Great fare in A-square
A shortlist of dining spots in Ann Arbor
Published: August 3, 2011
Carson's American Bistro 2000 Commonwealth Blvd.; 888-456-3463; $$$: Good, solid American fare such as steaks and chops, but with gluten-free options too. Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday; 4 p.m.-11 p.m. Saturday; noon-9 p.m. Sunday.
Casey's Tavern 304 Depot St.; 734-665-6775; caseys-tavern.com; $$: Thick burgers with a slew of topping choices (think grilled mushrooms, guacamole and bleu cheese) are Casey's signature, courteously offered as either turkey, veggie or beef burger. Don't worry about a parking garage, since it's just outside the downtown cramp. Casey's is classic and classy. Closed Sundays.
The Chop House 322 S. Main St.; 888-456-3463; thechophouserestaurant.com; $$: Luxurious, comfortable and pushily elegant, serving prime beef, fine grain-fed protein and exceptional premium wines. Open 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 4 p.m. Sundays.
Crazy Wisdom Tea Room 114 S. Main St.; 734-665-9468; crazywisdom.net; $: The ground floor twinkles wholesomely with spiritual paraphernalia. Upstairs, enjoy a pot of tea or coffee with a view of Main Street. Live acoustic sounds some nights. Call or check the website for details.
Dominick's 812 Monroe St.; 734-662-5414; $$: Nestled in a quiet Ann Arbor neighborhood at Monroe and State streets, Casa Dominick's is an almost-50-year-old sidewalk café. Suffused with ample outdoor seating, Dominick's porches, balconies, courtyards, and outdoor fountain welcome those who love fair weather March though November. More an "afternoon spot" than a nighttime hangout, this informal oasis is open until 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday. It's a favorite after-work or lunch destination for townies, city workers, professors and students alike. No waitstaff here — the menu is written in colored chalk on boards above the counter. And although Dominick's may be more famous for their selection of beers on tap, don't miss their house recipe sangria and special invention "constant buzz" (a fruity frozen drink) served in Mason jars.
The Earle 121 W. Washington St.; 734-994-0211; theearle.com; $$$: The vault-like Earle is an Ann Arbor legend, with its candlelit tables, imaginative kitchen and live jazz. Start in the elegant wine bar with its daily specials or check the 30-page wine list. Happy hour 5-8 p.m. Monday through Friday. Open 5-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Fridays; 5:45-11 p.m. Saturdays; 5-8:30 p.m. Sundays. Closed Sundays during summer.
Earthen Jar 311 S. Fifth Ave.; 734-327-9464; earthenjar.com; $: Catering to vegetarian tastes, their signature "mostly vegan buffet" is heavily Indian influenced, with hints of Pakistani (yellow lentil dal moong), Italian (tofu lasagna) and even dishes of the American South (turnip greens).
Fleetwood Diner 300 S. Ashley St.; 734-995-5502; $: The only 24-hour diner in downtown Ann Arbor, this is genuine greasy spoon eating. The Fleetwood looks like a small trailer propped atop the hill at Ashley and Liberty, packing in cheap-breakfast seekers on a dozen bar stools and at a handful of tables since 1972.
Frita Batidos 117 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-761-2882; fritabatidos.com; $: Chef Eve Aronoff's new casual restaurant serving Cuban fare, serving a frita — "a Cuban burger made from spicy chorizo served with shoestring fries on top in a soft egg bun" — and batidos — "tropical milkshakes made with fresh fruit, crushed ice and a drop of sweetened milk."
Gandy Dancer 401 Depot St.; 734-769-0592; $$$: One of Ann Arbor's most popular restaurants offers a daily menu of fresh fish, seafood, steaks, and pastas in a historic brick and granite structure. A C.A. Muer restaurant that transcends the casual tavern concept, known to U-M students as the place to take Mom and Dad (when they're picking up the tab, that is).
Gourmet Garden 2255 W. Stadium Blvd.; 734-668-8389; gourmetgardenmi.com; $$: Start with a steamed vegetable dumpling, move on to the cold smoked duck, then try the scallops with garlic sauce. Not overly Americanized.
Grange Kitchen & Bar 118 W. Liberty St.; 734-995-2107; grangekitchenandbar.com; $$: Located in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor and open to the public for a little more than a year, Grange offers food sourced from more than a dozen local farms, creameries and orchards — and with details on each available on the menus and website.
Gratzi 326 S. Main St.; 734-663-6387; gratzirestaurant.com; $$$: One of Gratzi's most popular offerings is the antipasti buffet, where a little sign informs you that the items are changed every three hours, for freshness. This seems unnecessary in a joint with pretensions to class, but never mind: the grilled vegetables; marinated olives and mushrooms; prosciutto, cappicola and sopressata make for hearty appetizers. An extensive wine list is Italian and American, with bottles ranging from $20 up. Gratzi offers fish, chicken, veal, pork and beef dishes as well, including an Angus porterhouse.
Grizzly Peak Brewing Co. 120 W. Washington St.; 734-741-7325; grizzlypeak.net; $$: Grizzly Peak has the feel of a restrained hunting lodge that enjoys its own history more than its kills (you'll find a mounted buck or two, but the exposed brick interior tends to remain neutrally bare). But the award-winning beer is the real centerpiece, featuring several on-tap Weissbiers and ales during the summer months. Some specialty brews go fast — call for detailed offerings.
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