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Posted on Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Top 5: Restaurants around Ann Arbor that I hope never change

By Paula Gardner

News that Blimpy Burger faces a move due to what appears to be the imminent purchase of its building by the University of Michigan hit Ann Arbor hard.

The day before we confirmed that news, many of my colleagues and I were considering just how many restaurants play into our list of Ann Arbor institutions.

Le Dog hotdog stand Perkins.JPG

Le Dog on East Liberty in downtown Ann Arbor. files

They're the places that help us define Ann Arbor and our experience here. Consider the student: It doesn't matter what classes you took while at U-M, what your grades were or how long you stayed after graduation. At some point, a whole lot of the carnivores who enroll on campus ended up standing in line while watching a guy with a spatula beat a ball of ground beef into a really tasty burger.

That's the core of the Blimpy experience, but other places bring the same element of "I love that place!" reaction to anyone who's lived here for some time.

I recently wrote a column on the stores that I wish I could still shop at in Ann Arbor in honor of the "buy local" movement.

Now, as this restaurant faces change — and its patrons hope owner Rich Magner finds a new location that's serves him as well or better — it's joining a whole wave of additional changes in the local restaurant market. It's an industry with a short average lifespan, making the places that survive decades even more notable.

All of that makes me think of this list: The Top 5 restaurants around Ann Arbor I hope never change. (Or change much. Never is a long time, and sometimes — maybe — they can be improved).

1. Knight's Steakhouse. What if you went in there one day and the booths were gone or the drinks had fruit in them? "Nonsense," you'd say. Or at least I would. It's a place of red meat, liquor served with only a little splash of a single mixer, regular patrons and familiar staff. An owner might walk you to your table. (And now there's no smoky haze to walk through while you're doing that. I'll call that an improvement.)

2. Le Dog on East Liberty. I'll confess that I rarely eat here — I'm slowly turning into a soup person. But I love that this little red hot dog stand near South Division (formerly a retail no-man's land) sells an amazing array of gourmet soups. Its survival and client base are both notable. Those customers are loyal. That says a lot.

3. Old Town. I felt like I was really touching the urban core of Ann Arbor when, as a newer U-M student, I not only crossed South Division but also South Main Street to reach this destination. High ceilings, simple small tables, a lovely old-fashioned bar and dependable menu and staff move this place into the "venerable" category for me. I used to confuse it with the Del Rio. Now I don't even know if people know what that means.

CASEYS 3-3 AW.JPG files

4. Casey's Tavern. You might want to call this place "venerable" also. It hasn't been around as long as Old Town, but one tends to forget that — it just seems like it has. It's the kind of place that immediately feels familiar. The food from the surprisingly interesting menu is always good, and it's a Townie destination for anyone who wants a break from the activity (and outsiders) headed toward downtown.

5. Hey, it's hard to limit this to five. I'm going to name three more places, and I still feel like I'm missing some: Paesano. Afternoon Delight. Ray's Red Hots. They're all here for different reasons. I enjoy the atmosphere at Paesano, which stays so welcoming even as the menu or facility is updated. Afternoon Delight turned the cafeteria concept into a uniquely Ann Arbor way of running a restaurant with healthy food and personal attention. And I still call Ray's Red Hots by its previous name (Red Hot Lovers) — just like I still always get the same order (and it's not even a hot dog).

Paula Gardner is Community News Director of She can be reached by email or followed on Twitter.



Fri, May 17, 2013 : 3:07 p.m.

What happened to Everetts Drive In?


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 1:01 a.m.

I'm afraid I must agree with many of the other comments... this list just does not consider originality, service, or value (which includes price, quality, and cleanliness in addition to the "experience") - those key components that make an institution, well, an institution. Many of the spots mentioned aren't even close to what they used to be and are as much a tourist trap as Zing's has become. There's a few special places mentioned herein, but most of the true institutions are long gone......


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 4:25 a.m.

Correction: One poster (but only one) has mentioned the original Cottage Inn.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 4:18 a.m.

Paula - Totally with you on Old Town. The others on your list? Not so much. Lots of good suggestions from other posters, too. Though I haven't been to the original Cottage Inn on Wm. Street in a while -- I now live out of town -- I'm surprised that no one has mentioned it.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 6:38 p.m.

I would consider Grizzly Peak and Arbor Brewing Company as local institutions too!


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 4:09 p.m.

A2 institutions, defined as locally owned & been here 59+ years: Metzgers ( established 1928) Webers (1937) Fleetwood (1949) Angelo's (1952) Blimpy Burger (cheaper than food since 1953)

Paula Gardner

Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 12:58 p.m.

Thank you for all of the reaction to this column! It's fun to read all of your suggestions (and memories). I do plan to do a list of most-missed restaurants. We've also got a couple of more lists in the works. We like talking about these kinds of stories in the newsroom, too. Also - some of the ones mentioned in comments are restaurants that I believe could survive location changes, ala Tios. (Plus, we're hearing that at least one more long-time downtown restaurant faces a move soon due to a leasing issue).

Sven Gustafson

Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 1:22 a.m.

