Ann Arbor, Michigan

This summer Lottie + Doof is hitting the road and exploring the Midwest. Like too many Chicagoans, I don’t leave the city often enough to visit the surrounding area. This summer I’m in search of good food and good times and I’ll be taking you along for the ride. First Stop: Ann Arbor, Michigan.

For me, Ann Arbor is synonymous with two things: the University of Michigan and Zingerman’s. I happen to care more about the later and so the main focus of our trip was getting to know the Zingerman’s empire. For those of you unfamiliar with Zingerman’s, the business started as a small deli and exploded into a food empire that includes a wonderful catalog full of gourmet products that can be delivered to your doorstep (more on Zingerman’s HERE). Having ordered many delicious things from their catalog in the past, I was excited to experience the magic in person. Bryan, my friend Katie and I set off for Michigan early one Saturday morning with the goal of arriving in time to catch the farmer’s market.

Well, we got a flat tire halfway there. After struggling to remove the tire we received a very valuable piece of advice from a friendly mechanic we called for help: Horse Kick it! Worked like a charm. We lost a couple of hours waiting at a tire shop in Hartford, MI (Thank you, Hartford!) and eventually made our way to beautiful Ann Arbor.

[My traveling companions. Don't they look like they're having fun? (Iggy Pop grew up in Ann Arbor!)]

We spent the next 24 hours eating. We went to every Zingerman’s outpost (The Roadhouse, The Deli, The Bakeshop, The Creamery, and the Coffee Shop) Yes, We completed the “Tour de Food”—and what a tour it was! The food was all excellent, but I knew it would be. What really impressed me were the people. At every single stop we were greeted by enthusiastic employees who seemed excited to help us make decisions and learn more about food. At the bakeshop we were given an impromtu tour behind the scenes and saw bakers loading loaves of bread into the ovens. We learned that in less than a year they had already baked close to 2 million loaves of bread. At the creamery we tried samples of gelatos and cheeses and I bought some seriously delicious butter. At the Roadhouse our server gave us a taste of one of the desserts we had been debating over because he didn’t want to see us coming all that way without trying it. Who are these people?! In any other circumstance they might have freaked me out. I’m always skeptical when I encounter that sort of corporate loyalty, but this was the real deal. These were people who liked their jobs and loved food. The excitement over the food was contagious and I left more in love with Zingerman’s than ever. We also left with a cooler full of cheeses, some fancy olive oils and vinegars.

[The peanut butter gelato was my favorite]

[The reuben really is fantastic.]

[Pimento cheese and bacon was a close second!)

Obviously our food consumption was dominated by Zingerman’s but we did happen upon another gem that is worth mentioning. Ann Arbor has a charming shopping arcade called Nickels Arcade and right in the middle is a small coffee shop named Comet. It is an incredibly well-designed space. The coffee is top notch and the employees were so friendly that we started to believe only nice people live in Michigan. One of them even offered to draw me a map! In addition to coffee, the shop sells some pastries and a bunch of coffee brewing equipment including fancy siphon systems from Japan and ceramic single cup drip brewers. I really fell in love with this place and would rank it among the top coffee shops I have been to in this world of ours. It is a perfect little place and I wish we had gotten to spend more time there.

All in all, it was a really fun trip and well worth the drive from Chicago. Thanks, Ann Arbor, for the good times.

Zingerman’s Deli
422 Detroit Street

Comet Coffee
16 Nickels Arcade

31 comments to “Ann Arbor, Michigan”

  1. Sarah Dawn says:

    July 6th, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Yes to Ann Arbor!

    I think the best way to tour my home town is restaurant to restaurant.

  2. Check out the summer issue of Culture for a great look at the creamery operation. Isn’t Ann Arbor, great?

  3. I am from Ann Arbor– in fact I met my partner of 30 years at Complete Cuisine– one of the original foodie destination. Sadly, it is now gone. Ann Arbor is an amazing food town. I just wanted to throw out 3 ideas for the Farmer’s Market if you go back or anyone else stops by. Roos Coffee– freshly roasted and now our favorite even though we live in NW Indiana now. http://www.roosroast.com/
    Jim Lounsbury who paints luscious landscapes and crafts birdhouses to pay his bills.
    Finally, don’t forget a uniquely handmade cookie to go with that great cup of coffee– maitelates http://www.maitelates.com:90/maitelates/index.htm
    Boy, I could go on and on. Enjoy!

  4. Katherine says:

    July 6th, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Yay Ann Arbor!! I grew up in Chicago, but live in Ann Arbor now, and love it. People don’t believe me that it’s a great place for food!! It’s very exciting to see your post :)

    Too bad you didn’t make the farmers’ market– Pilar’s Tamales is really amazing and always has a cart there. There’s also RoosRoast (only in the farmers’ market) for some excellent hot or cold brewed, locally roasted coffee. Speaking of coffee, next time you’re in town, check out Mighty Good Coffee on main street, and try their “cocoa latte” (or really any of their pour-over coffees. My favorite is the Guatemalan.) They’re pretty delicious (and have an awesome space to sit and people-watch). My one beef with Comet is that they don’t get locally roasted coffee… RoosRoast and Mighty Good both roast in Ann Arbor.

    A friend of mine bakes bread at Zingerman’s… I wonder if she was there when you toured! (She works from 4pm-12am 5 days a week)

    Oh, my goodness– and the breweries!! You’ll have to come back for Arbor Brewing Company, at least ;) Glad you had a good time!!

