Food & Drink

Where to Eat and Drink Around Ann Arbor Like a True-Blue Wolverine

Published On 01/24/2017 Published On 01/24/2017
Grange Kitchen & Bar
GKB Brunch Burger | Courtesy of Grange Kitchen & Bar
Ashley's Ann Arbor

BEST BEER BAR

Ashley’s

Address and Info

338 S. State St

These days, bars with massive draft lists are seemingly on every corner in this damned state. But the 74-tap Ashley’s near the University of Michigan’s Central Campus has been all about that brew for more than three decades, pouring tasty beers from around the world to thirsty students, professors, townies, and visitors alike since 1983. And while the comfortable, laid-back atmosphere of exposed brick and dark wood has changed little over the years, some things have been updated, like a food menu that branches out beyond pub grub to include such delicious fare as a Greek-style lamb burger, sirloin banh mi, and the best roasted Brussels sprouts in town.

BEST BURGER

Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery

Address and Info

311 S. Main St

It’s not the cheapest hamburger you’ll find in this town full of great burgers, but you won’t have any regrets when you sink your teeth into the JP Burger, a grass-fed beef patty stacked with creamy cambozola cheese, earthy cremini mushrooms, and savory applewood-smoked bacon. Put it all on a challah roll and you’ve got yourself an unbeatable burger experience. It doesn’t hurt that you can wash it down with one of Jolly Pumpkin’s nationally recognized sour beers, such as Oro de Calabaza golden ale or La Roja amber ale.

BEST SEAFOOD

Monahan’s Seafood Market

Address and Info

407 N. Fifth Ave

Michiganders know the Great Lakes are way better than the ocean, but there is one drawback to not living by the sea: lack of fresh seafood. In fact, that’s not been a problem for Ann Arborites since 1979, when Monahan’s Seafood Market opened. This Kerrytown gem has all the great Great Lakes fish but also flies in anything crusty or scaly from up and down America’s coasts. Maryland soft shell crabs? Narragansett squid? Pacific coast oysters? Gulf shrimp? Monahan's gets everything, and its lunch counter provides a perfect opportunity to savor the ever-changing specials like the chowder of the day, Baja fish tacos, lobster rolls, and oh so much more.

The Lunch Room

BEST VEGAN FOOD

The Lunch Room Restaurant & Bar

Address and Info

407 N. Fifth Ave

What started as a food truck in 2011 is now Ann Arbor’s favorite place to go for all things vegan with a brick-and-mortar location. Whether you’re a full-time adherent, want to dip your toe in this dietary lifestyle, or are just curious about how delicious food prepared without animal products can be, there’s something for you at The Lunch Room (and don’t let the name fool you; it's open for dinner, too). Try the vegan take on mac & cheese, banh mi, and the most popular item, pad Thai, featuring bean thread noodles, marinated tofu, pepper, cucumber, cilantro, and lime, all topped with a delectable peanut sauce. There's also a good beer and wine list as well as an extensive cocktail menu.

Alley Bar

BEST COCKTAIL BAR

Alley Bar

Address and Info

112 W. Liberty St

The cocktail renaissance of the past few years has been a beautiful thing to see, but it’s come with a hefty price tag. Let’s face it: ponying up $13 for that hibiscus-infused Moscow Mule with egg white and lavender shrub is not always practical (not to mention, meh). So it’s great that Ann Arbor has the Alley Bar, a joint that not only artisans the hell out of artisanal cocktails, but also offers two wallet-friendly happy hour nights. Mondays you'll pay just $5 for signature cocktails like the Cucumber Gimlet, Barrel Aged Negroni, and Bourbon Smash, while Tuesdays offer half off all Michigan-made spirits (and beers).

BEST PIZZA

New York Pizza Depot

Address and Info

605 E. William St

If you want New York-style pizza done right, don’t go to New York, go to Ann Arbor’s New York Pizza Depot. Founded by a trio of Italian brothers who spent time in the Big Apple’s restaurant scene, NYPD offers a variety of gorgeous, cheesy pies that taste better than anything you’ll get in even the most celebrity-endorsed Manhattan pizzeria. Enjoy a slice or two (and a craft beer) at the William St restaurant or order a pie to devour on your couch at home. Specialty pizzas include everything from Baked Ziti or Mixed Mushroom to Spicy Mediterranean or Shrimp Fra Diavolo, but for pure authenticity, you can’t beat plain cheese.

