Food & Drink

The Best Meals in Ann Arbor for $10 or Less

Published On 04/21/2016 Published On 04/21/2016
Tomukun Noodle Bar, shrimp tempura bun
Courtesy of Tomukun Noodle Bar

Tempura shrimp bun

Tomukun Noodle Bar (address and info)

$6.00
A fluffy bun houses perfectly fried, crispy shrimp, cilantro, crisp red onions, and jalapeños. Topped off with a house-made spicy mayonnaise slaw and a hint of fresh lime, Tomukun's shrimp bun bursts with heady flavors. Have some extra cash? Go next door to the Korean BBQ and grill your own food.
 

Three-cheese grilled cheese sandwich

Songbird Café (address and info)

$7.95
The folks at the Songbird Café are dedicated to creating an atmosphere of comfort, and it shows the minute you walk in the door. You immediately smell the coffee, see the baked goods, hear the dull murmur of a healthy cafe. For the ultimate comfort experience, try the grilled cheese trio. Three cheeses -- hard cheddar, smoked gouda, and provolone -- anchor the sandwich. Dense, homemade apple butter is spread on fresh Italian bread, adding some sweet to the savory cheese. Just like mom used to make -- if mom cared enough to can her own apple butter and pick up only the finest cheeses.

Courtesy of The Lunch Room

PowerUp Bowl

The Lunch Room (address and info)

$10.00
The Lunch Room is the vegan restaurant in Ann Arbor that can even make kale taste good. What started as a food cart has blossomed into one of the most beloved restaurants in town. Specials change daily, so on one night, you could find vegan bento boxes, and vegan pasties the next. One of the standard offerings, the PowerUp Bowl, is packed to the brim with food to rev you up and get you ready for a night in Kerrytown. Featuring sliced avocado, walnuts, veggies, grilled tofu, and, yes, kale, this mega-salad is covered in maple-dijon dressing that adds just the right amount of counterpoint.

Banh mi

Ginger Deli (address and info)

$6.00
The banh mi at Ginger Deli hits your mouth with a full frontal assault of taste. The tangy house-made aioli and jalapeño get you first; then comes the warm marinated pork, veggies, and cilantro in refreshing tow. The crisp bread finishes out the experience. For $4, you can add a side of vegetarian rolls stuffed with fresh, crispy vegetables and your choice of peanut, spicy peanut, or plum sauce. This unassuming storefront, operated by a former automotive designer and classic pianist, offers some of the best Vietnamese food around.
 

Pork tamale

Pilar’s Tamales (address and info)

$4.00
In this small café awaits some of the punchiest tamales you will have in all of Michigan. They're handmade with 100% stone-ground corn masa, and then filled with moist, all-natural chicken or pork. Then Pilar’s distinct spices get stuffed in, along with cheese and optional jalapeños. The tamales are rolled and steamed into a flavorful dish that comes with Pilar’s homemade salsa and a side of curtido. Pilar is committed to serving local and organic produce in her café, and it's apparent in everything she makes... but especially those tamales.

Courtesy of Jerusalem Garden

Fattoush salad

Jerusalem Garden (address and info)

$7.95
The minute you walk into Jerusalem Garden, you know you're in for good Middle Eastern food. The recent move to the space formerly occupied by Seva has only enhanced an authentic dining experience. The fattoush salad with chicken arrives with brightly colored greens and diced, fresh vegetables. The free-range chicken breast is juicy and tender, grilled to perfection. The lemon, vinegar, and olive oil dressing play a crucial role in balancing out the taste in this simple yet filling dish.
 

Salisbury steak TV dinner

Eat (address and info)

$8.75
The folks at Eat have recreated those sad, frozen TV dinners in the most delightful way. The foil containers arrive with Salisbury steak covered in rich, creamy gravy, homemade mashed potatoes, and fresh peas with just the right amount of butter. Seating is very limited at Eat, so stock up on these and pop one in the oven when you feel homesick. Its TV dinners rotate, so check the menu when you get there for that day's options.
 

Dancing lunch

Zingerman’s Next Door (address and info)

$10
Zingerman’s is THE artisan's market around, touted as great by pretty much every food outlet there is. Because of its commitment to quality ingredients, you will also pay $15+ for a sandwich. But! Zingerman’s Next Door has plenty of cheaper options. Our favorite is the dancing lunch: you get a crunchy baguette that only Zingerman’s can make, mouthwatering meats and cheeses (for which they're especially known), and homemade condiments. As for sides, you get a choice of creamy rice pudding or lightly sweetened applesauce, and tangy cole slaw or mustardy potato salad, and, a small beverage. This is the perfect meal at the perfect price.

Courtesy of Chela's

Chorizo burrito

Chela's (address and info)

$7.25
There are always burritos to be found in college towns, but Chela’s stand out from the rest. The owners grew up on food from Mexican street carts, and craved the same for decades. The result is this simple, homey restaurant on the West Side that skips the deep fryer in favor of somewhat healthier options. The burrito is generously filled with rich, hearty beans and spicy chorizo. The peppery meat is definitely the star of this dish, but the melted cheese is a worthy supporting player. Top with fresh, homemade pico de gallo for a smack of summertime, even in the coldest days. Zesty meat lovers, this one’s for you.
 

