A Guide To Ann Arbor: Eating, Drinking Comment Count

Brian August 24th, 2011 at 12:34 PM

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.

angelos-m-burgers

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.

Shorter Version Of This Post

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.

Breakfast

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. 

Lunch/Dinner

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.

SHIT JUST GOT REALI just want a burger.

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.

It's 5AM.

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.

Other late night options: Pizza House's restaurant is open until 4 AM. Big Ten Burrito BTB is Ann Arbor's late-night face-stuffing burrito of choice.

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.

Other good options on Main are Prickly Pear, a Mexican restaurant with killer empanadas, and Middle Kingdom, a by-the-book Chinese place that's high quality but not mind-expanding.

I would like to cook my own meat, or I'm from South Korea.

seoul-garden-1seoul-garden-2

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.

Drankin'

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.

ashleys-bar

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.

Comments

M-Wolverine

August 24th, 2011 at 12:57 PM ^

With fireplaces and woodcut "Bo's Den" is anything like Touchdown's was, which, at least when it started, was a sports bar, with tons of tvs, and big Michigan murals on the wall. And cheap wings and trivia, vs. bad Irish food. I would go with the Blue Leprechaun is a disasterous idea, and that when the Greek mafia bought out TD's from the original owners, they changed everything and tried to give it a NY Club atmosphere was equally awful. But they were awful in very different ways.

Original Touchdown's rocked.

M-Wolverine

August 24th, 2011 at 1:00 PM ^

Upstairs bar, with the great view, and uh...Mitch, who bought Bicycle Jim's.  Then the University bought the building, and they got kicked out to the space across the street...also upstairs, but in that "test course" environment wasn't good, and they closed like a year and a half ago. And TD's has been gone longer. It's not like it happened last month.

michfan4borw

August 24th, 2011 at 2:37 PM ^

hungover as all hell.  I went to Blimpy's and brought home a quint with a fried egg to help ease the hangover with some grease.  I was so sick though, that I puked up the food almost immediately after finishing the burger. 

I was so disappointed that I instantly hopped back in the car and returned to Blimpy Burger to get a another burger (w/fried egg) before the away game started. 

Good lord, I miss AA and Blimpy Burger!

somewittyname

August 24th, 2011 at 12:50 PM ^

Just not good. Grizzly Peak's is marginally better but really there is so much great Michigan beer that GP and ABC are nothing in comparison.

As for the Roadhouse, best bbq in town with a true bbq pit for slow roasting pork. They offer both authentic Memphis and Carolina style bbq (very different). They also have the freshest seafood in Ann Arbor, flying it in every couple days without ever being frozen. The head chef also just won a James Beard award for the great lakes region.

WolverBean

August 24th, 2011 at 1:15 PM ^

Disagree wholeheartedly - I love the beer at ABC.  Whereas, I find the beer at Jolly Pumpkin undrinkable (their beers tend to be sour, which, if that's your thing is awesome -- but it's not my thing).  Also, it says something about how good the food is in Ann Arbor that the pretty decent gastro-pub faire Jolly Pumpkin gets only lukewarm reviews from our fearless leader, and the likewise pretty decent menu at ABC gets no mention at all -- those places would be considered a real step up in a lot of other towns.  (Plus, pierogis, man! Pierogis!)

I do concur about being underwhelmed by Zingermans' roadhouse.  But then, I have friends who swear by it.  De gustibus non est disputandum.

redhousewolverine

August 25th, 2011 at 12:21 AM ^

See I disagree about Grizzly Peak. I think they have some pretty good beer, and as a resaturant they are pretty good too. I really like their burger and it is probably my favorite burger in town. I agree that ABC is solid, not great. Good food though.

Also, if one is getting chain/fast-food burgers, then I would recommend @Burger over Five Guys. Although I prefer Five Guys fries, @Burger has some good fries and their burgers are better. It is also a little cheaper and serves beer.

Didn't mention the great Indian places. Personal favorite is Madras, but Mahek and Shalimar are good (Shalimar is quite expensive though). Raja Rani has a great Monday dinner buffet.

TKWU's is good Chinese. A little bit pricey but large portions and is good for sharing with groups.

Also, Connor Oneill's has possibly the best Shepherds Pie I have ever had. It has other good options too and isn't too overpriced.

For pure drinking nights: Babs is underrated for the cool ambiance and it has some really good pool tables. Heidleburg is also pretty fun. A boot and playing darts is a fun night. The Friday happy hour special is a boot and then free appetizers. Blue Lep is basically a less crowded Charleys (usually). Wednesday night one should definitely go to Circus: $2 PBR, $3 Two hearted, $3 Jameson shots, pool, free popcorn, and live Blue Grass, which is actually quite cool live. Ashleys is probably the best place in town.

jwschultz

August 25th, 2011 at 12:33 PM ^

... but @Burger closed a month or two ago.

