Let’s be honest, there’s a lot of terrific food to be enjoyed in Washtenaw County; a lot of places you can go where you walk out licking your lips and feeling like your money has been well spent. Then there’s Ollie Food + Spirits, a full-service restaurant which opened in April, where you walk out feeling sad, as if you just finished reading a book you didn’t want to end. You just had one of the best meals you’ve had in years, and now you have to go home.
Not that there’s anything wrong with home, but if you have a chance to spend a night out, Ollie is one heckuva good choice. Owner Mark Teachout created a spectacular spot for an Ypsilanti date night, a place where you can sit comfortably and enjoy intimate conversation, excellent food and enticing cocktails. The Ollie experience is one well worth savoring.
Date Night Ambiance
Start with the decor. It’s understated, nothing that will assault your senses or distract you from the food, drink and company. “The thought of a television above the bar never even crossed my mind,” Teachout says. “We didn’t want any kind of media to dominate the evening.” The volume level is soothing with spacious seating, so that voices from neighboring tables won’t overwhelm. The whole place channels a meal meant to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace, a welcome outtake from the hectic bustling world, the perfect atmosphere for a meal you absolutely do not want to rush, a meal to be tasted one lovely, lazy, luscious bite at a time.
About that Jalapeño Cornbread Pudding
The menu is intentionally limited: seven small plates, seven large plates. Teachout says the smaller menu means each dish can be perfected with locally sourced ingredients amid versatility to allow seasonal changes. From the small plate fare, the Roasted Pear and Nut Slaw (cabbage, brussel sprouts, pickled onion, mustard seeds, spiced nuts, brown ale, peanut butter, maple vinaigrette with rice crackers) offers a delicious combination of sweet and savory flavors with a texture that’s alternately crunchy and melt-on-the-tongue soft. And then…there’s the Jalapeño Cornbread Pudding (served with maple syrup and Jake’s hickory smoked bacon). The texture is creamy, the melding of flavors luxuriant. Each bite is an absolute joy. It’s the kind of dish you’ll think of like a holiday, something to look forward to, to break up the monotony of the calendar’s unrelenting grind, an extraordinary dish you’ll think about re-visiting, for a long time.
Among both the small and large plate fare, find vegan options or meals hearty enough to satisfy any devoted meat-eater. The Legends of the Fall Burger, for instance, features Knight’s beef ground in-house, with a winter-squash spread, gruyere cheese, house pickled apples and hickory smoked bacon, served with herb smashed potatoes. Again, every detail is carefully designed so the diner’s experience is a cascade of mouth-watering moments, one after another, until, sadly, the meal is gone.
Lest we forget, it’s worth noting the Ollie experience is not just about food. It’s about spirits too. Bartender Ray Martell explains the high level care put into the design of each cocktail. “We put a lot of thought into the ingredients,” he says. “A good mixed drink is realizing the balance between booze, sugar, acid and water. It’s chemistry. What we’re doing is creating a cocktail that has balance and is consistent. Each drink is the same thing every time you get it. We’re elevating the cocktail above the sum of its parts.”
The same can be said of the overall experience at Ollie. Combine the atmosphere with the food and the drink and you’ll undoubtedly have an O-wesome, and memorable, time.
Ollie Food + Spirits
42 E. Cross St., Ypsilanti
Open Tues-Thurs. 11am – 11pm; Fridays, 11am-midnight; Saturdays, 8am – midnight; Sundays, 8am-3pm; closed Mondays.
For more info or to glance at a menu, visit ollieypsi.com