Since last year’s dining guide, we’ve been chomping at the bit to talk more with Washtenaw County’s talented chefs.
Now local Chefs and Restaurateurs sat down with us to talk about their food, the Washtenaw County dining scene, new menu items, and what to eat during game day.
115 W. Washington St.
734-327-2312 | logan-restaurant.com
Chef Chad Gillies is no stranger to Ann Arborites with an appetite. After serving as the Executive Chef at Zingerman’s Deli for 10 years, he left for New York City to learn from some of the world’s best chefs (including Gray Kunz, a member of the Restaurant Hall of Fame).
Combining Southeast Michigan sourcing knowledge with classical training, Chef Gillies and his Logan team are serving up classic-inspired cuisine like the Confit of Duck Leg.
“It represents the old world way of cooking, and I do it very traditionally,” Gillies explains. “The duck we get is just gorgeous. We always get them fresh from Culver Duck Company. We start with whole duck, and butcher them down, focusing on the legs. And we make this salt with herbs — a lot of parsley, thyme, peppercorns and bay leaves all ground up — and it makes a bright green salt marinade which we apply to the meat side of the duck and let it sit overnight, for around 20 hours.”
Confit is a low and slow cooking process, using fat to cook the duck at 200 degrees for around 10 hours, which Chef Gillies does about once a week. It originates from an old school method of meat preservation, back before refrigeration, and embodies the classical style of cooking and presentation at Logan.
“I cook every day on the line,” said Gillies, who added that the confit is served with organic Michigan fingerling potatoes, cipollini onions, asparagus, grapes, and a duck sauce seasoned with ground mustard, all sourced, when possible, from local sources. “We’re chef-driven, and everything we do is from scratch up to the point that we serve it. This dish just really exemplifies the process of how much work it takes to get our food to the plate.”
The Pretzel Bell
226 S. Main St.
734-994-2773 | thepretzelbell.com
Ask anyone who attended U-M back the in the day, and they’ll probably have one or two fond, if hazy, memories about late nights spent snacking on peanuts and pints at The P-Bell. This spring, after 30 years with no P-Bell (as it’s affectionately referred to) in Ann Arbor, The Pretzel Bell is back with an updated, more family friendly vibe — but with plenty of good times still to be had.
“We’re really happy to be in the community,” said Bett Stevens, General Manager of The Pretzel Bell. “It’s been a great start. Now that the students and faculty are back, we’re really happy to introduce ourselves to as many people as possible.”
That introduction will come during (what else?) U-M football Saturdays, and the good times will take place downstairs at the sports bar, which Stevens says is designed for the ultimate gameday experience.
“It’s great, because we’re heading into the sports season now that U-M is back,” Stevens said. “We’ve got 20 TV’s, and a huge sports package, so we’re pretty much able to show all the games at once.”
And game days wouldn’t be complete without shareable, tasty dishes. Stevens highlighted his favorite, a new menu item this fall that goes well with a big group of friends and a pitcher of beer.
“My favorite appetizer is the Meat and Potatoes, which is our french fries covered in short ribs, blue cheese and fried parsnips,” Stevens said. “It’s really delicious. The shredded short rib is absolutely fantastic.”
Pair that with one of The Pretzel Bells’ game day specials — their “go blue” deal, where Johnnie Walker Blue is on special $20 off per pour after a U-M football win, stands out — and alumni with memories as well as new students both have a tasty new place to cheer on their team.
110 S. Main St.
734-222-9841 | vinologya2.com
Chef Adam Galloway has a reputation for serving innovative and, most importantly, delicious “wine-friendly world cuisine” at Vinology.
His childhood working on his grandparents farm makes him vigilantly seasonal and his background in biology and chemistry makes him something of a culinary mad scientist. All of which led to his latest dessert creation, Chicago Corn.
“At Christmas time your grandma gets you that tub of popcorn that has the buttered popcorn, caramel popcorn and cheese popcorn. That was the inspiration behind this dish,” said Chef Adam, who added that the corn is all from his “corn guy” at Geddes Farm in Saginaw. Think of a popcorn dessert — without using any actual popcorn.
“It’s made from hominy corn, which we puree and make into a dough with tapioca starch. We roll it out paper thin, steam it for about thirty seconds until it becomes clear. We take that dough and let it dry overnight and fry it at 450 degrees so it pops up just like corn would,” Chef Adam said.
This crispy number is accompanied by lavender panna cotta, some dulce de leche accents and white cheddar cheese ice cream. The ice cream is made in-house with liquid nitrogen to keep it creamy and fresh.
“As soon as the ingredient is at the peak of freshness, that’s when we like to change things up and start adding new things. Harvest season is one of my favorite times of the year. Everything is coming,” Chef Adam explained.
1015 Broadway St.
734-995-0965 | northsidegrill.com
The variety, the ambiance and the short walk from dinner to drinking — it’s easy to get sucked into downtown Ann Arbor when looking for a good meal and a night on the town. But what about the following morning?