Masala puri

Hut-K Chaats (address and info)

$5.49
Hut-K Chaats cares about what you put into your body, and it shows. Its restaurant at Packard and Platt touts a dedication to “nutrilicious” (nutritious + delicious) food. The approach is simple -- don’t add processed sugars or tons of salt, but do add foods rich in micronutrients, and amp up the spices, herbs, and leafy greens. The masala puri mixes roasted potatoes, chickpeas, and green peas. This savory combo goes on top of baked padi & onions, and addictive chaat sauce is poured over. Add a mango lassi for $2.99 (still less than $10!) and get lost in its sea of full-bodied creaminess.

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Patti Smith often has less than $10 in her pocket, but always has more than 10 extra pounds on her hips. Follow her adventures in young adult book writing at @WriterPattiFS.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Tomukun Noodle Bar 505 E Liberty St Ste 200, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (Ann Arbor)

Tomukun Noodle Bar is an Ann Arbor local eatery where you can find the best noodles and Asian cuisine comfort food in the area. Aside from delicious noodle bowls, we recommend trying the shrimp bun on the menu, that is bursting with flavor. This fluffy bun houses perfectly fried, crispy shrimp, cilantro, crisp red onions, jalapeños, and topped off with a house-made spicy mayonnaise slaw and a hint of fresh lime.

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2. SONGBiRD Cafe 2707 Plymouth Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48105 (Ann Arbor)

The people at the Songbird Café are dedicated to creating an atmosphere of comfort, which is evident the minute you walk in; greeted by the smell of coffee, seeing the baked goods, hearing the soft murmur of a healthy cafe. For the ultimate comfort food experience, try the grilled cheese trio., which includes hard cheddar, smoked gouda, and provolone. Dense, homemade apple butter is spread on fresh Italian bread, adding some sweet to the savory cheese.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
3. 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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4. Ginger Deli 303 S Division St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (Ann Arbor)

Ginger Deli offers some of the best Vietnamese food around Ann Arbor, using only fresh seasonal vegetables, and house-made ingredients. This unassuming storefront has a menu known for its incredible Banh Mi, which is a Vietnamese term for all kinds of bread. You can order a variety of meat Banh Mi sandwiches, all completewith fresh aioli, jalapeno, and cilantro.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
5. Pilar's Tamales 2261 W Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48103 (Ann Arbor)

Pilar's Tamales is a small café where you can find some of the punchiest tamales in all of Michigan state. They're handmade with 100% ground corn masa, and then filled with moist, all-natural chicken or pork. Pilar’s distinct spices get stuffed in, along with cheese and jalapeños, if you want the extra kick. The tamales are rolled and steamed into a flavorful dish that comes with Pilar’s homemade salsa and a side of curtido.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
6. Jerusalem Garden 314 E Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (Ann Arbor)

The minute you walk into Jerusalem Garden, you know you've just entered a little Palestinian and Middle Eastern food haven. Menu favorites include the fattoush salad with chicken. brightly colored greens, and diced fresh vegetables. The free-range chicken breast is delicious and tender as well, grilled to perfection- but the lemon, vinegar, and olive oil dressing play a crucial role in balancing out the taste in this simple yet filling dish.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
7. eat 1906 Packard St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (Ann Arbor)

The people at Eat have recreated those vintage frozen TV dinners you probably have never eaten but have seen in black and white movies, in the most wonderful way. The foil containers arrive with Salisbury steak covered in rich, creamy gravy, homemade mashed potatoes, and fresh peas with just the right amount of butter. The TV dinners rotate, so check the menu when you get there for that day's options.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
8. Zingerman's Next Door 422 Detroit St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (Ann Arbor)

Zingerman’s is known for its commitment to quality ingredients, which means you might be paying $15+ for a sandwich. But! Zingerman’s Next Door has plenty of cheaper options. We recommend the dancing lunch: a crunchy baguette that only Zingerman’s can make, mouthwatering meats and cheeses, and homemade condiments. As for sides, you get a choice of creamy rice pudding or lightly sweetened applesauce, and tangy cole slaw or mustardy potato salad, and, a small beverage.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
9. Chela's Mexican Restaurant 693 S Maple Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48103 (Ann Arbor)

There are always countless burritos joints in college towns, but Chela’s stand out from the rest. The homey restaurant on the West Side that skips the deep fryer in favor of somewhat healthier options and the burritos are generously filled with rich, hearty beans and spicy chorizo. The peppery meat is definitely the star of this dish, but the melted cheese is not to be overlooked.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
10. Hut-K 3022 Packard St, Ann Arbor, MI 48108 (Ann Arbor)

Hut-K Chaats cares about what you put into your body, and it shows. Its restaurant at Packard and Platt is dedicated to “nutrilicious” (nutritious + delicious) food. They don’t add processed sugars or tons of salt, but do add foods rich in micronutrients, and pump up the spices, herbs, and leafy greens. The masala puri mixes roasted potatoes, chickpeas, and green peas. This savory combo goes on top of baked padi & onions, and addictive chaat sauce is poured over.