A shortlist of eateries where you can feed for cheap
Published: August 24, 2011
Fleetwood Diner 300 S. Ashley St., Ann Arbor; 734-995-5502: A stainless steel beauty of a joint, the food could probably be better, but what does it matter when you're open all the time? Some of our peeps love the place; others tag along but stick to the hippie hash. Open all night for the up-all-night.
Frita Batidos 117 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-761-2882; fritabatidos.com; $: Chef Eve Aronoff's new casual restaurant serving Cuban fare, serving a frita — "a Cuban burger made from spicy chorizo served with shoestring fries on top in a soft egg bun" — and batidos — "tropical milkshakes made with fresh fruit, crushed ice and a drop of sweetened milk." Sandwiches are around $7-$8.
Gandy Dancer 401 Depot St., Ann Arbor; 734-769-0592; muer.com: Why would we include a place with valet parking on a list of restaurants cheap enough for college students? Because this is where you can go when your parents are footing the bill, especially for brunch. Noted for its buffet, this is where they shovel it in every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. That brunch menu encompasses the classics: scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon and sausage, carved roast beef and ham, made-to-order omelets, fresh Belgian waffles with bananas Foster and even house-made breads and pastries. It's a sumptuous Sunday treat, but the fam will prolly have to spring for it. It's $24 for adults, $12 for children aged 12 and youger; reservations are highly recommended.
Good Girls go to Paris 15 E. Kirby St., Detroit; 313-964-2023; goodgirlsgotopariscrepes.com: The traditional French pancake gets an American treatment. Each crêpe takes almost four minutes, from first careful pouring to handing to the customer on a paper plate. Open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sundays.
Goodwell's 418 W. Willis St., Detroit; This health-food store serves good, cheap vegetarian pita sandwiches. Though it's takeout only, you can usually find a place to sit on Willis, right next to Avalon Bakery. On a warm afternoon, you'll likely see more than one college student taking in the open atmosphere outside.
Harmonie Garden 4704 Third St., Detroit; 313-638-2345: Not every dish at Harmonie Garden is the most sublime Middle Eastern food ever, but some are outstanding, and the food is certainly tasty and a great value when all aspects are considered: quality, quantity, price, friendly service. One of the more remarkable bargains in this restaurant of bargains is the Sunday buffet, spread out along the bar. It's $9.99 for all you can eat plus coffee.
International Mini-Café 111 E. Kirby St., Detroit; 313-377-2555: In the basement of the International Institute at Kirby and John R, just east of Woodward, is one of the best lunch deals in town. Each day they offer a different soup; three Indian dishes, two of them vegetarian; a "Mideast feast" of hummus, tabouleh and falafel; a veggie quesadilla; a pasta dish, such as spaghetti with chicken meatballs; nachos; three pizzas; Greek salad; and three American-style sandwiches. Desserts are Middle Eastern pastries, and you will often find crisp, fresh samosas waiting on the entrance table.
Jerusalem Garden 307 S. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-995-5060; jerusalemgarden.net: The only place where falafel is more popular than this tiny Ann Arbor spot would be in Jerusalem itself. Ann Arbor is a lot more convenient and the journey to the Middle East won't get you better food. Falafel — fried patties of ground chick peas, onions, garlic, parsley and other seasonings, served wrapped in pita with baba ghanoush, hommous or refreshing tabbouleh — are as cheap as they are delicious. Cheap eats at their best. It's fast, but not fast food as we know it. Splurge and have a cup of lentil soup.
Joey's Meat Cutter Inn 2638 Orleans St., Detroit; 313-393-0960: Good-size burgers for less than $5? It's true! And they're not stingy on the meat, serving them up gigantic and hearty. If you have enough cash you can shoot for higher things: stuffed chicken breasts, baby back ribs or whitefish. Or, you can choose to spend those extra sheckels at their bar; they mix their drinks generously.
Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger 551 S. Division St., Ann Arbor: 734-663-4590; blimpyburger.com: Where Packard meets South Division lies arguably one of the best burger houses in the country, where they're made on the grill right in front of you. And it's an Ann Arbor institution spanning six decades, right down to its R. Crumb-influenced menu. The burger stop's slogan? "Cheaper than food." Cafeteria-style setting means no tipping; read the "instructions" before ordering; open until 10 p.m. every day except Sunday (8 p.m.).
Lafayette Coney Island 118 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit; 313-964-8198: Many late-night music lovers head here for tube steaks after leaving concert venues. And the waitstaff, presumably to better serve their temporarily deaf clientele, bellows food orders to the kitchen at maximum volume. Lafayette serves up only all-meat franks — not the filler-laden "hot dogs" on the menu at lesser eateries. FYI: The restrooms are, appropriately, located within the bowels of the establishment. We've heard tales that this 24-hour place is open in the daytime too. Also, next door is Lafayette's longtime rival, the more modern, cafeteria-style American Coney Island (114 W. Lafayette, Detroit; 313-964-6542).
Le Petit Zinc 1055 Trumbull St., Detroit; 313-963-2805; lepetitzincdetroit.com: Charles Sorel, raised in France but with the Caribbean personality of his native Martinique, is providing a splash of sunlight at his breakfast-and-lunch spot in Corktown. His small space has bright yellow walls and bright yellow napkins. It's accented in green and turquoise and is adorned with paintings in primary and other cheerful colors. Outdoors is a patio with raised beds for perennials. Patrons may order crêpes, salads, sandwiches, cheese, ratatouille and coffee. Doesn't sound cheap, does it? Surprisingly, nothing on Sorel's menu costs more than $8, and every creation, from crêpes to salads to classic French small plates, are works of art, meant to be savored.
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