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Posted on Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 5:57 a.m.

Where raisin bread reigns: Angelo's Restaurant serving up breakfast and lunch since 1956

By Janet Miller


Angelo's Restaurant owner Steve Vangelatos poses for a portrait on Friday, March 8.

Daniel Brenner I

For Ann Arbor’s gastro-nostalgics, the list runs from the Whiffletree and Pan Tree to Indian Summer, Eden’s, Drakes and of course, Angelo’s.

But unlike the others, Angelo’s Restaurant, with its signature loaves of raisin bread and long weekend lines that snake around the corner, is one of the few Ann Arbor restaurants to survive more than five decades of changing tastes and changing times, remaining at the same location on the corner Glen Avenue and East Catherine Street since 1956.

The restaurant on the edge of the University of Michigan medical campus has been immortalized in the Dick Siegel song “Angelo’s” and on the pages of national magazines, including Bon Appetit. This month, it topped an poll of the best breakfast joints in Washtenaw County, and is now a finalist for a statewide title.

It’s a reputation, said owner Steve Vangelatos — whose father, Angelo, opened the restaurant — that can feel heavy to carry. “It can be hard to live up to the reputation,” he said. While his father died in 1989, his mother Patricia, who as hostess was the public face of Angelo’s for decades, still lives in the area.


Angelo's Restaurant, on the corner of Catherine Street and Glenn Avenue on the edge of the University of Michigan's medical campus, on Friday, March 8.

Daniel Brenner I

Angelo Vangelatos arrived in Ann Arbor from Greece in 1951, starting work as a dishwasher in a downtown restaurant. By 1956, he had saved enough money to open his own diner kitty-corner from what was then St. Joseph Mercy Hospital on North Ingalls Street. Coincidently, he bought the restaurant from another Greek immigrant named Angelo, his son said. “He didn’t have to change the sign.”

It was his father’s decision to save and buy the building - and eventually adjacent buildings and a parking lot - that has helped Angelo’s survive the years, Vangelatos said. There is no landlord to boot them out or raise their rent.

“There have been a lot of other restaurants that didn’t own their building who were forced to leave, they had no choice. They walked out with nothing,” he said. “My father was adamant.”

In its early days, Angelo’s was a typical Greek-owned diner, Vangelatos said, with orange booths and wood paneling and serving eggs over-easy, bacon and French toast made from store-bought bread. “It was much simpler than it is now,” Vangelatos said.

The creation of Angelo’s homemade raisin bread has nearly morphed into myth. Vangelatos isn’t sure it’s true, or even of the year, but the story goes that a customer suggested Angelo make his own bread rather than serving store bought bread.

He followed the suggestion, making loaves of white bread using a family recipe. One day, Angelo serendipitously tossed in a handful of raisins, but served it only as raisin toast. It would take another nudge from a customer before Angelo would agree to use his raisin bread for French toast.

Today, raisin French toast and deep-fried raisin French toast are some of the biggest sellers, with Angelo’s churning out between 300 and 350 loaves of the raisin bread each week.

“I am convinced that if my father was still alive, he’d still be down here baking bread,” Vangelatos said.

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Angelo's Restaurant on Friday, March 8.

Daniel Brenner I

When he joined the family business in the late 1970s, Vangelatos oversaw a number of changes, including the addition of new menu items such as Eggs Benedict, eggs Florentine, lox, pumpkin pancakes and a Reuben sandwich. He also paved the way for cosmetic changes, installing a tin ceiling, new tile floor, seating and decor that includes a classic neon wall clock with Angelo’s name on it. He also eliminated serving dinner, closing after the lunch crowd. He'd seen his father work from morning until night seven days a week. Vangelatos wanted time with his family.

Angelo’s grew, adding a sunroom in the rear of the restaurant and doubling seating capacity to 120. They also opened Angelo’s on the Side, a coffeehouse next door, and built a bakery in back that physically links the two. Angelo’s went from strictly being a family business to one with 25 employees — though a strong family presence remains.

Angelo’s also remains a tradition for the community. In the late 1980s, a group of about 10 U-M students would eat at Angelo’s a few times a week, Vangelatos said. “They graduated and moved away, and many of them became successful. But they come back once or twice a year to eat here. And now their kids have started to come.”

The hunt for Michigan's best breakfast joint is already under way. Come check out the fun as MLive reporter John "Gonzo" Gonzalez visits three Washtenaw County spots on Tuesday.



Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 2:16 a.m.

Do one thing and do it well.


Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 1:42 a.m.

That one thing - being awesome.

Michigan Man

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 1:07 a.m.

Nice - Back in the 1960's would skip out of church, head to Angelo's on Sunday AM, smoke a couple of cigarettes + have a cup of coffee and head back to church to time the sermon ending and catch a ride home with my mother and father. Often it would be , early on winter Sunday AM just Angelo, his wife and me. Glad they remain in 1st place in the memory bank of many old time Ann Arbor types.


Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 1:49 a.m.

That's awesome. I remember that cigarette vending machine!

Danielle Arndt

Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 5:57 p.m.

My husband and I went to Angelo's for the first time Saturday as I heard it was in the running to clinch the top spot in our poll. We really enjoyed our food, although I wish I would have known about the raisin bread because sadly, I did not order any! Next time. We had pumpkin pancakes, however, that were to die for. And shared an omelet that was tasty too. We were marveling at how they got the eggs so thin with the omelet.

Dr. Fate

Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 4:13 p.m.

The love of my life, after dating for two weeks, dumped me in Angelo's after breakfast. Her previous boyfriend had come back at the end of the summer; she ran into him at The Nectarine (as it was called then) the previous night and I guess the familiar sparks flew. I remember her being unusually distant that morning before finally laying it out and giving me my cue, ending with, "I'm going to the restroom now. When I come back, I don't want to see you here." The floor dropped out then but I wobbly managed to stand. I left a good tip and left. It was all for the best. Now, I'm happily married with kids. When I tell my lovely wife that story, she gets a little misty-eyed and says, "I'm sad that I did that to you." I say it's okay, it was worth it in the end. We still like Angelo's.


Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 2:08 a.m.

Very sweet. Still, not cool that she risked making you associate such an experience with Angelo's , thus ruining awesome food for you (glad that didn't happen). I hope she learned how to be a decent person in your time apart, which it appears she did. I wish you both a long happy life together!

Blue Marker

Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 7:18 p.m.

You never know what the Fates are up to until it all plays out. Nice story, thanks so much for sharing.

Danielle Arndt

Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 5:53 p.m.

Aww, what a sweet and awesome story!


Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 5:29 p.m.

Great story. However, who is she to tell you when to leave since it is a public place and she initiated the breakup. Maybe she could have left you there to leave when you wanted to instead of essentially throwing you out after breaking up with you. Based upon that alone, I'd say she was not the one.


Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 5:18 p.m.

Best thing I ever read on Bravo!


Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 4:41 p.m.

I enjoyed your story. Well done!


Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 4:12 p.m.

Unless you are UM faculty or staff paying an exorbitant amount of money to park in the parking structures near there, good luck finding a parking spot. I'll take food that maybe isn't quite as good or "hyped" for easy, free parking.


Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 1:47 a.m.

God forbid we have to walk a block for good food. Probably better that way, prepare your body for the top notch calories you're about to consume. Exorbitant amount? Since when is $1.50 an "exorbitant" amount? This Ann Arbor, not Marshall. No penny parking meters here.


Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 5:37 p.m.

Or you can enjoy a nice walk over to Angelos - parking in one of the parking structures in the downtown area instead.

Tom Teague

Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 3:46 p.m.

Hi Janet - for those of us who love data, could we see the actual poll results? The link to the poll shows only that the poll is closed. Thanks!


Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 2:10 a.m.

I'm sure there are plenty of wannabe cheaters waiting to cry over those results. Voting bots? Really? That's a whole bunch of sad.

g. lipps

Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 8:22 p.m.

What was the final result


Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 3:43 p.m.

Steve, thank you for continuing the business your father started, it can't be easy but hopefully the fact that your efforts are appreciated by most of us helps. Ignore the brick-bats!


Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 2:42 p.m.

Well deserved.


Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 2:32 p.m.

The Crab Cakes Benedict are my favorite menu item at Angelo's.


Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 12:42 p.m.

When I think raisin bread, I actuall do think of Angelos - and I haven't been there in 10 years.

Vivienne Armentrout

Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 12:14 p.m.

Angelo's raisin bread is also sold at Knight's Market.


Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 12:11 p.m.

Thank you so much for sharing the history of Angelo's and for the picture of the owner. I've eaten there a few times over the years and enjoy the food and atmosphere.


Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 12:10 p.m.

Angelo's is great! Love that raisin bread, and love the eggs Benedict especially.