Moving To Ann Arbor
August 9, 2004 1:15 PM   Subscribe

MichiganFilter: Okay. My best friend in the whole world, his lovely wife, and my god daughter are moving next week to Ann Arbor... they'll be living on-campus while he pursues his doctorate (artificial intelligence/machine learning voodoo). I can't keep them here, so I thought that sending them off with a veritable treasure trove of Ann Arbor secrets would be a nice gift. So: what to do? where to go? where to eat? how to survive the winter? and anything else a young married couple with a toddler should know.

posted by silusGROK to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Zingerman's rules.
posted by jeb at 1:49 PM on August 9, 2004 [1 favorite]

Kai Gardens on Main St. has the best Chinese in town, in my opinion.

And yes: Zingerman's, Zingerman's, Zingerman's.

And Leopold Bros. Brewery, if that's their kind of thing.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:51 PM on August 9, 2004

everyone will keep yelling ZINGERMAN's (they do everytime A2 comes up around here), and honestly, i got to tell ya, as a mere visitor to ann arbor, i was not that impressed. certainly not impressed enough to wait the hour plus on the weekends, and definitely not with a toddler (you don't actually say how old the child is, but i wouldn't wait in that line with any child). it's good, sure, but i don't think it's good enough to justify standing in that crowd that long.

the various cherry festivals, cherry wineries and cherry pickin' places in the surrounding area are very cool, though.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:03 PM on August 9, 2004

cheap sushi: sushi.come
good sushi: Godaiko
good indian: Madras Masala

It feels like there's something going on almost every weekend. the summer arts festival was a couple weeks ago and was gigantic. It took my girlfriend and I seven hours to walk through all of it.
posted by GeekAnimator at 2:17 PM on August 9, 2004

They have a modern jazz festival.
posted by kenko at 2:43 PM on August 9, 2004

It sounds like your pals are going to live up North Campus way. These suggestions are Central Campus-centric, however free student transport between campuses is very good.

Zingermans is way too overpriced to fit into a reasonable grad student budget (IMHO).

As for bars, Leopold Bros. is excellent. Also check out Arbor Brewing Company (ABC is my fav. bar in town). My fav. dive bar is the 8 ball, which is downstairs from the "famous" Blind Pig. Dominick's can be quite nice on late afternoons, if it's not too crowded (this place is only open spring through mid-fall).

More economical food sources (than Zingermans, that is):
The Peoples Food Co-op. There's a Whole Foods on Stadium. Also, there's a farmer's market on Wednesdays and Saturdays (I think) in Kerrytown (near the peoples food co-op). Jerusalem Garden is a great, economical restaurant for falafel, etc. There's a good (though oddly-named) Korean restaurant on S University Ave., "Coffee Break" (I don't think they serve coffee).

Cheap furniture, thrift-type goods:
Kiwanas rummage sale on First St. Saturdays 'till noon. Also, there is a decent Value Village thrift store in nearby Ypsilanti.

As for the winter: get a good pair of water-resistant, comfortable boots that you're happy wearing all day long. Also, boots should accommodate extra socks, if they're into that sort of thing. This is important because students tend to do a lot of walking, and there is snow on the ground from mid-November through mid-March (roughly). I was fine wearing thin rag-wool gloves (with fingers chopped off, even!). A knit hat (or at least ear-muffs) is important, too.

An anecdote regarding winters: I had a roommate who grew up in Siberia. Despite this, every winter he would complain constantly about the cold. I would respond, "But you're from Siberia!" His response, "Cold is cold."

But tell your friends not to despair; I thought the winters were generally tolerable. My only complaint was the persistence of the winter weather.
posted by funkbrain at 2:46 PM on August 9, 2004

What to do:
Well, obviously the Wolverines football games are a big deal around here. October's Blues and Jazz Festival is pretty well regarded. Your friends just missed the yearly art fair, which is probably the most well-known event.

Where to eat:
Dominick's is a nice place to hang out in summer, and is fairly popular with the grad students. Arbor Brewing Company puts out a wide variety of pretty good beers (though Leopold's smaller selection is of better quality IMO), and offers some good pub-style food. Pizza House and the Cottage Inn are both pretty good for pizza, among other things.

