I’m more than a little fixated on food. I work in the restaurant business. I write about food. Personal photo albums are dedicated to meals and ingredients. My wallet brims with receipts from restaurants. So it should be no surprise that my travel itineraries are structured to maximize breakfast, lunch, and dinner plans. When I hit the road, I’m always sure to go with an empty stomach, an open mind, and a stack of research on where to find the city’s best food. Give me a new city and I will give you a list of the top ten places to get food within just a few Google searches.
Over the past few years, I’ve had the great pleasure of becoming part of my husband’s Michigan-based family while eating my way through the south-east part of his home state. Lucky for me, my extended Michigan family appreciates my food-centric leanings and affection for culinary fact-finding missions. Thanks to my Michigan family and friends, I have discovered much of Michigan’s diverse food scene with nary a Google search.
After coming back from my fall trip to the Ann Arbor area, I decided to backtrack a little, to see what other people had to say about my favorite Michigan food destinations. After a good deal of research, I was surprised by the lack of comprehensive listings for such a culinary rich state. In hopes of making other food lovers aware of Michigan’s food traditions, I offer you this food tour round up.
My beloved Michiganders have lead me to food destinations from Detroit, to Ann Arbor, and from Dearborn to Plymouth. Along the way I have come to know some of Michigan’s incredible food artisans, culinary experts, restaurants, farms, and specialty food shops. So if you’re ever planning to spend any time in Michigan—and you should, because it really is beautiful–I offer you this ever-expanding food tour listing for south-east Michigan.
Ann Arbor, MI
Home to the University of Michigan (and its more than fifty thousand students), Ann Arbor is a quintessential college town that keeps its residents well fed at its local breweries and pubs. Also located here is one of the state’s best one-stop-shopping culinary hotspots: Zingerman’s. Starting with its Deli this small gourmet and sandwich shop began in the early 90’s and inspired a small gourmet empire—that includes a Creamery, a Bakeshop, a Road House, and an Online Catalogue. This culinary mecca caters to locals and students hungry for a Rueben (the #2), a scoop of house made gelato, artisan olive oil, imported cheeses, handcrafted candy bars, freshly baked cakes, and loaves of artisan bread.
Check out my previous post on Zingerman’s Deli with detailed suggestions of what to try and buy. Interested in a review and wrap up of Zingerman’s Roadhouse please read this Food Buzz 24×24 post or this review. For a post that focuses on Zingerman’s commitment to service go here.
Zingerman’s: The Original Deli; 422 Detroit St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104; (734) 663-DELI; Open everyday 7am-10pm.
Ann Arbor Farmers Market
The Ann Arbor Farmers Market features over a hundred Michigan farmers, food artisans, and handcrafts in the historic Kerrytown District. Held every Wednesday and Saturday from May until December (and Saturdays only in January through April), this open air market is a wonderful way to discover the best of Michigan’s local food producers.
On my most recent trip, I discovered Roos Roast, a Michigan coffee roaster that specializes in offering high quality, freshly roasted beans. Founded by a former chef, Roos Roast coffees are roasted fresh every week and put into interesting blends like “Lobster Butter” a rich, smooth combination of Ethiopian and other beans. Beans are roasted fresh every week, and bags are individually block printed.
Ann Arbor Farmers Market: 315 Detroit St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104; (734) 794-6255. Every Wednesday and Saturday (May until December) and Saturdays only (January through April)
Stop by the Kerrytown Plaza for a bottle of wine from the pleasant and knowledgeable people at Every Day Wines, or grab some fresh caught fish at Monahan’s Seafood Market for the barbeque. If you need a little pick me up there’s always Sweetwaters Coffee for a cup of joe.
Kerry Town Shops: 407 N. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48104.
Once you enter the city of Dearborn, Michigan, one of the first things you notice as you drive the length of Warren Avenue are the Arabic signs posted on every billboard and the women with head scarves dressed in Islamic tunics. Unlike other cities with small, dense ethnic enclaves, this Detroit suburb has the largest Middle Eastern population outside the Middle East. Considering this fact, it should come as no surprise that the Middle Eastern food in Dearborn Michigan is some of the most authentic within the continental U.S..
Of all the Middle Eastern restaurants, Al-Ameer Restaurant, is one of the most beloved by the Middle Eastern population, local cops, and value-seeking food lovers. Thanks to my friends Ibrahim and Marie-Carmen, I have discovered some of the best examples of Baba ghanoush, hummus, and kibbeh I have ever tasted. If you come with friends, be sure to order the Family Tray, a generous sampler plate that can feed ten for just $79.
Al-Ameer Restaurant: 12170 W. Warren, Dearborn, MI; (313) 582-8185.
After a good meal at Al-Ameer, be sure to swing by Shatila for dessert. Known for its traditional Arabic and French pastries, this sweet pastry box of a shop will make you wish you could try every pastry and gelato flavor.
Shatila: 12710 W. Warren Avenue, Dearborn, MI 48126; (313) 582-8185.
Thirty minutes west of Detroit, you will find this pleasantly rural community with more than just a quaint downtown to offer.
Plymouth Orchards opened its sixty-acre farm to visitors in 1977. With an eye on simplicity, this rural farm offers children and adults alike, wagon tours of its orchards during the fall season. The apple farm grows nine varieties of apples as well as raises a small petting zoo complete with goats, sheep, cows, ducks, and chickens. School children flock to the farm to romp through the pumpkin patch and taste the results of the hand-press cider mill.
The apples of Plymouth Orchards are flavorful and hearty. Varietals like the Northern Spy are crunchy, juicy, and sweet; good for eating and baking. Another favorite is the Cortland, a sweet and tangy cross between a Macintosh and Ben Davis apple. The Cortland is good for baking, eating, and cooking.
Plymouth Orchards’ sweet, buttery, and slightly crunchy cider donuts (especially decadent when fresh from the oven) are not to be missed. Hot cider is especially good on a cold day.
Plymouth Orchards: 0685 Warren Rd., Plymouth, Mi. 48170; (734) 455-2290. Open Aug. 29 to Nov. 1
If you’re planning a culinary tour of Michigan, here are some other valuable resources to check out before you go.
Farmers Market: For a complete listing of Farmers Markets in Michigan.
Plymouth Orchard’s Apple Sauce Recipe
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar (loosely packed)
1 cup water
6 apples peeled, cored, and chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
5 whole cloves
In a 4 quart sauce pan, combine the sugar and water. Heat over medium for 7 min. Add apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally. Serve warm or cold.