When people think of Ann Arbor, their first thoughts are generally about the large university situated here or the larger-than-life football team that plays on Saturdays in the fall. Few, if any, realize that Ann Arbor has a thriving food scene, especially one that deserves to be taken more seriously. Starting Sunday January 17th, 54 restaurants will participate in the week-long event–a food olympics if you will–that is Restaurant Week. Participants range from smaller sandwich spot Maize & Blue Deli all the way to expensive steakhouse The Chop House. With so many different deals, here’s a guide to what you should try this week:
This Mediterranean place is serving up some of the freshest new food in Ann Arbor. The interior looks like a mish-mosh of lights and plates hanging from the ceiling, but the food is truly first-rate. They’re offering a two for $28 dinner meal for four courses plus dessert, probably the best deal of all of Restaurant Week. Based on their limited menu, I’d recommend the hummus, crispy calamari, Greek salad and salmon as your four courses, but you can spin it any way you like. The service is solid, the setting is great and you’re not going to find a better deal than this.
The best barbecue joint in AA is close to campus and has a simple, straightforward Restaurant Week menu. For lunch, there’s a two for $15 deal on Carolina Pulled Pork sandwiches with chips and coleslaw. Dinner is a little less limited, as diners can choose from mac & cheese (my personal favorite), baby back ribs, pulled pork or chicken. The last three all come with different sides like fries, grits and greens. For no frills barbecue and a starter of soup or salad, Blue Tractor sets the bar for Ann Arbor barbecue.
For those familiar with Ann Arbor, there’s a stigma about Chop House that it’s way too expensive for students to go without their parents. It’s one of the hottest restaurants in town, so make sure you make a reservation early if you plan on going. This week, diners can have a salad, steak and dessert for only $28. If you’re looking for a first rate steak and don’t want to spend your whole savings account on normal Chop House prices, this is the perfect time to go.
A shack-looking place that probably hasn’t been touched in 20+ years, Jamaican Jerk Pit is one of the most bizarre but delicious places in Ann Arbor. The walls are filled with Bob Marley posters and flags of islands your friend visited once for spring break. As great as the décor is, the food is even better. The two for $15 lunch deal is a steal, as they give you fried plantains to start (they’re out of this world) and then you get a choice of sandwiches that come with either fries or rice and peas. I suggest keeping it simple and getting the jerk chicken sandwich with fries.
Slightly overshadowed by its rent neighbor Mani Osteria, Isalita is arguably the best Mexican food in town. Because Mexican food deserves to be shared, a two for $28 deal is perfect. The guacamole to start is delicious, the mushroom quesadillas are fire, and you really can’t go wrong with tacos or chorizo fundido plus dessert. A drink deal is not included, but if you’re feeling ambitious, their mojitos are truly next-level.
For those looking for more traditional, American bar food, this is the place to go. Jolly Pumpkin has a great two for $15 lunch deal that features steak tacos, a salad and two delicious sandwiches. The dinner option has their Ann Arbor-famous truffle fries to start and items like fried chicken, Brussels sprouts, steak and pizza. If you’re eating with a pickier group, this could be your best bet.
If you’re looking for something more Asian-fusion, look no further than Pacific Rim. It has a beautiful, Asian-inspired interior, and the food more than lives up to the hype. While most restaurants pick one or two items for Restaurant Week, Pacific Rim opts for five appetizer and five entree options, ranging from spring rolls, skewers and lettuce wraps to bouillabaisse, pierogies and short ribs. Oh, and in between, you’ve gotta try the coconut-curry soup, full of Indian spices and flavor.
If you’ve got a car, Bigalora should already be on your radar. It doesn’t have the flashiness of the Main Street restaurants, making it unique in the Ann Arbor food scene. You can’t go wrong with either the Shishito peppers or arugula salad to start, and the Bacco sausage pizza, roasted vegetables and rigatoni bolognese are all extremely flavorful. With a two for $28 deal for an appetizer, main course and ice cream, even those on a budget can eat a ton of food.
Time To Eat
Overall, there are a ton of amazing places to try during Restaurant Week. These eight are just a few of your options, but most of these places are on the more expensive end of Ann Arbor restaurants. The purpose is to allow diners that normally wouldn’t feel comfortable spending this amount of money on dinner a chance to try these restaurants, while still offering a decent portion of the menu. Bring a friend, bring a date, bring your GSI, but definitely make sure you check out Restaurant Week starting on Sunday.