I don't dine in the city all that often anymore, but when I do I hit up a combination of old favorites (Jerusalem Garden has the best falafel I've found anywhere, the Earle, Miki and NY Pizza Depot, which makes killer pie) and stuff I can't find out here in metro Detroit (Steve's Lunch or whatever it's called nowadays or the other Korean place just down the block near Washtenaw). Also: Zola has great brunch.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 8:16 p.m.

Pizza Bob's is one of my favorites....I LIKE a lot of Ann Arbor restaurants, but besides Zingermans, Pizza Bob's is the only place I HAVE to go when I get back into town.

Vivienne Armentrout

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 6:03 p.m.

Since we brought up Asian - you might not consider Great Lake as Ann Arbor (it is on Carpenter Road in Pittsfield Township) but it is on my top 5 list. They have excellent food that goes well beyond the usual Chinese carry-out menu and they serve dim sum. On weekends they have a cart that goes around with specials. It has been there for years and I hope it stays indefinitely.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 5:29 p.m.

I wish they could bring back Kenny Rogers restaurant -- it had such a homey feel. A top 5 gas stations would be cool one. I've always enjoyed getting gas at Huron and dexter. Been doing it since the 70's.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 1:53 a.m.

They always take the time to have flowers and plants at that station too.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 5:22 p.m.

@lizzy alfs: no, it's not what I would call vegetarian-friendly, you are correct.

Richard Wickboldt

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

I would include NYPD (New York Pizza Depot) 605 East Williams. They have some of the best pizza and other italian delights for miles around!


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

How our memories deceive us. The last time I was in Pretzel Bell there were roaches climbing on my skirt.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 1:09 p.m.

Mostly chronologically and mostly gone: Woolworth's lunch counter, Loys Diner, Leo Ping's, Malli's Steakhouse, Curtis's Chicken in The Rough, Preketes Sugar Bowl, Vieux Carre (sp?), The Round Table, The Old German, Metzgers downtown, Everett's, Frontier Beef Buffet, The Waterfall, Bimbo's downtown, Red's Rite Spot, Webers, The Betsy Ross in the Arcade, D'Agostinos (chateaubriand and champagne senior prom night), The Whiffletree, The Mug, Indian Summer, Garbage, Pizza Bob's (bounced a $1.50 check there), Pizza Uno, La Piñata (tingas!), The Cracked Crab (crabwiches with the legs hanging out), DeLong's Bar-B-Que (spongy white bread to soak up the juice). I'm sure there were many others, now forgotten.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 7:40 p.m.

You missed Mr. Rib and the best sandwich known to man.

Ming Bucibei

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 11:48 p.m.

Topper's @ liberity & division, had really excellent hamburgers!! Ming Bucibei


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 2:22 p.m.

Your memory surely has survived better than mine, you covered all my fav's....especially the original Cracked Crab!


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

Oh, The Lord Fox.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 11:42 a.m.

Oh, come on, Ann Arbor! Pizza House only gets TWO mentions (before this post)? That is my favorite restaurant in my favorite city. Even after the renovation they did about five, five-ish years ago, the place still looks like a classic, trendy restaurant.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 6:04 a.m.

Favorite restaurant is Logan, followed by Izzys Hoagie Shop, then Grizzly Peak

Rod Johnson

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 5:07 a.m.

Meh. Losing the Del Rio was hard, but the Old Town? Not at all.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 4:35 a.m.

In the entire discussion not even one Asian food place (save a few comments on Indian food) was mentioned, which is a loud and sad statement about our food scene! Chinese and Vietnamese are practically nonexistent in this part of the earth, which can bring me to tears. Thai food you can still find, although quite rare. Thank god for Marnee on South Main. And a word about Le Dog - I have been eating soups all over the world and some of Jules' dishes are masterpieces that can compete with any soup anywhere (his Hungarian Chicken parikash is served daily to gods on Mount Olympus and they always ask for seconds).


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 5:31 p.m.

Gourmet garden has a great poo-poo plater.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 3:14 a.m.

I agree Paula, but some many of the places you mentioned were other things before. Le Dog was the Korn Kastle. It was a place that sold popcorn, cotton candy and beverages. That was its first incarnation. Knight's was a furniture warehouse before becoming Annie's Dugout. Annie's catered heavily to softball crowds from Vet's Park. Paesano was Bimbo's on the Hill. Bimbo's was on Washington where Ann Arbor Brewing Company is. Casey's isn't that old either. I think Krazy Jim's (which is the real name of "Blimy Burger") out dates anything you have above. Anyway, it is okay for things to change, we just hope it's for the better.

Jeff Renner

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 10:20 p.m.

I don't remember a furniture warehouse before Annie's, but the old Ann Arbor bus company used it for some kind of repair facility in the 70's. Both ends were open so they could drive theough. I remember their buses with orange and green trim.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 2:23 a.m.

You were going strong until No. 5. How about Red Hawk or Pizza House instead?

John Henry

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 12:54 a.m.

Nothing could beat Delong's BBq Pit. Also miss the Lamplighter.

John Henry

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 12:52 a.m.

Knight's is the best place to eat in the city. Great food and they don't rip you off with the price. My top five would be----Knights, Pizza House, Le Dog, Zingerman's, and the original Cottage Inn. Still miss Delong's BBq Pit an awful lot.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 12:43 a.m.

