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Posted on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 10:06 a.m.

Cafe Zola owners opening new restaurant on Washtenaw Avenue

By Lizzy Alfs


The owners of Cafe Zola in downtown Ann Arbor are opening a new restaurant on Washtenaw Avenue this year. file photo

The owners of a popular downtown Ann Arbor cafe plan to open a new restaurant on Washtenaw Avenue this year, Concentrate Media reports.

Cafe Zola owners Hediye Batu and Alan Zakalik signed a lease for space in Arbor Hills Crossing, the under-construction shopping center at 3000 Washtenaw Avenue.

Although they don’t have an official name for the new restaurant, Zakalik told Concentrate Media that it will be similar to Cafe Zola — which opened downtown in March 1996. Cafe Zola’s menu is influenced by French, Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, according to its website. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The Arbor Hills Crossing project broke ground in June and construction on the four-building, 100,000-square-foot development has been moving quickly. Max Reiswerg of Illinois-based North Shore Properties Group, the company handling leasing at Arbor Hills, said the project is scheduled to open on Aug. 22. He said the buildings are almost fully leased, including several restaurants, retail stores and about 10,000 square feet of second-floor office space.

The only other tenant that has been announced so far is Hot Mama, an upscale nationally recognized boutique.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:05 p.m.

The food at Zola's is great but the decibel level is way too high to enjoy a meal or have a conversation. They need acoustical baffles.

Ryan Munson

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:35 a.m.

This area is a mixture, but I think some people are underestimating the wealth around here. I think many will be attracted to these types of stores and I am pretty sure the developers did some market studies or this would not be profitable. Ann Arbor Hills is right across the street for one. I am a 2 minute walk to Whole Foods myself. I moved here because of 3 things: Proximity to work. Shops I like. The incredible access to parks and recreation.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:11 a.m.

I like Cafe Zola's food, but their prices make it an occasional treat, not a regular place. I don't think their current price structure would be successful in this location. I imagine they'll have to bring it down a little bit.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:08 a.m.

Great restaurant -- great food and service. Look forward to the new venue.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:36 a.m.

Tough for me to give Hedi a second chance after she had a poor hostess call me and others within hours of our NYE reservations to tell us the reservations had been canceled. I was given Hedi's number by the manager but was hung up on within 1 minute of the conversation starting (she suggested compensation would be possible, I asked how much, she said "I'm not negotiating on the phone" and hung up). Classy.

Anonymous Commentor

Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 10:35 p.m.

I doubt I'll give this place a chance. The food at Zola's is good, but the service has been bad every single time I've eaten there.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 10:22 p.m.

To Arbor Hills Landlords and tenants, Careful of your demographics! I live near the new development, but don't think I've ever been in Cafe Zola. Just too pricy. Brooks Brothers? Kind of unattainable. Again, you have a bunch of Section 8 housing near you and Title 1 schools. Outlet- type stores maybe more like it. And then some modest Mom and Pop restaurants would be nice.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:44 p.m.

Section 8 is generally done nowadays using a voucher system. Landlords can choose to accept section 8 vouchers or not. As for other public housing, the city has actually done a pretty decent job of spreading it out. The SE of AA is demographically the lowest income area, but you don't have to go very far to find very high income areas. Arbor Crossing, as pointed out is a stone's throw from Burn's Park, Geddes Rd, and a large crop of students with disposable income. This side of town already has a huge number of Family restaurants and low cost stores, any more wouldn't be good. There are only so many chili's, red robins, IHOP's, and 5 belows.

Frustrated in A2

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 6:03 a.m.

The neighborhood immediately north of this location is one of the wealthiest in the city limits. I also can't think of any section 8 housing real close by in any direction.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:38 a.m.

Umm, have you looked at the Whole Foods parking lot lately?


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 9:40 p.m.

Excellent! Love Zola (Tues-Thursday anyway...the crowds/noise, egads!) Very interested to see what they come up with :O)


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 8:21 p.m.

Wasn't Nordstrom Rack going in here too?


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 9:15 p.m.

"more or less across the street" = about half a mile east

Robert Gordon

Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 9:03 p.m.

Karen, Nordstrom Rack is going in at the old Circuit City space in Arborland, more or less across the street


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 7:49 p.m.

Is Trader Joe's going to move to Arbor Hills Crossing?


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 10:05 p.m.

No... too much parking!


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 7:43 p.m.

I think the old architecture and brick walls in Zola are nice, but the noise levels are tremendous when it's crowded, such as Sunday mornings. Service when I've been there is hit and miss, sometimes adequate, and sometimes terrible. When it's crowded, you literally can't have a conversation with your dining companion, and the staff are overworked as well. Perhaps the Wash Ave location will be a bit quieter. No idea if the staff will improve. Tough in a college town with students as wait staff. They are not professionals, just part-timers who, in some cases, have no idea what "service" means, or what a genuine demeanor is about, rather than arrogance or phoniness.

