Around Ann Arbor, MI – Beer, Food & Fun
When it comes to food and libations there are literally hundreds of options within the a short 20 mile radius around Ann Arbor. And there’s something for every taste too.
Ann Arbor itself is like a mini San Francisco, literally buzzing with side-by-side eateries, hip decor and sophisticated diners. This is the place to go for upscale restaurants, trendy wine bars and craft cocktails. It’s the kind of place my typical RV attire feels woefully inadequate. Where are my high heels again? Oh that’s right…I didn’t bring any!
The towns of Dexter, Chelsea and Ypsilanti (known locally as Ypsi) are smaller downs with a more laid-back vibe and small downtown areas with food, coffee and beer. The charm of each place is unique from the mid-century industrial feel of Chelsea to the more intimate vibe of Dexter. They’re all worth an individual visit.
Since our good friends Matt and Tracie were in the area, we spent most of our time hanging with them, but we did get to see several RV buddies too. Our friends Krash, Karen & Pipa came down from Tawas for a weekend, so we got a lunch date with them. And I managed to sneak in a breakfast with buddies Leigh and Brian, long-term RV friends (that also run the excellent campground review site Campendium) who are currently parked near Detroit. The rest of the time we did shorter outings by ourselves with doggie in tow.
Of course we only scratched the surface in the area. Given how MANY places there are to go and the fact that our waistlines could only handle a FEW outings, we really didn’t manage to get anywhere close to trying them all. But we did find a few gems, and even a few dog-friendly spots worth sharing. Here’s our top-rated list:
Trendy Ann Arbor, MI
It’s hard to even talk about Ann Arbor because there are SO many places worth trying and of course we didn’t even get to go to a tenth of them. This place is hip, it’s happening, it’s full of youngsters (University of Michigan is right there, after all) and it’s got a vibrant energy that never sleeps. If you like big city living you will LOVE this town, with the bonus that everything is compacted in a nice, accessible space. The only slight bummer (for us) is that not many of the downtown areas are dog-friendly, so for folks with furry family you may have to leave them at home. Nonetheless we thoroughly enjoyed our nights out on the town and had several excellent meals with our buddies:
- Best Cocktails = Black Pearl. This place can get crazy busy, but if you catch it early (say, before dinner) it has a most excellent martini & cocktail menu. We had a slew of craft cocktails which the bar keep just made up on the spot, including one of the best chocolate martini’s I’ve had since Portland, OR. Click HERE.
- Best Wine Bar = VinBar. This is a simple, modern place which offers an excellent selection of wines served by a very knowledgeable staff. Lots of local MI wine options on offer here too. Click HERE.
- Best Fancy Meal = Pacific Rim. This place is a total splurge, but it offers an insanely tasty array of Asian-inspired food in a cozy, upscale environment. By far the best meal we’ve had in a while. Yummy!! Click HERE.
- Best Breakfast = Zingerman’s. This is a quirky place with several buildings including a little shop, eatery and deli. LOTS of excellent and affordable breakfast options here including gluten-free offerings too. I went here with our buddies Leigh & Brian after a big night out, and it was the perfect spot to replenish my belly and mind. Extra bonus? You can bring your doggie to the outdoor seating area. Click HERE. Dog friendly!
Worthy Mentions -> More than we can fit into one blog post! These are all places we didn’t try, but were on our “list”. Frita Batidos (Cuban inspired place), Biercamp (love the name), Wolverine State Brewing Co (looks awesome) and The Lunch Room (always enjoy trying good vegan places). Sooooo many more I could add to this list!
Cozy Dexter, MI
I know I probably shouldn’t say I have a favorite, but I have to admit that out of all the towns we visited the relaxed and intimate nature of Dexter charmed me the most. Part of it might be that we went so often (due to Polly’s rehab), so it became like a second home to us. But part of it was also the dog-friendliness (how can you not be charmed when the beer place brings out a water bowl for your pooch together with the beer menu?), the relaxing downtown Riverwalk trail, the cute little farmers market and the easy accessibility of everything in town. Our fav spots in town?
Best Beer = The Beer Grotto. A beer menu with over 40 craft brews, an extremely knowledgeable server and a pleasant outdoor dog-friendly seating area. What more could you ask for? Paul fell in love with the Kuhnhenn DRIPA (Double Rice IPA, brewed in Warren, MI) while I enjoyed a very nice New Holland “Dragon’s Milk” Imperial Stout. They have several locations in the area and the beer menu is constantly rotating, so if you have a particular hankering check out their website before you go. GREAT SPOT! Click HERE. Dog friendly at the Dexter location!
- Best Coffee = Joe & Rosie’s Specialty Tea & Coffee. Wonderful little coffee shop downtown with outdoor dog-friendly seating. Good Mocha’s, nice atmosphere, friendly place. Click HERE. Dog friendly!
Worthy Mentions -> Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales is a worthy spot to try some sours. Only negative? Nowhere to sit and enjoy your beer with doggie in tow.
Artsy, Industrial Chelsea, MI
Admittedly we only made it once to Chelsea in our time here, and then it was more like a quick walk through than a thorough exploration. The little we saw, however was enough to convince us that this town has substantial and interesting depth.
On the historical side, the Chelsea clock tower is famous, as is the Jiffy Mix Factory, both of which dominate the downtown skyline when you’re there. But the place also has a deep connection to the arts. There’s the acclaimed Purple Rose Theater, as well as an excellent Music & Festival scene. Plus it has a most lovely library and a solid beer place (Chelsea Alehouse Brewery).
Sadly we didn’t get to stop and sample the beers/food, so reviews will have to be left to our readers. We should have spent more time here, no doubt, but we were happy we got a taste.
Laid-Back Ypsilanti, MI
There’s no way we would have discovered this little gem if it weren’t for our friends Karen and Krash who called this area their home for many years.
Of all the smaller towns we went to this has the most relaxed vibe, and the most “local” feel. It’s only a few blocks long, but packs in several lovely eateries and even a wonderful little organic food co-op. You can tell that the folks who live here do so because they want to be out of the “bigger city” and simply love the area. We had a most excellent meal with the dogs, followed by a lovely little stroll along the river where Polly was able to dip her paws in the water.
- Best Beer & Burgers = Sidetrack. Great beer menu, solid burgers and several different outdoor patio areas. They even have a dedicated doggie menu! Click HERE. Dog friendly!
Worthy Mentions -> Maìz Mexican Cantina gets four paws up from Krash & Karen and although we didn’t get to try it ourselves, it sure looked tasty as we walked past. Plus it’s got dog-friendly outdoor seating!
And last, but not least. No visit to Ann Arbor would be complete without catching a University Of Michigan football game, or so we were assured by our buddy Matt (a UM alum). Michigan Stadium is the largest football stadium in the US, with a mind-boggling capacity of 107,601 people, and when the game’s on it is often full! So when you go, you’re going for an all-out experience. Since I’m not much of a football gal, Paul and Matt enjoyed a “man date” and they most definitely had a blast. Go Blue!
Thus ends our time in Ann Arbor. We’re headed West, albeit briefly, to check out the Western Coast of the MI “mitt”. Then, it’s high-ho-silver all the way to New York City. More blog fodder is a-coming…