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Triangular pasta noodles topped with pesto.
Pasta at Spencer.
Spencer

12 Essential Ann Arbor Restaurants, Summer 2021

Must-visit classic and contemporary dining destinations in Tree Town

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Pasta at Spencer.
| Spencer

As a college town, Ann Arbor attracts students and visitors from around the world. Many of them like the place so much they extend their stay — sometimes for decades. Mix them in with a healthy dose of counterculture dating to the 1960s and Midwestern small-town sensibilities and the result is a diverse blend of tradition, global outlook, and an eye toward the future. Ann Arbor’s dining scene is an eclectic mix of restaurants that reflects that diversity.

There's no shortage of the usual college-town standbys — pub food, pizza, burgers — and many are excellent (a couple are listed here). This map features restaurants special to the area around Ann Arbor including Ypsilanti. Spots included in this guide must have been open at least six months. For more recent additions to the area, check out the Ann Arbor heatmap.

Blue Llama’s elevated food and world-class live jazz has made it a must-see Main Street destination. Although Bellflower is a relative newcomer, its ever-changing, seafood-forward menu has earned it a spot on this list.

Did we overlook your favorite spot? Drop a note at the tipline and Eater will check it out.

Next Read: Where to Dine and Drink in Ann Arbor

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Knight's Steakhouse

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2324 Dexter Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
(734) 665-8644
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Knight's is the textbook steakhouse with swimming pool-size cocktails. While the restaurant has a flashier Liberty Street location in the vibrant downtown area, the original Dexter Road restaurant’s historic charm makes it a classic.

The horse head-shaped sign for Knight’s in front of the restaurant. John Reyes

2. The Last Word

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301 W Huron St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 585-5691
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The Last Word’s underground locale is a true embodiment of the speakeasy — hidden and dimly lit with vintage decor. Their eclectic food menu draws from influences around the world and their classic and modern cocktails that land them on this list. A selection of their signature cocktails are available in cans to go.

The orange-colored cocktail sits next to a glass candle holder on a wooden table in a dimly lit bar. Photo by Brittany Greeson for The Washington Post via Getty Images

3. Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger

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304 S Ashley St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 663-4590
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This humble burger hangout embodies Ann Arbor’s counterculture identity. The dizzyingly wide variety of combinations and the cooking methods are the antithesis of the gourmet burger chains that have proliferated across the country. While some label the burgers as laden with “grease,” the preferred term is “natural juices.”

An extremely messy burger on wax paper. John Reyes

4. Blue Llama Jazz Club

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314 S Main St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 372-3200
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Blue Llama Jazz Club has become a highlight of the downtown area for both its live music and jazz-themed menu. The menu features inventive takes on traditional dishes like filet mignon served with bleu cheese fondue. The lounge is open Thursdays through Saturdays as it takes a measured approach to re-opening from its pandemic closure. 

The Blue Llama [Courtesy photo]

5. Spencer

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113 E Liberty St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 369-3979
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Spencer is the epitome of good things coming in small packages. The pint-size space delivers outsize flavor with dishes that are as beautiful as they are delicious. Spencer’s menu changes regularly with the seasons offering everything from ramp hush puppies to lamb meatballs and green garlic carbonara.

6. Miss Kim

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415 N 5th Ave
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 275-0099
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Ann Arbor has plenty of Korean restaurants, but only a few have full beverage menus for a complete fine dining experience. Part of the Zingerman’s restaurant group, Miss Kim’s features family-style Korean food in a bright minimalist atmosphere with dishes like dahk-jook (chicken rice porridge) and chili butter monkfish. During lunch, the restaurant offers a throwback to its days as a street food cart with banh mi and pork buns.

Wings with a side of pickled pink radishes, a pink cocktail in a cup, and more salads on the side. Miss Kim/Emma Boonstra

7. Zingerman's Delicatessen

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422 Detroit St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 663-3354
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This Ann Arbor institution is considered to be one of the best delis in the country and a mecca for food lovers looking for specialty items. This Midwest Eater 38 member offers dozens of sandwich options all on Zingerman’s bread with top quality ingredients make it worth the wait and the price.

