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Posted on Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 10 a.m.

3 tips for dining and drinking downtown during the Ann Arbor Art Fair

By Jessica Webster

The Mega Guide: Full coverage of the 2013 Ann Arbor Art Fair


Bill's Beer Garden will be open beginning at noon each day of the Ann Arbor Art Fair.

Jessica Webster |

Art fair has hit Ann Arbor, and with it has come the crowds and the heat. Whether you're venturing downtown to enjoy the art fair or you work downtown and can't avoid it, you're probably going to be looking for refreshment while you're here.

Finding food can be a challenge during art fair. There is no shortage of fair food — gyro, chicken on skewers, elephant ears, corn dogs — but what if you're looking for a place to sit for a minute and enjoy a respite from the crowds? I've got a few suggestions.


Vellum started serving lunch this week.

Jessica Webster |

Vellum Restaurant - 209 South Main St.

Vellum is smack dab in the middle of art-fair madness, which would normally make me suggest that you stay away, but take one step inside this relatively recent addition to the Main Street restaurant lineup and the insanity of the crowded street behind you instantly evaporates.

Added bonus: Vellum started serving lunch this week. The lunch menu—with full bar and an award-winning wine list—features favorites like the pea and mint soup ($6), the Vellum burger (with egg, bacon jam, pickled jicama and mushroom sauce, $13), and a panna cotta dessert with candied bacon that is worth every calorie ($8).

Vellum serves lunch on weekdays from 11 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. Dinner is served from 5:30 - 10:30 p.m. During art fair, the bar will remain open all afternoon, Wednesday through Friday. There will be no lunch service on Saturday, but the bar will open at 5 p.m.


Of course you could always just take your pick of the art fair food court offerings.

Bill's Beer Garden, 210 S Ashley St Just steps from the western edge of the art fair sits an oasis of wine and Michigan craft beer. Usually open only in the evenings, owners Mark Hodesh and Bill Zolkowski decided to keep this parking lot beer garden open from noon to 11 p.m. for the duration of the Ann Arbor Art Fair.

Though there is no food served at Bill's Beer Garden, there are many food options within a block of the location (including Mark's Carts and the West Liberty art fair food court), and customers are encouraged to bring food with them to enjoy while they are drinking.

Bill's Beer Garden will be open from noon - 11 p.m. all four days of art fair, with a happy hour featuring $1 off all draft beer every day from noon until 7 p.m.

Babo, 403 Washington St.

Just a block away from all of the art fair action is a market and eatery reminiscent of New York's Dean & Deluca. Run by savvy Ann Arbor restauratuer Sava Lelcaj, Babo has a good mix of fresh produce, soups, made-to-order sandwiches, prepared foods, specialty grocery, pastries, and a coffee bar serving Ugly Mug roast prepared by skilled baristas.

You can take your order to go, or grab a seat at one of the long communal tables in the market.

Babo is open from 8 a.m. - 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and Sunday from 9 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Jessica Webster leads the Food & Grocery section for, a part of the MLive Media Group. Reach her at You also can follow her on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 4:27 a.m.

I would highly suggest Sava's on State----they have a somewhat prepared menu for the Art Fair--service is fairly quick---food is consistently excellent---air conditioning inside----lots of seating----in the middle of state area art fair goers---relaxing after the stress of Wandering the Art fair----


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 1:47 p.m.

@BobbyJohn - Read the report. And read the previous ones. Nothing wrong with food safety there... Maybe an old building that needs repairs, but that's it.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 6:56 a.m.

But very poor grades on the county health inspection

An Arborigine

Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 2:11 a.m.

Eat your heart out, but don't drink, the boys are lookin' for you.


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 7:28 p.m.

My husband and I took food from Mark's Carts to Bill's Beer Garden last night after spending a non-crowded 2 hours at the Art Fair. It was a very enjoyable evening and not too hot at 7 pm. Bill's was busy but not overly crowded. We got there right at 9 pm and it was still empty but filled up in the next hour.


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 6:08 p.m.

Great tips. I've often found the restaurants are pretty slow during art fairs so a good time to go. I'm sitting outside at Red Hawk right now. I'll definitely hit Bill's at some point and possibly Vellum for dinner. I love art fairs and's daly tips.


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 5:57 p.m.

Should that be "bacon jam" there?

Jessica Webster

Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 6:03 p.m.

What? You've never had bacon kam? Thanks - made that edit.


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 5 p.m.

Anyone who goes to the Art Fair in this heat, would do well to seek competent psychiatric help... you must be nuts!


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 4:50 p.m.

The Vellum Burger is AMAZING! Its a little pretentious, but it fits right in on Main Street.


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 8:13 p.m.

Vinology sliders (you get three small burgers) are great.

Cole Bertsos

Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 5:54 p.m.

I'm not a meat-eater myself, but i've heard fellow reporter Ben Freed RAVE about the burgers at Vinology as well.

Jessica Webster

Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 3:50 p.m.

@SpaghettiMonsters - I've recommended Vellum twice now, and here's why: 1. They're new this year, and might not be familiar to people who don't come downtown often. 2. The restaurant is getting national attention for its imaginative young chef ( and its deep wine list ( 3. They've come a long way in the short time that they've been open. I was there for the first time during the first 6 weeks they were open, and my initial experience was, frankly, disappointing. Subsequent visits have proven to me that processes in the restaurant have tightened up considerably, and Chef Roumanis is listening to feedback from customers.


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 1:30 a.m.

There ARE many other restaurants in town, though, and FAR more practical recommendations during Art Fair. Vellum isn't exactly well known for being speedy...


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 3:15 p.m.

Definitely visit Mark's Carts if you want to get away from the crowds - we stopped there last night for some Hut-K-Chaat and were surprised to find that it was pretty quiet. It seems that only the townies are aware of its presence.


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 3:11 p.m.

The nice restaurants on Liberty just west of Main are pretty much taken out of service by the carnival-style food court they put right front of their places of business - every year. You'd think they'd rotate that so as not to be a permanent burden on that particular block. But it isn't about them, it's about the tourists.


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 9:07 p.m.

Years ago, Pacific Rim would close for Art Fair week. We once some of the owners on vacation.


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 6:10 p.m.

@Jake - agreed. The food court sort of ruins the ambiance of the entire block. Who would want to eat out on the sidewalk with that going on next to them?


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 5:25 p.m.

West End Grill has typically closed for Art Fair - unless something has changed recently, they probably still do.

Jake C

Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 4:24 p.m.

If there was a Coney Island on that corner, I'd be be inclined to agree with you. But personally, I think the people looking for a quick $5 Gyro, elephant ear, or coney dog probably aren't taking a lot of business away from the upscale likes of Grange or Pacific Rim. If their business declines during Art Fair, I'm sure it would have far more to do with the general traffic & parking situation than a carnival food cart set up near their stores.

Jessica Webster

Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 3:38 p.m.

I noticed that too, Brad. I wonder how much it hurts places like West End Grill, Grange, Pacific Rim, and even Old Town.


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

Why does keep pushing Vellum?


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 2:33 p.m.

I have one tip: Don't. :-) All of the restaurants will be there next week.