I do commend you for sticking up for Grizzly Peak's beers; the Bear Paw Porter is one of my most favorite beers in the world, but of course that's super-subjective because some people don't like porters in the first place and some people like different qualities in porters and it's hard to push a porter on somebody in the middle of the summer even if it is really good.  (TL; DR - Give GP beers a chance.)

Agree about TKWU's/TK Wu's (on Liberty, east of Division). Probably the best chinese food in town. You nailed Indian food, too.

I saw some commenters debating Thai food - I love Marnee Thai and think it's even a great deal if you're around for a weekday lunch special.

One new addition to the whole food scene is Mark's Carts on Washington, between First and Ashley.  This'll be the first football season for the carts, so I wonder if any of them will be open for games - it seems like they would be insane not to.  I can definitely recommend the taco cart in the back, for a breakfast burrito or a fish taco (but don't expect to get dirt-cheap food from any of the carts).

nickexperience

August 25th, 2011 at 10:21 AM ^

is an overpriced joke. Best bbq in town? Then Ann Arbor is truly screwed when it comes to bbq. Last time I ate there, and vowed it would be the last, the ribs I got were hilariously terrible. Waaaayyyyy over-cooked, dry, and burnt to a crisp on the outside. Not the delicious crispy bits kind of burnt, the charcoal black flakey bits king of burnt.

 

I really wish people would stop announcing their chef's James Beard award.  We get it! The James Beard society probably wants to fellate him! Unfortunately the food sometimes sucks and is always overpriced.

BJNavarre

August 24th, 2011 at 2:29 PM ^

Siam Cuisine is Subway/Wendy's quality at Subway/Wendy's prices. I have not been to all the Thai places in town. I remember going to the place in a hotel near US-23 on Washtenaw, and they were pretty good, but I only went there once. Went to Marnee Thai once, and found it slightly disappointing. There's certainly no Thai Restaurant that I would recommend to someone that is spending 1 or 2 nights in Ann Arbor, or a whole week for that matter.

eastone

August 25th, 2011 at 7:51 AM ^

I moved from Ann Arbor two years ago - the whole time there I struggled to find good Thai food. I agree with other comments on No Thai. There was a good but pricey place off Ann Arbor Saline Rd. - in the mall where Target is (Lotus Thai). But my favorite place was a remodeled Long John Silvers on Washtenaw east of 23 called Tuptim. I went there in May while passing through town and what I had was very good.

BlueWolverine

August 24th, 2011 at 1:06 PM ^

A couple worthy breakfast destinations:

Northside Grill,  great quality, 60s feel, free parking, Clancy's

Kosmo's Deli - eggrolls, be bim bop

Bell's Diner - waffles, be bim bop, bul go gi

 

Miscellany:

Zingermans Roadhouse - Fried Chicken - reasonably priced(for Zingermans) fantastic.  What happens when you have high quality, fresh chicken, and you fry it properly

Lobster Bisque - Le Dog

Casey's - honest last millenium sports bar -  Best sub in town - Sixth Man

German Food - Metzger's ugh stripmall, but... ziquener schnitzel, spatzele

Secret mexican food - La Tiende la Liberte - Tacos al Carbon $1.50  inside little latin market on liberty near FAZ

Anthony's Gourmet Pizza - roasted garlic, roasted peppers, spinach and italian sausage.  Expensive, but huge and top notch ingredients.

Blimpy - what's better than killer onion rings, quad w/shrooms, onions, cheddar. and being humiliated by the grill nazi.  bring you latex hood and ball gag and enjoy.

cybersniffer

October 4th, 2014 at 7:52 AM ^

I'm eating at Frita Batidos as I wait for my son to finish class so I can give him the stuff he left home yesterday when I brought him back.

Anyway, I have a Chorizo Frita with the Avacado Spread and a side of garlic cilantro fries. BIG flavor and a nice little poke from the spicy chorizo. It's an average sized "burger", but with the fries on top PLuS my garlic fries, this is a good sized lunch. I also got a little side condiment of Lemon Scented Mayo. I do a fair amount of cooking and I've never heard of Lemon Scented anything, other than dish soap. It goes good with the garlic-cilantro fries (the condiment, not the soap)

BJNavarre

August 24th, 2011 at 2:10 PM ^

I love Zingerman's Roadhouse for the overall experience, but my one complaint is that they're not consistant. I've had the Fried Chicken a handful of times, and maybe 2 out of 5 times they overcooked it. You can almost always count on them having great service, top quality food & bar (really odd selection of draft beers though), but on occasion the execution of their dishes is a bit off. I think that's where a lot of the complaints come from. Another big plus, at least from my perspective, is that it's very family friendly.