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Posted on Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

Mani Osteria owner plans to open new Mexican restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor

By Lizzy Alfs


Owner Adam Baru, left, and chef Brendan McCall inside the space next to Mani that is being converted into a Mexican restaurant.

Steve Pepple |

Mani Osteria & Bar owner Adam Baru plans to get back to his restaurant roots after signing a deal last week to open a Mexican restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor.

The location: the vacant 2,600-square-foot space neighboring Mani at the corner of East Liberty and South Division streets. The building is known to longtime Ann Arbor residents as the former Handicraft Furniture.

Baru said the food at the yet-to-be-named “modern Mexican” restaurant will be the equivalent of what he’s done with pizza at Mani: fresh and light, and not covered in sauces and cheese.

“We’re taking traditional Mexican street food, such as tacos, guacamole, salsas, antojitos…and just taking them and doing sort of our modern take on those items,” he said.

Adam_Baru_Mani Osteria.jpg

Adam Baru pictured inside Mani Osteria on East Liberty Street.

Melanie Maxwell |

The food will be made from scratch — including the corn tortillas — using all fresh produce and sourcing locally when possible. It’s a food concept Baru knows well: He makes frequent trips to Mexico and he also opened a large Mexican restaurant in Philadelphia for Iron Chef’s Jose Garces.

“My prior experience is running a Mexican restaurant of similar quality and concept,” he said. “Mani was brand new to me and a leap of faith; I feel this is a cuisine and a type of operation I’ve done before.”

He added: “The other piece of it is obviously, from 10 years of going down to Mexico to visit my wife’s family, I obviously have a lot of menu ideas and inspiration from traveling down there.”

Baru is opening the Mexican restaurant with Mani chef Brendan McCall, who will oversee culinary at both restaurants.

He hopes to start construction by the end of June and is looking at a three-month timeline once he gets liquor license and site plan approval. He’ll also hire a few dozen employees, while some current Mani employees will transfer or work at both restaurants. He’s using the same contractor, architect and designer as Mani, so he said the new restaurant will have a similar look and feel.

Baru and McCall are also planning to take a trip to Mexico later this month to get design ideas, food inspiration and hopefully a name for the new restaurant.

Baru is an Ann Arbor native who moved back to Ann Arbor to open Mani last year. After one year in business, the restaurant has flourished within the Ann Arbor community and also has been recognized as one of Metro Detroit’s best new restaurants.

He said the intent from the beginning was to take on additional projects in the area if he found success with Mani.

The convenience of having the two restaurants next door to each other — and sharing an interior wall — is what pushed him to sign the lease. He can oversee operations at both restaurants, which is something he said his essential to his success.

“(Ann Arbor is) the community I want to work in, and I’ve always said that the reason why I would want to open more (restaurants) is it creates opportunity,” he said. “It creates opportunity for me and it creates opportunities for those people who have worked so hard at Mani.”

He added: “The community has been unbelievably supportive of (Mani), and I think once we get this new Mexican concept up and running, they’ll find there’s a lot of similar spirit between the two.”

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



Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 7:57 p.m.

love mani, love needed new restaurants in town. now we just need a place to get a good healthy and hearty salad.


Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 5:40 p.m.

who is the architect, contractor, and designer?


Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 5:16 p.m.

Tios schmios!

the other guy

Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 4:24 p.m.

I still miss La Pinata.

Aaron Mercer

Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

I'll believe it when I see it (taste it?). Other than TMAZ Taqueria, no good Mexican food exists in Washtenaw county. Maybe it's because we're just too far from Mexico...


Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 6:45 p.m.

Actually , although it's no substitute for the kind of thing adam baru presumably will do, TAQUERIA LA FIESTA is a nice and authentic ( although with a modest limited menu) family run place on Packard just east of carpenter. their hibiscus ice tea is especially wonderful.


Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 4:43 p.m.

Agreed. Sabor has a great pozole. You must try Dos Hermanos on the weekends. their taco stand is numero uno. Best in the area. also fresh pork rinds.


Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

Finally a proper Mexican restaurant...

Josh Thiele

Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 2:29 p.m.

If the new place will have the same look and feel as Mani, does that mean they'll hire an incredibly beautiful hostess with bangs and great style to greet me when I walk in? I sure hope so.


Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

I would just be happy with some decent Tex Mex...LOL! Haven't seen any here yet. Truthfully though, fresh, local, healthy sounds even better! Some of the tastiest, freshest, food I had has been along the coast in Mexico. Can't wait!

Ron Granger

Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

That sounds expensive! If I want great mexican, with great service, in a nice environment, I'll go to Prickly Pear. For all else, Taco King is the new King of this town.


Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 12:39 p.m.

After making a special trip to chicago for the tasting menu at Rick Bayliss' "topolobambo" ( after he won "top chef masters") our sense of mexican foods' variety and wonderfulness greatly increased. we have high hopes that baru's new venture will reinforce this happy perception, given the 'mani' precedent and his past involvement with jose garces.


Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.

YEEEESSSSSSS! Finally a Mexican place that isn't trash food. I can't tell you how excited I am for this.


Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 11:32 a.m.

