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Ann Arbor, MI


ol_ironstomach
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Well, Ann Arbor anyway...Detroit itself remains largely a wasteland lined with the obligatory chain restaurants.

The main Ethiopian restaurant in AA is the Blue Nile located downtown on Washington St. I had eaten here about four years ago and enjoyed it, so it seemed time for a revisit. Unlike most DC Ethiopian restaurants, you cannot order a la carte (except for one salad) - there are exactly two options: all seven veggies, or all seven veggies and all four meats. Periodically they will offer to refill any subset of items, so if you're really partial to an item, you can just focus on that and pick at the others. Unfortunately, my fondness for the cooking has waned quite a bit...it would struggle to find an audience if it were located in this town. Spicing is very mild. The injera is now 100% white wheat and completely devoid of tef, making it thoroughly unfamiliar. Lacking tef's earthy flavor, sourness and elasticity, the wheat flavor comes through like an injera-shaped pancake. I liked the zilzil wat, but among the veggies, the lentil and pea dishes seemed short on that oily/buttery richness that I've come to expect. Ah well.

I had to make an obligatory visit to Zingerman's afterwards. They still have perhaps the best cheese counter I've seen in the midwest, and the friendliest chocolate counter anywhere, although prices are high at both. The vinegar department is pretty impressive too (three lines of German digestive vinegars?!) It's not that Z's necessarily carries the broadest selection, but that what they do carry is very well selected...and they are prepared to offer you tastes of most of the items they carry. After some tasting at the cheese counter, I settled on a delicious Comté from St. Antoine, and a crazy earthy Clacbitou. At the chocolate counter I had to pick up a couple more bars of Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, as well as some Pralus selections. As their name suggests, Bonajuto makes their chocolates in an antique style, using a traditional water process they claim dates back to Columbus. In that respect, it resembles some Mexican drinking chocolates like Ibarra, at least in its chunky sugary texture. The Pralus line is a whole nother story. The individual styles are not single-harvest as far as I can tell, but are country-specific and unusually high in cacao - 75% in the Indonesian and Cuban-origin bars that I chose. The latter is supposedly "okay" by virtue of the bar itself being made a French product...I'm not sure I understand that, but whatever, they gave it to me.

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Well, Ann Arbor anyway...Detroit itself remains largely a wasteland lined with the obligatory chain restaurants.

The main Ethiopian restaurant in AA is the Blue Nile located downtown on Washington St. I had eaten here about four years ago and enjoyed it, so it seemed time for a revisit. <snip> Spicing is very mild, possibly to appease the local midwestern palate. <snip>

Although I didn't much explore them when I was in AA, I've long had the impression that there are some pretty good midE restaurants in Detroit. It certainly has a large enough Arab population to support such restaurants.

And now, to pick some nits, 'ol_ironstomach. As somebody who was born and raised in the midwest, I find it really tiresome when coasters come and make such blanket condemnations of folks in the midwest. I'll grant you this--at least you, apparently, spent some time in the midwest. I've met lots of DC and east coast folks who've never been to the midwest who like to come out with such statements.

In my life, I've met people from all over the U.S. who have adventurous palates and who don't, and I can't really make a broad, geographical, generalization about them. I know folks from Long Island who think that Olive Garden is the height of Italian cuisine. A classmate of mine at in grad school at UM (from LI also, coincidentally) had never had chutney and declared herself allergic to Japanese food because she just didn't want to try it.

It sounds to me as though Blue Nile has gone downhill (I recall liking it 8 years ago when I moved there from Chicago--which has some really good Ethiopian food). Is this in an effort to 'appease the local midwestern palate'? Maybe ownership changed? Changes in the kitchen? An off night? A lot of different things could have happened to make the spicing very mild on this visit. Blaming it on 'appeasing the midwestern palate' seems to be based more than anything on coastal snobbery.

