Ann Arbor, Michigan is a melting pot of different cuisines. It’s easy to walk the streets of this bustling university town and find places that serve sought-after dishes from countries all around the world or meals made with ingredients cultivated only miles from where you sit. For those of us who love being adventurous in our dining but who can’t always travel outside the US for an authentic meal, Ann Arbor is the place to visit – and when you do, these are the places you’ll find the foodies at (and for very good reason).
The Ann Arbor Food Scene
Whenever I plan a trip to visit Ann Arbor, Michigan, I immediately get excited. Yes, there are a lot of fun and historic places to experience in Ann Arbor, but what really gets me going is the food! Ann Arbor is a city full of diverse options, especially when it comes to dining or getting drinks with friends. This city seems to have everything from authentic cultural dishes to fresh from the local farm cuisine.
How do you navigate such a diverse and growing segment? Here are my favorite ten places – just to get you started.
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Amadeus brings together authentic tastes of central Europe with dishes common in Poland, Hungary, and Austria. This is where I go to enjoy a flavorful cup of barszcz (vegan beet soup) and a plate full of pierogis.
After taking in your meal at Amadeus, be sure to take a moment to look around the room. The decor has many small European trinkets intermixed and a beautiful “old-world” ambiance. Visiting Amadeus is more than a meal. It’s an experience.
2. Zingermans Roadhouse
Zingermans Roadhouse is an eclectic take on American favorites such as fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and ribs. While this type of cuisine is pretty easy to come by at many places, what sets Zingermans apart from the crowd are their fresh ingredients and authentic bbq methods. In fact, Chef Alex Young at Zingermans Roadhouse has such a passion for using local and fresh foods, he even has his own “chefs garden” where he grows vegetables, mostly heirloom tomatoes, for use in his specials at the restaurant.
In the 1930’s, this location was named the Orpheum Theater and it was a place people would gather to watch the popular films of the day. Today, people still gather here but for a different reason. Now known as Gratzi, this Italian restaurant serves up some artfully prepared dishes and talked about martinis. I make sure never leave without a cannoli trio or a slice of tiramisu.
The TeaHaus is a wonderful location to sit and relax while you sip a freshly brewed cup of tea. Here the teas are individually chosen by certified tea sommelier and owner, Lisa McDonald. Lisa spent many years living in Europe and Sweden, which ignited her passion for quality loose leaf tea.
Whenever I visit this location, I can’t help but fall in love with the vibe and passion this place radiates. The vibe is what keeps me coming back – that and I haven’t tried all of their 180+ types of tea yet.
When I’m looking for a good wine and cheese pairing or fresh small plate option, Spencer in Ann Arbor is where I go. This small eatery brings people together with community seating and shared plate options. It’s great for grabbing a quick bite to eat after spending the day downtown with friends – or for sitting down at the end of the day to meet a few new ones.
6. Fleetwood Diner
Being the Retro TravelingMom, this place is always on my list. Not only because of its vintage facade but because I am admittedly a “breakfast person” and that’s what they’re most known for. Their most notable dish is a “Hippie Hash” which consists of piled up eggs, hash browns, veggies, and feta.
7. Mani Oysteria & Bar
Mani’s is an Italian restaurant with big tastes. My favorites are their artisanal pizzas, which they bake in a large wood burning oven – viewable from their dining area. These aren’t just regular pizzas either. They come in artful flavor combinations such as red onion and pistachio or mushroom and zucchini. Besides their pizzas, they also serve other traditional Italian meals and desserts.
8. Ann Arbor Distilling Company
While there isn’t any food on the menu here, Ann Arbor Distilling Company still offers an extensive menu of handcrafted options such as vodka, rum, gin and my favorite – coffee liquor. What sets this distillery/bar apart from the rest is that they make their own spirits using locally grown ingredients. The spirits can be enjoyed on the grounds or bought by the bottle to take home for another time.
Before heading home from Ann Arbor, I am always sure to pick up a few local tastes to take with me. This includes a quick stop at Zingermans Creamery for some handcrafted cheeses and a jar of locally made sauerkraut from The Brinery. Then I hop next door to pick up some freshly baked bread and desserts from Zingerman’s Bakery – all located in the same plaza. During the summer months, no visit is complete without stopping by the Ann Arbor farmers market. Here I can pick up my favorite goat cheeses and baked goods from White Lotus Farms, along with other homegrown herbs, vegetables, and fruits.
Read more about things to do in Ann Arbor with kids and time constraints.