplace that tastes fancy you can go after a game, this is it.
I want a reasonably priced American place.
Red Hawk is the best bar/grill/American place in town, and it's conveniently located near Ashley's.
I'd like to see these quaint Northerners try barbecue.
I used to recommend Blue Tractor but the last couple of times I've gone it's been not so good. It's also just a restaurant. A place called Satchel's opened up recently, though, and it features big benches and styrofoam plates with slabs of stuff on them and all manner of sauces and it seems pretty credible. I've lived in Texas, so I have an inkling of what I speak. This is also a good idea for road game tailgating, especially if you're exiting off US 23 at Washtenaw—it's right on the way.
I want ramen.
Tomukun is excellent.
I want pizza.
If you want fontina and grapes on your pizza, Silvio's is the place for you. Pricey, good, interesting. If you want a slice like Manhattan used to make, New York Pizza Depot, commonly known as NYPD, is a tasty approximation. Cottage Inn is widely reputed to be the best conventional place in town, and it is good. In my experience the takeout/delivery is actually a better idea than the restaurant.
The Fleetwood is open 24 hours and will give you a solid meal. It's a diner with a hippie twist. You win the prize if you go there and there's no one with dreads hanging around, looking derelict.
I'm stuck on Main Street and want something that will please a group of disparate people, some of whom I'm beginning to hate because I'm quite hungry.
The Ravens Club is your best bet. Their menu varies wildly in price from 10 to 30 bucks, so you can choose what you're feeling up to, and it's all very good. They make excellent cocktails as well.
I would like to cook my own meat, or I'm from South Korea.
this is doing it right at Seoul Garden
Ann Arbor has a frighteningly authentic Korean restaurant called Seoul Garden that's conveniently located next to I-94 and Briarwood mall. If you are not Korean, be careful: this is not a place that pulls its punches. Once they had huge menu-wide specials on sea squirts, so we got some. Sea squirts turn out to be close relatives of barnacles. Trying to eat one is like trying to eat a tiny basketball full of salt water and bones. Another time we mistakenly ordered some cod roe soup. Cod roe is like eating those little packets of desiccants you find in beef jerky.
HOWEVA, if you sidestep the many pitfalls on the menu and just order some bulgogi or bi bim bop it's going to be good. They'll bring out delightful little bowls of ban chan that are always great and then you'll cook up some beef or pork belly at your table and put it in some lettuce with some rice and be just delighted with everything. If you get the bi bim bop get it in a stone bowl and you'll get fantastic crispy rice at the bottom of your meal.
You would not believe how poor I am.
Hello, student. BTB above is a good bet. Jerusalem Garden is a genuinely good Mediterranean joint that will stuff huge amounts of falafel in your face for five bucks. Ann Arbor also has the usual flock of Jimmy John's you'll find in any college town.
I would like Ann Arbor to leave a bad taste in my mouth. (IE: not recommended.)
Virtually every place on Main is overpriced for what it is. (Rent is killer.) The above-mentioned places are exceptions. As a general rule pick something just off Main over something on it. Skip anything from Main Street Ventures.
The Earle hasn't updated what it does since the 1960s. Blimpy Burger calls itself "cheaper than food" but is actually quite expensive and gets along on reputation these days. If you really like grease—like… you don't mind doing shots of it—I guess it's cool.
People will kill me for this but I have been unimpressed with Zingerman's Roadhouse. In my experience the bread fights back when you try to eat it. I don't think a lot of vegetarians are going to be hitting this post up but Seva is the most depressing kind of vegetarian restaurant, the sort that pretends everything has meat in it—and not very well.
I want to watch football on sixty TVs.
This is a shameful thing but the best place in town to watch sports at a bar is Buffalo Wild Wings. The TV situations at the local sports bars (the Arena and Cubs AC, most prominently) are totally unacceptable for watching multiple games. I'm talking wavy, dim, 20-year-old projection TVs.
Bar Louie is another solid option; that's another chain but they have a much better beer selection and better food than BWW. Also, they have not made you want to put your fist through a TV with their ads. Actually, forget I said anything about BWW. Go to Bar Louie. If it's full, BWW is your second option. If that's full, the bar area at the Arena is workable. They're all within a couple blocks of each other.
I have a favorite Russian Imperial Stout.
you call that a bar? this is a bar.
Michigan isn't Oregon but it has a booming microbrew scene, of which Ann Arbor is a major participant. You will be able to find two to four varieties of Bell's on tap virtually everywhere, and many places will have New Holland or Founder's.