OOOhhhh...where to begin??? Sooo many good eats around town outside of the downtown area, but some of my faves that I hope never change are: Angelos, Bell's Diner on W. Stadium (where else can you order breakfast along with Korean food?!?), Broken Egg for their many varieties of omelettes, Fleetwood, especially at 2am...Hippie Hash, Jerusalem Garden, Star Cafe in Westgate (even though they haven't been here as long) their Chicken Tawook sandwich platter. Parthenon is greatly missed. Blimpy Burger...hope they find a new location soon! What about Dimo's for their monstrous sandwiches!?! Chinese food has never been the same around town like it was at Szechuan West back in the late 80s to 90s!


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 5:15 p.m.

Try Great Lakes on Carpenter or Ypbor Yan on Washtenaw for some Chinese.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 3:53 a.m.

Bell's used to be finance company.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 12:22 a.m.

Paula, Paula, sleigh me. One of the commenters is right, it does seem that restaurant articles garnder a lot of interet and comments. Serious Question: I too have confused Old Town's physical space and location with the Del...but the confusion ends there. Do you genuinely think the Old Town menu is "dependable?"


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 11:47 p.m.

I miss the Spaghetti Machine and Mountain Jacks. I also loved the peanuts on the floor at Bimbo's.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 11:41 p.m.

Sorry, but any list of A2 food joints (no matter the premise) that neglects to mention Zingerman's is suspect.

Dr. Fate

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 11:37 p.m.

I still shed tears over the loss of Old Country Buffet. Wherefore art thou, OCB?


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 11 p.m.

Seriously??? I can't believe nobody has listed the Northside Grill!!!


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 10:45 p.m.

Bimbo's On The Hill became Paesano's, which I consider far from an A2 institution. Fraser's, Fleetwood, Casey's, Mr. Flood's (gone), Angelo's, VBell ( gone - winding staircase to the tavern cavern below) and Gandy Dancer are/were institutions.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 10:31 p.m.

Delong's BBQ at 2:15 a.m.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 4:47 a.m.

Excellent! Miss them!


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 10:25 p.m.

Definitely add Metzger's to your solid list.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 10:17 p.m.



Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 10:13 p.m.

Holidays is one of my favorite spots. Real turkey, great soups, and good prices. Also, senior portions. Wish it was on the list.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 7:40 p.m.

Morelli's subs on Church Street back in the 80's was great.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 7:25 p.m.

@ ISAA: I'll see your Fried Ham Deluxe, and raise you one Beef Delight. Nothing like that creamy horseradish sauce! And back then, Everett's was right down the street from Fowler's. I don't remember if they were any good, but that was where I had my first ever fried oysters (at age 8?). Years later, it was La Pinata where Fowler's used to be. Decent Tex-Mex, great Margaritas, and a can't-lose license to print money. Then they tried to go upscale (Chez Celery? Somebody help me out here) and tanked within the year, never to re-open. A bank is there now, on the corner of Liberty and Stadium...


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 1:32 p.m.

La Piñata became The Watercress. Food was mediocre and overpriced. The booths were also ridiculously tall, my dad who is over 6 feet could barely touch the ground with his feet sitting in their booths.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 10:27 p.m.

Up South was in that space.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 6:40 p.m.

I miss the Kerrytown Bistro, or at least some of its incarnations!


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 6:29 p.m.

SEVA?!!! Not listed?!

Ryan J. Stanton

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 6:24 p.m.

Eating animals seems to be dominating this discussion, so I'll add a vegan perspective. Here are my Top 10 places in Ann Arbor (and vegan meals they offer) that I hope never change, in no particular order: 1. Seva — When the North African couscous (topped with grilled tempeh) circles around on the menu from time to time, like right now, it's hard to find a better dish in town. Toss in a soup and some yam fries with BBQ sauce and you're set. Other times, my go-to meal here is the TLT sandwich. 2. Blue Nile — Really good Ethiopian food. I go at least once a week for the vegetarian platter with a basket of injera. And let's be honest, eating with your hands is fun. 3. Jolly Pumpkin — The red chile tofu sandwich (sans butter on the bread) is one of the best meals in town. The Asian layered salad with tofu is pretty killer, too. Toss in some truffle fries and a Belipago IPA, which lives up to the hype (The menu calls it a spicy mouthful of fun). 4. Zingerman's Deli — The viva las vegan sandwich (artichoke, hummus, spinach, etc,) is pretty good. Goes well with a side of "twigs and berries" or sesame noodles, with an old style pickle. Nothing else in the world matters when you're eating this stuff. 5. The Lunch Room — The popular vegan food cart at Mark's Carts is closed for the season but they still do pop-up meals now and then. Always amazing stuff. Pad thai, banh mi, tofu sliders, etc. Can't wait until they officially open a restaurant downtown! (continued in reply comment)

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 7:30 a.m.

Nope, no ghee in the veggie dishes at Blue Nile. It's vegan.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 3:18 p.m.

I hope Jolly Pumpkin is around for years to come, I however enjoy their burger! Delicious! Their pizza and nachos are top notch as well. And then there is the beer..... :)


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 6:33 p.m.

