Zingerman’s Roadhouse

If you are passing through Ann Arbor it is de rigueur to visit the Zingerman’s food empire.  Zingerman’s Roadhouse is a welcome addition to the downtown deli and bakehouse, and while visiting family in Ann Arbor it was a fortuitous “on the way” stop for some great food and treats.

Oyster shell “mulch” used as landscaping around the restaurant

I was sans camera for our first visit, where we sampled some barbecued Kumamoto oysters, which were topped with a deliciously edgy vinegar-based sauce.  The oysters were tasty and well prepared, but I had a bit of regret that I opted to order West-coast oysters.  I suspect that that East-coast oysters also on the menu would have been a better choice, as these lacked the fresh briny liquid mingling with the sauce.  We also sampled the crab cakes, which were small but impeccable, loaded with crab and lightly bound with seasonings and panko crumbs.  A side of sweet potato fries were crispy and flavorful, and served as a huge portion that required a take-away box.

Part of the mural covering the back of the restaurant

At another visit with family, we were seated in the patio section during a busy lunch hour.  Service was less attentive this time, largely due to the crowd.  I had the sauteed wild-caught walleye, which is one of my absolute favorite types of fish, served simply with crushed potatoes and fresh, garlic-spiked spinach.  Zingerman’s does local sourcing for most of their produce and meats, including their own Cornman Farm, and that is evident on the plates.  The spinach was cooked just to wilting stage, and the potatoes had the waxy texture and buttery flavor of fresh picked.  The fish was simple and beautiful.

Doug had the catfish po’ boy, which I assume was amazing because 1. he did not share, and 2. he ate the whole thing.  We will assume this to be a positive review:

Harrison had a vegetarian polenta dish called “Grilled Carolina White Grits” that came topped with a saute of fresh corn and green chiles, spiked with a vinaigrette and topped with Vermont raw-milk cheddar.  I had the opportunity to sample this and loved the flavors of the fresh saute with the crispy polenta and rich cheddar:

Zingerman’s Roadhouse is known for its locally-source barbecued meats, and we all sampled some of the “red sauce” barbecue, which had a sweet start and a slight burn to the finish, as well as pronounced smokey flavor.  I am not big on barbecue but I greatly enjoyed the sample.  Kim tried a barbecue sandwich and found the texture not to her liking, so the item was removed from the bill and graciously and quickly replaced with a plate of the absolutely decadent mac and cheese.  Rich, rich, rich, and so very good.

BBQ “pits” smoking away at the back of the restaurant

We had planned one more dinner visit to meet up with Mary of the fabulous Food Floozie blog, but life interfered.  However, Zingerman’s caters to the time-pressed with their drive up/walk up Roadshow trailer, which provided an opportunity to sample some baked goods.

The “Roadshow” trailer, with drive-up and walk-up windows
The Roadshow menu

We tried the light-textured almond orange cake, which tasted deceptively healthy and was topped with a crunchy sliced almond streusel, as well as the “lemon cloud,” a giant puff of sugar-dusted fried dough with a tart, lemon curd essence clinging to the hollow interior.  It was ethereal and lovely.  Baked goods are a Zingerman’s trademark, and if you are dining at the Roadhouse all of the meals come with a basket of their freshly baked and crisp-crusted breads, wonderful with a schmear of butter or a drizzle of olive oil.

I loved the food at the Roadhouse, with fresh ingredients, ethical sensibilities, and skillful presentation.  If you are in Ann Arbor, it is well worth a stop.

Thanks for reading,


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5 Responses to Zingerman’s Roadhouse

  1. Katie July 17, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

    What a fun place! I'm not sure which I like better – the barrel BBQ or the old trailer… Oh, yeah…. Food looks pretty delish as well!

  2. Angela FRS July 17, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

    It is a fun place, and I loved all of the quirky details–and yeah, the food was great!

  3. Patricia Stoltey July 17, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    Sounds like you find all the best places to eat when you travel.

    Have you ever been to Jacque-Imo's in New Orleans? Incredible food and the best bread pudding I've found anywhere. http://www.jacquesimoscafe.com/

  4. Angela FRS July 18, 2011 at 3:24 am #

    Pat, I haven't been but it is high on my "must visit soon" list–I do try to have a handy list of must-eat places whenever I travel.

  5. Yenta Mary July 18, 2011 at 4:06 am #

    Oh, we'd have had a grand time there, had life not intervened … it has a nasty way of rearing its ugly head at the most inopportune moments. But I'm glad you ate well while you were in town! And Harrison ordered the very dish — the grits — that I'd had my heart set on trying! Definitely the thing to eat when I go there next, because this is a recommendation I trust implicitly … 🙂

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