If you're just drinking, Ashley's is the place to go. With over 100 taps and a zillion bottles they will have something you like. Unfortunately, the menu no longer describes Labatt Blue as "bland perfumy sweetness," but it used to. That's the kind of place we're talking about. Heavy grad student population; fairly popular with undergrads. Food is substandard except for the Stilton fries, which rock.
Jolly Pumpkin opened a brewpub on Main a couple years ago. Their beer is good but there aren't a ton of options and they're often out of what they do have. The food is trying really hard to be gourmet but is not well executed. I was excited about them; one of these days they will Get It.
Grizzly Peak is more of a restaurant than a pub but they do brew their own beer and it's quality. Tends to be overrun, though. It's where students take their parents. Avoid if it's parents' weekend. And Bar Louie does have a surprisingly good beer selection for a chain.
I have a hard-won loathing for Arbor Brewing Company. Their Irish stout has no head. They make pine beer that tastes like soap to the point of undrinkability. Hit their Olde 22 Ale at the wrong point and it will taste like cigarettes. The rest of their beers have something just… off about them. Unless you need to hit on grad students who really enjoy organizing labor, stay away.
I am an undergrad, possibly one wearing an Affliction shirt.
Any of the bars on South University will be up your alley: Mitch's, Touchdown's, The Brown Jug, Good Time Charley's. [UPDATE: Apparently the former two no longer exist.] The latter two are less fratty; all are heavily undergrad. Charley's is a good place to go if there's a USMNT game you want to see. Your other main option is Scorekeeper's. They're all the same place. Rick's is as close as you'll get to Jersey Shore in AA.
If you want to rub up against ladies who are not interested in rubbing back, Necto is the primary nightclub in town. There are others farther from campus. I hear tell there was a mechanical bull but I think that place went under.
I'm tired and I want something as mellow as possible.
Old Town is usually your best bet for a relaxed drink on a crowded night. Service and beer selection is good, they can pour a drink, and… hey… free peanuts. Very townie bar.
I want a martini in a dark place that kind of makes me feel like a spy.
Babs' is your jam. The Ravens Club also does nice cocktails and I hear tell after a being a crushed-ice-in-your-martini kind of place the Alley Bar has undergone reform.
The Arena is so terrible that it's awesome.
You had me at the deep fried French Toast. Damn, I miss that town. Just days away and I'll be back.
Best. Post. Ever.
I just recently left AA to start my new medical school life in Miami and this post REALLLLLLY made me miss AA! Ann Arbor quite honestly has one of the best selection of food around...and now that im in Miami where there is only basically cuban sandwiches, burritos, and smirnoff vodka, I now realize how I took all the food in AA for granted.
Damn, I can't wait to get back to AA...
Also, in my opinion Le Dog, Northside, No Thai (reheated leftover pad thai is THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD), Shalimar/madras masala should all be on the list somewhere.
Charley's does make a good made-from-scratch long island though.
EDIT: btw, great post Brian! I wish you did more of these off-topic-but-somehow-related-to-AA posts.
Red Hawk and Ashley's are how I spent a LOT of weekends in Ann Arbor.
Is Amer's Deli still around?? I used to eat lunch there quite often and they always had quality food, in my opinion.
Amer's is still around, and yes, their deli is very good...especially for a quick lunch between classes or while studying.
Amer's is great. Still two locations. One on Church and the other on State.
I was waiting for someone to mention it: Zingermann's quality sandwiches for around 2/3 the price and 1/2 the snobbery - not that I dislike Zing's, but they buy pretty much the same ingredients and command premium (e.g. East Coast) money for the product.
Also, Amer's has, I believe, a third location at the Union.
Excellent post. Why don't all Big Ten blogs do this and therefore get linked to by the visiting team's blog every home game? (I guess that would assume all other Big Ten blogs were half as good as this one)
I don't agree with all your opinions either, that's why they are, like, your opinions, dude. Cuz Blimpy is a must stop for anyone under age 45 and/or heart-condition free, at least once. Zingermans is so awesome I can't even begin to dispute you, but I will cuz September is Spanish month, and you can get paella on Saturday afternoons, that alone is game-set-match, my argument. Also, as has been pointed out, you hardly mention Thai-Japanese-Asian food at all, besides Middle Kingdom and Korean food, which is a narrow view of such a diverse option in A^2.
I think one of the problems with making this list after reading the comments, is that very few restaurants get it right everytime. I went to Grange with a big group of friends from college and 1/2 of the 8 entrees we got were absolute dogshit. The drinks were good though.
Also, we are a diverse group who have different levels of what "good" is as well as varied ages. Since restaurants often change over time someone's opinion about what Mitch's was like when I was an undergrad (best bar in town when it was above the bike shop) is not really valid if you want to go to a bar this fall.