BEST VEGETARIAN FOOD

Seva

Address and Info

2541 Jackson Ave

For decades, Seva was downtown Ann Arbor’s go-to place for, in the restaurant’s own words, “fresh imaginative vegetarian cuisine.” Since moving to the city’s west side (and even opening a Detroit location), Seva has only gotten bigger and better. The food lives up to its billing, with many dishes tasty enough to satisfy even confirmed carnivores, and there’s a great draft list as well as a menu of inventive cocktails. Of special note is how great (and not widely known) Seva’s happy hour is: half off all appetizers, draft beer, and wine (by the glass or bottle) from 3-7pm every weekday. Try snacks like Gouda Tots or General Tso’s Cauliflower and entrees like Portabella Ravioli or Grilled Pesto Pizza Sandwich.

Grange Kitchen & Bar

BEST BRUNCH

Grange Kitchen & Bar

Address and Info

118 W Liberty St

In a town that loves it some brunch -- and has many worthy places with which to satisfy this weekend craving -- Grange Kitchen & Bar’s farm-to-table approach delivers above and beyond. The restaurant’s entire menu emphasizes the seasonal and locally sourced, and the fresh ingredients shine through, especially with amazing brunch entrees like the GKB brunch burger featuring a fried egg, bacon jam, and roasted garlic mayo or breakfast tacos with chorizo, cheddar, scrambled eggs, and salsa verde all stuffed inside locally made tortillas. You can also get sides like Grange’s legendary duck fat fries or their outstanding ginger sage sausage patties. Wash it all down with a brunch cocktail like the Michigan Mary, made with bloody mix from Detroit and house pickled veggies, or a classic mimosa made with fresh-squeezed OJ.

BEST DIVE BAR

8 Ball Saloon

Address and Info

208 S. First St

It’s hard to believe now, but the thoroughly yuppified Downtown Ann Arbor of today was home to a number of seedy watering holes only a generation ago. All but one are gone, but the one that remains, the 8 Ball Saloon, is a magnificent example of the specimen. The bar is located underneath Ann Arbor’s legendary concert hall, the Blind Pig, and attracts everyone from hipster show-goers, serious billiard and dart players, fresh-faced students, and crusty old townies. It’s neither clean nor well-lit. The aesthetic is basic basement, the beer list is minimal, the cocktails aren’t particularly “hand-crafted,” it only accepts cash, and the jukebox is a never-ending battleground of cacophony. A great place, in other words.

Wolverine State Brewing Co.

BEST BREWERY

Wolverine State Brewing Co.

Address and Info

2049 W. Stadium Blvd

Ann Arbor has a glorious beer history, and today it’s a leader in Michigan’s burgeoning brewing renaissance. You can’t really go wrong at any of the city’s eight-and-counting breweries, but Wolverine State Brewing brings something very few microbreweries in America do: an all-lager lineup. From lager-fied versions of traditional ale styles, such as stout, saison, and India pale ale, to unique creations like wood-aged copper lager and black Pilsner, Wolverine’s delicious beers often push the envelope of what a lager can and should be. Judges at this year’s Great American Beer Festival agreed when they awarded Wolverine’s Raucher smoked lager a gold medal. Pull up a stool in the former-warehouse-turned-taproom and prepare to have your mind blown.

Isalita

BEST TACO TUESDAY

Isalita

Address and Info

341 E. Liberty St

Ann Arbor doesn’t have many solid Mexican options, but even if it did, Isalita would stand out from the pack. The menu boasts a thoughtful array of dishes inspired by Mexico City’s street markets, but it’s really all about Tuesday happy hour at the bar when Isalita’s tacos are just $2 apiece. Try the delicious veggie options like cauliflower with pickled jalapeño and cucumber mint salsa or avocado with black beans and chipotle remoulade, or, to get the most bang for your buck and your taste buds, go for the incredible hanger steak tacos. Add $5 frozen or classic margaritas, and you are doing Taco Tuesday right, mis amigos.

BEST BREAKFAST

Angelo’s

Address and Info

1100 Catherine St

Literally celebrated in song, Angelo’s has been an Ann Arbor institution since 1956, and nobody does breakfast better. Any given Sunday (or most any other day of the week), expect to see a line of people out the door waiting to fill their bellies with loaded omelettes, waffles, and Angelo’s legendary raisin toast, baked fresh daily. In the mood for something a little different? Try decadent dishes like crab cakes Benedict or raspberry chocolate chip pancakes. So filling you may not need to eat again for the rest of the day, which is fine because mom always said breakfast was the most important meal.