Right on Adam & Team... quite a way to celebrate your 1-year anniversary. As if the comments below weren't a strong enough indication, know that the cities' diners are anxious and excited.


Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 12:04 a.m.

I'm hoping the corn tortillas are 100% corn so they are gluten-free! I loved going to Mani before I was diagnosed with celiac disease, and miss eating those pizzas. It would be great if this new restaurant has gluten free offerings.


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 11:55 p.m.

Please Please Please Please...consider some cuisine from from the coastal regions...i.e., seafood! It would be so nice to have something besides the typical burrito/taco/enchilada selection...Tikin-Xic for example. Really excited though. Can't wait to try it.

Lynn Liston

Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 2:13 p.m.



Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 11:25 p.m.

I'm happy to hear this. Mani has been a good and creative addition to the regular downtown restaurants.

Jay Thomas

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 11:04 p.m.

I always love to check in here on to see the new restaurant of the day.;)

Ellis Freatman

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 10:59 p.m.

This is great news for different reasons. I expect the food will be great. I've eaten at Mani on numerous occasions, and never been disappointed. I will bet the food and service at the new place will be excellent as well. This is also important for the stability of the Liberty Street area. Another successful business can only help to keep that area vibrant.

Lynn Liston

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 10:06 p.m.

This is great news for the downtown area. Mexican cuisine is diverse and delicious and it's wonderful to hear about a locally-owned, unique business filling that location. Can't wait...

Sofia Toti

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 9:11 p.m.

Ooops, I meant beeswing!

Sofia Toti

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 9:10 p.m.

lindsay erin has a good thought there; Northern New Mexican food is intriguing. & can be naturally gluten-free. (Posole....)


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 9 p.m.

Outstanding news!! Mani's has some of the best food in Ann Arbor. I'm confident Adam will do the same with Mexican. Fantastic!!


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 8:52 p.m.

In December 2011 I was visited by former Ann Arborites who wanted to try a new restaurant. I suggested Mani Osteria without having been there. I felt some anxiety about possible disappointment. I, instead, felt delighted. The flavor of the pickled cherry tomatoes as a part of a novel approach to bruschetta, along with other small yet explodingly flavorful offerings permanently informs my standard for something new and better. My mouth waters as I consider what the new Mexican tastes will be this Fall.


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 8:45 p.m.

Here's a thought---I have spent much time in northern New Mexico. They have a unique take on food, the chiles are select and roasted, the red and the green have complex flavors. A great Mexican style restaurant using these kind of flavors and margaritas using real lime juice, not the usual mixes could be a wonderful addition to this area--Oh, bring it on!


Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

I'd rather not see another "Americanized" Mexican place.


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 8:14 p.m.

"fresh and light, and not covered in sauces and cheese." Whoops! Lost me there...I would LOVE a MexTex restaurant, with a lot of things covered in sauces and cheese.


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 9:50 p.m.

Covered in sauces and cheese = Americanized pseudo-Mexican food. Sounds like Baru has the right idea. Can't wait to try the new place.


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 8:50 p.m.

Los Amigos in Briarwood Circle is waiting for you. They do a pretty solid Tex-Mex.

lindsay erin

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 8:09 p.m.

I hope the owner considers developing a gluten-free menu at their new restaurant, especially considering that many ingredients used in traditional Mexican food are naturally gluten free (excluding flour tortillas). Mani's menu looks so delicious and it's such a tease for me!


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

If this new venture is as good as mani has always been this is wonderful news, as there is a real dearth of good mexican food hereabouts ( beyond the tex -mex standards).


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 7:41 p.m.

Good Mexican food finally comes to downtown Ann Arbor. How long have we waited for this day?


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 7:37 p.m.

Oo, we love Mani...can't wait to try the new place! We'll always love Taquerias (and their awesome price-points), but a this new concept sounds fun.


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 7:25 p.m.

Ann Arbor needs a good Mexican restaurant that serves multiple types of tacos e.g. Chorizo, Trip, Lingua, Beefhead, El Pastor etc. ceviche. I am sick of ground beef tacos and nachos.


Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 1:26 p.m.

*shameless plug* Sounds like you should try Tmaz Taqueria; Chorizo, El Pastor, Lengua, etc. Not much of a restaurant per se, but a pretty good taqueria none the less.


Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 12:37 a.m.

I'm always excited about the food at Sabor Latino, because I've usually abandoned hope of it ever arriving at my table by the time it gets there.


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 9:53 p.m.

Really? Sabor Latino? If you're into that sort of thing, I guess. I've never found their food to be all that exciting.


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 9:41 p.m.

Man, what horrible suggestions. :P SABOR LATINO! Sheesh, people.


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 8:19 p.m.

Try Taqueria La Fiesta out at Carpenter and Packard


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 7:54 p.m.

I didn't see tongue, tripe or brains on Chela's menu when I went there, but their beef and chorizo were excellent.


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

Chela's just opened on Maple at Liberty. Multiple types of tacos and other authentic Mexican fare. Not another Taco Bell.


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 7:35 p.m.

Try Taco King on's a bare-bones setup, but SO GOOD. Try the Pastor tacos, they are dynamite and $1.50 each.