Ryan, don't they use ghee at Blue Nile? That's derived from butter which would make their dishes in which they use ghee (which, I think, is almost all of them) non-vegan. Vegetarian, perhaps, but not vegan.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

Thank you, Ryan! Also, I've been wondering if there are any options for us at Mani... Going to try your suggestion there sometime. :)


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 12:24 a.m.

Ryan, thanks for bringing that up. Not all of us want a slab of dead cow on a plate. The Lunch Room is wonderful, and one of the reasons I don't eat out as much as I used to is being mostly a vegetarian. Seva is great, and there are so many more places that cater to non-meat eaters than 20 yrs ago.

George K

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 9:54 p.m.

I am a vegan living in Ann Arbor, and I think you have to include Seva even in the main list, not just for vegetarians. I always bring my carnivorous friends there and they love it; it's in their top 3 of all restaurants. My only problem with them is they don't have enough vegan dishes without peanuts or peanut butter in it.

Ryan J. Stanton

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 6:32 p.m.

A more recent favorite of mine is the fennel and eggplant pizza (sans cheese) at Mani, and then there's the sweet potato enchiladas at Prickly Pear and the vegan chimichanga at Tios.

Ryan J. Stanton

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 6:24 p.m.

6. Earthen Jar — Really good mostly vegan Indian food buffet. Affordably priced. 7. Jerusalem Garden— Falafel and hummus sandwich, lentil soup and fatoush with toasted pita. Yum. 8. Amer's Deli —There's a vegan sandwich on the menu called something like the "true grazer." Goes well with a side of red beans and rice. All sides are labeled if they're vegan, so that helps. 9. Silvio's Organic Pizza — They make a mean vegan pizza. My preferred toppings: artichoke, sun-dried tomatoes and roasted bell pepper with daiya cheese. 10. Whole Foods — This is one of the only places I ever leave downtown for. The food buffet there is irresistible, and they list every ingredient in every dish.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 6:07 p.m.

I miss Drake's Sandwich Shop.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 12:48 p.m.



Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 11:48 p.m.

Mmmm... the limeade!


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 9:53 p.m.

I miss the candy and malts


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 5:48 p.m.

the Fleetwood! where I can get a burger cooked the way I want it, i.e. walked in on a leash. their hippie breakfast is excellent also!


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 4:59 p.m.

As a former A2 resident and now living in the burbs, the only restaurant in Ann Arbor that I will drive into town for is Tios. My whole family loves this place. The one in Ypsi got us hooked.

Stephen Landes

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 4:37 p.m.

Thanks for this one, Paula. Unfortunately I am now way too hungry.......

David Briegel

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

The Earle has to be on this list. I would add the Oyster Bar and Spaghetti Machine to those that are gone. Best salad bar ever!! How can you talk about LeDog and not mention the Lobster Bisque? Knights, "It's Prime Baby"!! Forever!!

Michael Olsen

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 4:17 p.m.

The Earle and The Fleetwood.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 4:12 p.m.



Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:39 p.m.

Just an observation that those articles which garner the most comments are those pertaining to restaurants in Ann Arbor, particularly those which are no longer in existence. Restaurant articles seem to quickly top 100 comments. It might be fun to read an article about the restaurant scene in A2 30-40 years ago. Just a thought.

Kyle Mattson

Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 11:25 p.m.

Thanks for the idea justwondering.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:22 p.m.

I always enjoyed Robby's at the Ice House which used to be on the corner next to Miki (I can't remember the name of what is there now except it says "Live" on it). Anyway, Robby's had the best crab cakes I've ever tasted before and since. They always seemed to do a pretty good business, so I was surprised when they shut down. Someone told me the WhiffleTree used to be diagonally across Huron where that empty gravel parking lot is today. I was also told that Robby's opened shortly after the WhiffleTree burned down, and picked up some of the same staff, but that's before I moved here so that is just hearsay. Does anyone have a picture of the WhiffleTree? I hear about that place an awful lot!


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

Maude's on other restaurant or club has lasted in that space. Again best salads and Amaretto Mousse..


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 11:22 p.m.

Totally forgot the ribs..the best and the Tarragon Chicken..


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 5:29 p.m.

Maybe that's why it was Maude's for ribs!

Elaine F. Owsley

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 5:20 p.m.

Especially the ribs!!!

Stephen Landes

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 4:36 p.m.

and the ribs!


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

Raja Rani has not been mentioned. Their dinner for two is my wife's absolute favorite East Indian food in town.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 5:45 p.m.

the portions at RR are miserly!! I ate there once and had to hit a McDonald's because I was still hungry!! needless to say, I haven't been back and don't plan to be.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 4:12 p.m.

Raja Rani is good, but not the same since the Bajwa family moved on.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

I prefer Shalimar, but this is just my opinion.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

Geez, I am waiting for someone to add The Round Table. Not all places that are gone were great. Those that have survived the past 30 years should be on a special list, for sure.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 10:39 p.m.

Roast beef (cooked to order as long as you want it well done) for about a buck seventy five.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 5:28 p.m.