Old Town Tavern

BEST TOWNIE BAR

Old Town Tavern

Address and Info

122 W. Liberty St

The rustic space occupied by Old Town Tavern has been a saloon of one sort or another since 1898 (it was even rumored to have been a speakeasy during the dark days of Prohibition). Today it sports the same wood bar, cabinets, tables, booths, and flooring built by Old Town’s original owner (father of the current owners) in 1972. As the name suggests, the clientele skews toward long-time Ann Arbor residents -- including anyone and everyone from local writers and barflies to Michigan governor Rick Snyder -- with the occasional professor or grad student wandering in. The townies know what’s up: a small-ish but well-curated draft list, classic and unfussy cocktails, and a delicious menu that belies the bar’s general lack of pretentiousness.

Zingerman's Delicatessen

BEST DELI

Zingerman's

Address and Info

422 Detroit St

Listen: You know about it, your grandparents know about it... Zingerman's is no secret. Open since 1982 and famously slinging sandwiches and traditional Jewish deli fare, the space and items it carried grew incrementally over time to reach the apogee of delis in Ann Arbor. Not only does this spot have a robust menu of gourmet deli sandwiches, you can also pick up artisanal meats and cheese, bread, olive oil, and other pantry necessities, and loads more.

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1. Ashley's Restaurant & Pub 338 S State St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (Ann Arbor)

Few college bars boast the kind of beer cred this clubby Ann Arbor joint does, whose menu includes German and Belgian ales, Pacific Northwest representation, and, of course, hometown favorites like Founders and New Holland on its 70+ local and international taps. The appetizers and entree-size bites equally impress, with picks like bacon, cheddar, and chive fries, poutine, and a popular Build-Your-Own-Burger option.

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2. Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery 311 S Main St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (Ann Arbor)

It was a passion for oak-aged sour beers that propelled Jolly Pumpkin brews to prominence, but there's much more than just that drawing visitors to the label's Jolly Pumpkin Cafe. Yes, the suds are on offer in the wood-filled pub, but so is a menu of American sandwiches, salads, and pizzas that give reason to stay for extra rounds. Everything on draft, from the golden farmhouse Bam Biere to the dark and smooth Bam Noire, can be ordered by the pint or poured into a growler to carry out.

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3. Monahan's Seafood Market 407 N 5th Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (Ann Arbor)

Monahan's Seafood Market is still fresh as ever, even after decades of serving the Ann Arbor community -- mostly because the appeal of quality seafood is something that just never gets old. The bustling seafood market is an indispensable resource for local restaurants and home chefs, and almost as much of a beloved lunch destination (the only meal served here). Within view of whole fish chilling on ice, midday eaters cram into the tight space to dive into po-boy sandwiches, fried calamari, and daily specials like baja tacos or chili shrimp on paper plates. Celebrities like Anthony Bourdain have taken notice, stopping by to taste Monahan's selection of shellfish, prepared dishes, and fry plates for himself. You should follow suit.

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4. The Lunch Room 407 N 5th Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (Ann Arbor)

The Lunch Room is the vegan restaurant in Ann Arbor that can even meat eaters can appreciate. Specials change daily, so on one night, you could find vegan bento boxes, and vegan pastries the next. One of the regular offerings, the PowerUp Bowl, is packed with food like sliced avocado, vegetables, walnuts, tofu, kale topped with maple-dijon dressing to get you up and get you ready for a night on the town.

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5. Alley Bar 112 W Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (Ann Arbor)

Drinks have been poured in this building for well over a century under one bar name or another, and Alley Bar is the most recent to carry the torch. The neighborhood bar is relaxed, known as much for the Michigan craft beers on draft as its proficiency in mixing classic cocktails, like Manhattans. Grab a spot in any of the 60-year-old bar booths for a signature Pickle Back, a shot of whiskey chased by pickle juice from The Brinery, or a good ol' PBR tallboy. When you can't find the place, just walk towards the murals of Ann Arbor faces that cover one of the exterior walls.

