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Octopus at Spencer.
Octopus at Spencer.
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11 Essential Ann Arbor Restaurants

Must-visit classic and contemporary dining destinations in Tree Town

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Octopus at Spencer.
| Facebook/@Catbwell

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 back to the 1960s and Midwestern small-town sensibilities and the result is a diverse blend of tradition, global outlook, and an eye towards the future. Since they all have to eat, Ann Arbor’s restaurant scene is an eclectic mix of eateries that reflects the diversity of the people there.

There's no shortage of the usual college town standbys — pub food, pizza, burgers — and many are excellent (a few are listed here). This map features restaurants that can only be found in Ann Arbor and can't be missed during any visit. Even if that visit lasts a little longer than planned.

This map is updated semi-annually. Is your favorite Ann Arbor restaurant missing? Passionately make your case in the comments, on FacebookTwitter, or at the tipline.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Knight's Steakhouse

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

Seoul Street

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Tucked in the back corner of a small apartment building, behind other restaurants, in a town with many Korean restaurants, it’s easy to overlook Seoul Street. The Korean standards are all represented well, but what sets it apart from similar spots is the fried chicken. Coated in either a hot & spicy or soy garlic glaze, it can’t be missed. Order online to avoid long wait times.

Zingerman's Deli

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This Ann Arbor institution is considered to be one of the best delis in the country. Dozens of sandwich options all on house-made bread with top quality ingredients make it worth the wait and the price. Bakery and specialty items make it a food lover's paradise.

The Earle

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Tucked away in its underground location, The Earle's French and Italian menu has not changed since the 1970s. Dimly lit and with live jazz, it’s a popular destination for romantic dinners. The wine list offers more than 1,200 different selections.

Frita Batidos

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Celebrity chef and Ann Arbor local Eve Aronoff opened her Frita Batidos as an ode to Cuban street food. The fritas (chorizo-based burgers) and batidos (tropical milkshakes) served in the stark-white dining room sets it apart from anything else in Ann Arbor — and the Midwest.

Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger

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This humble burger joint is the epitome of the town’s counterculture identity. The dizzyingly wide variety of combinations and the unique 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.”

Pacific Rim

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Although Ann Arbor has a wide variety of Asian restaurants, Pacific Rim stands alone as the only fine dining entry. French techniques, quality ingredients, roots firmly planted in pan-Asian cuisine, and romantic atmosphere makes Pacific Rim a go-to destination for date night.

Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery

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Michigan is recognized nationally as a microbrew destination and Jolly Pumpkin’s small-batch, artisanal beers are in a class by themselves. Their ales have topped lists of Belgian-style beers that include breweries from... Belgium. Vegetarians and omnivores alike have several items from which to choose.

Spencer

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A relative newcomer, Spencer has wasted no time in putting it’s stamp on the local restaurant scene. The small space and casual atmosphere make it easy to miss. However, the commitment to seasonal, micro-local sources, and beautiful presentation has gained national attention.

Mani Osteria

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The menu features innovative, wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas, small plates, and salads. The dishes are meant to be shared which, along with an open-concept dining room, gives Mani the liveliest and most energetic atmosphere in town.

Tomukun

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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.

Knight's Steakhouse

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

Seoul Street

Tucked in the back corner of a small apartment building, behind other restaurants, in a town with many Korean restaurants, it’s easy to overlook Seoul Street. The Korean standards are all represented well, but what sets it apart from similar spots is the fried chicken. Coated in either a hot & spicy or soy garlic glaze, it can’t be missed. Order online to avoid long wait times.

Zingerman's Deli

This Ann Arbor institution is considered to be one of the best delis in the country. Dozens of sandwich options all on house-made bread with top quality ingredients make it worth the wait and the price. Bakery and specialty items make it a food lover's paradise.

The Earle

Tucked away in its underground location, The Earle's French and Italian menu has not changed since the 1970s. Dimly lit and with live jazz, it’s a popular destination for romantic dinners. The wine list offers more than 1,200 different selections.

Frita Batidos

Celebrity chef and Ann Arbor local Eve Aronoff opened her Frita Batidos as an ode to Cuban street food. The fritas (chorizo-based burgers) and batidos (tropical milkshakes) served in the stark-white dining room sets it apart from anything else in Ann Arbor — and the Midwest.

Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger

This humble burger joint is the epitome of the town’s counterculture identity. The dizzyingly wide variety of combinations and the unique 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.”

Pacific Rim

Although Ann Arbor has a wide variety of Asian restaurants, Pacific Rim stands alone as the only fine dining entry. French techniques, quality ingredients, roots firmly planted in pan-Asian cuisine, and romantic atmosphere makes Pacific Rim a go-to destination for date night.

Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery

Michigan is recognized nationally as a microbrew destination and Jolly Pumpkin’s small-batch, artisanal beers are in a class by themselves. Their ales have topped lists of Belgian-style beers that include breweries from... Belgium. Vegetarians and omnivores alike have several items from which to choose.

Spencer

A relative newcomer, Spencer has wasted no time in putting it’s stamp on the local restaurant scene. The small space and casual atmosphere make it easy to miss. However, the commitment to seasonal, micro-local sources, and beautiful presentation has gained national attention.

Mani Osteria

The menu features innovative, wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas, small plates, and salads. The dishes are meant to be shared which, along with an open-concept dining room, gives Mani the liveliest and most energetic atmosphere in town.

Tomukun

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.

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