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2012 Dining Guide

Finding your foodie

Photos by Alex Beat

Here's a little taste of everything in Ann Arbor. From high-end delicacy dishes to unique grab-and-go favorites. From old-timey cocktails to finely-honed craft brews. The hard part is figuring out what to try next. Our writers — one food, one drink — break down their favorite places to eat and booze when they are feeling fancy or grungy and everything in between.

Vinology

110 S. Main St. www.vinowinebars.net/vinology
Vinology specializes in adventurous, small-plate cuisine of the sort associated with upper-end restaurants in larger cities. With an extensive wine list, and surprising flavor combinations, it’s a great place to play around.  Vinology’s menu turns over seasonally.
Our favorite dishes: Buffalo Skate Wing Medallions, Vietnamese Sugar Cane Skewers with shrimp and pork and the “Ants on a Tree” dessert.

 

Mani Osteria

341 E. Liberty St. www.maniosteria.com
We can’t stay away from Mani, it’s just that good. (For what it’s worth, Mario Batali agrees; he tweeted a pic of the ribs he ate there a few weeks ago.)  Those blindingly-hot wood-burning ovens enable cooking you just can’t get anywhere else, and they use them not just for the pizzas, but for meats as well. Small plates, pizzas, and pastas are all great.  If you haven’t been here yet, mark it down for your next fancy night out.
Our favorite dishes: Pickled Tomato and Chicken Liver Pate Appetizers, Farmer’s Market Pizza and Espresso Ribs with Shishito Peppers (Mario Batali can’t be wrong)
 

The Earle

121 W. Washington St. www.theearle.com
When you’re looking for a fancy restaurant to impress a date (or your alumni parents), visit one of the longest-lasting restaurants in town.  Through the lashing waves of fashions and trends, The Earle has steered a steady and dignified course with classic French and Italian dishes for over 33 years. The menu, the service, and the ambience are flawlessly classic.
Our favorite dishes: Steak au Poivre, Sauteed Duck Breasts and Lamb Chops

 

Amadeus

122 E. Washington. www.amadeusrestaurant.com
Amadeus is the idiosyncratic creation of a talented and slightly-eccentric Polish chef, with a talent for classic Polish cooking and elaborate desserts.  Several of the restaurants on this list will make you feel like you’re having dinner in a big American city, but Amadeus feels like you’ve been transported to a side street in Warsaw or Prague. It’s cozy, with great Eastern European food, desserts, and an intriguing wine list.

Our favorite dishes: Bitki c Kopytka (pork and dumplings), Salmon Mousse and Dill Pickle Soup

Great Lake Chinese Seafood

2910 Carpenter Rd.
Great Lake is a Hong Kong-style Chinese seafood restaurant, and you have to understand what that means to get the maximum enjoyment out of it.  It means they have an emphasis on fresh ingredients.  Their seafood dishes will be great, and so (for reasons obscure to us) are the beef dishes.  Anything on the whiteboard near the door will be good, as is anything involving fresh seafood.  Usual American standards like General Tso’s Chicken, not so much.  

Our favorite dishes: Braised noodles with Black Mushroom, Anything with fresh fish or crabs and Dim Sum (which they serve even at night)

The Chop House / Real Seafood Co.

341 S. Main St. www.thechophouserestaurant.com
We were having a hard time picking our last "high end" place, and went with a surf and turf combo. Both are Main Street Ventures restaurants, and both offer a delicious special occasion dinner experience. Their birthday meal for free deal is a great way to try these restaurants on a smaller budget. The Chop House features great aged steaks and a killer lobster bisque, and Real Seafood will satisfy just about any seafood craving. To cap off the night, have your server book a table at their sister dessert restaurant, La Dolce Vita.

Our favorite dishes: Individual Beef Wellingtons (chop house), Lobster and Cioppino (Real Seafood)

Ayse’s Cafe

1703 Plymouth Rd. www.aysesturkishcafe.com
Celebrating her restaurant's 19th year this October,
Ayse loves sharing Turkish cuisine with her customers and will keep running her restaurant as long as she's having fun. Her dishes are always fresh-made with high quality (and often local) ingredients and have beautiful clear flavors. You can't go wrong with her lamb dishes, and her lentil soup is one of the best you'll taste.  Meat eaters and vegetarians alike will find plenty to enjoy at Ayse's.

Our favorite dishes: Sultan’s Delight with Lamb, Lentil Soup and the cold salads

Arirang

3135 Oak Valley Dr.
Ann Arbor had Korean diners long before Korean BBQ became trendy in the US, and by long, we mean going back to the 1980s. Arirang, a relatively recent addition, happens to be our favorite and is worth the trip to the South side of town. Their Solomon’s seal tea is unusual and delicious. Perfect on a cold day. (And they sell the dry tea so you can make your own!)  