Salmon patties, mashed potato and peas OH MY!!!


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.

I completely forgot about that place until you mentioned it! I suffer from CRS and can't remember where there were - was it Liberty? Washington? If you tell me what's there today I might be able to connect those wrecked neurons!


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

Not that it's gotta be euro-high-brow for me –– I've been having dinner after the game with The Old Town team for well over 30 years. And if we win? A free pitcher or two!


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

Funny, I wouldn't even think of going to Knight's –– nothing wrong with it particularly, just not my style. Now the 20%-off, and the free mussels, at The Earle's Happy Hour (get there before 6:30) allow you to eat there for Mom & Pop restaurant prices –– a couple of appetizers (how about a duck salad, cured salmon with asparagus, maybe the calamari) and a couple of half-orders of pasta ends up being a lot for two.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:43 p.m.

What about Jerusalum Garden??


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 12:30 a.m.

Jerusalem Garden has been open since 1988 I believe.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:40 p.m.

don't know how long Jerusalem Garden has been here but at least since 94 ... just the most delicious falafels ... love going there, wife's a dietitian and gives it the thumbs up ... was terrible to try to get to with that parking structure for the past couple years but all is good now.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:42 p.m.

Weber's, Brown Jug, Banfield;s, . . . but also miss Escoffier

Michigan Man

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 8:30 p.m.

Nice work on the Brown Jug! Went to UHS from 1964 - 1967, worked at Overbeck Bookstore same general timeframe - smoked many cigarettes at the Brown Jug before and after high school and work in the bookstore - never hassled by the nice greek owners - two bothers - cannot remember their names.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

Banfields Westside? You think their food is that good? Hmm.

Barbara Brown

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.

Let's not forget our non-downtown places - I would add Exotic Bakeries, Cafe Marie and Ayse's Cafe to that list, all of whom have been providing delish food for us folks on Plymouth Road and North Campus for almost 20 years! (And yes, Knights, Knights, Knights! My mouth watered at the thought of a steak)

k vaneck

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

Oh how I miss the PanTree! Open 24 hours, and so yummy! We cant leave Angelos is off the list! The best thing about this article is that it reminds us of how cool our town is, and the contributions that each unique restaurant has made to that experience. The common thread appears to be what Ann Arbor is made of.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 5:08 p.m.

I used to work at the E. Lansing PanTree and helped out at the A2 one during Art Fair. Great concept - their many different crepes were fantastic. But I think their basic problem was they tried to do too much - a huge, huge menu, with distinctly different approaches to breakfast/lunch, dinner and late-night munchies. The E. Lansing one had ongoing problems with the health dept., many of them related to food storage and prep for so many different items, and they finally shut them down - there was an official notice posted on the door. The whole company folded around that time - there used to be one in G.R. as well.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:34 p.m.

Ha,Zingerman's would not have made my top 5 either

Jon Saalberg

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 9:45 p.m.

Zingerman's doesn't qualify, since they are constantly doing things to change their business - they are definitely NOT about staying the same.

Paula Gardner

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:53 p.m.

I haven't been inside of it since the remodel, so that aspect was a big question mark for me.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

Zingerman's is over-rated and over-priced ... guess it's one of the old institutions which learned to move forward with the times. PLus, I used to like cinnamon rolls until I had theirs.

Jon Saalberg

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

From the posts, it seems like people are listing places they wished hadn't closed - but if you are talking about places that should stay as they are, Knight's is definitely one of those places. It may be hard to believe, but they haven't been there forever - only open since 1983 - which shows you how a place can cement itself in our minds as an essential Ann Arbor destination.

Jeff Renner

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 6:46 p.m.

Actually, they opened in '84, according to the logo on the glasses I mentioned above. But I agree; it seems like they've been there since before the flood.

Kai Petainen

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

Ray's Red Hots' used to be Red Hot Lovers -- I miss the old restaurant.

Michigan Man

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

Cannot believe a list of Ann Arbor classic places would not include Angelos, especially for breakfast.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:36 p.m.

Angelo's for breakfast or the deli for sandwiches are the best ... wish I had twice as many arms to give it 4-thumbs up.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:23 p.m.

I miss The Whiffletree and Cracked Crab terribly.

Hot Sam

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

The most classic example of ruining a restaurant was The Cracked Crab...I miss the original... And...the closing of the Del Rio was tragic...what I would give for a Detburger and an Antipasto salad...

Dog Guy

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

For us night owls in the 1960's, Red's Rite Spot was Hobson's choice in fine dining. It was like the Fleetwood with a ringmaster and, after 8:00, the only place in town.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:06 p.m.

Well the food at Caseys is good but the waitstaff are not very friendly especially if you go in alone.They make me feel that they wish I didnt come in.This was a repeated scenario over 5 or 6 times so I havent been in there in 5 years.I do miss the whiffletree and the red bull

David Paris

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 2:41 p.m.

I agree! I went there one time, terrible service. Haven't been back.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

I miss Bimbo's and Bimbo's on the Hill (where Paesano's is now).


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 11:30 p.m.

