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Posted on Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.

4 reasons to be grateful for the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti food scene

By Jessica Webster


I'm grateful for The Wurst Bar in Ypsilanti. Their crazy burgers, draft beer list and Wednesday trivia nights are a whole lot of fun.

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and the last of the leftovers have finally left my fridge. Our national day of thanks may be behind us, but I’m not even close to being done with feeling thankful.

I was more than a little inspired by a recent post by anonymous local food blogger A2Gastroboy when I set out to write this. He and I have never knowingly crossed paths, but our Foursquare check-in histories seem to indicate that we both love many of the same restaurants.

A2Gastroboy has some great ideas about how to pay it back during this season of giving (and of thanks), but his post got me to thinking about how incredibly lucky we are.

I'm thankful that the Stadium Bridges have finally reopened. I’m thankful that my apple-cider-brined turkey — the first Thanksgiving turkey I’ve been in charge of from beginning to end — turned out so delicious. And I am thankful for all the great food and drinks available in Ann Arbor.

A great place to buy wine I'm no oenophile, but I do love a good bottle of wine, so I am grateful that we’ve got passionate wine experts standing by to make recommendations.

Whether I'm planning a meal and want the perfect wine pairing, or I’m heading to a friend’s and need a hostess gift, I don’t need to look far for good advice. Mary at Everyday Wines, Rebecca at Busch's on Main Street, Jorge at the Produce Station, and everyone in Morgan & York and Plum Market wine sections have nearly always steered me right.


The Posion de Bruja at Lena in Ann Arbor.

Jessica Webster |

A good cocktail Much has been written about the burgeoning local craft cocktail scene, and I don’t mean to jump on the bandwagon… but there are some pretty great drinks to be had out there these days.

Some of them, like the French 75 at Grange Kitchen & Bar on Washington St., are light and bubbly — the perfect start to a meal. Others, like the Posion de Bruja at Lena — a concoction of mezcal, Midori, Cointreau, agave nectar, honey, lime and avocado — are heavy enough to feel like a meal all by themselves.

The Ypsilanti food scene Ypsilanti has always had good food. Dalat for Vietnamese, La Casita or La Fiesta for Mexican, or Sidetrack for an award-winning burger. I love Ypsi for the anachronistic food experiences. If I want to step back in time, I can pull in to the Chick-Inn for a Paul Bunyan burger, delicious onion rings and a chocolate-strawberry milkshake. Or head over to Bill’s Drive-in for a delicious coney dog and a frosty, homemade root beer. And there’s always Haab’s for a hearty slab of ribs and a strong cocktail.

But there are some new kids in town bringing a new level of excitement and vitality to Ypsilanti. Try Red Rock Downtown Barbecue on Michigan Avenue for a pretty impressive array of meats. Or cross the street to the bright, airy, light-filled Bona Sera, where “Wonder Woman” and “Bad Fairy” are cooking up tasty delights like their porchetta banh mi and imaginative salads.

Also new to Ypsilanti this year is the Wurst Bar. I can’t decide whether I’m more impressed with the list of Michigan craft beers on draft or the crazy hamburgers they dream up. Recent mind-blowingly weird burgers include their “Surf on Surf on Turf butter burger:” ground filet mignon topped with escargot, garlic and parsley compound butter, lobster pate and puff pastry; and the “Deconstructed Monte Cristo Burger:” cinnamon custard brioche French toast bun, ham, turkey, Swiss & cheddar with a house-made caramel apple sage compote. Sound crazy? Just a little. But it’s also delicious.

Chef Brendan McCall This column idea came to me as I was tasting one of McCall’s latest creations over the weekend — a small plate of cappelletti pasta at Mani Osteria. Delicate little pasta dumplings were filled with a charred eggplant puree, topped with a very light cream sauce and tossed with frizzled sage, red pepper flakes and broccolini. I’ve eaten it three times in the past week and still dream about it. It was that good.

McCall runs a tight ship in the Mani kitchen, and whether it’s a seasonal soup, a perfectly constructed Caesar salad or a crusty pizza, I often find myself reacting this way to his food.

If you go, try to get a table in the back of the room — your best bet is the counter along the kitchen. Watch McCall inspect each plate before it heads out to a hungry diner. That level of attention to detail is why Mani is getting national attention.

He’ll also be overseeing the kitchen at Isalita, Mani owner Adam Baru’s adjacent Mexican restaurant, slated to open toward the end of December. I can’t wait.

Jessica Webster leads the Food & Grocery section for Reach her at You also can follow her on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 3:42 p.m.

For what it is worth, if you are ever out in Troy stop into Hippos at 15 mile(maple) and Rochester Road. They have the best Chicago Dogs in the state.


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

Going to try Wurst bar tonight...can't wait...looks awesome!!


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 9:38 p.m.

I'd add Last Word and Raven's as good cocktail places. Maybe a little too retro, but def good. Also The Bar at Braun Court... I'm soooo pumped for Isalita. We really need a legit Mexican place here in A2. I had hopes for Lena (I know, not truly Mexican) but have been disappointed. Don't get me started on Tio's.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 4:49 p.m.

I worked at Tios for years....I wonder if they still use microwaves to heat ALL of their food?


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 3:39 p.m.

You can bring n your own beer/liqour at La Fiesta. She has the fixins to make a margaritta in house if you bring your own tequlla.

Charley Sullivan

Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 4:42 p.m.

Come to Ypsi and hit La Fiesta Mexicana. Try either the mole or the puerco in salsa verde, and you'll realize there's some pretty good Mexican food available to you.


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 3:25 a.m.

I think that Fiesta Mexicana and it's cousin, Taqueria la Fiesta, serve good Mexican food. But if you are seeking the "mexican restaurant bar" environment, they won't do it for you. Lena is a disappointment all around. We need some good and authentic Cuban food in this town.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 8:43 p.m.

That Wurst is a pretty good spot. Wish the rest of the family felt that way. My kids like plain jane hot dogs, I'd go more often if they served the curve.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.

They have a pretty good palate, especially my oldest, but they just like a hot dog ketchup is all. Not really sure why they wouldn't serve a koegel or Dearborn dog, they are locally made.

Charley Sullivan

Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 4:40 p.m.

Now is the time to educate your kid's palates, and not give into the rush for chicken nuggets, as tempting as we all know that is.

Julie Baker

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 8:18 p.m.

Southerner Burger at Wurst Bar, ftw!

Linda Peck

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 8:18 p.m.

This is a very impressive array you have laid out for us to try! The Ann Arbor-Ypsi food scene is becoming so modern, so sophisticated.

Ron Granger

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 9:52 p.m.

I want a quint from Blimpy's, hold the modern.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 12:52 p.m.

Jessica, thanks for highlighting some of the great eating spots in Ypsi. Beezy's is another really good one--open for breakfast and lunch every day.

Jessica Webster

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 7:57 p.m.

I couldn't agree more! I had originally included Beezy's in my first draft, but since the rest of the Ypsi restaurants I listed were new, I cut that part out. Here's what I wrote: "Over at Beezy's, Bee Roll keeps turning out quality soups, sandwiches and breakfast specials, all made with love and locally-sourced ingredients, when possible."