Sorry for the rant--can you tell you hit one of my buttons?! :lol:

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Having lived in A2 for 3 years, I have to concur that the food options are lacking when compared to my time in another college town in the frozen tundra (Ithaca, NY, which is about 1/3 the size but far superior options). If I went back, I would probably head to Sabor Latino on Main Street for Mexican food, which is pretty much a hole-in-the wall ethnic joint with great food. (I can't speak to authenticity, but it's the one place I'd import to DC.) For sushi, we went to Maki (?), which was decent. For high-end, we liked West End Grill, where the menus were on mini-blackboards at your table, all the entrees came with house salads, and the food more innovative than the other high-end traditional places in town (Movable Feast, Gandy Dancer). Also, we had a great graduation meal at the Common Grill in Chelsea, MI, a place we wish we discovered earlier. Finally, all I can add to the tips on great Middle Eastern food (apparently Dearborn is the epicenter) is a local chain called La Shish (sp?), which, in terms of decor, is a bit like Lebanese Taverna, but blows that place out of the water (which, admittedly, it is not difficult to do). There is probably better stuff in Dearborn proper, but I never made it there.

I know it's blasphemy, but I was never totally on the Zingerman's bandwagon-- while I recognize the quality of the ingredients, it is pricey for a student budget. The bread, though, was wonderful. You can have a nice morning wandering the farmer's market at Kerrytown, and having lunch at Zingermans. Misses: Seva, the vegetarian restaurant, does not hold a candle to the Moosewood Restaurant. Also, since I didn't do undergrad there, I don't have the same fond memories of the various college dives that line State Street.

Hope no one is heading there this time of year!

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I went to graduate school in Ann Arbor and our regular places to eat were a microbrew called Grizzly Peak (I wish I drank beer then) and Zola's for brunch. Also, I've heard Prickly Pear (Southwestern cuisine) is quite good. I'm assuming all these places are still around.

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And now, to pick some nits, 'ol_ironstomach. As somebody who was born and raised in the midwest, I find it really tiresome when coasters come and make such blanket condemnations of folks in the midwest. I'll grant you this--at least you, apparently, spent some time in the midwest. I've met lots of DC and east coast folks who've never been to the midwest who like to come out with such statements.

No, you're right...even though it was never my intention to suggest that there are no adventurous palates there, the "bland midwestern palate" is a stereotype that adds no information to this discussion, and doesn't need to be perpetuated. One might draw the same conclusion about DC if you only ate at Tara Thai. I apologize, and have edited out that comment.

It sounds to me as though Blue Nile has gone downhill (I recall liking it 8 years ago when I moved there from Chicago--which has some really good Ethiopian food). Is this in an effort to 'appease the local midwestern palate'? Maybe ownership changed? Changes in the kitchen? An off night? A lot of different things could have happened to make the spicing very mild on this visit. Blaming it on 'appeasing the midwestern palate' seems to be based more than anything on coastal snobbery.

My original assumption was that it was a compromise to local tastes, but the fact is that I don't have a counterexample of a more authentic Ethiopian restaurant there that's faring poorly. My guess would be that they might simply not have enough Ethiopians there to anchor against cultural fusion. The place was packed, but with nary a recognizable Ethiopian among the diners or wait staff, save for the one fellow I presume was the owner or GM. I didn't get a look in the kitchen to see who was cooking, unfortunately.

Detroit is noted for its excellent middle-eastern cuisine (supported by a large and vibrant Arab community), something I had mentioned in an earlier draft of my posting but which I must have deleted. I've visited and loved the aforementioned local La Shish chain many times in the past (their uber-garlicky chicken shwarma is divine), but this past year they've fallen on hard times amid charges of their founder's tax evasion, and boycotts triggered by the discovery of his unflattering association with major Hezbollah figures.

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From two Detroit boys here at Vidalia..............(Doug & RJ). One should not go to Detroit to get phu phu gourmet food. Take advatage of the ethnic groups that hibitate in the metro area.
  • greek town-great flaming cheese and lamb......the best greek food in the midwest
  • Laffayette Coney Island..........The only coney Doug and I would ever eat right Rocks!!!!!
  • all kinds of middle eastern foods that are heads above the make shift we get here
  • the best jewish delis are in oak park......come on now
  • Hamtramick is the largest population of Polls oustide Warsaw (ahhhhhh sausages)
    • the greatest slider in the US is in Farmington.......... Greens Hamburgers......55 years of the best greece
    • Detroit is not about great chefs....its about great ethnic foods.........blue collar.......stick to your ribs food.
    • And Rocks Doug says stick up for the Dog

    [

I'm glad somebody finally mentioned Lafayette. Yes, Detroit is a working-class eating town, but holds its own in that department.