Anyone remember a couple of Matt's other incarnations.... Zelda's Greenhouse and Gatsby's, both of which were in the space at the corner of Huron Parkway & Washtenaw and part of the Crystal House Motel? You could eat downstairs, then drink & dance upstairs, and grab a room to finish off the night. Matt & Betts loved that place.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2 p.m.

Drake's, Drake's, Drake's.

cornelius McDougenschniefferburgenstein jr. 3 esq.

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 1:42 a.m.

my favorite part of drakes was their elegant restrooms.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 12:28 a.m.

I forgot about Drakes! Brillant!


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 5:42 p.m.

@eyeheart, and it's tragic,tragic,tragic.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 4:04 p.m. already closed, closed, closed.

Charles Stevens

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1:57 p.m.

I can't believe that you did not consider The Original Cottage Inn as in the top 5 when you had Paesano's, the Cottage Inn is so much a part of the downtown restaurant scene and has been for many years, no make that decades. The staff is excellent and the food is the top. I have been here for 40 years and have seen it grow from a hole in the wall to the fine restaurant that it is today, hope it never changes.

David Paris

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

Sorry Charlie, but any restaurant that hauls pizza dough around in the back of a pick-up truck, only loosely covered in cellophane, is OFF my list. I go to Pizza Pino, or the New Neo Papalis (I don't mean to be redundant) for my pizza.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 12:56 a.m.

I think CI used to be a good restaurant. In the last few years, their ingredients have become much cheaper and lower quality, and the portions are smaller, and prices are up. Not a good combination. They WERE a good restaurant 5 or more years ago.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 4:12 p.m.

I agree Charles. Cottage Inn has agreat atmosphere and good food. Paesano's seems to pretentious. It could go away and I wouldn't miss it. Bring back Bimbo's on the Hill.

Kyle Mattson

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:22 p.m.

I'll second you Charles. Gotta have at least one pizza place on the list!

Lizzy Alfs

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

You inspired me: still need to go to Knights and Paesano

Vivienne Armentrout

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 2:54 a.m.

Not for vegans or vegetarians, but I usually get fish there. Their soups are excellent and they have a couple of good signature salads. We laughed when we first saw the iceberg wedge on the menu but it comes with tons of blue cheese and other accents. The mozzarella and tomato salad seems popular in the summer.

Lizzy Alfs

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 6:02 p.m.

@mady: Sooo what you're saying is it's not for vegetarians ;)


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 5:41 p.m.

Lizzy, Knight's is the very place to go if you want a thick, juicy steak. their hot roast beef sandwiches are excellent also, served with a big scoop of mashed potatoes and swimming in beef gravy. yummmmmmmmm.....

Julie Baker

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 4:29 p.m.

I went to Knight's a few months ago for the first time. I've already been back several times. So good! And probably the best service I've had in Ann Arbor.

Vivienne Armentrout

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

Knight's has evolved over the years and is attracting a young crowd now as well as the elderly long-timers and young families. It has kept the things that made it a favorite for many people, including reasonably priced, well-prepared food and friendly staff. I confess I go for the soup as much as any entree. I did a post on it some time ago.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

Has anyone investigated raising the blimpie building and moving it? Not sure it would survive the move but its worth consideration


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 3:14 p.m.

Move it into the empty parking lot space on the corner of washington and I think division. Caddy-corner from bebo and subway!


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 5:25 p.m.

Get out your checkbook.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 4:09 p.m.

Good idea, all the congealed grease will hold it together...


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:59 p.m.

Moving this small building is worth investigating. What vacant lot near downtown needs improvement and has some room for parking? Any interest in moving Blimpies?


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1:59 p.m.

Let's hope the University will unveil plans to move it to the diag, attach it to the Art Museum and enshrine it on the Ann Arbor campus in perpetuity.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

Ha - "Le Dog." Soup there is good, but their hot dogs are *terrible*. That's not just my opinion - each and every individual with whom I work downtown agrees. Too big, too much "hot dog flavor". You admit that you "rarely eat there" - perhaps you should actually try one of those things before wishing they "never change."


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 3:49 p.m.

So, you and your co-workers like hot dogs that are small, and have no flavor? My co-workers and I LOVE the hot dogs (and the soup) at Le Dog.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:27 p.m.

Yes, the soup is good. That's the reason we go there. The hot dogs, on the other hand, are not.

Paula Gardner

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1:48 p.m.

I've got nothing against hot dogs and eat them all summer from the grill - but never, ever get them in restaurants. I think this place is way more known for soup. I also have a colleague who's addicted to their yogurt parfaits.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

Forgot one that closed downtown, but reopened on Zebb Rd -- Metzgers - one of the very best.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 10:17 p.m.

Metzgers didn't hold a candle the the Old German, one that closed downtown.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:34 p.m.

I second Metzgers. GREAT food and drink for when you want to get your German on.....


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

All great eating places and hope they stay around for a very long time. Blimpy hope you can find a new home, or better yet, hope that UM would have enough sense to let you remain on your little corner.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

Kosmo Deli, the Earle


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

Your list is not my list for sure. Vegetarians might prefer People's Food Coop, Seva, Jazzy Veggie, Hut-K-Chaat, La Marsa, Suvai, and Blue Nile. These restaurants make AA unique. Dogs, burgers and steaks can be found in any city. About the UM purchasing Blimpie: As long as UM is ringed with relatively low density zoning, they will continue to purchase property which will then not be subject to local zoning ordinances and will no longer be on the tax roll.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 12:54 a.m.

