When I first moved to Ann Arbor I marveled at the beautiful old cobblestone building near the train tracks. I soon learned the building had been converted from train station to restaurant, playing home to The Gandy Dancer, one of Ann Arbor’s premier destination dining spots.
From the outside, The Gandy Dancer evokes grandeur, from the high windows and spires down to the intricate stonework. Inside, diners find themselves surrounded by opulent, nineteenth century décor, harkening back to a time when train travel and elegance stood side by side. As we waited to be seated, it wasn’t hard to imagine the building as one of the finest stations on the rail line between Buffalo and Chicago.
From the fireplace and fountain in the Main Dining Room to the train-style benches and luggage shelves in the Round House Saloon, each dining area in the restaurant has unique qualities. We sat with a view, at a window table in the Track Side room overlooking the train tracks and Broadway Park. As we thumbed through our menus a train rushed past greeted by a burst of clapping patrons. The story goes: Years ago a passing train derailed and crashed into the station, and miraculously no one was injured. After the reconstruction, commuters began to clap every time a train went by without incident. And the tradition has stuck.
After reluctantly passing on the taragon-glazed cedar-plank Salmon and the pecan-crusted Whitefish with maple-mustard beurre blanc—I was in the mood for seafood—I took our server’s recommendation on the Dynamite Mahi Mahi special. With a set of lemon-scented rice and cauliflower florets drizzled with a smoked Gouda cheese sauce, finished with a fine ring of basil-oil circling the plate, how could I resist? My date’s Pasta Pagliara, a seafood bomb—shrimp, scallops, mussels and salmon—topped with a buttery clam sauce and tossed with spinach, did not disappoint, though he did have a mild case of order envy.
As we shared bites, we noticed the outdoor patio area in the early stages of spring setup. As soon as the better weather returns, Sunday brunches and happy hours on the Gandy Dancer patio are sure to attract. Imagine an afternoon basket of portabella mushroom fries with honey jalapeno aioli and a draft pour of Bell’s Oberon. Or an order of Hawaiian poke beside a frosty mango mojito. “We have a wonderful specialty cocktails list,” said Charlene Gulliford, General Manager. She recommends the light and refreshing Cucumber Cooler or Skinny Lemonade, both perfect for cooling down on a hot evening.
I had been meaning to take a trip to The Gandy Dancer since the moment I first saw the old building. And while sometimes the anticipation of an experience is better than the experience itself, that was not case here. No matter the occasion—birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, or just a night out—a meal at The Gandy Dancer is destined to be special.
401 Depot St.
11am -10pm Monday – Friday
11am – 11pm Saturday
3:30pm – 9 pm Sunday