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Iconic Restaurants of Ann Arbor

Iconic Restaurants of Ann Arbor

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Iconic Restaurants of Ann Arbor

Longueur:
164 pages
57 minutes
Sortie:
Sep 12, 2016
ISBN:
9781439657676
Format:
Livre

Description

What is an iconic Ann Arbor restaurant? Ask anyone who has ever spent time there as a student, traveler, or "townie," and they are likely to name several favorites in an instant. From debating the best place to celebrate or console on football Saturdays to deciding where to eat after the bars close, the choices have always sparked passionate conversation. In Ann Arbor, people are known to have strong feelings about the best places for pizza, coffee, beer, burgers, noodles, and burritos. Although many of the go-to hangouts are long gone, a surprising number still thrive. And there are always a few newcomers coming along to win the hearts of the next generation of diners, nibblers, and noshers. Some are fine restaurants and taverns, and others are lunch counters, diners, carry-outs, and drive-ins--but in each and every case, they are unique and together make up a collection of iconic local eateries.
Sortie:
Sep 12, 2016
ISBN:
9781439657676
Format:
Livre

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Iconic Restaurants of Ann Arbor - Jon Milan

www.bluefrogbooksandmore.com.

INTRODUCTION

When I came here to go to school back in the mid-1970s, restaurants were the last thing on my mind. Clearly the town had plenty of them, but they played no part at all in my decision to come to Ann Arbor to attend the University of Michigan. Even while I was in school here, food was hardly front of mind. In truth, I do not really even remember a whole lot about what was on my mind. It does not sound very inspiring, but it was probably more about getting by (and something else that rhymes with that) than getting an amazing education, building a career, or carrying on the intellectual tradition of the famous academic institution of which I was one very insignificant part. Although I now write extensively about vision, the truth is that back then I had none. At least nothing very inspiring. I liked Ann Arbor well enough, but in truth I did not see all that much of it. Like most of my peers, I had no car and not much money. Which meant that eating out was a rare event. Getting downtown from campus was no small thing—walking 15 blocks when it is 15 degrees out was not my idea of a great time. Eating out was not even on my agenda. The restaurants were all there—I just did not really make use of most of them.

When I got to my junior year at U of M, I formally declared myself a history major (you have to pick something) and spent much of the following two years studying Russian history. Peter the Great, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Kropotkin, and the Empress Catherine were all prominent on my reading lists. And although I am not personally religious, the Russian Orthodox Church was, of course, a big part of the story. Prayer, church building, and icon painting all played prominent roles in what I was reading. Icons were one of the most interesting, and for those to whom they mattered, one of the most inspirational parts of Russian Orthodox culture. Many believed that they were inspired directly by God. Icons gave people a moment of connection with something bigger than themselves. A trigger to reflect. A setting in which solitude and community could come together in the same space. Some believed they were painted by angels.

While I do not want to say that any of the iconic restaurants in this book are acts of God, I do not think it is stretching things too much to say that for those who visited them regularly in their day, these places were very much akin to a religious, or at least near-religious, experience. They inspired. They provided a sense of security and stability. They had deeply loyal clientele who believed strongly in the business in ways that went far beyond a convenient counter at which to order breakfast or a cheeseburger. Like icons, the restaurants on this list gave comfort in times of crisis and sustenance in times of struggle. They inspired and gave their regulars a safe place in which they could study, reflect, recharge, or reconnect with friends, family, and community.

In the food world today we talk a lot now about what the French call terroir—it is a reference to the influence that location, soil, and climate all play in the flavor of the food that grows in it. Each plant is both influenced by and in turn influences the ecosystem of which it is a part. I like to think of business the same way. The best of them are a product of their environment, and at the same time, the environment is better for them being in it.

The chain restaurants that do not appear in the book are the opposite—they are neither iconic nor influential. Every unit in its respective chain is nearly identical to all the others; they are the same wherever anyone sets them down. Many have appeared in Ann Arbor over the decades. They come and they go, but they leave little mark on the town. The corporate offices that initiated their appearance and later pulled the plug on their presence are far more focused on financial statements and quarterly reports than they are about anyone or anything in this small Midwestern town with the big reputation. The focus on place is replaced by a near singular emphasis on profit.

In that sense, the restaurants referred to in this marvelous little book are all about Ann Arbor. And, at the same time, Ann Arbor is a lot about them. While there’s a lot more to the town than its eating places, every place written up in this book has made a meaningful impact on our community. You may have eaten in many of them. You might well have even been a regular. And if you were not, your parents, your best friend, or your college roommate could have been. You might well have met your significant other, had some difficult conversations, asked for a raise, or decided to get married in one of them. Or you might, as I did, work in one. Thinking back now, it is easy to imagine that well over half of the town’s most interesting business deals, new relationships, heart-to-heart conversations, and entrepreneurial ventures—at one point or another—benefitted from, or were influenced by, one of the restaurants that appear in the following pages. It is safe to say that without their culinary and community presence, Ann Arbor would not be what it

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