Scott Reed

Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 5:22 p.m.

Not sure this is a good idea. Do we really need more strip mall destinations? This part of Ann Arbor along Washtenaw is not walkable and should be abandoned.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 10:24 p.m.

Should be abandoned? Huh?


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 7:44 p.m.

I agree that this part of Wash Ave is already very congested. I don't know what the plans are for traffic control and a light at Platt and Wash is needed so people can make left turns into this new strip mall.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 6:54 p.m.

By that same logic Whole Foods should shut down, the mall and the other 90% of the city.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 4:52 p.m.

Ayn Rand-inspired?


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 6:12 p.m.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 4:36 p.m.

Super excited. I love Zola but going downtown and braving Zola's tiny building and always busy atmosphere is tough. I disagree though that Zola suffers from a service problem. It suffers from a space problem, the servers I have always found to be very prompt. Cafe Felix on the other hand...


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

Go Navy - I'm not sure we aren't agreeing. But being incredibly busy does not make the waitstaff service poor. Usually I do go on Sunday's with a reservation. But with a restaurant stretched so far beyond capacity, you can't expect a server to dote on you. If they weren't busy and were ignoring you, that is bad service.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 5:40 p.m.

You need to go at the right time. Show up for Sunday brunch when everybody else does, and you can expect to wait.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 4:18 p.m.

Great news. Love Zola. An ann arbor original.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 3:55 p.m.

hopefully it will have better service than the downtown Zolas...

Frustrated in A2

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 6 a.m.

I've never eaten there. The one time I tried to go they had a 45 minute wait for breakfast so I continued on my.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 7:39 p.m.

Agree with seeking sun.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 7:26 p.m.

Actually eat downtown quite a bit. Zola's service is PAINFULLY slow. You really shouldn't need to block out two hours to have lunch.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 3:41 p.m.

Interesting choice - I expected to see big chains go in there. I like their food well enough, but never go because the service is insufferable.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 5:01 p.m.

I know several guys who work downtown and will occasionally go there for lunch only because they say the female servers are good looking. Good looking, but not very nice.

Lizzy Alfs

Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 4:18 p.m.

Here is a quote from Max (I spoke with him this morning) that touches on the chain part: "We're working on three restaurnats and we want them all to be very unique and certainly, not to criticize chains, but we'll leave the chains to other venues."


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 3:59 p.m.

I agree completely. Zola's Turkish Eggs is one of my favorite dishes in town, but I've been going without for years now because I can not stand poor service, and at Zola it is terrible every single time. Hopefully the new place is better.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 3:33 p.m.

At this point, all I care about is when they are putting a traffic light in at Platt and Washtenaw. The sooner the better. It would be nice is this was done prior to the shops opening. Any idea when this might happen?


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 6:10 p.m.

People have been conditioned for 50 years to want cheap, disposable sprawl, Scott. They can't help themselves, nor can they break out of it on their own. They have to be shocked out of it. It will continue until the first few oil shocks wake people up.

Scott Reed

Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 5:29 p.m.

I think that part of Ann Arbor is low-density and totally dependent on car travel, and hence low-value. It would not be a good idea to invest money expanding the road there; it would only make the area more pedestrian-hostile than it already is. By expanding roads there, the city would only encourage more sprawl, and create more places not worth caring about.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 4:58 p.m.

Yeah, but think about it. Without a light there no one can turn left onto or off of Platt. BTW - it is in the plan it's just a matter of when they do it. What they really need to do is expand Washtenaw.....and it should have been done years ago. It don't know what kind of city planning goes into ideas like this where they think they can add the Whole Foods strip mall and another across the street without planning for the added traffic.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 4:38 p.m.

I sure hope not. Another light to slow down the already slow moving traffic on Washtenaw Ave.

Lizzy Alfs

Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 3:18 p.m.

Just so people know, I've been trying to get confirmation from tenants to figure out who else is slated to open here. The developers are expecting to release a tenant list sometime soon - although I'm unsure when that will happen. Real estate sources say stores like Lululemon Athletica, Anthropologie and Brooks Brothers have been circling the market and could be opening here. Max Reiswerg told me it's likely that in addition to Zola, two other restaurants will be opening. He said they both are popular local/regional players. I'm working on getting confirmation on one of those -- hopefully this week!


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 4:24 p.m.

Lululemon ... no thanks. They can take their overpriced Ayn Rand-inspired junk elsewhere.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 4:12 p.m.

Great news. But I hope this revitalization will spread eastward. It gets sadder and sadder the further east you go.