Temporary move to Ann Arbor, what should I not miss?
May 22, 2009 4:29 PM   Subscribe

I am moving to Ann Arbor, MI in a week and a half for a temporary summer assignment at U of Michigan. What are must see sights/places and must visit restaurants, bars, etc. that I should be sure not to miss?
posted by stevechemist to Travel & Transportation around Ann Arbor, MI (20 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
posted by 6:1 at 4:47 PM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ann Arbor art fair is supposed to be one of the best in the country.
posted by rglass at 4:58 PM on May 22, 2009

I don't know where you're coming from, but I want to preface this with the note that Ann Arbor is a great town for its size, but largely speaking, its good things are conditional on being a college town in the Midwest. But onward to said good things!

The beer here is great. Arbor Brewing Company has mediocre food, but its brews range from good to spectacular. Its sister establishment in Ypsilanti (and where most of the brewing happens), the Corner Brewery, is also delightful. A bar named Ashley's, right next to campus, has an enormous selection of microbrews from all over the US and Europe, as well as a good scotch list. A brewery just outside of town, Jolly Pumpkin, makes an array of good beer. I especially recommend the Bam-Noire, but it might be a seasonal.

Food? Hm. There are a lot of restaurants here, and many of them are mediocre. Everyone and their brother will recommend Zingerman's, and it is worth going to. The Zingerman's Roadhouse is also very good, and moreover has the best cocktails in town. Second best for cocktails is Cafe Zola, which also has good food. Blimpy Burger is a good little burger shack near central campus, too, but aside form the myriad falafel joints, a lot of the cheap eats are chains.

Where the town really excels, though, is in food-procuring. Check out Sparrow's Market in Kerrytown for a truly great meat counter. The cherrywood bacon there is deserving of any superlatives. Kerrytown is also home to a good fishmonger that will also cook you a tasty lunch and a nice, well-curated wine store. Morgan & York, a bit south of central campus, is a great cheese, meat, wine, and liquor store. Zingerman's is worth hitting for its cheese, too.

Oh, and coffee! Comet Coffee in Nickel's Arcade just opened and now blows everything else in town out of the water. It feels expensive, but the quality is more than worth it.
posted by Schismatic at 5:40 PM on May 22, 2009

And I almost forgot, Silvio's Pizza, a little pizza place next to campus run by an Italian with a penchant for organic foods! Sort of hit-or-miss, but the hits are spectacular.
posted by Schismatic at 5:43 PM on May 22, 2009

There is this little Middle Eastern place called Jerusalem Garden, on Fifth just off of Main. Probably the best hummus, lentil soup, and falafel I've had in America. Really.
Go sit at the counter and talk to the cook, you won't regret it.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 5:50 PM on May 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

You simply would not believe the nice shit I get at Recycle Ann Arbor.
posted by JohnR at 6:17 PM on May 22, 2009

Make sure to spend a hot summer afternoon or evening downing some sangria at Dominick's. The staff can be a bit annoying (e.g., they blare a loud siren at closing time every night to clear everyone out), but it's a good atmosphere, and, IMO, the sangria is outstanding.

There's a wide range of ethnic foods around town. I can never find a strong consensus for which is the best Thai, Chinese, sushi joint, etc., but I will say this: Madras Masala spanks the hell out of every other Indian place around. Don't mind the crappy location. Just go there, get yourself some dosa, and you'll agree.

I'll second Blimpy Burger. Don't miss the onion rings there, and be ready for a greasy meal and another annoying staff (Blimpy's rudeness, at least, is a self-aware idiosyncrasy. Dominick's, however, is just plain obnoxious). Allegedly, Sidetrack in Ypsi has a great burger, but they've yet to serve me one, and I've tried it a couple of times.

If you like the outdoors, Nichols Arboretum is very nice for a walk, run, or even a picnic.

Perhaps the best thing you could do once you arrive is find a copy of the Current magazine. It's free in many restaurants and other public locations. It covers many of the cultural happenings in the Ann Arbor/Ypsi area.
posted by Team of Scientists at 6:18 PM on May 22, 2009

Check out Gordon Hall in nearby Dexter (a charming village in itself). It was supposedly a stop on the underground Railroad and is now a historical museum. Also, I lived there when I was three and it had been cut up into grad student housing by U of M.
posted by nax at 6:26 PM on May 22, 2009

Nthing Zingerman's, the Art fair and Blimpy Burger

Go for a walk in The Arb as a separate trip, as said before. Also, Shakespeare in the Arb is TONS of fun; they're doing Twelfth Night this year.