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6. NYPD - New York Pizza Depot 605 E William St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (Ann Arbor)

New York may be over 600 miles from Ann Arbor, but New York Pizza Depot tries to give a taste of the Big Apple to residents in their cheese pies. Opened and run by former New Yorkers, this Italian kitchen churns out calzones, pastas, and a distinctly non-New-York deep dish pie, too. Still, if you're eating the classic pizza, fold it in half before you take a bite or risk incurring some NYC attitude.

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7. Grange Kitchen and Bar 118 W Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (Ann Arbor)

Chef Brandon Johns has been a leader in Ann Arbor when it comes to championing local producers in his cuisine, and Grange Kitchen & Bar is serves as his biggest celebration of the area's growers. Ask about the bread you're eating and it may be from Avalon Bakery in Detroit. That butter you're spreading on it? From Calder Dairy in Carleton, very possibly. Seasonal menus change in the homey dining room dotted with tall-backed wooden chairs and armoires, and could feature fried pig's head (one of Johns' signatures), housemade chorizo, duck breast with rye berries and pears, and spice-roasted whole hog. It should be known that duck-fat fries taste better when the duck are sourced from within 100 miles.

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8. 8 Ball Saloon 210 S 1st St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (Ann Arbor)

8 Ball Saloon, tucked under music venue Blind Pig, exudes a grungy basement, beer-stained attitude. The booze is cheap, the popcorn and darts are free, and the billiards tables are almost as popular as the beer-and-shot combos. If none of those call to you, check out the South Park pinball machine, pop on a jukebox tune, and grab a pack of cigarettes from the retro vending machine. The spot is cash-only, but honest dives like this make a trip to the ATM worth it.

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9. Wolverine State Brewing Co. 2019 W Stadium Blvd, Ann Arbor, MI 48103 (Ann Arbor)

Wolverine State Brewing Co. doesn't just brew an exclusive lineup of lagers that have had Michiganders reaching for the bottle, they've carved out a taproom restaurant and bar so they can enjoy it at the source. The 40-foot L-shaped bar in the laid back space pours the onsite brewery's suds and serves up barbecue/Tex-Mex eats, from sandwiches filled with house smoked pulled pork to heaping plates of queso-showered nachos. Call ahead to arrange a private tour of the production facilities.

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10. Isalita 341A E Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (Ann Arbor)

There's a mural of old Mexican men in cowboy hats on the wall at East Liberty's Isalita, but the crowds pouring in for the happy hour tacos are young. Bright green accents pop in the space where tacos are tart margaritas are go-tos. Gooey nachos make the perfect start to tortillas filled with glazed pork belly and pineapple, Baja battered fish, smoked beef or mushrooms. Mexican flatbread pizzas and meatballs mix things up when you're not in the mood for tacos... but who's ever not in the mood for tacos?

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11. Angelo's Restaurant 1100 Catherine St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (Ann Arbor)

Located in southern Michigan, Angelo's clearly projects every element one expects of a diner: unpretentious, heart-lifting food that can be shared, a casual, worn-in ambiance, and inexpensive prices. As expected, breakfast and lunch, particularly, the midwestern renditions of the two meals, are highlights here. Recommended is an order of the plain or raising bread, which is baked daily, and an order of their skillet breakfast with perfectly cooked eggs and crispy bacon.

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12. Old Town Tavern 122 W Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

West Liberty's Old Town Tavern lives in a space that's been a saloon since 1898 (known back in the day as The Bismark), and has been quenching U of M student cravings for beer under this name for over 40 years. The atmosphere is casual and familiar in the wood- and brick-filled space, which is part of the reason Old Town remains one of the "townie" bars that refuses to vanish. It feels like an old-school hangout: back-slaps are given over local and imported craft beers under the stained glass lamps that hang from the space's antique tin ceilings. The decor hasn't changed since anyone can remember (yes, that painting of a nude lady still hangs), and the burger is still arguably the best in town.

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13. Zingerman's Delicatessen 422 Detroit St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (Ann Arbor)

Zingerman's Delicatessen has been sating Ann Arbor's hunger pangs with big sandwiches and Jewish favorites since 1982, attracting not just long lines but also notable customers like President Barak Obama. The renovated space seats 600 across the two floors, yet it always seems full at the meat and cheese counter. Breads are baked on premises, and used in sandwiches that are to die-for. If you're only getting one, go for a Reuben. If you'd rather not eat with your hands, order the matzo ball soup. Either way, you'll quickly see what the fuss is about.