My time in A2 was undergraduate, the full 4-year monty, but so long ago, probably literally before most above were born (hmmm, am I really old enough to start saying that---gulp); let's just say my time there was pre-70's. Anyway, in those days the place to go was the Pretzel Bell, which had been there a long time but which I imagine is long gone--is that so?. It's where everyone went on his/her 21st birthday to have his/her first legal beer. Bimbo's pizza had just started up. Zimmerman's--what's that?? Times do change.

The Ethiopian comparison is a bit unfair. DC is the primo Ethiopian area in the US, and obviously a comparatively small college town is not likely to compete in the restaurant department.

I too am sick of the stupid, ill-informed, effete Eastern crapheads (nattering nabobs of negativism??) who constantly defame us without knowing anything about what they're saying, just following the effete "sophisticated" Eastern herd. There, take that you slimebags.

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Once upon a time, the Dexter Heritage Inn (? not sure of the name), if ever so briefly, was extremely good and expensive...on a T.A.'s salary. That's where I had the wonderful miso, but non-Japanese, non-fusion soup I mentioned in another thread. There was another place on the main strip of that tiny town--not the main bar--with damn good hamburgers and blackberry pie in the summertime.

Hamtramick has the Eagle Tavern if I'm not mistaken. Glorious kielbasa.

Dearborn? BEST place to buy groceries, especially when FAGE wasn't even a twinkle in any American distributor's eye.

Windsor, just across the border, is for Chinese.

As for Ann Arbor itself, there is or was really good Korean. There are the deep-fried zucchini and burgers with mushrooms and blue cheese at Blimpy Burger. And if you're in a midwestern college town, you shouldn't whine about being stuck with Zingerman's. Not when you moved to a place like Washington, D.C. where you can't buy good bread or deli.

Otherwise, my dears, there is a reason why my friends back East told me it was known as the Potluck Capital of the United States. We always made better food than most of the restaurants did and we had a wonderful farmer's market before most other places did--long before you could get yellow bell peppers at supermarket chains. There were TWO real hardware stores with cast iron skillets and a genuine food co-op where you'd get a discount for working ten hours a month.

Besides, isn't everyone grateful that the city gave the nation the likes of Tom Moynahan and Domino's? :lol:

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Besides, isn't everyone grateful that the city gave the nation the likes of Tom Moynahan and Domino's? :lol:

While it's true that the company's HQ is in AA, it was more truthfully given to us not by Ann Arbor but by Ypsilanti, the location of the first store. Would that it had also been the last.

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If you're in A2, the Red Hawk is a must. Great place for a sandwich. I recommend the Fundraiser (ham, turkey, cheddar, tomato, onion & ranch dressing -- get it grilled), unless the Midnight Snack (salami, turkey, mozzarella, and slaw on pumpernickel -- again, grilled) ever returns to the menu.

Get it with a Bell's.

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Hmm, I had a truly unremarkable omelette at the Red Hawk, and maybe something else another time (a pasta dish? don't remember, it's been too long) that was also unremarkable. I didn't think much of Red Hawk, but I never had a sandwich there.

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Hmm, I had a truly unremarkable omelette at the Red Hawk, and maybe something else another time (a pasta dish? don't remember, it's been too long) that was also unremarkable. I didn't think much of Red Hawk, but I never had a sandwich there.

All about the sandwiches. I can't speak to any other item on the menu.

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Star Deli on 12 Mile and Telegraph has the best rye bread and corned beef sandwiches i've ever had.

Can't knock the hunter house in birmingham (on woodward) for sliders.

What about that olive burger they serve up in Flint by the outlet mall

Athens Coney Island at the edge of birmingham on woodward (south) is the best of them (ducking)

Beverly Hills Grille is pretty good too (Corner of Southfield and 14 mile?) they have their menu on a chalk board but always have good choices and it has some of the best brunch in the area.

