Eating your way ‘round the world in Ann Arbor
by Eleanor Hendricks McDaniel
Located just 42 miles from Detroit, upscale Ann Arbor, Michigan
refutes the small town stereotype. With a population of about
114,000, its sophistication comes as a surprise, and may be
explained by being the home of the University of Michigan. It
overflows with fine art museums and galleries, unique shopping
and an outstanding culinary scene. For example, there are almost
300 restaurants, many headed by award-winning chefs, and the
number of excellent ethnic restaurants boggles the mind.
Indie shops fill downtown Ann Arbor.
Seifu Lessanwork has owned the Blue Nile Restaurant for
20 years in Ann Arbor
Five favorite foreign eateries
Soft lighting glows in a broad room filled with low straw
mat-covered tables, surrounded by even lower chairs -- all
telling you that you're in for an exotic experience. You're in
the Blue Nile Restaurant
(bluenilemi.com). Owner Seifu Lessanwork, who hails from
Addis Ababa, established his restaurant 20 years ago with the
intent of preparing traditional foods from all regions of
arrives in traditional covering at Blue Nile Restaurant
After cleansing hands with a warm cloth, guests are invited to
remove the conical lid off the platter and dive in. Meals are
where companions all eat from the same plate, scooping up rich
morsels of food with pieces of
injera (a soft
bread). In Ethiopia, this method is said to bind friendship.
Savor chicken dishes, like Doro Wat and Doro Alecha (both
simmered in herb butter with onions), Yeberg Alecha (a spicy
lamb stew) and Zilzil Wat (a tender beef stew). Tasty vegetables
are seasoned with herbs and spices.
platter of Ethiopian food includes meat and vegetables.
Many budget-minded diners choose the All-You-Can-Eat Ethiopian
Feast for $18.90 per person which includes all the meat dishes
and veggies. The perfect ending to this gastronomic treat is to
enjoy a homemade dessert and a cup of freshly-roasted Ethiopian
When you walk into
Ayse's Turkish Cafe (aysescafe.com), you're walking into
EYE-shuh) Uras' kitchen, figuratively speaking. That's
because the owner and chef delights in cooking as in her home.
There's no menu other than a menu board that changes each day,
depending on what Ayse feels like cooking that day – just like
at your home. She specializes in a selection of popular Turkish
dishes: pilav, borek, chicken eggplant kebap, white bean stew
with lamb, moussaka, lentil soup, yogurt appetizers, meat pies
and the list goes on. Don't overlook the imported Turkish
beverages of coffee, tea and red and white wines. The servers
make suggestions and explain the dishes so choosing what you
like is a "no-brainer."
Turkish wine enhances the food at Ayse's Turkish Cafe.
"Sleek" best describes the decor of
(slurpingturtle.com/annarbor) which gives no hint of what it's
about. No cheesy touches that scream "Asian" here. But the
cuisine is Japanese-inspired. Chef and owner Takashi Yagihashi's
goal is to introduce Americans to Japanese food beyond sushi.
His Chicago restaurant, Takashi, concentrates on fine dining,
and has earned a Michelin star. But in Ann Arbor, Yagihashi
wants Slurping Turtle to celebrate Japanese home-cooking. Locals
regularly slurp its popular homemade ramen noodle soups, like
Tonkotsu with pork chasu, bok choy, phili oil and woodear
mushrooms. The shashimi bar offers a variety of fish, shellfish
and vegetarian dishes for one to six persons.
Slurping Turtle features Japanese home cooking
Yagihashi is the recipient of a James Beard Award, and was
crowned Best New Chef by Food and Wine Magazine.
Owner Takashi Yagihashi celebrates Japanese home-cooking
at Slurping Turtle
No town can be a foodie town without a good Jewish delicatessen
and, in Ann Arbor,
Zingerman's Deli (zingermansdeli.com) has been filling the
bill since 1982 when Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig joined up.
They focused on stacking piles of corned beef or
pastrami on Jewish rye bread, or grilling the popular
Reuben. Those treats are still on the menu, but their offerings
have expanded to include specialty foods, an unending selection
of cheeses, Artesian olive oils and vinegars, baked goods, teas
and coffees from around the world, and more. Seating is
available at Zingerman's Next Door where you can dine upstairs
with large windows on the eclectic neighborhood.
The company has ballooned from one small sandwich shop to
Zingerman's Community of Businesses which includes The Creamery
and Zingerman's Roadhouse.
Fresh bread is a favorite at Zingerman's Deli.
In Italy, an "osteria" is actually a
family-style restaurant) where meats and other foods are roasted
in an open wood-burning brick oven.
Mani Osteria and Bar
(maniosteria.com) specializes in a wide selection of hand-tossed
piazzas that savor an authentic Italian taste. Although the
restaurant isn't small and has outdoor seating, the waft of wood
and Italian spices lend an air of authenticity.
Pizzas at Mani Osteria are baked in a wood-burning oven.
Mani's favors many ingredients that you'll find on menus in
Italy. Look for boar, fennel, hazelnut, black truffles, goat,
Calabrian chile, grana padano and others. The meats are fused
with the grilled flavor taken from the wood.
These dining venues are only the tip of Ann Arbor's ethnic
restaurant iceberg. While there, take a culinary trip around the
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