I love to visit Ann Arbor, Michigan. It’s a quaint and quirky college town with a colorful personality and a progressive, nature-friendly population.
Along with the prestigious University of Michigan, Ann Arbor is also home to a wealth of music and film festivals, a giant urban forest, and a giant art installation known as Graffiti Alley, where walls are covered in colorful graffiti and layers of used chewing gum.
Students, professors, visitors, and locals alike cannot deny Ann Arbor’s charm, and the Ann Arbor restaurant scene is equally enchanting—which is my personal favorite thing about it. The presence of a giant university contributes to a diverse population and an equally diverse array of restaurants.
Whether you want Asian, Italian, or American, and whether you want a fancy, high-end meal or a casual, rowdy meet-up, food in Ann Arbor doesn’t disappoint. If you’re wondering where to eat in Ann Arbor, read on to explore my list of what I consider to be the best restaurants in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Best Restaurants in Ann Arbor
- Knight’s Steakhouse
- Frita Batidos
- Zingerman’s Roadhouse
- Gandy Dancer
- Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger
- Mani Osteria & Bar
- The Chop House
- Detroit Street Filling Station
- Vinology Restaurant & Event Space
- The Earle Restaurant
- Miss Kim
- Taste Kitchen
- Pacific Rim By Kana
- Bao Boys
600 E Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Knight’s Steakhouse was born of a long tradition in the meat business. The Knight family originally owned a food and meat market in Ann Arbor in the 1950s. A little over thirty years later, they expanded their meat business to include the first Knight’s Steakhouse in 1984. Knight’s Steakhouse is a family-friendly, casual dining experience that is accessible to all budgets.
Their extensive meat-centric menu encompasses not only steaks but also has plenty of delicious salads, sandwiches, and burgers with homemade potato chips. They also have daily specials with discounted price.
I recommend trying a cup of Ray Knight’s famous chili to start, followed by the Chimichurri Hanger Steak, a 9 oz butcher cut that is char-grilled and sliced, topped with chimichurri sauce, and served with mashed potatoes and asparagus.
113 E Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Located just a few blocks from the University of Michigan in downtown Ann Arbor, Spencer is a wine bar with a small yet gourmet menu for dinner and lunch. Wines are the real star of the show at Spencer, as it is both a wine bar and a wine shop that you can peruse before or after having a glass with friends. All their jams, crackers, and spice mixes are made in-house.
The menu at Spencer changes weekly as it is seasonal and uses the bounty available to them through local farmers.
Furthermore, the menu is a five or six-course set meal. The lunch meal is a lighter, more vegetarian-friendly menu, while the dinner menu usually has a heavier meat main course. For instance, this week, it is a pork schnitzel with fennel pollen.
17 W Washington St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Frita Batidos is a unique take on Cuban Street Food that is a novelty to any American city. Chef and owner Eve Aronoff draws her inspiration for Frita Batidos from her Cuban grandmother and the large Cuban community in Miami which was a home away from home growing up. Frita Batidos is a casual, Cuban fusion restaurant with a formulaic menu that has you build your frita, or Cuban-style burger. You then pick from a list of Batidos, or tropical fruit milkshakes. What’s a better combination than a burger and milkshake?
In addition to the burger and milkshake, you can pick from some of the most sumptuous Cuban side dishes with an American twist. Take for instance the loaded plantains with black beans, muenster, cilantro-lime salsa, avocado, and crème Fraiche.
The frita burgers can be chorizo, chicken, black bean, beef, or fish. I recommend the chorizo frita with sweet chile mayo, tropical slaw, and a sunny side up egg with a coconut cream batido and a side of crisped plantains with cilantro-lime salsa.
2501 Jackson Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Zingerman’s Roadhouse is a unique and fun take on the old southern roadhouse. For people just passing through and for residents, Zingerman’s Roadhouse is a favorite dining or pick-up spot.
I love it because depending on your mood and how much time you have, you can eat in either a dining room, a large outdoor picnic area, or a cute, restored trailer for to-go orders and fresh coffee. You can really have any kind of dining experience you want, from a dinner party with family and friends to an outdoor picnic on a nice day to a quick coffee and sandwich to fuel your road trip.
The menu at Zingerman’s has every kind of comfort food imaginable, but they specialize in southern-style barbeque. They have a BBQ meat section, a fancier steak menu, and a meat plate menu, not to mention a menu for extravagant macaroni and cheese combinations.
Whatever you decide, try their buttermilk biscuits with blackberry patch preserves to start. For a special taste of the south, try the pimento cheese and bacon macaroni with bechamel, applewood smoked bacon and housemade Southern pimento cheese.
401 Depot St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Gandy Dancer is a fine-dining steak and seafood restaurant located in a beautifully restored 19th-century Ann Arbor government building with old stone walls. There are various dining rooms in the building, one in a large, open, and airy sunroom, and another in a cozy high-ceilinged cobblestone walled room with blown glass light fixtures adding a modern touch of elegance.