Our favorite dishes: Dol Sot (stone bowl) Bi Bim Bap, Bulgogi and Spicy Pork with Kim Chi (Lisa’s go-to dish)

Casey’s

304 Depot St. www.caseys-tavern.com
When we reviewed Casey’s in 2010, we called it “a neighborhood bar for a neighborhood as big as Ann Arbor.”  It’s an apt description.  They’ve got what may be the best burgers in town – we’re not jumping into that debate here, but try them and see what you think – as well as a lot of other very tasty bar food options.  Their “Meatless Joe” , a heaping portion of a lentil-and-bean sloppy Joe dish over a slab of cheddar cornbread, is one of the best vegetarian meals around.

Our favorite dishes: Burgers, Meatless Joe  and Fish & Chips

 

Red Rock BBQ

207 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti. www. redrockypsi.com
Did downtown Ypsi need a barbecue restaurant?  Yes.  Yes, they did.  And they needed one like this: hip enough to draw a crowd with some money, but reasonable enough to be within range of the student population.  Red Rock tied to a particular regional style of barbecue; they’re doing something for everyone (even vegetarians that love macaroni & cheese): ribs, brisket, and pulled pork.  And some great sauces (try them ALL).

Our favorite dishes: Burnt Ends appetizer, Beef Brisket, Macaroni & Cheese

Metzger’s

305 N. Zeeb Rd. www.metzgers.net
The oldest restaurant in Ann Arbor (84 years!) is also surprisingly affordable and non-stodgy.  Serving up authentic German cuisine, as well as some Americanized favorites, Metzger’s is a legacy of Ann Arbor’s settlement by German immigrants.  It’s also an amazing survival story; it closed for two  years and auctioned off its decorations, many of which were brought back by regulars when it reopened at its new Zeeb Road location.  The food is hearty, the beer is excellent, and the staff hospitable.

Our favorite dishes: Sauerbraten, The “Wurst” Platte (multiple sausages), Side dishes, including spatzen, potato pancakes, and red cabbage

Silvio's Organic Ristorante and Pizzeria

715 N. University Ave. www.silviosorganicpizza.com
Silvio's is the perfect destination for healthy, authentic Italian cuisine. Each dish is local, affordable and thoughtfully made with organic ingredients. They pride themselves on their Gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian selection.

Our favorite dishes: Vegetariana Pizza (mushrooms, spinach, eggs), Ravioli alla Carne and Michigan Mushroom Ravioli (goat cheese, ricotta cheese, mushrooms)

Taco King

2231 W. Liberty St.
The most authentic taqueria you’re going to find in the Ann Arbor-Ypsi area.  It isn’t fancy, it isn’t plugged into the local food movement, and it isn’t trying to innovate – it is simply here to fulfill your need for reasonably authentic and very tasty tacos, tamales, tortas, and other Latino stand-bys at an extremely reasonable price.  People with average appetites can walk away sated for $5 or less (three tacos); even bigger appetites would be challenged to eat $10 of food here.

Our favorite dishes: Tacos (especially Al Pastor, a. k. a. marinated pork), Torta de Milanesa Pollo (breaded chicken), Guatemalan tamales

Samosa House

1785 Washtenaw Ave., Ypsilanti
Frequently mistaken for an Indian restaurant because of its name, the only Somali restaurant in Washtenaw County has rapidly become a strong favorite of ours.  The sizeable samosas are dirt cheap ($1.50 each, three or four would make a meal), the steak sandwich ($5) which includes thin-pounded steak, potatoes, and homemade barbecue sauce, is surprisingly addictive, and the rest of the menu is a delight as well.  Some regulars claim they also have the best French fries around.

Our favorite dishes: Samosas (we love the lamb and veggie the most), Steak sandwich Lamb Sukhaar, but this will take you out of the “cheap” category

Hut-K Chaats

3022 Packard Rd. www.hut-k.com
Dr. Mahaveer Swaroop Bhojani wanted to create healthy versions of India's famously delicious chaats (Indian street foods), and that journey led to him opening Hut-K where they serve their "nutrilicious" versions of more traditional chaats plus their own creations. Nuts, dried fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are prominant ingredients. Dates replace refined sugar, and deep frying is minimized in favor of baking. Only in Ann Arbor!

Our favorite dishes: Shanu Chaat, Dahi Sev Puri and Paneer Wrap

Jerusalem Garden

307 S. 5th Ave. www.jerusalemgarden.net
An Ann Arbor institution since, well, forever, JG has been serving great Middle Eastern food to generations of local Ann Arborites and UM students. Their crunchy, perfect falafel may top the list of things to try, but just about everything here is solid to great. Lentil soup and a sandwich will have you bursting full.

Our favorite dishes: Falafel, Stuffed grape leaves, Hummus

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