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.


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.



August 24th, 2011 at 2:15 PM ^

Kung Pau chicken from China Gate. So bad for you yet so so good. Plus you will sit down, order, eat, pay your bill, AND empty your bowels all within 45 minutes.


August 24th, 2011 at 2:18 PM ^

you forgot to mention the markley cafeteria.  all the spoiled milk one could want.  and don't forget 4 day old veggies!


August 24th, 2011 at 2:25 PM ^

Full disclosure: I work for them, but still, I'd have to recommend the Wolverine State Brewing Co.

They're a mile from the stadium, they run a shuttle to the stadium on gamedays, and they won the voters choice for BEST Ann Arbor brewery from annarbor.com

Great beers there, great people, great set-up for tailgating, and a good convenient parking situation.  I honestly think they'd have to be a top recomendation for gameday drinking for the lack of hassle (namely parking) alone.  But seriously, good beers there.



August 24th, 2011 at 2:33 PM ^

But I will vouch for Wolverine State. They make some excellent beer and even let you order in whatever food you want (*shakes fist at stupid three-tiered distribution system*).


August 24th, 2011 at 2:24 PM ^

Major omission, as local as it gets.  

Fits into Brian's category: I'm tired and I want something as mellow as possible.

With a litte: I want to get the real story about stuff going on from people who actually know


August 24th, 2011 at 2:24 PM ^

For one who does not get to Ann Arbor too often (much to my regret) this should be preserved under Useful Stuff at the top.  Both Brian's entry and everyone's comments.


August 24th, 2011 at 2:25 PM ^

Don't forget Bubble Island. They have a good popcorn chicken appetizer for $3.50. Enjoy an old magazine or board game while you wait. Their bubble tea is alright.

Ghee Buttersnaps

August 24th, 2011 at 2:31 PM ^

Buffalo Wild Wings is my least favorite place in Ann Arbor. They never had beer specials during the two years after it opened. Also, when I lived there they still had smoking in restaurants, so the bar area, which is the best spot to be for game watching, was no good for me either.

Having vegetarian parents, I always enjoyed Seva. Those are still the best yam fries I've had (along with that dipping sauce), and they had really good nachos as well. Agree with those above, the enchiladas calabaza are excellent, as are the spinach enchiladas. Also, for meat eaters trying to get something that imitates meat is a terrible idea. Nothing tastes like meat. Especially not tofu, satan or whatever other options there are. Try something else. 

If you haven't been to Gourmet Garden on Stadium, you should give it a shot. It's one of the better Chinese places in Ann Arbor, though that's not really saying a lot. I tried the Great Wall once, but I'm not sure what I was eating since my friend's parents ordered everything. 

I went to Bar Louie on an NFL Sunday last fall, and I have to say I liked it. They had a really good beer selection and plenty of tvs. Also, it wasn't too crowded. 



August 24th, 2011 at 3:22 PM ^

Chia Shang-Across from Fraser's on Packard (south of Stadium) is the most authentic asian place I've eaten at in Ann Arbor. Me and my wife were the only non-asians in the place. It was good, but warning, it doesn't taste like what most American's think chinese food tastes like.

Yinka Double Dare

August 24th, 2011 at 3:57 PM ^

Most of those fry options didn't exist 10 years ago.  But a friend of mine got them to make him off-menu fries that were basically the bacon, cheddar and chive ones that are on the menu now, I found it amusing when I returned a year out of school and there they were on the menu.  Although I think he usually got the Stilton Fries dipping sauce with them.


August 24th, 2011 at 2:36 PM ^

even though I do not share Brian's views as to some of these establishments.  It's a testament to the thriving Ann Arbor restaurant scene that there can be disagreements about the "best" in various categories -- e.g., Seva is fine, provided that your goal is not to eat the most "meat-like" vegetarian food, and I also like the Roadhouse -- because there actually are a few viable choices in each of these categories.  And, as others have noted, Brian doesn't even mention the surrounding communities -- like, for instance, the Common Grill in Chelsea and Mac's in Saline.  Yum -- when's dinner?


August 24th, 2011 at 2:37 PM ^

Bar Louie = Let the Bodies Hit the Floor of all bars (let alone sports bars).  Corporate bullshit. 

Why not just call Dave Brandon and get some piped in rawk music to go with your appletini?


August 24th, 2011 at 2:55 PM ^

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.


August 24th, 2011 at 2:46 PM ^

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.


August 24th, 2011 at 9:16 PM ^

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.


August 24th, 2011 at 2:48 PM ^

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.


August 24th, 2011 at 2:51 PM ^

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.


August 24th, 2011 at 7:52 PM ^

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.

Hard Gay

August 24th, 2011 at 2:52 PM ^

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. 


August 24th, 2011 at 2:53 PM ^

No Afternoon Delight for breakfast?

No Zingermans Deli for lunch?


I agree on Zingermans Roadhouse which I find to be OK and overpriced.


August 24th, 2011 at 2:57 PM ^

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.


August 24th, 2011 at 3:05 PM ^

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..


August 24th, 2011 at 9:36 PM ^

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.


August 25th, 2011 at 7:39 AM ^

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.

Blue Balls

August 24th, 2011 at 3:08 PM ^

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.


August 24th, 2011 at 3:13 PM ^

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.