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Posted on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 : 9:05 a.m.

A2eatwrite: What we did on our summer staycation

By Jennifer Shikes Haines

Despite the fact that rain derailed some of our initial plans, the a2eatwrite family had a good staycation last week.

There were a variety of culinary things we wanted to do, but honestly, after fitting in just a few of them, we decided to save others for later, just because we’re not really used to that much rich food.

We always see staycations as a chance to “splurge” in our hometown.

What do we do on staycations that we don’t usually do?

Well, one thing we don’t do frequently is eat out. We had a list of places we wanted to try: Neehee’s in Canton, courtesy of a great post by Kitchen Chick, burgers at The Sidetrack in Ypsi, one of Sparrow Market’s “Feast” dinners, The Grange Kitchen and Bar (see the great post on The Grange Kitchen and Bar by The Farmer's Marketer), and the last German Park Picnic of the season.

Neehee’s was a total delight, but Kitchen Chick gave a fairly comprehensive overview of Neehee’s so I’ll let her speak to that. I will say that our favorites were Papdi Chaat (crunchy puffed rice with potatoes, chilis, yogurt and chutneys) and the cheese Uttapam (a rice pancake with fresh mozzarella cheese, dipped in chutneys. We’d also second Kitchen Chick’s appraisal of the saffron-pistachio (kesar pistachio) ice cream - it was simply out of this world. I’ve included the Neehee’s link here, but while it was working fine a couple of days ago, it’s having problems today - just keep trying.

I still can’t believe that The Sidetrack has been on our radar all these years, and yet we’d never been there. If you love burgers, this is the place to go. Well, actually, we are rich in great burgers in Washtenaw county - I can’t slight Blimpy Burgers on one end of the spectrum nor those at Zingerman's Roadhouse (especially as the Monday night special with a fabulous tossed salad). If you like thick, cooked-to-order burgers, The Sidetrack brings back memories of burgers gone by. I loved my toppings of grilled onions and swiss, my husband loved his sliders with goat cheese and roasted red peppers, my mom followed my lead, but had cheddar instead of swiss, and my son was equally happy with bacon and cheddar. Not only were these burgers voted one of the top twenty in the country by GQ magazine, but there is an insane of topping combinations that can be derived from the menu. We also enjoyed a basket of fried dill pickles, which we thought were loads better than the fries.

German Park was great fun, if a little cold. The lines were apparently longer than they’d ever been, perhaps thanks to notice by German Park Picnic and a review in August's Ann Arbor Observer. Part of my varied ethnic background is Bavarian, and that part of me was delighted with the bratwurst, spatzen and sauerkraut. Music, schuhplatter dances and parades helped the evening, as did the good company of friends and some mean games of Sequence.

After The Sidetrack, we decided to hold off on the Grange Kitchen and Bar for another time, as we’d already decided that the bar menu was more friendly for our sixteen-year-old and our wallets, and we felt like we were done with the rich foods (um… except for that German Park Picnic) by the time late week rolled around.

As for the Sparrow South American Market Feast, it was incredible. In fact, it was so incredible that it merits its own post, which will be up later this week.

Our other culinary experiences were our traditional, staycation cheese and chocolate dinner, courtesy of “cheese ends” from Whole Foods Market (there is a basket of small cheese pieces where you can gain maximum choice for minimal buck right near the “cracker” section in the Washtenaw Whole Foods), daily tomato sandwiches with farmers market tomatoes, and a family sushi-making night.

Our other activities included geocaching, park walks, lots of reading, exploration of the new U. of M. Museum of Art, several rounds of Kill Dr. Lucky, and a viewing of Bride and Prejudice (to accompany our feast from Neehee's), too many episodes of “Angel”.

If you had a staycation this summer, how did you spend it?


Jennifer Shikes Haines

Mon, Aug 31, 2009 : 5:51 p.m.

Well, Badrinath, I agree that in a perfect world, we'd all be able to go away for lovely vacations and when I lived in Krasnodar, that was the norm, given government-sponsored time off, resorts, etc. Be that as it may, this fit our wallets and our desires for a break, and taking time off of work for both me and my husband, gave us a much-needed break and allowed the whole family to do some things that we wouldn't do otherwise.

Jennifer Shikes Haines

Mon, Aug 31, 2009 : 4:39 p.m.

Jennyjm - I think this would be right up your and E's alley. One word of caution, though - this is mostly carry-out - only a few tables and not very romantic for date night. What I'd recommend? Take the food out and find a nice picnic spot somewhere. Chrysta - I always forget just how much I love Ypsi. We haven't tried Corner Brewery, but that's also on our list. There were many other things I wanted to try at Sidetrack - so much of the menu looked fabulous, and while I was the designated driver that night, I'd love to go back and try some of the beers on tap - there was such a variety!

Chrysta Cherrie

Mon, Aug 31, 2009 : 4:33 p.m.

Looking forward to trying Neehee's. Reading Kitchen Chick's entry earlier this month I practically drooled into my keyboard. Neehee's also recently caught the eye of one of our photographers, Melanie, who went in there not knowing what to expect but left very pleasantly surprised. As an Ypsi gal, I'm glad you tried Sidetrack, too! Their food is great and their menu has something to accommodate almost any dietary restriction/preference. (Also in Ypsi and similar, I recommend the Corner Brewery if you haven't already. The menu isn't as big as their A2 equivalent, but the prices are a little lower and because of its location there's tons more outdoor seating than ABC.) All in all, it sounded like a tasty time. My favorite thing to do while traveling is eat, but entries like this show that we don't need to leave the county to try something new.


Mon, Aug 31, 2009 : 4:17 p.m.

Neehee's sounds like something E and I need to try for date night. Thanks for helping us to branch out from our usual Thai place. I'm glad that your staycation was fun.

Jennifer Shikes Haines

Mon, Aug 31, 2009 : 3:53 p.m.

We do enjoy geocaching, Goofball. I've enjoyed orienteering even more, though, but I don't know of courses set up the way geocaching seems to have all these networks. Have you tried it? I would think you and J might enjoy it!


Mon, Aug 31, 2009 : 3:11 p.m.

oooh did you enjoy geocaching? I know another blogger who really enjoys it much. It sounds like a fun treasure hunt!

Jennifer Shikes Haines

Mon, Aug 31, 2009 : 9:20 a.m.

Mary, I hope you get a break soon. Maybe after High Holidays? The cheese ends were a discovery for us, too - we got to try several cheeses for under $10 - a good price for that dinner!

Mary Bilyeu

Mon, Aug 31, 2009 : 9:03 a.m.

There is neither VAcation nor STAYcation in my life at the moment! But I'm jealous of yours... it sounds like it was wonderful! Thank you, too, for the tip about the cheese ends -- I had no idea....