Spin the cube (by the Union)

Take a nap in the law quad and admire the prettiness

Ashley's is also good for a wide selection of beers from around the world.

Here's a link for Dominick's, mentioned before. Also, Pizza House is a good restaurant overall and has great ice cream drinks (grasshoppers, mudslides)

Catch a performance by Harmonica Man by the Ugli (undergraduate library)

See a midnight movie at the State Theater, especially if it's Rocky Horror. Even if you don't like the movie, it's worth going for the crazy enthusiasts that show up.

Stay an extra month or two so you can see a football game? It'll be worth it!
posted by alygator at 6:35 PM on May 22, 2009

Just wanted to nth Ashley's as a great place to get an esoteric (or not) beer, especially if it's warm and you can get a seat in the (open) windows.

The Big House is pretty awesome to see, even empty. It used to be that you could just walk up and peek in if there wasn't a game going on, but I don't know if it's open again with the renovations going on.

If you're going to Dominick's with some friends, split a Constant Buzz with them. It's like a delicious fruity alcoholic smoothie of wonderfulness. (It only come in large size, so you really need some people to help you drink it all.)

Seva is an awesome vegetarian restaurant on Liberty. As a staunch carnivore, I put off going there for a long time, and regret it because they have delicious food and a great atmosphere, but now I don't live there anymore.

If you'll be around in July, then you won't (can't) miss the Art Fair, which basically shuts down the city for a week with art booths lining the streets of the downtown. Great fun.
posted by andeles at 6:54 PM on May 22, 2009

OH!!! I can't believe I forgot this- brunch at Angelo's. The lines are hours long on the weekend for a reason.
posted by alygator at 6:56 PM on May 22, 2009

Top of the Park! It's the free part of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, a month-long series of concerts, movies, and performances that are the local's reward for suffering through the yearly inconvenience of football saturdays and Art Fair.

Restaurants you should not miss include the breakfast trinity of Angelo's (closed every July), Northside Grill, and Café Marie or the 24-hr delicious dump The Fleetwood (get the hippie hash). Kosmo at Kerrytown is a very special lunch counter (bulgogi hoagie and twigim or an enormous egg roll) and the adjacent Monaghan's Fishmarket makes a dang good lunch too; Kerrytown is really a special place.

Get soup at lunchtime from LeDog at least once; ideally on a thursday or friday so you can try the famous Lobster Bisque. NYPD is the real deal for NY style pizza, complete with old country mamma and her sons yelling at each other. Red Hawk is underrated for low-key drinks and dinner, Zola and Felix are both pretty great for that too, Logan is underappreciated but overpriced, Gandy Dancer is not worth anyone's money, and Grizzly Peak is not as good as Arbor Brewing but Corner Brewery is Ypsi is the best vibe.

Washtenaw Dairy for Cake Donuts. Dimo's for Raised Donuts, but they're closed Sundays. Be sure to try a Fragel from Bagel Fragel, they close at 3 most days. Bi Bim Bap is a big deal in ann arbor; Kosmo's is the most unique, Pacific Rim's is the fanciest, and Eastern Accents probably does it best. Thursday lunches at Eastern Accents are dominated by A2B3, a wonderful and unique lunch group with geeky types of all stripes. You ought not spend a summer in ann arbor without eating Bi Bim Bap.

Also, don't miss the SE Michigan Mefi Ten Meetup on 7/18 at Frenchie's in Ypsi! And that goes for all of you!
posted by ulotrichous at 7:14 PM on May 22, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great suggestions! I really look forward to checking out the city and it will be a nice change from State College (I am a current PSU student...please don't hold that against me! haha). So as for the Big House, I've been to many games at Beaver Stadium.
posted by stevechemist at 8:01 PM on May 22, 2009

Pinball Pete's is a good time if you like the arcade scene.
posted by faintly macabre at 8:41 PM on May 22, 2009

Pinball Pete's is not only good because of the "arcade scene"...

it also has one of the best selections of pinball games in the country. They also have a bunch of vintage cabinet games.