The menu has a wealth of fish and shellfish dishes featuring seasonal fresh catches that you decide how you’d like cooked. They offer sauté, blackening or broil for their fresh catch options.
They also offer a slow-roasted prime rib on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. I recommend trying their ultimate seafood trio which comes with a filet of salmon, a Maryland-style crab cake, and coconut shrimp served with coconut ginger rice and fresh vegetables.
Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger
304 S Ashley St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Established in 1953, Krazy Jim’s is Ann Arbor’s oldest hamburger stand, and they’ve kept the same made-to-order counter service they’ve had since the ‘50s. You’ll have a one-on-one rapport with the cooks who prepare your burger, sandwich, fries, and onion rings in front of you as you direct them on how many patties and what kind of cheese and toppings you want. With nearly 70 years of grilling burgers and frying up steak-cut fries and onion rings, you’d better believe that their burgers and sandwiches are perfect.
Burger patties are thin, so you’re expected to at least get a double, but we’d recommend a triple patty for good measure. You can choose between a Kaiser, regular, pumpernickel, or onion bun along with your choice of grilled veggie, bacon, or fried egg toppings and finally between American, cheddar, swiss, provolone, bleu, feta, or pepper jack cheese. Condiments and raw additives come next. Don’t forget to order hand-cut battered fries and onion rings.
Mani Osteria & Bar
341 E Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Located blocks away from the University of Michigan and right in front of Liberty square, Mani Osteria and Bar is a family-owned and operated Italian eatery and neighborhood favorite since 2011.
Everything from the kitschy décor to the friendly, welcoming service makes Mani a great restaurant for families, couples, and large parties. They even have a market concept where they prepare raw meals that you can cook at home.
If you get a chance to dine in their cute indoor dining room or on their shady patio, you’ll find an extensive wine and cocktail list to accompany delicious wood-fired pizzas, house-made pasta, and delectable antipasti plates.
I recommend sharing various antipasti plates like the rosemary focaccia, caramelized brussels sprouts, and calamari with spicy tomato sauce and lemon aioli. My pizza recommendation would be the Tartufo, with forest mushroom, fontina, black truffle, and egg.
The Chop House
322 S Main St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
The Chop House is a traditional fine-dining steakhouse with a dessert and cigar lounge for the most decadent and luxurious meal in Ann Arbor. The Chop House prides itself on serving the best cuts of USDA prime beef and the highest-quality seafood. The downtown location is a sleek, industrial-chic building with a contemporary yet warm vibe. All cuts of steak are USDA prime and wet-aged for 28 days to maximize flavor and tenderness.
You can make a full night of it at The Chop House, sipping artfully created cocktails and delighting in an elegant plate of steak or seafood and then having a nightcap martini and cigar in the cigar lounge. If you’re not a cigar fan, the dessert lounge has a wide variety of utterly decadent desserts to end your meal on a sweet note.
When I want to go all out, I get the surf and turf plate of filet mignon and buttery lobster tail with a twice-baked potato. For dessert, the Chocolate Decadence is to die for. It’s a layered brownie cake, dark chocolate mousse, white chocolate mousse, and chocolate ganache served with house-made blackberry Chambord sorbet.
Detroit Street Filling Station
300 Detroit St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
The Detroit Street Filling Station is a vegan café and bakery located next to the Ann Arbor Farmers Market and up the road from the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.
Flowerpots hang from the roof and line the street to provide a bright, vibrant setting for the ample streetside and covered patio seating. The Detroit Street Filling Station is a lunch restaurant that offers vegan takes on classic American fare, including salads, wraps, sandwiches, and snacks.
Classic sandwiches and burgers use healthy meat and dairy substitutes like Tempeh, Tofu, and cashew cheese. I recommend the raspberry basic grilled cheese with raspberry jam, cashew cream cheese, provolone-style cheese, fresh basil, and spinach. It’s the perfect combination of savory and sweet.
Vinology Restaurant & Event Space
110 S Main St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Located in the heart of Ann Arbor’s historic downtown district, Vinology is a wine bar and world cuisine restaurant family owned and operated by experienced wine merchants and foodies. Vinology’s old-fashioned and elegant dining room in the historic Mayer Schairer Building is not only a favorite dining spot but consistently hosts corporate parties and weddings. The owners have also created a wine club with monthly tastings and food pairings for the faithful foodies and wine-os of Ann Arbor.
The menu truly is a trip around the world, featuring cuisines as familiar as southern American comfort to authentic Chinese, and everything in between.
But in my opinion, the Michigan baked brie with Marcona almond butter, fig jam, and truffled farm honey is great for sharing with a group of out-of-towners to give them a taste of local flavor. Another favorite of mine is the miso seared salmon with shanghai noodles, pickled carrot, and jalapeno as a main course.