That’s when Ann Arborites that know their stuff stop by Northside Grill, just north of the river. Having worked at Gandy Dancer and Dooley’s (now Scorekeepers), Owner Jim Koli has learned to pay attention to his customers and deliver exactly what they want.
“We want people to journey over the bridge,” Kooli said. “I’m waiting on people now that were kids when I started (in 1993) and now they have kids of their own. It’s just about listening and being consistent. Everyone wants breakfast like their mom used to make it.”
Moms that can pull off meals like The Huron Sampler don’t come around too often. Loaded with hash browns, eggs, bacon, sausage, corned beef hash and toast or a biscuit, it’s a typical Northside Grill meal — simple, satisfying, and sure to leave you stuffed.
“It’s all comfort food,” Kooli said. “Our big thing is we’re not the cheapest breakfast in town, but we’re affordable, and we want to fill you up; we want to see you satisfied. If we do, you might come back.”
This October, try it out or get adventurous during Halloween Weekend, where the menu turns spooky as Northside dishes out items like “The Blood Skillet” or “The Great Pumpkin Cakes.”
3050 Jackson Rd.
734-769-2500 | webersinn.com
People come from all over to taste Weber’s Prime Rib, with good reason — even Chef Jeremy Caroen, who arrived at Weber’s eight years ago, is a convert.
“I’d never been a fan of prime rib, to be honest,” Chef Caroen said. “But I love ours.”
Weber’s has been doing prime rib since the ‘50s, and their process hasn’t changed much, said Chef Caroen, who described it as time-intensive and very involved.
“It comes down to the way we handle the meat. When you’re dealing with a roast, it’s 90 percent handling. Ours is wet-aged, and we let the juices come out naturally on sheet trays, let the meat rest for about 4-5 days.”
Resting the beef seals in the juices, so that as the prime rib is cooked, the beef stays moist and tender, and the plate doesn’t turn into a mess.
But prime rib, while a traditional favorite, isn’t the only thing on the menu. Chef Caroen has been working for years to put his stamp on classics like the Lobster Maryland.
“We use jumbo lump blue crab meat from the East Coast,” Caroen said. “We mix it with egg, sherry, seasoning, mayonnaise, and we’ll halfway cook the lobster, stuff it, and put the glacage on top, which is another sauce, and it just bakes up beautifully.”
2019 W. Stadium Blvd.
734-369-2990 | wolverinebeer.com
If you’re stopping by Wolverine State Brewing Company, chances are you’re there because after tasting their beer, you’re thirsty for another pint. But Wolverine State, led by Pitmaster Tim Delany, also serves delicious BBQ to match their brews.
Delany has manned the smoker for the past two and a half years and described the process for Wolverine’s smoked pulled pork, which they use to top the “2019 Nachos.”
“I come into work, even in the dead of winter, and get to start a fire in the morning. That’s a pretty nice way to start your day. Depending on what I am going to smoke determines what wood to use. Some of the rubs already have some sweet in them, so cherry is kind of over the top. Apple is nice, it gives things a spiciness. The cherry, which I use for making our salsa, has almost a cinnamon quality when it’s paired with peppers. For the pork, it’s kind of a two-fold thing. Hickory possesses high BPU’s, so it helps to get the smoker and the iron up to temperature quicker, plus it gives that classic hickory flavor. I smoke the meat for four hours, flipping it one time halfway through. After smoking, (it cooks) a very consistent 200 degree temperature overnight, for about 18 hours.”
The nachos ( according to Delany, Wolverine’s most ordered item) feature smoked pork with a completely different take on nachos — blue corn tortilla chips, with muenster cheese.
“We make our own Guac and pico di gallo, served with our smoked salsa, that’s pretty amazing,” Delany said. “The salsa was just an epiphany — I decided to throw some tomatoes and pepper in a hotel pan and smoke them off. If you haven’t tried it, you should. The nachos are kind of over the top, but they’re hugely popular.”
This fall, dive into a plate of nachos on game day which, along with a tall brew (possibly their seasonal Oktoberfest?), is sure to satisfy the BBQ carnivore.
3411 Washtenaw Ave.
734-971-0484 | paesanosannarbor.com
Bringing fine Italian dining to the Midwest is not a simple task, but it is one Chef David Whitney is well suited for. Having grown up in Michigan, worked every job in the business from dishwasher on up, and trained under celebrated Italian Chef Isabella Nicoletti, Chef Whitney is uniquely poised to balance big Midwestern appetites with traditional Italian fare.
“Growing up in the Midwest, I have a better feel for what people in this area are going to eat,” said Whitney, who attended culinary school at Washtenaw Community College. “So we sometimes scale back a little on the classic stuff to appeal to what customers want.”
That is not to say that Chef Whitney and his team at Paesano shy away from classic Italian cuisine — take for instance the Braised Ox-Tail, part of their new fall menu roll out. “It’s a common dish in Italy this time of year,” Whitney explained.
“Our braised ox-tail with an apricot mostarda, it’s kind of different and unique. That’s one thing you’d find in Italy this time of year is braised meat,” Whitney said.
