Sava's moves across street to former Zanzibar spot in downtown Ann Arbor, expands menu
That’s what Sava Lelcaj says when asked what sets her restaurant, Sava’s, apart from everyone else.
But wouldn’t all restaurateurs say their places have great service?
She elaborates: “It’s not just great service; it’s a great atmosphere. We have a fun, amazing staff of characters who just provide our customers with an awesome experience.”
(One example of fun: The servers wear t-shirts designed to look like formal attire.)
The evidence would seem to back her assertions up. At the cafÃ©’s original incarnation, which opened in 2007 at 211 S. State (“the worst possible location,” she notes), all 45 seats were routinely full and lines sometimes stretched around the block.
Now that the restaurant has moved into a much larger space across the street at 216 S. State, former site of Zanzibar, there are no signs that business is slowing down.
“We’ve been open here for just a couple weeks but the feedback’s already been great,” she says.
In fact, word-of-mouth has always played a central role in the success of Sava’s (“Everyone found out about us and we needed to expand”), but ask Sava to describe her clientele and the word you get is “eclectic.”
“We get everyone here,” she says. “Suits and students, people of all ages. We are open to anyone and everyone.”
The menu reflects this diversity: Sava’s offers a wide range of plates by self-taught cook Sava—burgers, salads, paninis, wraps, pasta, seafood—at different price points, and the cafÃ© now also features entrees, which were not part of the menu at the old location.
Any of these sound good? Calamari with jalapeno aioli. Four-cheese “inside out” cheeseburger (the cheese is cooked into the patty). Caribbean fish tacos (cod with pineapple, lime, cilantro). Angel hair pasta with lobster, shrimp, and saffron butter. Roasted duck breast with fig compote. Mac and cheese with chorizo sausage.
All of these dishes and more are available, at prices ranging from $2.99 (soup of the day) to $15.99 (for the balsamic rib eye and mashed potatoes), making it an affordable outing for most budgets. (For even tighter budgets, Mondays are $1 burger nights.)
Like an increasing number of places around town, Sava’s strives to use local products as much as possible, including beef from Knight’s, coffee from Mighty Good, and condiments like Clancy’s Fancy hot sauce. Sava’s also offers a back room that can be rented out for private parties and a catering service.
The interior of the restaurant, however, remains a work in progress: The upper level is still sparse but open to those who want to spread out more or work on their laptops. The big jungle-themed murals from Zanzibar are gone, painted over with an even, pleasant color, but wall decorations sit on the floor, waiting to be hung. And the bar remains dry until the wheels of bureaucracy churn out a liquor license, which Sava anticipates will be sometime around January.
For now, Sava’s loyal and growing cult of patrons will have to content themselves with good food and the aforementioned great atmosphere. And that’s not so bad, is it?
Sava's, 216 S. State St., is open seven days, 8am to midnight.
David Bardallis is a freelance writer and editor, blogger, bon vivant, and man about town. Visit his Web site, DavidBardallis.com, to engage his services or read his latest ramblings insights.