Nthing Zingerman's and Jerusalem Garden. Zingerman's has the best corned beef I've ever tasted. J-Garden has the best falafel I've ever tasted. There's an indian buffet next to Jerusalem Garden called The Earthen Jar. People are pretty split on it, because the quality of the food is a little iffy. I happen to think it's great, and they charge you for your food by the pound (!) It's all vegetarian, too, if you're into that kind of thing.

I'm also a pretty big fan of Shalimar, the legitimate sit down indian restaurant in the city, but it's kind of expensive for Ann Arbor. I guess when you corner the market, you set the prices. If you don't have them in your city, Jimmy John's is a cheap sub chain, and better than Subway. They're all over the place in Ann Arbor.

Encore Records is great. Wazoo records is good. All the rest are pretty garbage.

As someone who was also born and raised in Ann Arbor, I was conditioned to hate the Art Fair. It's crowded and chock-a-block with really shitty art. But, in a sleepy town like Ann Arbor, I guess it's something to do. You could always people watch.

I moved out of town right about the time I hit drinking age, but the folks I used to crew with generally hung out at The 8-ball (a dive) and The Old Town (Less of a dive).

There's a ton of awesome naturish stuff. I always enjoyed going to Barton Dam, and I like the arb, and Island park, and gallup park.

Pretty much everyone has made all of my suggestions before me. It's a nice place to spend a couple of months. Be outside a lot.

As for the Halfway (half-ass) Inn, I don't even know if they do shows there anymore, but I know they stopped for quite a while.
posted by orville sash at 9:26 PM on May 22, 2009

Man, I'm late to the party.

If you like Japanese food, check out Yamato in Kerrytown: very authentic. Also, I think people are selling Café Zola short; it's definitely my favorite breakfast place. If you like chai, get it there. It's the real deal, not pre-blended mix.

Also, in terms of pretty sights, check out the north campus, including the wave field, reflecting pool and my favorite sculpture, BEGOB (behind the Lurie engineering building).

Also, second on the constant buzz at Dominick's.
posted by Cogito at 9:47 PM on May 22, 2009

Yes to Zingerman's (the deli and the Roadhouse). You can also tour their bakehouse and their creamery.

Also yes to The Arb, the Art Fairs, and Top of the Park.

I have loved Blimpy Burger since I was a small child. It's hard to walk by that place and not go in.

The Michigan Theatre is also great. They have the Summer Classic Movie Series where they show old films on the big screen.

Also, depending on your interests, there are a lot of fun clubs and groups to join. For example, I enjoy contra dances at the Pittsfield Grange in West A2. Check out Current for more.

The Ark has nifty folky concerts.

Since the rest of Ann Arbor is pretty well covered, I'm going to recommend a couple of places outside of A2 (you will need a car):

The Henry Ford. Fun, huge, the Lincoln JFK was assassinated in, the chair Lincoln was assassinated in, Edison's Menlo Park, the Wright Brother's cycle shop, Model T rides, a working 1880s farm, and lots of fun summer special events. I do work there, so I'm a bit biased.

The Detroit Institute of the Arts. They entirely rethought their approach to exhibits, resulting in an art museum experience that is less stuffy, more fun, and more accessible to non-arty types.
posted by Tall Telephone Pea at 6:34 AM on May 23, 2009

Angelo's for brunch -- agreed! Also the Fleetwood Diner - beloved 24-hour greasy spoon of awesome.

Last summer, I discovered the joy of kayaking all over town.

There is a lot of schlock at the Art Fair, but I can't help myself and wind up going if I'm in town.

I was going to recommend Del Rio, but I guess that's gone. *sigh*
posted by *s at 7:09 AM on May 23, 2009

The West End Grill is one of my favorite restaurants ever. Excellent food, excellent service

Plus, all that other stuff they're talking about up there.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:19 AM on May 23, 2009

Ann Arbor's covered pretty well, so I'll suggest a trip into Detroit.
Hit the Eastern Market on a Saturday and then go check out the Heidelberg Project.
Go look across the river at Canada... It's to the SOUTH!
Get an early dinner at Slows BBQ.

I also like The Bang, a once a month mix tape dance party at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor.
posted by andshewas at 9:00 AM on May 23, 2009

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