Surviving the winter:
Speaking as a former Wisconsin resident, winter isn't such a big deal in Ann Arbor. Snow tends to melt off the roads within a few days of falling. Tell them to suck it up and think of all the poor people in WI and MN who have it much worse.
posted by Galvatron at 2:49 PM on August 9, 2004

This is the best website about Ann Arbor.

Winter sucks because it's so long and dreary, but it really doesn't get that cold in Ann Arbor.

Kai Gardens on Main St. has the best Chinese in town, in my opinion.

I prefer TK WU (next to Borders on Liberty).


Overrated and overpriced, just like Ann Arbor.

Pizza House and the Cottage Inn are both pretty good for pizza, among other things.

IMHO they both have terrible pizza. Anthony's Gourmet Pizza is the only tolerable pizza place in town.
posted by gyc at 4:02 PM on August 9, 2004

If it's still there, Oasis has highly addictive chicken sandwich-thingies. Whatever they're called. (Sorry--haven't been in Ann Arbor since 1999.)

I lived near North Campus, and can affirm that bus service is excellent. It runs late in the evening, too. One caveat: be prepared for long, long delays during the winter, because (at least five years ago) the streets weren't always plowed or salted particularly well.

During spring and summer, enormous downpours often show up out of nowhere. If the weather forecast says "showers," believe it--even if it's sunny out at the time. Winters are not cold by, say, Chicago standards, but the snow can really pile up (see note above).

There are good movie theaters downtown, not to mention many excellent secondhand bookstores. And, of course, the original Borders.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:12 PM on August 9, 2004

Introduce them to me: I just got a graduate degree in artificial intelligence/ machine learning type stuff and am 1/2 of a young, soon to be married couple now living in Ann Arbor.
posted by leotrotsky at 4:52 PM on August 9, 2004

we're cute, too.
posted by leotrotsky at 4:55 PM on August 9, 2004

I graduated in 1991, so what I say may no longer be accurate. There were a ton of great, cheap Korean restaurants, my favorite being Coffee Break over on South U near Forest. Pizza Bob's, on State Street, had decent pizza but some delicious milkshakes.

Then there's the Arboretum, a nice big pleasant park for exploring in the summer, and, of course, traying in the wintertime.

Everyone knows about Michigan Football, but Michigan Hockey in Yost Ice Arena is also a one of a kind sports experience. It's old and loud and fun.
posted by greasepig at 5:37 PM on August 9, 2004

Food: China Gate's sesame tofu. A falafel and hummus sandwich from Jerusalem Garden. Diner food from Frank's, and breakfast from the Broken Egg. Most of the fancier restaurants are way to expensive, but the Earle and The Gandy Dancer are worth going to once.

If your friend likes to cook, the People's Food Co-op is good, as is the produce from the farmer's market.

Booze: Leopold Bros. makes their own beer, gin, and vodka. The 8 Ball and the Heidelberg are both dive bars with a following. The Old Town makes a nice (and very, very cheap) Booker's manhattan. Ashley's has something like 50 beers on tap and even more in bottles, but don't stick around for a meal.

Books and all things paper: tons of good bookstores, my favorite of which is the West Side Book Shop. Shaman Drum is a grad student's best friend -- they'll take care of ordering books for you when you're teaching, and they give you a discount just for mentioning you're a GSI. Accu-Copy is a good xerox shop.

Computing: go to the computer shop in the basement of the union to get good discounts on software and hardware. The university's property dispossession office has super cheap castoffs, and sometimes they're unloading decent servers or clusterable old machines. Lab wise, I always liked Groundworks on north campus.

Things to do: live bands and dancing at The Blind Pig. Jazz at The Firefly Club. Punk, indie, and all things noise in Ypsilanti at The Elbow Room. Absolutely go to the music school's composers' forums -- they are Not To Be Missed.