Blue Nile isn't that great, Belisa. Overpriced and more hype than quality food. Very Americanized.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:34 p.m.

didn't realize the Blue Nile had been here that long. An Ethiopian colleague of mine pretty much dissed it saying it really wasn't that authentic ... but Americanized (which is probably netter for most of us) ... need to try it out now that she's gone.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:06 p.m.

Seva and Blue Nile are the only long time places in your list....well except the food coop but didn't think they really classify as a restaurant... Also....beans, lentils, and tofu can be found any any city also....


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1:25 p.m.

I still miss Del Rio and would've had them on this list if they weren't gone. I'd also include Jerusalem Garden, Seva's, and Red Hawk (the first place I ever ate when visiting for a job interview years ago). I'm also a little obsessed with Blue Nile and hope they never change.

Julia Mattucci-Clark

Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 4:53 a.m.

We so miss the Del Rio, great food, great crowd.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:30 p.m.

2-thumbs up for Jerusalem Garden. Came here for a conference in 94 and a friend who'd done his postdoc here took me to get a falafel which was great considering I was a carnie. 10 yrs later I moved here and re-found the Garden and it's been a fav since.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

I could use a Detburger right now!

Terry Reilly

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1:23 p.m.

Remember when Pretzel Bell ceased to exist? I still remember the Wednesday all-you-can-eat boiled shrimp. I agree on the Casey's mention as well.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 12:31 a.m.

The Pretzel, Bell was especially a sad demise, in the the coke-addled owner drove it into the ground. Watching big roaches climb up the supports of the salad bar erased all fondness that I had for the place.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

There's no use in dissing the U of M, I know. They do what they want to do, when they want to do it. But I do resent their taking over this piece of property. It's one thing to buy dilapitated student housing, but to purchase going businesses is just too much. Some day we may call it the University of Ann Arbor, because there will be nothing left of our town.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 12:52 a.m.

Yeah, the U of AA is kind of what we have now. And those property owners who are left inside the city limits have to keep picking up the tax tab for the ever expanding reach of U-AA. UM really needs to use some of those millions from the Athletic dept and pay some property tax on their profit making enterprises.

Diane Fadden

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

Add Fraser's Pub to the list !

Julia Mattucci-Clark

Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 4:53 a.m.

We love the Fraser's!


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:27 p.m.

I lower my head in shame ... live within a mile and have gone by Frasier's for 8 yrs and never went in. Always have only heard good things about it ... this weekend for sure.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

Indeed, forgot about Frasers -- great place to hang out.

Top Cat

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1:01 p.m.

A great list. I would have put Le Dog as number 1. I stopped going to Casey's as I don't appreciate being rushed through dinner and out the door by the pushy staff.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:57 p.m.

Good stuff paula. Could add zingermans, real seafood or gratzis to list. I miss the Parthenon and why cant we have a good, unique pizza place downtown?

Ryan J. Stanton

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 1:36 a.m.

Silvio's is amazing


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 6:37 p.m.

Real seafood and Grazi's are tired and dull. They have not changed in years and it all seems stale rather than a good tradition. Restaurants run by chefs rather than accountants are changing things in town for the better.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

Mani's is nice but it's really just over-priced pretty food for yuppies or wannabees ... Old Cottage Inn is the city pizza institution for when my family comes to town.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

That would be Mani.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:47 p.m.

Restaurants still open: Jerusalem Garden, Afternoon Delight, Red Hawk. The Fleetwood just can never close. It's an institution. Restaurants Closed: Pretzel Bell and Whiffle Tree right off the bat.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:44 p.m.

It's Its

David Paris

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

No wait, it's, It's, not it's!


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 10:36 p.m.

No it's is it's!


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:42 p.m.

Is there any legal barrier to one entity owning too much of a town? I'm just curious. Is there anything put in place in charters, or legal definitions of towns or whatever, that says "one entity can't own more than 51% of any township/city" or anything like that? U of M is starting to seem like a massive bloated virus. I get that it's a great school, creates lots of jobs, blah blah, but it really seems to be getting QUITE out of control. Plus the fact that every purchase (and most likely tear-down) takes yet another piece of tax revenue off the city's books.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:59 p.m.

Huh ??

Craig Lounsbury

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:37 p.m.

Knights changed completely a long time ago when they banned softball and baseball teams from coming in after a game. I'm not passing judgement on the decision, just suggesting the Knights you hope never changes is nothing like the Knights I used to frequent on summer evenings after playing across the street.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 9:34 p.m.

Yes, my friends and I were very unhappy when Annie's turned into Knights and became very un-softball-friendly. However, now that we're old and don't play anymore, we've forgiven them. The strong drinks helped in our decision.

Jessica Webster

Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 5:21 p.m.

I was at Knights after a couple of softball games over the summer. They allowed us in, cleats, grass stains and all.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 8:49 p.m.

That was Annie's, bro.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 10:24 p.m.