The Earle Restaurant
121 W Washington St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Specializing in French and Italian cuisine, The Earl is a classy wine and dine jazz bar with live music five nights of the week. There’s even a house band, Jazz Trip, that plays on the weekends. During the week, they have live piano and jazz guitar soloists to serenade your delicious meal.
The wine list is one of the most extensive and expertly curated in Ann Arbor, having won various Wine Spectator awards over the years. But don’t forget to eat some food with that wine! I recommend trying the risotto croquettes for an appetizer, followed by the decadent Earle Sliders with Roquefort cheese, caramelized onions, and bacon on a brioche bun with French fries. I love their crab cake sliders, too!
415 N 5th Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Miss Kim is a traditional Korean restaurant that uses local produce to create farm-to-table sustainable dishes that are as colorful as they are flavorful. Miss Kim is operated as part of the Zingerman group, whose restaurants also include the wildly popular Zingerman’s Roadhouse, another Ann Arbor gem. Miss Kim is named after the South Korean woman chef, Ji Hye Kim.
I recommend trying the Kimchi pork fried rice with gochujang soy butter fried rice, napa cabbage kimchi, crispy pork, sesame, and scallions, then topped with a fried egg. Of course, it’s hard to pass up their Korean BBQ Banh mi with cucumbers, pickled carrots, cilantro, jalapeno, radishes, and sriracha mayo.
521 E Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Taste is a high-end French and New American bistro that is dedicated to creating multi-course masterpieces made from local and sustainable ingredients. Because the head Chef is from Vietnam, he utilizes Asian flavors and ingredients that create an interesting complexity to its dishes. Taste’s small and intimate dining room makes it perfect for small parties and romantic dinners.
I recommend the mussels with tomato basil, capers, white wine, and grilled bread to start, followed by the diver scallop succotash with bacon marmalade as the main course.
Pacific Rim By Kana
114 W Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Pacific Rim By Kana is a legacy of the Ko family who opened up a traditional Korean food restaurant in the early ‘80s that expanded and gained popularity as an Ann Arbor favorite until the newest Ko generation expanded on the concept in 2000. Now Pacific Rim is a pan-Asian fine-dining restaurant that combines traditional Asian cuisine with the American fine-dining tradition.
The presentation at Pacific Rim is spectacular and certainly worthy of a social media story before digging in. I recommend starting with the tuna tartare with avocado, wakame seaweed, scallions, and togarashi served with house-made taro chips. Their Korean-marinated ribeye with sesame crispy rice, sauteed vegetables, a quail egg, and Korean chili sauce is my favorite entrée pick.
1928 Packard St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Bao Boys is a small, casual specialty Chinese fast food restaurant that specializes in-you guessed it- bao. Bao is a Chinese steamed bun usually filled with pork, cilantro, and crushed peanuts, but the Bao Boys offer different takes on this steamy Chinese comfort food.
Lots of experience has taught me that it’s important to eat them while they’re hot because bao buns will get unpleasantly chewy as they cool. I’m especially partial to the Shorty, a bao stuffed with Korean braised chuck short rib, vinegar slaw, special green sauce, cilantro, and sesame.
216 S State St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Sava is a fine-dining establishment with a backstory that epitomizes the idea of the American dream. The owner, Sava, is an Albanian immigrant who has worked in the restaurant industry in every capacity since the age of 13. After ten years of experience, she opened Sava at only 23 years old in 2007. Since its opening, Sava has become an Ann Arbor staple for locals of all ages.
Whether you want breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Sava has an eclectic menu that will wow your tastebuds. I highly recommend the challah French toast or Shakshuka for breakfast or brunch. For dinner, my favorite is the Za’atar spiced roasted half chicken with glazed asparagus, roasted cipollini onions, and chickpeas.
341 E Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Isalita is the sister restaurant to Mani Osteria, which is another one of my top picks for Ann Arbor eateries. Isalita is in the same complex as Mani, with plenty of bright indoor and patio seating. Isalita specializes in traditional Mexican food, serving up all the spicy, tangy classics along with margaritas and Mexican-inspired specialty cocktails.
I recommend the super authentic huitlacoche empanadas. Huitlacoche is a corn-fungus that tastes like a mix between corn and mushroom, combining perfectly with cheese, cream, and grilled peppers. Isalita has plenty of inventive and traditional Mexican street tacos. I recommend the coca-cola braised pork shoulder carnitas in salsa verde with pickled onion and cilantro.
Ann Arbor restaurants run the gamut from casual to fancy, traditional to contemporary, and embrace all types of world cuisine. No matter what you crave, I’m confident that my list of the best restaurants in Ann Arbor includes menus and experiences that will exceed your expectations.
See anything missing that you want to add? Drop a comment below and let us know!
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