In replacement of the former Wafel Shop, Spencer opened its doors this fall just a few steps from campus. After looking through the restaurant’s artistic Instagram aesthetic, I knew that I needed to get my butt over there – and fast. I reached out to the owners, couple Abby Olitzky and Steve Hall, to learn a little more about their new Ann Arbor eatery.
Abby and Steve both have highly decorated backgrounds in food. Abby not only graduated from NYU with a degree in Food Anthropology and Cultural Studies, but she also attended the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. She then moved back to her hometown of San Francisco where she worked at several highly regarded restaurants and was even the head-pastry chef at Delfina by age 23.
Back in San Fran, she met her future fiancé, Steve, a native Ann Arbor-ian, who was also working in the fine dining, wine, and cheese scene of the city. He has earned the title of one of the top three cheesemongers in the nation, and even recently worked as Zingerman’s cheesemonger (side note: a cheesemonger is someone who sells cheese, but is way more prestigious than that sounds). Steve and Abby decided to move to Ann Arbor and open up a pop-up called Central Provisions that eventually (and thankfully) allowed for the creation of Spencer.
The Food, the Food, the Food
Though previously only open for breakfast and lunch (ranging all the way from eggs to pastries to pastas), Spencer now offers wine, beer, small plates, and cheese and charcuterie boards, all of which have roots in European dining and local ingredients. I had the opportunity to
taste devour the BBB sandwich (their twist on a BLT) as well as the shaved brussels and kale salad with Braeburn apples and hazelnuts.
I wish I could have captured the look on my face after I took that first mouthful. The crunch of the French baguette, the creaminess of the Point Reyes blue cheese, and the crisp, zesty salad sent my taste buds into shock – by far the best bites I’ve taken recently. Photographed above is their highly recommended potato salad and tartine with smoked salmon, farm cheese, golden beet and walnuts. Luckily for you, these dishes are still being chefed up at Spencer, but get in there and try them soon before their seasonal menu rotates.
I could go on and on about the prestigious Ann Arbor food scene, and I can pretty much guarantee you a good meal in any corner of campus, but the experience of eating at Spencer felt different to me. You know the love you can taste in your grandma’s cookies? That same secret ingredient sets Spencer apart.
Abby and Steve center their dishes around the local, seasonal items they purchase at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market and change the menu based on whatever is currently inspiring them. Since the launch, Spencer has already offered four menu variations, each one filled with ingredients grown by farmers who care, cooked by chefs who have a fire for food, and served by people who love what they do.
They prepare only healthy, fresh food in small batches and love to experiment with what Michigan farmers have to offer. This effort is put into each step of the process to accomplish their main goal – showing the customer that someone cares. When eating and chatting with Abby, I basically forgot that I was in a restaurant and felt more like I was enjoying a meal with a friend who was excited and proud to feed me her new recipe. Customers turn into guests while at Spencer – something unlike any other restaurant.
Though it may be too late to impress your family with the purchase of one of their Thanksgiving cheese boxes, Spencer has several upcoming events and offers to check out. They’ll host their first wine and cheese tasting on Monday, November 23 from 5 pm – 8 pm where they will sample and sell fine cheeses (remember, picked by the #3 cheesemonger in America) and glasses or bottles of wine.
Their dinner hours also begin this week on Black Friday, extending their hours to 11 am – 3 pm and 5 pm – 10 pm. More similar events will be posted on their website and Instagram, and in the future, they even hope to offer various classes about wine and cheese and even salad-making (though I almost don’t want to disclose this information because I don’t want to risk losing a spot in class).
Not only will their food be enough to get you through the door, but the experience of Spencer will undoubtedly draw you back. After being lucky to sit down with Abby and some of the other staff to talk about their passion, my recommendation could not be any stronger. It’s refreshing and inspiring to see that a group of people can have so much energy about their craft and be able to successfully create their vision. Bottom line: a trip to Spencer is a must.