I'm SO excited to bring you the first ever "guest post" on The Roaring Twenties today! I've been bugging Kim to write this for me for almost a year now, so when I checked my email last month and found this column waiting for me, I was over the moon. After careful deliberation, I decided that this week would be the best time to publish it - the Class of 2013 is graduating from Michigan this weekend, so I figured there would be lots of seniors hoping to check some restaurants off their "bucket lists" or visiting family members looking to sample the local fare. I hope you'll enjoy this piece as much as I did and that you'll find it useful if you're ever in the Ann Arbor area - take it away, Kim!
Right now I'm sitting in a Starbucks with cheese stains on my leggings from scarfing down my first Doritos Locos taco. I'm procrastinating a paper, and it hit me that this is a more opportune time than ever to finally write the comeback piece to my old high school column, “Kim Likes to Eat…” But first, a brief introduction: I’m Kim, one of Sarah’s oldest - and coolest - friends. You may have seen references to me in previous blog posts (I am the infamous “roomie”). And I like to eat.
In high school, Sarah and I managed to convince our newspaper advisor that I should have a monthly column called “Kim Likes to Eat…” in the school paper. Each month, I would pick one type of food and spend 15 minutes writing a blurb about my three favorite places to eat it, along with one place that I thought was awful. We didn't expect it to be a noteworthy column, but as it turned out, people actually liked to read about my food preferences - and Sarah's mom was my biggest fan. (Sidenote: If the Smith house were a restaurant, I would have featured her mom’s food as my top pick in every one of the categories. She’s an angel and she could give Wolfgang Puck a run for his money if she felt like it.)
Ever since Sarah started writing this blog, she has been bugging me to do a guest post about the food of Ann Arbor. Sarah is a pretty picky eater, so it made sense that she would enlist some help for this topic - and lucky for her, I’ve eaten enough here for the both of us.
Residents of Ann Arbor have the privilege of being surrounded by a plethora of unique and amazing restaurants, so I won’t be able to limit this to three places (but I will do my best to keep it brief). I also won’t be negatively reviewing any restaurants because I would feel too bad, but also because I legitimately cannot think of a place that I think has bad food (except for a few chain restaurants, but we’re ignoring them in this post).
The Best of Ann Arbor
Blimpy Burger: One of Ann Arbor’s most famous dining establishments, Blimpy is the home of the greasiest, most delicious burgers in town. Everything here is totally customizable, but you have to follow their directions while you order or you run the risk of being scolded by the cooks. (Don’t worry, it’s right on the wall and they guide you through it - the people who get yelled at usually deserve it.) I highly recommend adding a fried egg to your burger while you’re there - if you’re too health-conscious for that, then you shouldn’t bother coming here in the first place.
Quickie Burger: Not as good as Blimpie Burger (in my opinion), but a close runner up. They have a secret sauce that they put on their burgers and it’s actually fantastic - I even add a few extra pumps of it after they give me my finished burger. The advantage of Quickie Burger is that unlike Blimpy, they are open really late, so it’s a great stop if you’re feeling hungry after enjoying the nightlife in Ann Arbor.
Zingerman’s: Ann Arbor’s most famous food staple. If you are in town, you NEED to try a sandwich at Zingerman’s. Everything they serve is organic and fresh, so your inner hippie will feel good about it, too! I recommend getting a corned beef or pastrami sandwich, but everything on the menu is probably amazing. The line is often long and the sandwiches are kind of pricey, but they are so filling and delicious that it is well worth the wait and the money (I usually have enough to bring home for a second meal). If you still have room when you’re done with your sandwich, be sure to try a brownie from their bakery.
Fleetwood Diner: This is your quintessential hole-in-the-wall, best-kept-secret type of diner. Located downtown in an aluminum trailer, you might not expect this to be a “must try” kind of place. Fleetwood is open 24 hours, and the best time to come is in the middle of the night - there is always an eclectic mix of people there, but as the night goes on, the crowd generally gets more interesting. When you get there, order the “Hippie Hash” - this is the dish that makes Fleetwood such a staple. It consists of hash browns, green peppers, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, and most importantly, feta cheese. I always get the “meaty hippie hash," which has corned beef hash on top of all of the other stuff, but you can also get it with lamb or tempeh, or just have the hash on its own.
Like I said before, Ann Arbor is filled with fantastic food, but this would go on forever if I described every place that I like in detail. So to sum things up, I will list additional recommendations by category, and I'll leave it to you to do further research if you are in town.
Breakfast: Benny’s (cheap, fast, yum), Café Zola (pricy, mimosas, amazing), Afternoon Delight (smoked salmon, best breakfast, long lines).
Sushi: Totoro (in a basement, best sushi), Sadako (sorority girls like it here, good sushi).
Mexican: Prickly Pear (huge portions, little bit pricy), aut BAR (have non-Mexican dishes as well, delicious food, LGBT spot—but the food is great regardless of your sexuality!), Big Ten Burrito (don’t eat here sober, definitely only good after the bars).
Cafés: Café Ambrosia (locally owned, great people watching/eavesdropping, good coffee).
Breweries: Jolly Pumpkin (good beer, best food), Grizzly Peak (favorite beer, good food), Arbor Brewing Company (good beer, food isn’t great, cool beer garden in neighboring city Ypsilanti).
Fancy: Logan (might be my favorite place in Ann Arbor—very unique menu, everything is fantastic), Chop House (you better order steak, also au gratin potatoes), The Earle (romantic, delicious, duck), Vinology (good wine, interesting menu, chicken & waffles).
Dessert: La Dolce Vita (expensive, crazy good), Kilwin’s (locally owned, lots of delicious treats and ice cream), Iorio’s (gelato = <3).
Other: Frita Batido’s (so delicious, everything is good here, try the plantain chips), Le Dog (try the lobster bisque soup, even though every instinct you have is going to tell you not to—hidden treasure).
Unfortunately, I have not yet managed to eat all of the food in Ann Arbor, so if I didn’t include a place, that does not mean it’s bad - I probably just haven’t been there. In fact, if you go somewhere that I didn’t include, leave a comment so I can drag Sarah there to try it with me!
Kim doesn't have a blog, but if you want to see more of her writing, clips of her old column and excerpts from middle school yearbook entries are available upon request. She has a 5% chance of convincing me to try a new restaurant and a 0% chance at getting me to eat in an aluminum trailer at 4 AM again.