Culinary destination, cultural center, shopping mecca — check out everything this bustling college town has to offer
By Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder
Brought to you by Dan Gutfreund Realty Group
EAT + DRINK
314 S. Main St.
There’s live jazz every weekend at The Blue Llama Jazz Club — world-renowned pianist Ellis Marsalis and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval have graced the downtown venue. Take in the vibes while seated at a hightop near the stage and nibbling on Old Devil Moons (crispy deviled eggs with goat cheese and chile). Avoid disappointment by calling ahead for reservations.
117 E. Liberty St.
A cup of coffee at Roos Roast is meant to be a complete experience. Such is the mission of founders and Ann Arbor natives John Roos and his wife, Katherine Weider-Roos. Their cheerful garage-door storefront serves up local favorite coffee blends with whimsical names (Lobster Butter Love, Mother Pheasant Plucker) made from ethically sourced, freshly roasted beans.
341 E Liberty St.
The flavors of Mexico City await at Isalita, where the street-food inspired menu features tasty tacos, fajitas, and quesadillas, plus small plates (black truffle guac? Yes, please). The dishes are meant to be shared, but we won’t blame you if you hoard your margarita — try it with the house-infused habanero tequila.
300 West Liberty St.
Pull up to Blank Slate Creamery and you’ll notice two things: Eager customers lined up way out the door, and the seductive smell of freshly baked waffle cones. Homemade, all-natural ice cream made from high quality ingredients — think Garden Basil, Lemon-Lavender, and Vietnamese Cinnamon — will tempt and tantalize. And don’t be discouraged by the crowd: The line moves along remarkably fast thanks to their friendly and competent staff.
2321 Jackson Ave.
Hidden away on Ann Arbor’s Westside is Homes Brewery, which features amazing and somewhat unusual special-ty beers. (Think brews with elements of mango, passionfruit, vanilla beans, and dark chocolate.) The outdoor seating area and Asian-fusion menu also keeps this place hopping. The ambiance is often loud and alive — probably because it’s always filled with locals who come to connect and enjoy what many consider the tastiest sour beers in the city.
100 S. Fourth Ave. Ste. 110
Blom Meadworks is a must-try for ciders and “session-style” meads — those that are light, dry, carbonated and lower in alcohol than their more traditional counterparts. The selections at Blom (pronounced “bloom”) are unique, seasonal and made from fruit and honey that’s locally sourced from Michigan farmers — and they’re all naturally gluten-free!
205 N. Main St.
American classics in vegan and gluten-free incarnations are made from scratch and served up fresh at Vedge Cafe. Even dedicated carnivores will be wowed by the flavors and variety of their tasty plant-based cuisine. Try the Irish Reuben or the Greek-style Gyros made from housemade seasoned seitan.
121 W. Washington St.
If you crave a culinary experience that you’ll be talking about well after you’ve digested, splurge at The Earle. This swanky, surprisingly unpretentious restaurant is a memorable place to savor a glass of fine wine and French and Italian food while enjoying live jazz. If you’re someone who likes to post pics of your food on social media, this is the restaurant for you — the beautifully presented dishes will set your heart on fire.
812 Monroe St.
As any U-M grad knows, Dominick’s has amazing, homemade sangria served in marvelous Mason jars. The 61-year-old shop is the perfect summer day-drinking spot, but don’t skip the excellent chicken parm sandwich. Outdoor seating is available on the front patio and in the charming courtyard in the back.
300 S. Ashley St.
The “hippest little diners in the hippest Midwest towns” is how the folks at the retro-style Fleetwood Diner flag themselves. And they aren’t lying — their on-campus location, open 24/7, is a long-cherished breakfast spot among students and locals. Try the Hippie Hash: homemade hash browns topped with grilled tomato, green pepper, onion, mushroom, and broccoli, then topped with feta cheese.
327 Braun Ct.
Bar 327 Braun Court offers a vast range of creative and artful craft cocktails. This quintessential neighborhood bar also intentionally operates as a third space for the local community, making it a perfect spot to mingle with some pretty interesting regulars.
