A Guide To Ann Arbor: Eating, Drinking

Submitted by Brian on 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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


Johnny Blood

August 24th, 2011 at 1:19 PM ^

I never see anyone talk about this place when it comes to food in Ann Arbor... I know it is very pricey, but is it still there and still good? 

I'm flying my dad (BBA '64) in for the WMU game (he's coming from CT and I'm coming from GA) and wanted to take him somewhere very nice... plus, he took me there when I graduated, so I thought about it first.

But figured I would ask people who still live in the area if it is still quality. 

Johnny Blood

August 24th, 2011 at 1:45 PM ^

Yeah, I suck because I want to take my 68 father someplace where he doesn't have to sit on the toilet all night long afterwards...

I'm equally good with Frasers or Cottage Inn or Fleetwood when it's just me, but sometimes you just do something nice for someone... especially your dad.


August 24th, 2011 at 2:10 PM ^

I've eaten at GD twice and wasn't overly impressed.   I love the location and atmosphere, but for its price I wasn't overwhelmed by the food.  In that price range I prefer the Chop House or the Earle (I'll have to disagree with Brian a bit here - maybe they haven't changed much since the 60's but the one meal I had here was excellent and food quality is the most important factor in my opinion).




August 24th, 2011 at 2:17 PM ^

Pretty sure it's still there, and yes, it's still pretty damn good. I actually don't remember the food that much -- just the ambiance and trying to get enough wine into my parents that they won't flip when they see the house we're living in.

For your dad though I should warn you the menu type is kind of small, and it's kind of dark inside, and it's huge so you should request a table close to the bathroom in your reservation. These were the old person complaints from when we took my grandpa there.


August 24th, 2011 at 5:37 PM ^

Food is adequately done American. They won't miscook your steak more than one notch. The fish or shellfish will be fine. It's adequate. Great setting.


One addendum: Never, ever, ever go for graduation. What they do then in terms of quality, preparation, and pricing is simply unconscionable. (Think limited menu, prices doubled, likely precooked) Don't know if they do the same on game day, but wouldn't put it past them.


August 25th, 2011 at 8:54 AM ^

Unless it closed in the last two years (we moved north) the Gandy Dancer is still there. It is my favorite of the nicer places in Ann Arbor. Even before we lived in Ann Arbor we would occasionally go there for special occasions and I think it has consistently maintained its excellent food and service over the years.


August 24th, 2011 at 1:20 PM ^

If anyone's looking for a really greasy and cheap thing to eat at 3 AM, Diag Pizza's calzones are delicious after a few drinks and will only run you about 4 bucks. 


August 24th, 2011 at 1:52 PM ^

I worked at Pizza Bob's for a year and change. We used the cheapest pizza ingredients on the market. Unless you were getting one of the specialty subs (for guys) or a chipati (for gals) it was terrible.

Virtually every female athlete at U-M since 1980 will swear by the Chipati. Not a hockey player or quarterback exists who didn't order a Torpedo and a shake. As a joke for a week or so I had a sign taped to the menu board that said "The Usual" -- this was a Torpedo and a root beer shake, until Pizza (Running) Bob made me take it down.

During the summer it would be almost 90% athletes, already up at school for training and whatnot. So many of them brought protein supplements with them that Bob started keeping this massive jug of it behind the counter to put in shakes by request. Then summer would end and we had this massive unused vat of protein supplement powder in our way all year. This is how I learned to make protein supplement snowmen.

Drew Henson used to come in really early in the morning and have his sub (The Super) and a coke sitting alone and tuning out the world. Then one day he came in on crutches wearing a Yankees t-shirt and I wanted to break something.


August 24th, 2011 at 8:51 PM ^

Because if the Chinese have gotten better than us at Americanized Chinese food, there's no hope for us.
<br>CG gets a bad rap around here. It Chinese food Americans eat down well and cheap, and a varied menu for those who want to be more adventurous or authentic. The Pho is good.
<br>And (particularly during the school year) hands down the best looking waitresses in town.


August 24th, 2011 at 1:21 PM ^

not to mention Tio's.  OH GOD! Does Tio's still exist? Yes, a quick search of the itnertubes shows that Tio's still exits.  Brian I dub thee unforgiven.


August 24th, 2011 at 1:25 PM ^

If you feel the need to jump-start your day's artery-hardening, fragels at MD Bagel Fragel just north of North Campus are worth a try. Or three.


August 24th, 2011 at 1:26 PM ^

Nice to see the Old Town shout-out. A few of us used to drink there as undergrads now and then, like children allowed to sit at the adult table, and we'd always be on our best behavior. And after a genteel drinking session, rounding out the night with Fleetwood's was a perfect counterpoint.


August 24th, 2011 at 1:27 PM ^

But I mostly stick to the pale ales and Sacred Cow, which is one of the best IPAs I've had.


Right on about the labor organizing grad students though. If you're a dog owner in the area they have water bowls at all of the outdoor tables so your dog will be happy as well.


August 25th, 2011 at 9:03 AM ^

I worked down the street from both and learned that I much prefer the beer at ABC (and I don't really like IPAs that much) but the food was rather meh. There must be something about the B's - my favorites are the Bavarian Bliss and the Brasserie Blonde. My wife really like's Grizzly Peak - and so i would go there for the food but felt the beer wasn't as good.


August 24th, 2011 at 1:33 PM ^

Arbor Brewing Co was my home away from home during my senior year.  Their winter brew Jackhammer is the bomb diggidy.  Now, that was back in 2000 so I guess things can change. Great beer for those who like unique microbrews, to each their own I guess.  


August 24th, 2011 at 2:48 PM ^

Matt Gref and Co. have a lot of curiosity and are inventive with their beer, but their execution is sorely lacking. I always want to like ABC. They just make it so hard between their beer and their weak food.

My latest disappointment was with their Framboise. They had a big event when they tapped it, and I was pumped because I had recently gotten back from northern France and Belgium, but it was just terrible: a very sorry attempt at a lambic. If I want a Michigan lambic, I need to pick up a bottle of Jolly Pumpkin's offerings.