Winter is really long. Five to six months, usually. Bus service is good, and it just got better -- the university made a deal with the city transit system that lets students ride free. This means its easy to live outside of Ann Arbor proper, where rents can be Bay Area high.
posted by amery at 7:38 PM on August 9, 2004

One of Ann Arbor's best quick lunches is Kosmo, in Kerrytown. Relatively cheap, very good, fast and friendly.

Also, they should quickly discover AADL, and a membership to the Hands-on Museum ensures many, many happy afternoons for a toddler.

Plan your football saturdays so that you don't need to go out until after kickoff, and get back home before the 4th quarter starts.

Finally, the best advice for people new to town would be to discover Oak Valley Drive instead of Ann Arbor-Saline Road, Huron River Drive instead of Washtenaw, and 4th or Ashley instead of Main.
posted by ulotrichous at 9:39 PM on August 9, 2004

If your friends are going to be on North Campus, and if they do a lot of home cooking, they'll have a lot of cheap grocery options. (Whole Foods, economical?) There's Foods of India (1168 Broadway), Jerusalem International Market (1713 Plymouth) and Dong Yu China Market (2765 Plymouth). There's a Krogers, too, as far as that goes. The last three are within walking distance from many of the family housing and apartments on North Campus. (Here is a site with a list of international food stores. I have some shopping to do...)

As far as Central Campus goes, I tend to spend too much money at the Dawn Treader (514 E. Liberty Street), which is a great used bookstore. Cafe Ambrosia (326 Maynard) is my favorite coffeeshop; it's comfortable, friendly and well lit, and the prices are fairly reasonable. (The owners, Ed and Mike, are usually in, which I think is cool.) A lot of good restaurants have already been listed... I also like Kabob Palace (516 E. William) for Middle Eastern food and Earthen Jar (311 S. 5th, right next to Jerusalem Garden) for cheap Indian. (I'm vegetarian, but will refrain from endorsing Seva, which is a completely vegetarian restaurant; if either of your friends can cook at all, they will probably spend the time wondering why they're paying $7.50 for hummus, tomato and lettuce in pita bread.)

The online scene, I think, started with Goodspeed Update and Ann Arbor Sucks; now there's also Arbor Update and Arbor Blogs. I make occasional use of Arbor Web, because I can read a list of daily events without actually having to read the Ann Arbor Observer. UM*Events is good for things to do as well.
posted by shirobara at 4:16 AM on August 10, 2004

Response by poster: This is about to slip off the bottom of the page, so I wanted to chime in and thank everyone for all your great secrets.

Keep 'em coming!
posted by silusGROK at 8:04 AM on August 10, 2004

The best advice for anyone living in Ann Arbor is "don't go to the place everyone else goes." Most of the "big" places in Ann Arbor are quite cultish, and large groups of people go to those same places for no discernable reason other than the fact that everyone else goes there. The best way to protect your pocketbook, as well as your sanity, is to always look for the second option.

As in, if you want international food, you don't go to Whole Foods, you go to Bella Vino -- it's cheaper AND less crowded. You find and use the alternate roads ulotrichous listed, because everyone else is backing up on the main roads instead of using them. You don't eat in downtown Ann Arbor, you find the small and neat eateries further out instead. Basically, you avoid central Ann Arbor as much as reasonably possible. I know I do.
posted by frallyth at 8:50 AM on August 10, 2004

Zingerman's is actually as good as everyone says it is - just avoid the tourist lines on weekend mornings and afternoons. There's no wait for dinner. It's expensive, but they'll split sandwiches and sell you half loaves of bread and quarter pounds of cheese.
posted by transona5 at 11:24 AM on August 10, 2004

Wow, I was thinking about doing the exact same post about Ann Arbor, except without being married and studying physics instead of AI. This is getting bookmarked and will be referenced when I move there in a few weeks. Thanks everyone, and nice timing siliusGROK.
posted by Schismatic at 12:11 PM on August 10, 2004

Hi Schismatic.
I'm a grad. student studying physics at Michigan now. Drop me a line.
posted by funkbrain at 10:25 AM on August 11, 2004

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