Produce Station offering delicious grilled, prepared foods under new chef
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Whenever I stop by The Produce Station on a warm weather weekday, I'm seduced by the aroma of the chef grilling the day's specialties. Five days a week at lunchtime, a few different freshly grilled dishes are offered that are listed on the store's website. That's in addition to a plethora of prepared food inside the store.
The Produce Station's general manager, Andrew Gorsuch, recently hired a new chef, Steven Grostick, former executive chef at Five Lakes Grill in Milford, to "infuse Michigan seasonality in all of our prepared foods in the store." Gorsuch said he was impressed by Grostick's passion for Michigan food, and what Grostick refers to as "Midwest comfort cuisine."
1629 S. State St., Ann Arbor
- Hours: Grill open 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday. Store hours: Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
- Plastic: Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Discover
- Prices: Moderate.
- Noise level: Medium.
- Wheelchair access:Yes.
What I most appreciate with all the dishes we sampled was the use of the highest quality ingredients. This transforms what would be ordinary dishes into truly wonderful offerings, like the smoked salmon sandwich, an innovative combination of herbed cream cheese, lemon confit, shaved fennel, roasted shallot and pickled Michigan asparagus, served on a Zingerman's challah roll. And it helped to redeem dishes that I thought fell short, like the grilled pizza. The grilled crust, with a pita bread consistency, weakened this dish, but the slices of fresh mozzarella cheese improved it.
The pizza was the only weak link in the grilled dishes. The black bean tortilla wrap consisted of grilled corn and poblano peppers, along with red onions and beans in a roasted garlic, red wine vinaigrette, a perfect melding of flavors and ingredients.
The cheeseburger was a gourmet version. We selected rich, dense, fresh blue cheese to top it. The meat was cooked to our specifications and delicious, made even better by the thick Zingerman's Jersey roll, which resembled challah. All of the grilled entrees were $10 and the portions were on the small side, fine for the light lunch I was craving, but not enough if you have a hearty appetite.
The key with the grilled fare is ordering items that can be quickly prepared, especially during the challenging lunch time rush. On our first visit, at 1:30, this wasn't a problem, and our food arrived promptly. But the second time around, at noon, it took longer. The chef told us he overcooked our first pizza so he had to make a new one and he hadn't yet started preparing our salmon sandwich, though we were in the market for roughly 20 minutes.
After perusing the grill menu, we strolled inside to sample some of the many prepared items that the chef made earlier that day. The selection is enormous, ranging from sandwiches to soups, sushi, Mexican and American offerings. We selected the pulled pork burrito as one choice. Unlike the modest portion of the grilled wrap, this was enormous, stuffed with an abundance of tender meat and served with an enchilada sauce. It was a hearty and appealing offering.
The California sushi rolls we sampled were appetizing as well, as good as I've had in any Japanese restaurant around town. Clam chowder had a more watery broth than I prefer, but I enjoyed the abundant seafood and soft potatoes.
\We also sampled the deal of the day, barbeque smoked chicken with macaroni and cheese and grilled vegetables, a bargain at $9.99. The chicken breast was moist and flavorful, but I thought the barbecue sauce was too strong on tomato and too weak on smokiness. The macaroni was rich and creamy. The grilled zucchini, mushrooms and yellow squash, while nicely seasoned, were limp and the consistency didn't hold up well during the time the dish spent in the refrigerated section.
We couldn't resist the offerings behind the bakery case. While there are many desserts from local producers, like Zingerman's and The Croissant Shop, we decided to try those made by The Produce Station. My favorite was the giant cashew chocolate chip cookie— thick, rich and buttery. I also enjoyed the apple buckle, a cross between a muffin and a scone, with white icing on top. The only dessert disappointment was the outrageous brownie, which tasted dry.
There were so many items I longed to try, including the homemade turkey pot pie and the pre-made salads, but couldn't justify stuffing myself with even more food. It's nice to see, that after being in business since 1986, that The Produce Station remains dedicated to offering high-quality lunch fare.
Julie Halpert reviews restaurants for AnnArbor.com.