That being said, great post, as usual Brian. And I would like to add a few things. The best hot dog in town is Red Hot Lovers on East U. Good Time Charley's added a bunch of HD tvs and now that place is good for watching sports. I co-sign on Shalimar, which is back in its original location on Main Street. And finally, I only ate there once but I liked Cafe Felix on Main for tapas.
small correction: Red Hot Lovers is no more; it changed hands, and is now Ray's Red Hots. No longer open until 4am, I think.
Damn, one of my go to lunch spots....in 2005...I hope they still have the waffle fries
I would get Red Hot Lovers 2-3 times per week while in undergrad. Since the name changed I don't even go anymore. It closes at like 8PM, and two red hots, waffle fries and a coke is like $13 bucks. I don't see it remaining in business for much longer, because it's been empty the couple times I've been in there.
I really enjoyed the place. Couldnt ever decide btwn chili cheese fry and dog or beef sandwich so would get both.
Relatively new and lesser known burger joint on Plymouth right next to North Campus, in a complex with Qdoba and Panera. By far the best burgers I've ever had. Really good Fries and Shakes too.
No Afternoon Delight for breakfast?
No Zingermans Deli for lunch?
I agree on Zingermans Roadhouse which I find to be OK and overpriced.
The Heidelberg needs to be on this list somewhere, probably under "Drankin."
....and by 'Drankin' you mean 2 liters of delicious german beer out of a fucking not-your-cinderella glass boot
The Heidelberg definitely has the best Thurs-Fri Happy Hour in Ann Arbor.
is that the food article is the one that finally got me to create a username and get started
Brian, major props on Logan, by far the best restaurant in town, and one of the best i've ever been to (including my snobby east coast elitist restaurants in boston). We went there for my graduation and my parents were blown away. GET THE BOAR BOLOGNESE, it's out of this world good.
Also missing Cafe Marie on North campus for breakfast...
ABC is a fav because of the games they got, shuffleboard and darts. when I drink i like to compete at something.
The only MSV place that i don't hate is Gratzi--however, they're all a good bet for your birthday, since they chop the check in half.
Pacific Rim is also pretty good, although hit and miss on quality. Surprisingly, the one i've been most impressed with besides Logan is Vinology. They have hit it out of the park every time i've gone for restaurant week.
Speaking of good deals, Black Pearl has a "restuarant week" menu every Thursday, 3 courses for $25. GREAT deal, and good outdoor seating in the summer.
FYI: The owners are MSU grads.
My buddy and I were bouncing between drinking holes one evening and while sitting at the bar at The Arena, we noticed a Ron Mason bobble head hidden amongst the liquor bottles. The bartender filled us in.
Perhaps the rest of you aren't as petty as I am, but I'll go to The Arena again only when there aren't any other options..
This is the same reason I haven't tried Vinology. The owner lived in a condo directly above the restaurant, and he had a balcony with a giant MSU flag hanging from the railing(haven't looked recently to see if it's still there). I agree that it's kind of a petty reason to avoid eating at a place, but I don't think the guy deserves any positive reinforcement for his actions.
I've never been a fan of The Arena, so it's pretty easy to avoid it.
I avoid Chicago Bagel Authority on Armitage in Lincoln Park, despite the fact that it's close to my place and actually pretty good. As soon as I found out it was OSU affiliated, it just wasn't the same. Petty? Absolutely. But it makes me feel better about myself.
Only thing left out was "Baba Ghanoush"(made from egg plant)-I've never had this but I love the sound of it. When asked last year about Michigan's defense by rival Big Ten fans"hey how's your defense" my response would be "how's your Baba Ghanoush?" and they would respond with "what the hell is Baba Ghanoush" and then I got my shot to say "what the hell is defense?'. Anyway-I'm looking for some good Baba Ghanoush this year and praying our defense improves.
I agree with Brian on NYPD being pretty good new york-style pizza, but the one place that surpasses it is Bella Italia, way out by Bagger Dave's / Moe's / Panera on Eisenhower. True NY style, low prices, and on Friday nights they have a challenge where 3 people can try to eat a 30" pizza.
I miss it when he had the place on East U. though.
What about Spots?!
For folks who are tired of Arbor Brewing or find Jolly Pumpkin's beer too off kilter, the new guy on the block is Wolverine State Brewing on West Stadium. Great beer, nice TV's, shuttle to the football games, and this fall they will have WTKA in the house doing away game wrap ups.
Agreed! I love that place. I was geeked when they FINALLY opened such a place on the west side near where I live. I can walk to the place and stumble home.
I always thought Gratzi and Real Seafood were great, though I agree that Palio is nothing special. Chophouse is insanely expensive and I've never been to Carsons. Where else can you get good seafood in Ann Arbor, or high end Italian? Nothing comes to mind.
