Ann Arbor is a foodie’s delight, but local students sort the wheat from the chaff when they pick restaurants to fit their budget, tickle their taste buds, or satisfy late-night study break cravings.
Michigan’s ‘Wolverines’ – as they are known – can be a ravenous bunch, which makes them fortunate to be surrounded by restaurants ranging from “cheaper than food” joints to gourmet restaurants. Some student eateries have been around for generations and have even opened multiple locations, while other newer places remain secret go-tos. Here are ten that students claim as their favorite eateries.
More than a Burger: Frita Batidos
No one needs a boring burger. Frita Batidos has the solution. Inspired by Cuban burgers, hungry patrons start by choosing which base they want: chorizo, black bean, chicken, fish or beef. Each comes with a different condiment and is topped with shoestring fries. They also offer a selection of traditional and unique toppings. The second part of the name is the Cuban milkshake made with fresh fruit and ice cream – and rum, if you are so inclined. Order at the counter and then grab a picnic table with a group of friends. Some even hold birthday parties there.
117 W. Washington
Hip and greasy: The Fleetwood Diner
Sometimes students need comfort food at 2am. That’s when they head to The Fleetwood Diner for breakfast food, hamburgers, coney dogs, or just about anything that can be fried on a grill. While it has a reputation as a greasy spoon, it does serve up salads and sandwiches for those who are going to pass on the hippie hash (hash browns and veggies) or burgers. They’re open 24 hours a day, which makes them especially popular during midterms and finals.
300 S. Ashley Street
Heaps of cheap food: No Thai
U of M students know you don’t have to shell out a lot of money or commit to tongue-burning spice to enjoy great Thai food. Not when there’s No Thai. The menu invites you to choose between five spice levels (no spice, weak sauce, medium, yoga flame and dim mak), five flavorings (sweet, salty, savory, sour or spicy) and a choice of proteins (chicken, beef, tofu and shrimp). It’s the sort of place, one student said, where you go when it is game day and you need a fast infusion of carbs. There are two Ann Arbor locations: one downtown near all the classes, and another in Kerrytown, where many students live.
1300 S. University Ave / 226 N. Fourth Ave
Tiny but awesome: Rich J.C.
Sometimes the smallest and newest establishments offer the greatest treasures. Such is the case for students who love Korean food. Rich J.C. is a tiny café with a counter and maybe 15 seats. It serves generous portions of traditional Korean food ranging from mandu to bibimbap and bulgogi. Most meals come with soup and an assortment of side dishes. As for the origins of the restaurant’s name, we’ll leave that to your imagination.
1313 S. University Ave
Game Day Brunch: The Jagged Fork
Whether needing a good solid brunch before a day at the Big House cheering on the local sports teams or just a cosy vibe for when the parents when they’re in town, The Jagged Fork is a popular breakfast place that serves up a variety of pancakes, skillets, omelets, crepes and other specialties from 8am to 3pm every day. If you’re able to resist such things as red velvet pancakes, s’more French toast, chicken Pomodoro omelets, breakfast tamales and ‘pesto benny’ eggs Benedict, then you are welcome to select from their menu of burgers, salads and other sandwiches.
414 S. Main Street
Cheaper than Food: Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger
Since 1953, Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burgers has been serving up sliders with an interactive ordering system. They claim that the only thing fresher than the beef is the attitude. Rules for ordering: Get in line and don’t switch places. Grab a tray if you don’t want your food to-go. No cell phones – they need your attention. Expect to get attitude if you dally or don’t order correctly. Each spot in the line is a place to order something different for your burger, or other side items. The burgers are small and you’re expected to order them in multiples unless you are under five – then you can have one. You can get up to five for the same price. Don’t even mention cheese until the burgers are grilled.
304 S. Ashley Street
Sports fans delight: The Brown Jug
Football traditions are practically sacred in Ann Arbor and restaurants are quick to cater to fan-fueled hunger. In 1936, The Brown Jug opened downtown and is still a place to catch every U of M game. The restaurant is named after the Michigan vs. Minnesota football trophy, the oldest in college football. The rivalry dates to 1892 with the earthenware jug first exchanging hands in 1903. The restaurant is a favorite of students whether for happy hour or to enjoy special game day menus. Every dish commemorates a U of M athlete or coach, though you might have to Google who they are unless you are a college sports historian.
1204 S. University Ave
Beer tours: Ashley’s
It’s hard to describe the student experience without talking about beer. Ashley’s opened in 1983 to celebrate good food, good drink and good friends – and they’re very big on beer. In fact, they say they’ve traveled the world to find the best beers from Bohemia to Flanders to Michigan micro-brews. They sponsor a beer tour and give out rewards at various levels for trying different beers, from a free snack for five different beers to a personalized ‘beer hunter’ hooded sweatshirt for 100 different varieties. (Achieving that level also guarantees their name immortalized on the Beer Tour Plaque). Their beers come with a rating that ranks their flavor, body, hop bitterness and aftertaste.
338 S. State Street
Immigrant spirit: Jerusalem Garden
Known as ‘a corner of Palestine in Ann Arbor’, Jerusalem Garden is the creation of Ribhi Ramlawi. He fled Jerusalem in 1948 with his family and then immigrated to the U.S. in 1962. In 1987, he used a severance check to open Jerusalem Garden, which has become a favorite among students for its Middle Eastern fare. Determined to continue their father’s legacy, his three children took over upon their father’s death and continue using his recipes. While the restaurant itself is popular, it’s especially well-known for catering and many people who have never stepped through their doors attest to how delicious their food is.
314 E. Liberty Street
When the parents pay: Zingerman’s Deli and Zingerman’s Roadhouse
Zingerman’s has become an institution in Ann Arbor, though their commitment to fine ingredients and paying their employees a living wage mean that it can be steep on a student’s budget. It’s the sort of place students go to when their parents are visiting and picking up the tab. The deli was established downtown in 1982 and serves high-quality sandwiches, soups and salads. The Roadhouse has earned James Beard nominations for outstanding hospitality two years in a row. The chef creates new specials each week including weekly ‘blue plate’ specials that aren’t quite so hard on the pocket.
Deli: 422 Detroit Street / Roadhouse: 2501 Jackson Ave