Destination: Ann Arbor
This vibrant Michigan college town offers wine and food fit for ambitious gourmets.
Most college towns are assumed to have good beer, but in Ann Arbor, foodies will discover there’s much more than a good microbrew on the table. Fans of the college’s storied University of Michigan football team who flock here in the autumn will also find a thriving farm-totable food and wine culture.
At the year-old Grange Kitchen & Bar ( 118 W. Liberty; grangekitchenandbar. com), chef/owner Brandon Johns—who sports a pig tattoo on his forearm—sources meat, dairy and vegetables from local farms. Sunday brunch offers items like fried whitefish sandwiches and house-cured meats (ham, breakfast sausage and charcuterie platters).
Located across from the year-round, indoor Kerrytown Farmers’ Market (315 Detroit Street, Kerrytown.org), which has been going strong for 90 years and has 150 vendors, former Top Chef contestant Eve Aronff has designed a seasonally inspired menu at her French-style restaurant, Eve (415 N. Fifth Avenue; evetherestaurant.com) . Conclude a meal of Thai chicken (from an Indiana farm) or lamb rolled in brik pastry with Parisian-inspired desserts like violet or coffee macaroons.
At Zingerman’s Delicatessen (422 Detroit Street; zingermans.com), sample cheeses, oils, syrups, chocolates and salts in the marketplace—then sit down with cappuccino (containing milk from a local dairy and Zingerman’s own roasted beans) and a breakfast sandwich containing well-sourced ingredients like Arkansas peppered ham in Broadbent Kentucky gravy, or Michigan maple syrup drizzled over challah French toast.
Zingerman’s sister business, the Roadhouse (2501 Jackson Ave.; zingermansroadhouse.com), offers Americana cuisine harvested from Chef Alex Young’s Corman Farms, such as heirloom corn or sustainably raised hogs. Wow your dinner guests by learning to whip up flatbreads or baguettes at Zingerman’s Bakehouse (3711 Plaza Drive; zingermansbakehouse.com).
Global cuisine is not new to Ann Arbor. During the mid-90s John Roumanis opened Mediterrano (2900 S. State Street; mediterrano.com), serving dishes that capture North Africa, Italy, Greece, Spain, Turkey and France. The olive oil is imported from his hometown in Greece. Since 1984, Paesano Restaurant & Wine Bar (3411 Washtenaw Ave.; paesanosannarbor.com), has expressed affection for Italy through its extensive all-Italian wine list and regional-focused menus. Chef Isabella Nicoletti, a native of Trissino, Italy, weaves specialties like Sardinia’s squid-ink spaghetti with crudo del Chianti that contains locally grown beef.
The wine scene is just as vibrant. Fatherdaughter team John and Kristin Jonna (who formerly worked for Benziger Winery) opened Vinology Wine Bar and Restaurant (110 S. Main Street; vinowinebars.com), in downtown Ann Arbor during 2006. Pair seasonally inspired small plates with an impressive wine list that includes 38 wines by the glass. Don’t miss the “bubble room” downstairs—an intimate space with 400 hand-blown glass balls suspended from the ceiling; it’s next to a retail wine shop. Another wine bar, La Dolce Vita, on the basement level of Gratzi Ristorante (326 S. Main Street; gratzirestaurant.com), is the best place in town to go for a cigar and a glass of wine—both indulgences feature lots of variety in a cozy ambiance. Lunch earlier in the day at Gratzi might include porcini-filled pasta bundles or a Kobe burger.
And what would a university town be without microbreweries? In 1995 Rene and Matt Grieff opened Arbor Brewing Company Pub & Eatery (114 E. Washington Street; arborbrewing.com). Always evolving, their latest mantra is to buy from local, sustainable producers to build items like stone-grilled pizzas and corned beef sandwiches. Drop in for a pint of light (Brasserie Blonde) or dark beer (Espresso Love Breakfast Stout). Much of the food at Jolly Pumpkin Café & Brewery (311 S. Main Street; jollypumpkin.com), comes from local farmers markets. Pair the brewery’s artisan ales with tempura-battered vegetables, a beerfriendly cheese board and market salads.In suburban Milan, Original Gravity Brewing Company (440 County Street; ogbrewing.com), has about 15 beers on tap, ranging from an eclectic 440 Pepper Smoker (German smoked malt and jalapeños) to a Pale Ale.