A buddy and I spent 24 hours in Ann Arbor this weekend to attend the UM/Purdue football game and relive a bit of our past. (I graduated from UM as an undergrad in '86, and my buddy from the law school in '89). Here's my report:
Saturday breakfast. We landed at Detroit Metro at 9:30, so decided to have breakfast in Ypsi, figuring that, being a football weekend, the good places in Ann Arbor would be packed. So we pulled off of I-94 at Huron and headed to the Wolverine Diner on Michigan. (Thank you, Tammy, for the rec.) When we got there at about 10 or 10:30, it was mostly empty, leaving me a little concerned that perhaps it's not that great of a place. Well, it's not a great place, but it's an awfully good one. Good, basic breakfasts at prices that can't be beat. I had the pancakes, eggs and bacon combo, my friend the corn beef hash. Everything was really good, and, with a couple of cups of coffee, the bill barely exceeded $10. Certainly there are better breakfasts to be had, but combined with the lack of a wait and the low prices, it certainly is a good option.
Lunch: By 1:00, we couldn't hold off our yearning for Red Hot Lovers any longer. Fortuntely, we found a parking spot on East U. and got there just before a mini-rush. We each ordered a charred Chicago dog (i.e., tomatoes, onions, mustard, relish, celery salt, pickles, and hot peppers on a steamed poppy seed roll) with Clancy's sauce, skipping their delicious fries only because we wanted to maximize our dog intake without making ourselves sick. The dog was as good as ever (perhaps better), and by the time we finished our first, the mini rush had died down enough for us to jump back in line and order a second (together with a 25 cent refill of our sodas). So many times I have returned to a place like this brimming with excitement, only to be let down because the actual exprience did not match my recollection from years earlier. This absolutely was not the case with Red Hot Lovers. My already high expectations were far exceeded. Could this be the best food in Ann Arbor?
Dinner: After the great Michigan victory over Purdue, we took an incredibly circuitous route to our hotel near Briarwood to avoid the massive post-game traffic. (The hotel was Candlewood Suites, which I highly recommend -- cheap and comfortable -- and the route from State and Arch took us up to Packard to Granger to Washtenaw to Pratt to Packard to Eisenhower to Briarwood.) After cleaning up and relaxing for a few minutes, we headed back to campus and, resisting the urge to return to Red Hot Lovers, we went to Blimpy Burgers, where I haven't eaten in probably 18 years. When we arrived, I was a little intimidated, having completely forgotten the protecol for ordering at Blimpy's. Fortuntately, the guy behind the counter was extraordinarily patient, and before long we had onion rings and vegies going in the friolator, and a quad with grilled onions, hot peppers and cheddar working on the grill. Like our earlier lunch at Red Hot Lovers, our expectations were far exceeded. The fresh ground beef cooked up to a delicious, juicy burger, and the veggies were as good as I remembered (although perhaps greasier than I recalled). And do I need to remind you that Blimpy's is "cheaper than food"?
Sunday breakfast: Our flight out of Detroit Metro was at 10:30, so we figured we could grab a quick breakfast in Ann Arbor before heading out. Sticking with previous recommendations from Tammy, we ended up at Cafe Zola. (I wanted to go to Northside Grill, but I thought it was too far, or to the Broken Egg, but it didn't open until 8.) The breakfast at Cafe Zola was great, and I thought well worth their relatively high prices. The service was not so great. We arrived at about 7:45, were told to seat ourselves, and then were ignored for 10 minutes (no menus, no coffee, nothing), even though only two other tables were occupied. By the time someone acknowledged us (she came to take our order even though we hadn't seen menus), the place was filling up quickly, and we were starting to get concerned about time. We quickly perused the menus and ordered, and then waited another 20 minutes for our food while others around us, who had arrived after we had, were served their breakfasts. Our food finally came and was great. We wolfed it down in eight minutes, and then raced to the airport. I had an egg sandwich on a bagel (I forget what it was called), which essentially was a mushroom, asparagus, scallion and cheddar omelet on your choice of bagel (I chose onion), and my friend had a frittata, which was served with very plain looking, but nonetheless delicious, potatoes. The regular coffee was good, too, although if I had time to peruse the menu, I would have ordered something more exotic.
I know there are many out there who will conclude that we missed all the "good" places. I would have liked to have had time to go to Zingerman's and some of the places that have opened along Main Street since I was a student. And we certainly will on another visit. But we had four great meals, and no regrets about our choices.