Just a short cab ride from Detroit, Ann Arbor boasts a lively downtown, many craft breweries, and a proud community of devoted residents. One could incorrectly assume that because Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan, restaurants are comprised of cheap, greasy foods that cater to students. But, there’s plenty of gems for the discerning diner to be found in this surprisingly foodie city. Here are 10 Reasons to visit Ann Arbor.
1. Ayse’s Turkish Café
Beet Salad, sweet peppers and carrot salad at Ayse’s Cafe
In business for over 20 years, this family run restauant is a neighborhood favorite with colorful items like beet salad and carrot salad. You haven’t really experienced the lovely food that is the Dolma until you try Ayse’s. A chicken Kofte is another excellent dish with a spicy kick. Don’t leave without trying the Kadayif, a deconstructed Baklava.
Unlike many downtown cities, you won’t find an abundance of chain stores. Browse specialty gift and craft store, Rock, Paper, Scissors for one of a kind finds. Or peruse bookstores like Aunt Agatha’s, Kaleidoscope or Literati for rare books and collectibles. Make sure to visit Cherry Repulic. They have everything imaginable made out of cherries. Think barbecue sauce, chocolate covered cherries, coffee and more!
After walking up an appetite, visit Aventura for some tapas. Order the fried artichoke hearts as well as the patatas bravas (fried potatoes) topped with fried egg. Don’t miss out on their specialty – Gazpacho made with grapes, jalapenos, pistachios and honeydew.
4. Teahaus Ann Arbor
Teahaus, owned by a Tea Sommelier (yes, it is a real thing), order a tea from the dozens of teas to be found here. The teas are mainly imported from Germany, where one has to study for four years and pass an exam to be a certified tea sommelier. Have a light breakfast of scones and house made jam while sipping on delicious, exotic teas like black lavender.
Choose from an array of bagels, condiments, meats and cheeses at Zingerman’s.
No visit to Ann Arbor would be complete without a visit to Zingerman’s Deli, a full deli catering to gourmands. Made famous by the move, The Five Year Engagement, this 600-employee organization operates many elements of a business: a deli, mail order business (Oprah and Mindy Kaling love to order their Reuben kit), a farm, a restaurant and even a training company. They still give all the appearances of a small town establishment. In fact, owners Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig refuse to open another location as not to dilute the quality of what they offer.
Plan to spend a considerable amount of time wandering around the shop taking it all in. Besides jams, spreads, oils, and vinegars, Zingerman’s offers many fresh baked goods. Challah hot dog buns? Check. Prosecco Soaked Cheese? Check. Mousse Basquais ? Check. There’s also a full dining room in case you want to have lunch there.
6. The Raven’s Club
That evening, settle in for some good cocktails and light snacks at The Raven’s Club.
7. Cafe Zola
Another amazing breakast option is Café Zola. Though there are many omelette varieties, a unique dish is the Turkish eggs with olives and feta. Begin with the Moroccan coffee made with almonds, mint and cardamom. Tip: They serve the breakfast / brunch menu all day, every day.
8. Botanical Gardens
Plant and flower lover? Visit the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and check out the many varieties of flowers at the arboretum. Got kids? There’s a huge area dedicated to all kids of outdoor activities for kids. Take the short drive over the peony garden if they are in bloom to awaken your senses.
Tap room at Original Gravity Brewery
Coming from a state where there are so many restrictive laws for breweries (Georgia), it was wonderful to see the many thriving breweries in Ann Arbor. Start at Original Gravity – in operation since 2008, they have unique brews of all kinds including an easy sipping Ginger beer. Next, visit Wolverine Brewing for their take on a range of lagers. Some favorites were the Drag me to Helles and Verano (Mexican beer), but the crowd pleaser is the Gulo Gulo, one of Draft Magazine’s top picks for 2013. If you are up for more day drinking, visit Jolly Pumpkin and try some of the sour beers.
Brews on tap at Original Gravity Brewery
Have dinner at the Slupring Turtle, appropriately named since it is customary to slurp noodles in Japan. Created by James Beard Award winning chef, Takashi Yagahashi, this modern, yet laid back restaurant features small plates like mini Hamachi tuna tacos in a taro root shells, duck fat fried chicken, steamed pork belly buns. Larger dishes like noodle bowls warm the soul on any day of the year. Desserts like green tea cream puffs and raspberry-wasabi macarons are a nod to chef’s French culinary training.
A sense of community support, vibrant restaurant scene and diversity all add up to a winning destination.
Disclosure: Our trip was sponsored by the Ann Arbor Convention & Visitors Bureau.