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

12 Essential Ann Arbor Restaurants, Winter 2022

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.

Salt Springs Brewery in nearby Saline is a new addition to this list for their hearty meals, classic brunches, and array of beers brewed in a beautiful former 19th century church.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data about the delta variant indicates that it may pose a low-to-moderate risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

Next Read: Where to Dine and Drink in Ann Arbor

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Salt Springs Brewery

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In the heart of nearby Saline, Salt Springs is a local gem that serves a wide range of entrees and house-brewed beers in a former 19th-century church. The gorgeous stained glass windows and soaring ceilings make for a unique atmosphere, especially during their weekend brunches. The smoked chicken wings and pulled pork macaroni and cheese are can’t-miss items. 

Salt Springs Brewery | Steph Harding

Knight's Steakhouse

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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

The Last Word

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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

Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger

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This humble burger hangout, around since the 1950s, 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

Blue Llama Jazz Club

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Blue Llama Jazz Club has become a highlight of the downtown area for both its live music featuring internationally-known artists and an innovative jazz-themed menu. Choose from one of their inventive takes on traditional dishes like filet mignon served with bleu cheese fondue or sample several dishes in The Bird’s Flight tasting menu.

The Blue Llama [Courtesy photo]

Spencer

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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.

Miss Kim

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Accolades and awards have been pouring in for chef Ji Hye Kim as the outside world is discovering Ann Arbor’s local treasure: Miss Kim. The minimalist atmosphere and the menu filled with traditional Korean dishes are deceptively simple, but high quality ingredients and technique are apparent in dishes like Korean Fried Tofu and Street Style Tteokbokki. 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

Zingerman's Delicatessen

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This Ann Arbor institution is widely 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]

Tomukun Noodle Bar

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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.

Ricewood

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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 Sichuan-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

Bellflower

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

Ma Lou's Fried Chicken

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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.

Salt Springs Brewery

Salt Springs Brewery | Steph Harding

In the heart of nearby Saline, Salt Springs is a local gem that serves a wide range of entrees and house-brewed beers in a former 19th-century church. The gorgeous stained glass windows and soaring ceilings make for a unique atmosphere, especially during their weekend brunches. The smoked chicken wings and pulled pork macaroni and cheese are can’t-miss items. 

Salt Springs Brewery | Steph Harding

Knight's Steakhouse

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.

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

The Last Word

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.

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

Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger

An extremely messy burger on wax paper. John Reyes

This humble burger hangout, around since the 1950s, 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

Blue Llama Jazz Club

The Blue Llama [Courtesy photo]

Blue Llama Jazz Club has become a highlight of the downtown area for both its live music featuring internationally-known artists and an innovative jazz-themed menu. Choose from one of their inventive takes on traditional dishes like filet mignon served with bleu cheese fondue or sample several dishes in The Bird’s Flight tasting menu.

The Blue Llama [Courtesy photo]

Spencer

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.

Miss Kim

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

Accolades and awards have been pouring in for chef Ji Hye Kim as the outside world is discovering Ann Arbor’s local treasure: Miss Kim. The minimalist atmosphere and the menu filled with traditional Korean dishes are deceptively simple, but high quality ingredients and technique are apparent in dishes like Korean Fried Tofu and Street Style Tteokbokki. 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

Zingerman's Delicatessen

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

This Ann Arbor institution is widely 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]

Tomukun Noodle Bar

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.

Ricewood

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 Sichuan-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

Bellflower

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

Ma Lou's Fried Chicken

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.

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