Dining in and around Ann Arbor, choices, choices, choices!

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If there is anything I learned on my recent hosted trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan it is that the city and surrounding area has multiple, wonderful local places to eat!  The hardest part about dining in Ann Arbor is deciding which wonderful place to choose.

The city is a sophisticated urban environment with a small town feel.  The University of Michigan helps add to the city’s cultural options and brings visitors, that sometimes become residents like Ayse Uras who opened her wonderful Ayes’s Turkish Cafe in 1992. “I have been here for 40 years,” Ayse said.  “My husband came as a student, this is my home.”

Ayse serves wonderful Turkish food.

Using fresh ingredients as much as possible from the local farmer’s market ad meat from a local butcher shop Ayse said, “We prepare everything here.  Nothing is frozen.”

Known for her lentil soup, and meat and seafood dishes, Ayse’s menu changes because she fixes what is in season.  I loved the lentil soup and enjoyed trying new dishes.  Located in a strip mall that is filled with international flavors, Ayses is located on Plymouth Road.  Log onto www.ayseturkishcafe.com for more information.

Another wonderful selection is Amadeus where they offer European Dining.  I loved the decor and the classic guitar playing almost as much as the authentic dishes from Central Europe.

Classic guitar is one of the charming aspects of Amadeus which offers dishes from Central Europe.

The cafe is fashioned after an old world Viennese cafe.  Amadeus has been open since 1988 and they serve food from Poland, Hungary, Austria and beyond.  They offer a romantic atmosphere that would be great for Valentines Day or an anniversary. Log onto www.amadeusrestaurant.com for details.

Besides the wonderful Amadeus, perhaps my favorite dining spot of all was Gratzi.  A former movie house, the upscale Northern Italian restaurant offers romantic balcony tables and a huge mural.  You feel like a movie should start, or that the waiters should break into tune at any given moment.

Gratzi is a former movie house that serves Northern Italian fare.

While the atmosphere is enough to draw you in, it is the food that will keep you coming back.  Gratzi opened in 1987 and is owned by Mainstreet Ventures who have a number of restaurants.  John Fischer is the chef and my favorite food was the scallops.  Don’t skip desserts here, it is awesome!  Log onto www.gratziannarbor.com.

There is also the lovely Arbor Brewery.  Owned by Matt and Renee Greff, the couple opened the brewery in 1995.  The Greffs learned that they are actually distant relations to a Greff Brewery that was in France many years ago. They started doing a bit of digging into their past after finding a Greff poster.

They have created several of their own brews and they offer fun pub food to accompany their beers. The Greff’s are pioneers of the craft beer scene in Michigan.

Rene Greff and her husband Matt were pioneers in the Michigan Craft Brew movement.

One interesting note is that besides Arbor Brewing Company, they also have the Corner Brewery in nearby Ypsilanti where they produce and bottle their beers and they are partners with ABC India, India’s first American craft brewery in Bangalore, India!  Checkout this enterprising couple’s establishment in downtown Ann Arbor.  Learn more at wwwArborbrewing.com.

There are all types of places to eat in Ann Arbor, and one icon is the Fleetwood Diner.  Open 24 hours a day, we hit the Fleetwood to try some of their amazing breakfast options.  The diner was built in 1948 from a kit and originally opened as the Dagwood Diner in 1949.  The diner was renamed the Fleetwood Diner in 1971 and they have had an array of owners until George Fotiadis and Adi Demiri took over in 1992.

The Fleetwood Diner is a staple in Ann Arbor.

The big item on the breakfast menu is the Hippie Hash which fits in well with the distinctive decor or stickers and art that fills the walls of this small place.  While I wasn’t brave enough to try the hash, my traditional fare was great.  Go to the diner looking for good food, fast food with a lot of unique atmosphere.

I always thought of Barbecue as a southern food, but the Red Rock Downtown Barbecue located in nearby Ypsilanti is located in the heart of Michigan!  Shawn Cool opened the restaurant in Ypsilanti in 2012 and they offer smoked meats with sides and sandwiches and salads.  They have a variation of barbecue styles from Kansas City burnt ends and tomato and molasses-based sauce, my personal favorite was the North Carolina pulled pork. They offer St. Louis ribs and Texas brisket.  This was a great rib-sticking option for the cool winter days.

To pair with the barbecue there are several Michigan beers to choose from.  Log onto www.redrockypsi.com for details.

On my trip to Ann Arbor I enjoyed the opportunity to try all different types of food.  Aventura’s offers a fun variety of small plates with traditional Spanish food and an array of tapas (over 25 different types). The owner Sava Lelcaj was inspired when she visited Spain and she wants the meal to be a fun adventure.

I enjoyed trying a new cuisine and would love to go back and try it again.  They also have a fun cocktail menu of gin and tonics made in -house, www.aventuraannarbor.com.

A true adventure and a first for me was a foray into Moroccan & Middle Eastern cuisine at Casablanca in downtown Ypsilanti.  The tastes were exotic and fresh.  I loved the chicken option and enjoyed seeing new and different food than I have tried before.  This trip expanded this Midwestern girl’s palate!

Fun food at Casablanca.

Checkout www.casablancaypsilati.com for more information.

We had the great honor to try a brand new restaurant just days before they opened.  Miss Kim’s a restaurant that is part of the Zingerman businesses headed up by Ji Hye Kim.  Once a high powered health insurance executive, she found the business didn’t fill her needs and soon she started working at Zingerman’s and before she knew it, she was deep into food.  “I started at the deli, but I missed food from back home.  I had a pop up till this came along.”

Ji Hye Kim offers traditional Korean fare.

Offering traditional Korean fare that is beautifully plated, Miss Kim’s offers fresh, different selections that beckon to be tried.  Like at Casablanca’s, I had a lot of first tastes at Miss Kim’s.  I had my first oyster and first endame.  It was all good!  Log onto www.misskimannarbor.com for more information on this latest addition to the Zingerman collection.

Mani Osteria & Bar offered a new take on a pizza joint.  The word Mani means handmade and Mani is an osteria offering small plates that feature seasonal local ingredients as well as wood-fired pizza, house made pasta and Old World Wines.

Like Miss Kim’s, Mani is a new comer, but according to my experience, I think they will be around for a long, long time. The pizza was awesome and the service great in this low-key restaurant where you could kick back and enjoy.  Log onto www.maniosteria.com for more information.

Mani Osteria & Bar offering great wood grill pizza.

These of course are just a few of the fine selections that Ann Arbor has to offer.  For more information about Ann Arbor and the area, log onto  www.visitannarbor.org.  Wrap up, hit the downtown and try some of Ann Arbor’s world-class cuisine!