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Returned to Ann Arbor this weekend and was a bit disappointed with the fare. The Red Hawk has been continuing its disappointing trend of cutting back on the menu. While it appears to be as long as ever, toppings for burgers and omelets now take up large portions of it. Gone are some great sandwiches, including the Midnight Snack and the 316 (I believe that was the number), as well as some entrees. The Fundraiser is still good, although the bread selection is now limited to sourdough, wheat, and rye. Most of its items are fairly standard and plain -- burgers, chix sandwiches, club sandwich, burritos, and omelets -- with no real Red Hawk twist.

We also ate at Gratzi's/The Chop House. The wait time kept on getting extended, which is forgivable since it's a football weekend. The antipasti at the Gratzi bar was boring. The Chop House steak, itself, was quite good and of great quality. As was the side of potatoes au gratin that we ordered. However, the waiter's suggestion were laughable. It's remarkable that his recommendations, without fail, ended up being the most expensive item for each category on the menu: appetizer, steak, seafood, and poultry. His wine selection, while not quite the most expensive, was not reasonable and particularly so for Ann Arbor. He also seemed upset that we ordered an appetizer at the bar during the wait. I'd look past the waiter though and give the Chop House another go.

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when my stepdaughter was at Michigan, one of the places ms southdenverhoo and I liked was the restaurant attached to the Weber's Inn (is that right?), maybe a mile west of downtown on the Jackson Highway. Good midwestern hunks of red beef, and a wine list that to my eyes was especially good on the reds and only marked up maybe 2x retail (compared to what I was used to in Denver at the time, around 2.5-3X retail).

Good local fish, too, and at least something from Bell's on tap. We always ate in the little room off from the bar...

This is exactly the sort of hotel where the M Club or Wolverine Club or whatever it was called would meet on Mondays after the game, in the fall, and the coach would speak. Or you might have your child's wedding reception, or your parents' 50th. But I think they had a Wine Spectator award prominently posted....

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I am origanally from Toledo but we always were up in teh Detroit area to shop and gamble.

I heard that the restaurant in the new MGM Grand downtown is something pretty special. Anyone care to confirm?

Haven't been, but the local press on them so far has been pretty good. There are are few places, including ones run by Wolfgang Puck and Michael Mina (in absentia).

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These are in no way foodie highlights, but I still have fond memories of Ann Arbor "cuisine":

  • Chipatis from Pizza House (and Chipati Sauce which can now be bought and shipped)
  • Falafel House
  • Breakfast at Angelo's
  • Count Twists from Charley's
  • Yes, I admit it, I love Zingerman's (and Amer's in a pinch)
  • Blimpy burgers
  • General Tso's chicken from the place on Liberty I can't remember the name of...
  • Mocha with whip from Cafe Espresso
  • ice cream in a waffle cone from Stucchi's

Food as nostalgia...

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Don't be ashamed of Zingerman's.

But, do be ashamed of the coffee at Angelo's, raisin toast or no raisin toast.

Re Zingerman's: the deli's food should be distinguished from meals at the Road House, especially when the store was the focus of the business and not merely part of a larger enterprise with mail-order services, takeover of Ascione Brothers in Kerry Town, etc., etc.

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This thread is more like a Zingerman's thread, so here's my two cents.

I had a great dinner at Zingerman's Roadhouse a few months ago. First, they have some great cocktails- had a nice pisco sour and old fashioned with the meal.

We chatted with the manager- he was a trained pediatrician who decided this was more fun to do.

For appetizers we had the chicken livers and an order of the ancho beef chili & cheddar twice cooked fries.

For dinner I had the carolina bbq plate which was good, but my friend's chicken fried sirloin was even better.

For dessert, had Ari’s Original Doughnut Sundae-a housemade doughnut with bourbon-caramel sauce, vanilla gelato, whipped cream, salted Virginia peanuts and a cherry on top- so good.

pics

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"If you're too busy ignore this. Best iced coffee in downtown AA?"