Did I miss it, or did Blimpy Burger really get omitted from this post?
Brian gave Blimpy Burger the appropriate review, i.e. not so much. What a terrible, over-rated place that is.
Sounds like someone got yelled at for stating his order incorrectly.
I actually didn't get yelled at myself, although my friends I was there with did. The reason I didn't was because I spent a good portion of the hour-long (at a conservative estimate) wait watching why people were getting yelled at, and making mental notes. Certainly going on a Saturday afternoon before a football game was not the best time to go, but even so I just have no idea why angry, unfriendly service is considered charming. And the burger? Acceptable, nothing more.
I think they only yell at people when the older black lady is working (Saturdays usually). The last couple times I've been, I don't think anyone was yelled at. Also, I never go when the line is out the door, because it takes an hour and the food generally isn't as good at busy times.
Yelled at my pregnant wife for leaving and having me order for her because the smells were too strong. for those who haven't had a pregnant partner, this is a real thing.
I still liked the food though. Was that wrong?
Completely cheap Oriental Express, Oasis Chicken Shawarma and going to Frasers. Also Conor O'Neils was fun for premier and serie matches.
I live in Austin right now and Franklin BBQ is the most amazing brisket I have ever had. A great foodie visit.
absofreakinglutely sucks. i keep trying it. it keeps sucking. flat flat flat..and the staff personality is even worse.
jolly pumpkin=yummmmm! love the food too. worked for me. yum! my neighbors and i find it bottled here in san diego because we enjoy it.
damn..wanna get back there soon!
On State & Packard is also pretty good, at least the one time I went there, which was just after they opened, before the 2010 Spring Game. Beer specials, good food, but because they had just opened, it was a little chaotic and it took awhile for our food to get to us. That spot is kind of cursed since basically every restaurant/business that has been there has failed, so I hope this place is still there even one year later. I think it's even called Packard Pub or something?
Yes, that place is/was called "Packard Pub," but apparently it's struggling, too. (Who knew Packard & State doesn't get enough visitors to keep a business open during the summer?) I guess it's been closed for a little while now, but just the other day I read on twitter that it's claiming that it'll be reopening soon.
I hope it does make it back, it looked kinda cool but there was a line out the door in the cold the only time I tried to visit. I liked the bigass F-18 Big House Flyover mural that covered a wall.
what about Ray's Red Hots, formerly Red Hot Lovers. Feast on cheeeeeeeez fries (the best in the biz), classic chicago dogs, amazin chicken sandwiches and just fine burgers.
For the record, I really wish Big Ten Burrito has gone with my suggestion of Committee on Institutional Cooperation Burrito.
Great job Brian, very useful and should be stickied for future reference.
WTF, Seva is still there...that goes back to the 70's, how does that place survive?
I totally disagree with Brian's assessment of the Chop House on Main Street. I am not sure what his version of overpriced is but I think they are well within a good price range and the food and service is typically excellent. Maybe he needs to get to Vegas or LA or NYC to compare prices on steaks. I would not rate them as good as Donovans Steak House in San Diego or Phoenix but they are close and comparable to Ruths Chris Steakhouse.
Best spot to sit is at the bar in my opinion where you get good drinks. On football weekends you will probably catch several former football players there as well.
Just to pay for an ala carte entree, it's "overpriced".
All relative. If you travel to Vegas or LA a great deal like I do (and sometimes NYC) you welcome the entree only prices of the Chop House.
Your salary is adjusted for the higher cost of living, so it's not really cheaper. If you're vacationing from New York to Ann Arbor, yeah, sure. But I could go to Davenport, Iowa, and find things cheaper than Ann Arbor. (No offense to anyone from Davenport. Just for some reason the city that jumped to mind).
It's a piece of meat any decent butcher can get you, turned over on a grill a couple of times, sprinkled with some spices. For $40. And you don't even get some steamed vegetables unless you want to plop down another $9. This is not complex cooking that takes a Beard Award winning chef. It takes a good cut of meat and a grill. The only reason to pay that much for something you could competently make at home for less than half the price is if you're trying to impress someone (or yourself). If you pay that much for dinner, you better get laid after it.
University Cafe for Korean
Blue Nile for Ethiopian
8 Ball for beer and grunging.
Boo to Circus (lame bar), boo to the comic book bar, whatever it's called, and boo to Ashley's (no character imo)
Mega "wtf" to the Heidelberg changing face and no longer being the "step up" from 8 Ball and having $2 Arcadia and glass boots of lager
Does any remember when Cactus Jacks (Bicycle Jims to Cactus Jacks to Mitchs). Tuesday and Thursday were pretty strong there.