There are many food meccas that people journey to and while Eastern Michigan has a treasure trove of fine restaurants, Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor has to be the ultimate for me. A relaxed atmosphere and a menu where you can’t go wrong. The Zingerman’s brand is so successful because the people behind it truly care about it. They care enough to scrutinize every detail of the experience.
I just read that the neon Zingerman’s sign above the restaurant was painstakingly crafted out of antique glass tubes from 1953. Everything from the quality of the wait staff to the unbeatable locally sourced food shows the customer that this place is special.
The menu changes daily and it’s wrapped in a colorful illustrated newsletter. Chef Alex Young started Cornman Farms a few years ago and the produce and meat comes mainly from the farm. Young has been nominated for four James Beard Awards: Great Lakes and won his fifth time around. Beyond the Roadhouse, Zingerman’s also has a creamery, deli and bakehouse cranking out phenomenal gelato, cheese, deli sandwiches and baked goods. We went to the Roadhouse with our friends Bruce and Nancy and I took iPhone shots to share with you. The food is described as “really good American food” and that pretty much sums it up.
Kentucky Bedwarmer, Summer Sling and Clover Club
If this place was just down the street, I would be in real trouble. I rarely order drinks when we dine out because I don’t like paying $9 and being disappointed. If the place happens to make a great cocktail, look out, I may have 2! The cocktail menu at Zingerman’s is full of old-fashioned gems and a few feature an egg white froth on top that has been used since the 1800’s. I told our waiter that I liked whiskey and he brought me the Kentucky Bedwarmer (upper left). Oh yes, it was bourbony and so good. One of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. Marc’s Summer Sling and my 2nd cocktail, the Clover Club (with gin and egg white frothy goodness) were all excellent as well.
Mac and Cheese
Pimento Cheese and Bacon Mac and Cheese
Zingerman’s is known for their famous macaroni and cheese. They have a great selection of wonderful cheeses with which they expertly create these creamy bowls of comfort. Our waiter recommended this Pimento cheese and bacon variety and we hungrily placed an order as our appetizer. You have to try the house specialty, right?? Do I even need to say it? It was outrageously good. Crazy, crazy good.
Bearded BBQ Plate (Marc-short ribs, babyback ribs, brisket, pulled pork, mashed potatoes and bacon-braised greens)
Fried Chicken (Nancy-mashed potatoes and mustardy cole slaw)
Burger and Sweet Potato Fries (Bruce-not pictured, but had melted aged cheddar on top)
Chicken Fried Steak (Me-chicken-fried sirloin with grilled onions, summer squash, mashed potatoes and chicken gravy)
Here is a glimpse of the homestyle menu that delivers on all levels. Completely fresh and expertly prepared meals. Those greens! The chicken gravy! I am not even a gravy fan and I wanted to put it on everything. The waiter recommended my entrée, but asked about my hunger level before putting my order in. I honestly told him that I had skipped lunch for this meal and that was good enough for him. The outside was perfectly crunchy and the inside was juicy. I did need help finishing, but mostly because I was already thinking about dessert and hoping everyone else was thinking the same thing. The grilled onions were so good that I could have eaten a plate of them alone.
Coconut Cream Pie and DONUT SUNDAE.
We looked to our waiter for direction on this one and he highly recommended the donut sundae. Nancy must get coconut cream pie when on the menu, so we ordered that, too. Of course, both were so good, but the sundae! Our waiter said we could get our donut sundae with the “donut of the day” peanut butter and jelly, but suggested we go with the classic plain. They start with a crispy homemade donut, top it with Zingerman’s creamery vanilla gelato drizzle with caramel, sprinkle with salted peanuts and finish with whipped cream and a cherry. HEAVEN!
Chocolate Milk Chasers
Nancy loves Guernsey’s milk and gives shots of their skim milk to non-believers. The milk comes from their diary farm in Northville, Michigan and I’ve used their diary products with great success. Zingerman’s uses Calder dairy products from Lincoln Park and Carleton, Michigan. Nancy and our waiter had a discussion about dairy that resulted in Calder dairy chocolate milk chasers for the whole table!
In short, Zingerman’s is wonderful. Our waiter was perfect; attentive and knowledgeable with wonderful suggestions up his sleeve. You can taste the difference in their food and you can sense the pride taken in the business. If you need any more convincing, let me remind you that they have a DONUT SUNDAE.