A massive Reuben sandwich from Zingerman’s sits in a basket sliced in half. Zingerman’s Delicatessen [Official photo]

8. Tomukun Noodle Bar

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505 E Liberty St #200
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 995-8668
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What began as a noodle bar featuring several kinds of East Asian comfort foods, now includes a full-on Korean barbecue section with tabletop grills and other Korean standards. Tomukun may be the best place to see townies and students dining in perfect harmony.

9. Seoul Street

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1771 Plymouth Rd
Ann Arbor, MI 48105
(734) 719-0085
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Tucked in the back corner of a small apartment building and several restaurants, it’s easy to overlook Seoul Street. But in a town with many Korean restaurants, this one stands out from the crowd for its fried chicken. Coated in either a hot and spicy or soy garlic glaze, it’s a must-try dish. Order online to avoid long wait times.

A pile of Korean fried chicken in a red plastic basket lined with wax paper. John Reyes

10. Ricewood

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1928 Packard St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Ricewood developed a strong lunchtime following as a food truck with its smoked meats served Chamorro-style over rice and with a spicy finadene sauce (a combination of soy, vinegar, peppers, and scallions). Fans can now try an expanded list of dishes such as Szechuan-style smoked chicken at the stall’s year-round, walk-up window inside of York. One thing hasn’t changed though: Customers should still plan on arriving early as the restaurant often sells out in less than an hour.

Barbecue sliced in a bowl with veggies. John Reyes

11. Bellflower

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209 Pearl St
Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Bellflower, located in downtown Ypsilanti, has quickly developed a strong following for its seafood-forward, New Orleans-influenced dishes in a unpretentious atmosphere. Their dinner menu changes often to take full advantage of best-available ingredients such as their ligthly-fried monkfish “rib” served with buffalo sauce and carrot slaw. For lunch, get there early as their popular po’ boys sell out quickly.

12. Ma Lou's Fried Chicken

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15 W Michigan Ave
Ypsilanti, MI 48197
(734) 905-7994
Visit Website

Perfectly cooked fried chicken comes in sandwiches or Nashville-style with a sauce that lives up to its “Hot AF” moniker. On Taco Tuesdays, Ma Lou’s delicious biscuit donuts — glazed deep-fried biscuit dough — become churro donuts and are served alongside fried chicken tacos.

1. Knight's Steakhouse

2324 Dexter Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48103, Ann Arbor, MI 48103
The horse head-shaped sign for Knight’s in front of the restaurant. John Reyes

Knight's is the textbook steakhouse with swimming pool-size cocktails. While the restaurant has a flashier Liberty Street location in the vibrant downtown area, the original Dexter Road restaurant’s historic charm makes it a classic.

2324 Dexter Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Ann Arbor, MI 48103

2. The Last Word

301 W Huron St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
The orange-colored cocktail sits next to a glass candle holder on a wooden table in a dimly lit bar. Photo by Brittany Greeson for The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Last Word’s underground locale is a true embodiment of the speakeasy — hidden and dimly lit with vintage decor. Their eclectic food menu draws from influences around the world and their classic and modern cocktails that land them on this list. A selection of their signature cocktails are available in cans to go.

301 W Huron St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

3. Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger

304 S Ashley St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
An extremely messy burger on wax paper. John Reyes

This humble burger hangout embodies Ann Arbor’s counterculture identity. The dizzyingly wide variety of combinations and the cooking methods are the antithesis of the gourmet burger chains that have proliferated across the country. While some label the burgers as laden with “grease,” the preferred term is “natural juices.”