The Stadium Tavern was the hot spot for ball teams. The teams would come in and drink and Stadium Tavern would place a large platter of lunch meats and bread on the table at no cost. They appreciated the bussiness.

Craig Lounsbury

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

townie54, If they have revised the policy again I stand corrected. I live on the east south east side and don't go to Knights any more. But I do know there was a period of many years when they opted to not allow softball or baseball uniforms. I used played across the street from the mid 70's through the mid to late 80's. There was a distinct time when they decided to separate from the softball/baseball crowd. If you saw uniforms this past summer then evidently they have rethought the policy.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

Don't forget before it was a beer distributor it was educational out post for students from the college in the 1920's.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

A rowdy crew of deadbeats perhaps...?


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:58 p.m.

and Mary Ellen don't forget that before Annies that it was a warehouse for a beer distributorship!


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

Don't forget that Prior to the Knight family buying that restaurant it was called Annie's Dugout. It catered to those of us playing softball & baseball at Vets Park. They had a nice sized open area in the back with picnic tables.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:12 p.m.

gee I must be hallucinating because I saw teams in uniforms I thought were softball teams in there this summer at about 9:30 pm two or three times.Maybe they were just all dressed the same in funny uniforms

Elaine F. Owsley

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1:25 p.m.

I used to counsel new employees at Domino's corporate that what they would wear to Knight's after a ballgame was not appropriate for the office, nor was what they would wear to the Nectarine on a Saturday night. If their mother or grandmother would approve, that''s what you wear to the office.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:32 p.m. should NOT call Ray's Red Hots by the original name because it's NOT the original place at all....not even close. NONE of the old crew works there anymore....Che has unfortunately passed away....AND THEY DON'T USE VIENNA BEEF.... They also stole the majority of anything good off the walls. It is NOT RHL...not even close anymore. Dog's don't taste the same, place doesn't feel the same.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 12:53 a.m.

Totally not what it used to be. One of my new faves is Wise Guys on Packard... and they serve real VIENNA BeEF! Having grown up not far from the Chicago plant, I think I know a good dog or two - and Ray's and LeDog are certainly not on my list.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 4:06 p.m.

Yeah that place is not the same AT ALL. Red Hot Lovers RIP.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.

Billy, go to Hippo's in Troy at Rochester and 15 mile(maple). Their Chicago Dogs are phenomenal. They use the real dogs and buns.

Hans Masing

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

My only regret is that I have but one upvote to give you, Billy...


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:28 p.m.

What you doing??!?!?!?? Are you trying to give them a LIST now of places to destroy?

Paula Gardner

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:47 p.m.

Maybe we could look at this as the first step toward giving them protected status?


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:06 p.m.

Time for a new pic

Paula Gardner

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:25 p.m.

Wait - me or the restaurants? :) (I'm already sensitive because I've been using an ancient one on Twitter and know I need to change it, but apparently I never have my photo taken.)


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:04 p.m.



Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 11:39 a.m.

I would have liked to have seen Holiday's restaurant on this list. Very cool place to hang out for food especially game days. But the list is a good one!


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

Never even heard of this place..


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 9:57 p.m.

Holiday's is not a staple in Ann Arbor

Homeland Conspiracy

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 7:57 p.m.

While I like Holiday's the red neon needs to's like eating in hell

Jeff Renner

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 11:25 a.m.

Shhhh about Knight's! It's already hard enough to get a seat or even a spot in the lot! It's like that secret parking place downtown. (You know the one I mean.) It just isn't talked about. Even Knight's doesn't talk about themselves. You'll notice their name isn't on the restaurant, just a knight's head. And I've never seen an ad. PS for fans. They're selling a box of four of their huge rocks glasses with logos for $12. Perfect Christmas gift for ex-pat townies. I've already bought two for my out-of-town kids, and one for myself.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 7:57 p.m.

billy how dare you give away my secret. now i have to go at three vs four.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 4:53 p.m.

Half of Knight's customer base is 75 or older so wonder what this restaurant's future holds. Tip for newcomers - park at the back of the lot and pay close attention when walking through the lot. I've seen several senior citizen driving moments there.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.

Hard to get a seat? You're going at the wrong time then. Even when that lot is almost filled I can walk in with a party of 4 and wait no more than 5 minutes to be seated....and I've been doing that for almost 15 years. Pssst......don't go on gamedays AFTER the's ALWAYS packed then.

Paula Gardner

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:23 p.m.

I had to marry a townie to learn what that 'knight' sign without a name meant! Great tip on the glasses, Jeff. Thanks!


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 11:13 a.m.

The Whiffle Tree for sure!


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 8:48 p.m.

And the Spagetti Machine.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 8:47 p.m.

No, the Pretzel Bell!


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 6:52 p.m.

Didn't the Whiffle Tree used to be the Fifth Dimension Club? The Who, Jimi Hendrix & The Yardbirds all played there. Before that, I believe it was a bowling alley. I do miss Whiffle Fries.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:42 p.m.

I miss the Whiffle Tree too.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:14 p.m.

It was a great place but burned down 25 yrs ago.

Bob W

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:09 p.m.

I agree, it 's been gone a long time now, but I still miss it.