That ox-tail is served with onions, celery and braised lacinato — a black kale, long popular in Tuscan kitchens — as well as garlic mashed potatoes, a side that makes some of the less familiar foods on the plate less intimidating. Chef Whitney puts his own local stamp on the dish by sourcing almost everything from local farmers in Michigan and Northern Ohio.
“I’ll give them a call at the beginning of a menu and see what they’ve got,” Chef Whitney said. “The majority of the time I come up with a menu and then call around and try to source it. They (the farmers) either come in the back door and drop it off or I go get it.”
Keep an eye out for Paesano’s special farm-to-table dinners, where Chef Whitney prowls the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market and cooks a unique meal from whatever he finds that day, as well as Paesano’s holiday celebrations.
Dan’s Downtown Tavern
103 E. Michigan Ave. | Saline
734-429-3159 | facebook.com/DANSBARS
There are several places in downtown Saline to grab a burger or a slice of pizza, and Dan Kolander, owner of Dan’s Downtown Tavern, has an idea why the local restaurant scene is booming.
“We have always gone with a homemade theory for our salsa, corn chips, burgers, etc.,” Kolander said. “About five other places have copied us, so it must be working.”
The homemade and handcrafted feel at Dan’s starts with their signature Peanut Butter Burger, which Kolander has been eating since he was a kid.
“The peanut burger was presented to me by my Dad when I was about 10 years old,” Kolander said. “He made the burger on the grill, threw some Jif peanut butter on it with a few pieces of bacon and fresh cheddar cheese.”
Kolander has turned that family recipe into a staple at Dan’s, and he has worked to perfect the dish, and other menu offerings, by using locally sourced ingredients.
“When I opened the restaurant, the first place I called was Knight’s Market in Ann Arbor and asked them to deliver fresh ground beef,” Kolander said. “I order my burger and hoagie buns from Benny’s Bakery in Saline, and the produce comes from Frog Holler.”
Now, after creating a burger sensation in Saline, Kolander is turning his attention to other areas of culinary interest. In order to cope with his customer’s demand, he recently expanded his kitchen, adding a new pizza oven and a char grill. A bigger kitchen means more treats on the menu, like fresh pasta dishes, steaks, ribs, salads.
“There isn’t a good steak in this town,” said Kolander. “ (Now) there will be.”
Burgers, steaks and pizza — sounds like it’s time to head to Saline.
506 N. Main St. | Chelsea
734-433-9700 | jetspizza.com
Pretty much everyone in Michigan has heard of Jet’s Pizza, but unless you’ve stopped by Jason Povlich’s location in the heart of Chelsea, you’ve never seen a franchise that looks anything like this.
“I’ve been in the restaurant business for 25 years,” said Povlich, who opened his franchise nine years ago as just a typical carryout and delivery-style Jet’s location. When the space next door opened up, Pavolich sensed an opportunity to stand out among the crowd.
“We took over the space next to us and opened a restaurant, and then the craft beer renaissance started happening,” Povlich said. Their restaurant next door, which originally housed just six taps, has grown to 47 taps of mostly Michigan-made craft brews. “There was such a variety out there that we wanted to provide that, and at the same time we wanted to flex our chests a little bit and say, ‘Look, we have almost 50 beers on tap.’ ”
The chance to sit down and have a beer with some of Jet’s famous deep-dish pizza was a surprising treat to be sure, but Povlich wanted to give back something more to both the local and international community. To do so, he converted his office into what’s now known as “The Rumpus Room,” where he and his team host open mic and blues nights. The advanced sound system allows them to host bigger shows in the parking lot to raise money to build orphanages in Haiti.
“We’ve tried to utilize our business to not only provide jobs, but to open orphanages in Haiti,” Povlich said. “We hope to use everything we do to fuel change in the world. We consider ourselves a restaurant group and a humanitarian group.”
The Ravens Club
207 S. Main St.
734-214-0400 | theravensclub.com
With dim bulbs hanging over wooden tables and comfy leather seats, The Ravens Club looks like a place you might find Dean Martin nursing a martini early in the morning. Owner Chris Pawlicki knows his restaurant’s reputation, and is proud of it. But with the launch of a new menu, he’s trying to branch out to appeal to appetites while still keeping The Ravens Club speakeasy vibe.
“This is a big chance in focus,” Pawlicki said. “We’ve been trying to impress Ann Arbor foodies from day one and trying to find what goes well with cocktails.”
The solution, according to Pawlicki, is to provide more comfort food up and down the new menu, which launched late September.
“Cocktails we hit right on the head from the get go,” Pawlicki said. “Now you have your cocktail, and we’re going to do more burgers and sandwiches.”
The new menu includes classic burgers as well as more creative options like the “Sticky Fingers,” which has onions, mushrooms, Gruyere and an apple slaw on rye. The menu comes with plenty of variety as well, including hearty vegetarian dinners like the mushroom risotto.
The goal, according to Pawlicki, is to have people fill the seats during dinner time and stay for their nightcap.
“We noticed that at six to six-thirty, we had plenty of room,” said Pawlicki. “People were going out to dinner and then coming here. So we just said, ‘Let’s do what people want.’ ”