Eat comes into its own, offering creative and quality take-out fare
You just walked in from work on a hectic weeknight and are staring at an empty refrigerator while your kids scream, "What's for dinner? I'm starving!" To their astonishment, you respond that you'll be serving coq au vin, a roasted vegetable salad, grilled polenta and brownies for dessert — and that it will be ready in 20 minutes.
This scenario is now reality, thanks to an innovative new carry-out option, eat, which opened in November, and began as one of Mark's Carts before graduating into its own space.
Owners Helen Harding and Blake Reetz have spruced up the building, adding a giant fork pointing to the word "eat" on the exterior and painting the interior walls a warm green. They've provided a small table along with some stools for eating at the counter, though this is primarily a carry-out space.
1906 Packard, Ann Arbor
- Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
- Plastic: American Express, Visa, Mastercard, Discover.
- Liquor: No.
- Prices: Inexpensive to moderate. Sandwiches are $7-$8. Entrees are $16.
- Value: Very good.
- Noise level: Quiet.
- Wheelchair access: Yes.
Eat specializes in healthful, locally grown food, and you feel better about yourself just reading the menu. Each day there are new specialties, consisting of hearty main-course comfort food, in the "supper" category, soups, sandwiches, salads and side dishes.
The number of vegetarian options varies, depending on the day's menu. On our first visit, there were several main-course choices, hearty entrees that could satisfy a vegetarian who craves something more substantial than just a salad or a side of vegetables. But on the second visit, there were no vegetarian meal entrees except for the grilled eggplant sandwich, so if you shun meat, it's best to check the menu in advance.
The vegetables — and the innovative way they were prepared — provided most of the highlights. This started with the roasted vegetable salad, where leafy greens along with parsnips, potatoes and chunks of delicious beets and goat cheese were tossed in a slightly sweet balsamic vinaigrette dressing. The house salad resembled a Caesar, with fresh shaved parmesan and homemade croutons.
I could have made a meal of the vegetables that accompanied the coq au vin, especially the fresh spinach. The vegetarian sandwich of the day, grilled eggplant, was wonderful. I especially liked the addition of the tomato jam, with a sweetness that resembled chutney and nicely complemented the eggplant.
The melding of grilled polenta with tomato ragout also made for a great dish. Tomatoes also were a standout in the dense, delicious tomato bisque soup that came with thick, crunchy homemade croutons.
Of all the meat dishes we ordered, the Korean barbecue beef was my favorite. Served on a fresh Avalon bun, the Asian seasonings brought life to the wonderful beef. I enjoyed the addition of kimchi, which added a crunchy element.
On my first visit, the server was giving away ginger cookies that had an appealing sugary sweetness along with a soft texture. As a chocoholic, though, I preferred the fudgy brownies which tasted just-baked. And I happily took the last chewy chocolate chip cookie on my second visit.
Though every dish we sampled was clearly made with the highest quality ingredients, there were some weaknesses. The bread that accompanied the entrees didn't taste fresh. The chicken in the coq au vin seemed fatty, and the sauce didn't include the mushrooms that were part of the menu description. The grilled chicken salad was a healthful but bland.
You pay for the high quality here. While sandwiches are in the $8 range, chips are extra, and main courses, also served a la carte, are $16.
The place was staffed with young people who brimmed with cheerful enthusiasm. My food was ready when I arrived on both visits.
Not everything on the menu is a hit, but I have confidence that the staff of this place want to get it right. With further tweaking on some of the items, eat, in offering such a variety of unusual, healthful items that surpass many traditional carry-out establishments , has the potential to resonate with the Ann Arbor clientele.
Julie Halpert reviews restaurants for AnnArbor.com.