304 S Ashley St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

4. Blue Llama Jazz Club

314 S Main St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
The Blue Llama [Courtesy photo]

Blue Llama Jazz Club has become a highlight of the downtown area for both its live music and jazz-themed menu. The menu features inventive takes on traditional dishes like filet mignon served with bleu cheese fondue. The lounge is open Thursdays through Saturdays as it takes a measured approach to re-opening from its pandemic closure. 

314 S Main St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

5. Spencer

113 E Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Spencer is the epitome of good things coming in small packages. The pint-size space delivers outsize flavor with dishes that are as beautiful as they are delicious. Spencer’s menu changes regularly with the seasons offering everything from ramp hush puppies to lamb meatballs and green garlic carbonara.

113 E Liberty St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

6. Miss Kim

415 N 5th Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Wings with a side of pickled pink radishes, a pink cocktail in a cup, and more salads on the side. Miss Kim/Emma Boonstra

Ann Arbor has plenty of Korean restaurants, but only a few have full beverage menus for a complete fine dining experience. Part of the Zingerman’s restaurant group, Miss Kim’s features family-style Korean food in a bright minimalist atmosphere with dishes like dahk-jook (chicken rice porridge) and chili butter monkfish. During lunch, the restaurant offers a throwback to its days as a street food cart with banh mi and pork buns.

415 N 5th Ave
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

7. Zingerman's Delicatessen

422 Detroit St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
A massive Reuben sandwich from Zingerman’s sits in a basket sliced in half. Zingerman’s Delicatessen [Official photo]

This Ann Arbor institution is considered to be one of the best delis in the country and a mecca for food lovers looking for specialty items. This Midwest Eater 38 member offers dozens of sandwich options all on Zingerman’s bread with top quality ingredients make it worth the wait and the price.

422 Detroit St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

8. Tomukun Noodle Bar

505 E Liberty St #200, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

What began as a noodle bar featuring several kinds of East Asian comfort foods, now includes a full-on Korean barbecue section with tabletop grills and other Korean standards. Tomukun may be the best place to see townies and students dining in perfect harmony.

505 E Liberty St #200
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

9. Seoul Street

1771 Plymouth Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
A pile of Korean fried chicken in a red plastic basket lined with wax paper. John Reyes

Tucked in the back corner of a small apartment building and several restaurants, it’s easy to overlook Seoul Street. But in a town with many Korean restaurants, this one stands out from the crowd for its fried chicken. Coated in either a hot and spicy or soy garlic glaze, it’s a must-try dish. Order online to avoid long wait times.

1771 Plymouth Rd
Ann Arbor, MI 48105

10. Ricewood

1928 Packard St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Barbecue sliced in a bowl with veggies. John Reyes

Ricewood developed a strong lunchtime following as a food truck with its smoked meats served Chamorro-style over rice and with a spicy finadene sauce (a combination of soy, vinegar, peppers, and scallions). Fans can now try an expanded list of dishes such as Szechuan-style smoked chicken at the stall’s year-round, walk-up window inside of York. One thing hasn’t changed though: Customers should still plan on arriving early as the restaurant often sells out in less than an hour.

1928 Packard St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

11. Bellflower

209 Pearl St, Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Bellflower, located in downtown Ypsilanti, has quickly developed a strong following for its seafood-forward, New Orleans-influenced dishes in a unpretentious atmosphere. Their dinner menu changes often to take full advantage of best-available ingredients such as their ligthly-fried monkfish “rib” served with buffalo sauce and carrot slaw. For lunch, get there early as their popular po’ boys sell out quickly.

209 Pearl St
Ypsilanti, MI 48197

12. Ma Lou's Fried Chicken

15 W Michigan Ave, Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Perfectly cooked fried chicken comes in sandwiches or Nashville-style with a sauce that lives up to its “Hot AF” moniker. On Taco Tuesdays, Ma Lou’s delicious biscuit donuts — glazed deep-fried biscuit dough — become churro donuts and are served alongside fried chicken tacos.

15 W Michigan Ave
Ypsilanti, MI 48197

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