  5. I went to school at Michigan in Ann Arbor! I think everybody who’s spent any time in the area has a fierce loyalty to Zingerman’s. I actually worked there for a short period of time, and everybody there just loves food. Sincerely and wholly. Such a happy place. One of my favorite restaurants in the world is there too: Eve the Restaurant. Hope you get to try it sometime if you go back!

  6. as a detroit-er….i LOVE A2! so great to see it showcased here! love comet :)

  7. lots of Ann Arbor love!

  8. Glad you had such a great experience! I haven’t been back since graduation (years ago) so am super glad that Zingerman’s ships!

  9. Carolyn Manney says:

    July 6th, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Nice story! I thought I’d send you the link to the Ode to Zingermans post I wrote on my blog a few weeks ago. I worked there for a few years in my late teens and I can tell you firsthand it was a great place to work as well as eat at! They practice what they preach. http://manneytime.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/ode-to-zingermans/

  10. What a great trip. I’d love to get to Zingerman’s someday! Happy summering.

  11. I’m sweating in DC this summer and looking forward to my A2 return in a few weeks… this just made me all more nostalgic. So glad you made it to Comet, it’s one of my favorite A2 places. So is Zing’s, but sadly not on a student budget…

  12. I work in the Arcade (barber shop) where Comet coffee is. I am so glad you discovered them. Super great place!!

  13. Thanks for all of these useful comments, everyone! Glad to be adding to the list of things to do in Ann Arbor!

  14. michael donovan says:

    July 7th, 2010 at 5:46 am

    Two places I really hope you went to while in Kerrytown, but didn’t mention: Sparrow Market in the building next to the Farmer’s Market. An amazing market that would do SO well in Chicago!
    And Treasure Mart – for treasure, of course!

  15. On coffee shops: it’s a tough choice for me. The owner of Mighty Good is a personal friend, but my palate tells me that the Comet Coffee folks really care about the flavor of the coffee, are continually improving their brewing practices, and pick coffees based on taste. I try to buy local when I can, but when it comes to a conflict, I tend to go for the flavor. Which is not to say that Mighty Good, Roos, nor Zingerman’s make *bad* coffee. Not at all! Any of them are way above what you get at most coffee shops. We are cursed with too many good choices.

  16. sounds like a great start to road trip season! where’s the next stop?

  17. Oh boy, Zimmerman’s looks cool! I live in Windsor, but have never been!

    I want to do their bake-cation. I loooove baking!

  18. Ah, we just spent last Sunday in Ann Arbor since my brother-in-law and his gf live there. We went to Zingerman’s Roadhouse for dinner and it was so delicious! Husband had the best ribs of his life and I had a tasty burger with aged asiago (as suggested by the waiter) with amazing sweet potato fries. The cocktails were phenomenal and $2 off on Sundays. We had a great time. It was hard to pass up dessert at Zingerman’s, but we opted for tart frozen yogurt downtown that was pretty good. Sadly not as good as the frozen yogurt I’ve had in Chicago!

  19. Bobby Frank says:

    July 7th, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Zingerman’s does do an excellent job of hiring eager to please employees. Even though they do train their workers, there is much to learn and their are definite gaps in knowledge from some of them. They do care about quality, but the prices are tough to handle for anyone but the upper class. When they first opened up the deli, even though the prices were high for the sandwiches, the portions were huge. A fresser (large) size Rueben was very difficult to fir in ones mouth. Currently, the fresser size reuben is smaller than many others and 50-100% more in cost than a good Jewish deli in the area. Too bad.

  20. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to stumble upon your blog. Fellow Floriole and Zingerman’s fan, I will be stopping by often!

  21. i lived in ann arbor for 3 years during grad school, and loved it. the roadhouse is one of my all-time favorite places. thanks for bringing me back!

  22. I love Zingermans! They have the best ranch dressing. Thanks for the post. Being a Wolverine…and a foodie, I really enjoyed it!

  23. Actually synonymous with 3 things. University of Michigan, Zingermans and HASH BASH! See you Monday with Spumoni!

  24. I live in Ann Arbor and love Zingerman’s. Every Saturday, for years now, my friend Ann and I have been meeting at Zingerman’s for breakfast and coffee and then heading on to the Farmer’s Market.

    It’s healing for the soul.

  25. As a Chicago Barista and Coffee Blogger I am so excited that you stopped by my hometown of Ann Arbor.

    Comet Coffee is GREAT. I have been to every coffee shop in Chicago worth mentioning and Comet is better then all of them in my opinion. I am so glad you were about to check them out.

    Comet is a MUST in Ann Arbor… I go there every time my wife and I are there visiting.

    ALSO Checkout the Ugly Mug in Ypsilanti for another great coffee shop

  26. ahh zingerman’s! we just stopped there for the first time last weekend and it was dangerous! i only wish i could have toured the other locations like you did. sounds like a blast (minus the flat tire)!

  27. you should come to bloomington, in. best in the m.w.

  28. Hi Brandon, thanks for the recommendation! I have only heard good things about Bloomington so I am definitely due for a visit.

  29. Thanks for your post on Ann Arbor and Zingerman’s. Brings back lots of childhood memories eating at Zingerman’s Deli. Back then they would have all the specialty items. The chocolate cherry loaf is just amazing, as well as their staples like Paesano. Can’t get this kind of bread in Seattle– so I order from them when I get a serious craving. Glad you’re having fun in Michigan!!!

  30. zingermans and the Roadhouse are the best things ever!!!!!

  31. Just found your blog via Saveur! I live in Ann Arbor and am always writing about Zingerman’s – love love love it. Next trip be sure to try Lab coffee, Frita Batidos, and go back to the deli for Breakfast & for lunch the new TNT Cowboy Rueben!

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