OK, I admit that I texted the groom-to-be an hour before the rehearsal dinner but it was frickin' hot on the sunny streets of Ann Arbor, and given that a large part of our friendship has been spent investigating, talking about, and drinking coffee, I knew the recommendation would be worth the potentional breach of etiquette.

"Comet, Nickels Arcade."

Guess he agreed.

Comet Coffee in Nickels Arcade is a tiny storefront that anyone familiar with Peregrine would immediately recognize. They have five beans available on any given day (four caffeinated, one decaf) and can brew any you like in one of four ways: individual filter drip (which can also be done iced), French press, or vacuum pot -- and of course do espresso as well. I have to say that it's something of a toss-up between the iced coffee I had yesterday and Zingerman's cold-brewed coffee today -- I generally prefer cold-brewed coffee for my iced coffee, and Zingerman's is fantastic, with subtly chocolate notes hitting at the back of the palate -- but Comet's got really interesting beans, and, well, it's a college town; might as well be having fun with the science behind brewing, right? Plus the coffee got me through the rehearsal dinner with energy to spare. I might be back before hitting the road tomorrow.

Now, to that wedding ... :)

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I went to Comet twice when I visited Ann Arbor earlier this year. great espresso, good cappuchino, delicious pastries, too.

Wow. A great coffee shop and in such a great location. I love the Nickels Arcade.

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Smokey: Are you in AA these days?

No, just MIA from the boards. Child #2 combined with a job change into a more demanding (and more interesting) position have denied me the time to enjoy full participation. The other problem has been that with new job, I'm in a new location so don't drive to work. It's hard to do RPLC without a car :) .

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2 hours ago, JDawgBBall9 said:

Resurrecting from the depths.....Zingerman's Deli is still delicious (and expensive, but hey) and we also got to Blimpy Burger right before they opened and didn't have to wait a long time - it was pretty delicious after a long weekend. 

Zingerman's is a wonderful place to get a drive-thru cup of coffee in the morning.

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I was in Ann Arbor recently to attend a wedding.  This was the first I had spent an appreciable amount of time there since I graduated in the mid-80s.  I didn’t visit restaurants in the town since we had two wedding-related dinners at the Michigan League (quite good- it’s also a nice place to stay).  However, as I walked around, I saw a diverse number of restaurants and several brew pubs.  A big change from my day, when Olga’s Kitchen on State St. was as exotic as you could get near Central Campus and the beer options ran from the very cheap (Huber, Goebel’s) to Stroh’s to “high end” (Molson’s).

We did eat at Buddy's Pizza.  We didn’t have time to go to the original location in Detroit.  I hadn’t heard of  Detroit-style pizza when I was at school, so was eager to try it.  It was delicious, and the service was very good.  The only drawback was that they served it on a pizza tray, so it cooled down pretty fast. 

A friend had recommended Washtenaw Dairy.  The ice cream was excellent but as I was eating on a bench outside, a trash truck operated by the slowest workers in the state pulled up next to me and stunk up the place. 

I had coffee in two locations- Comet Coffee in the Nickel’s Arcade (a floral, Peruvian bean) and Roasting Plant (Kona) on State St.  Roasting Plant features the “Javabot”, which “takes green coffee beans, roasts them to the perfect profile, moves them to clear storage chambers where they are kept only during the brief period they are at the peak of flavor. When you order, Javabot sends your beans to the grinder and then moves them to the brewer to finish the process that delivers the perfect cup of coffee.”  I don’t have a $4/cup palate, so didn’t fully appreciate them.  The Nickel’s Arcade is a very peaceful place to have a morning cup.

I visited two bars on this trip.  The first, Wolverine State Brewing Co., is a brewpub that only makes lager.  I had their Wolverine Premium and a rye lager.  I appreciated their effort to focus on lagers rather than ales, but the beers I tried were only ok.  I went to Ashley's on State St.  I really liked it.  It reminded me of Max’s in Baltimore- friendly crowd, knowledgeable bartenders, large selection of well-regarded beers, dark and cluttered.

I had a great time.  It was comforting to be back in a place where everyone appreciates, celebrates, and venerates the unsurpassed greatness of the U of M.

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