Ann Arbor has several notable independent bookstores that will delight even the most discerning bookhounds. Literati (124 E. Washington St.) is a local — and national — favorite: It ranked No. 3 on Huffington Post’s list of the 50 best indie bookstores in America in 2017. Just a few steps away is the Crazy Wisdom Bookstore & Tearoom, where you’ll find an eclectic selection of metaphysical books and gifts (114 S. Main St.). About a 10-minute car ride away is the cozy Nicola’s Books (2513 Jackson Ave.), a go-to for top-notch books, games, and quirky gifts for more than 25 years.
407 N. Fifth Ave.
Set in bustling Kerrytown, Mudpuddles has been bringing smiles to the faces of curious and creative children of all ages since 1994. Pop in to find award-winning educational toys, art supplies, adorable stuffed animals, and games.
5206 Plymouth Rd.
Experience a bit of Old Time Americana at Dixboro General Store, which was built nearly 20 years before the Civil War (and weathered a successful restoration project in 1990). Modern-day visitors will find charming furniture, home decor, and accessories throughout the two levels as well as the garden area, which houses cheerful outdoor décor.
216 S. Main St.
Think you can’t find an Idris Elba coloring book, a dog toy that resembles a Tanqueray bottle and a quarantine-themed greeting card under one roof? Just head to Rock Paper Scissors, Ann Arbor’s best place to score cute and quirky cards, stationery, and more. The shelves are also stocked with gift items like cocktail mixers, baby essentials, and sassy apparel.
309 S. State St.
If you want some truly beautiful clothing, visit Verbena, where you’ll find high-quality, fashion-forward women’s apparel alongside a selection of fabulous jewelry and accessories. Whether you need a demure denim essential or something slightly more show-stopping — sequined miniskirt, anyone? — this cute little boutique has you covered.
215 S. State St.
Shopping at The Getup Vintage isn’t only an investment in your wardrobe, but also the planet. Owners Lindsey Leyland and Kaylan Mitchell have long been passionate about combating textile waste and the importance of environmentally conscious fashion. Expect racks of sustainable, made-to-last vintage clothing that’s bright, boisterous, and anything but boring.
15 N. Fifth Ave.
What will you find at Found? The small Kerrytown boutique features the work of a dozen innovative local artists who use only recycled, found or vintage materials. Peruse an ever-changing collection of jewelry, gifts, home decor, and Michigan-themed items, from tastefully carved furniture and vintage postage stamps to glassware etched with the annotations of molecules commonly found in whiskey, scotch, and rye.
THINGS TO DO
118 N. Fourth Ave.
A fairly new kid on the block, THE GUTMAN GALLERY is a downtown fine-arts space that showcases rotating art exhibitions and a gallery shop. It also does triple-duty as a creative space for various workshops and events. Expect to find artist-made jewelry, pottery, prints, photographs, and paintings that appeal to all tastes and budgets.
The Fairy Doors of Ann Arbor
There’s otherworldly magic hiding in Ann Arbor — if only you look. Several local businesses and homes around the city feature minuscule “fairy doors” where people young and old can leave notes, wishes, or gifts for local fairies. Grab a map from the Ann Arbor Chamber of Commerce (2010 Hogback Rd., Ste. 4) and have a blast trying to find all The Fairy Doors of Ann Arbor or leave your sightings to chance.
326 S. State St.
Built in 1915, the historic, 261-foot-long Nickels Arcade building (which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987) has plenty to see: You can shop for antiques, tobacco, flowers, get a haircut or get your shoes fixed. Simply taking it all in is OK, too!
Selfie time! True to its name, Graffiti Alley, just off East Liberty Street, is covered in graffiti from both local and visiting artists and is a perfect place to pause for pictures. And what’s there today may be gone tomorrow — people add to the alley daily, so its art is ever-changing.
3902 E. Delhi Rd.
If outdoor adventure is on your radar, visit Skip’s Huron River Canoe Livery, a full-service canoe, kayak, and tubing rental facility since 1973. The folks there will set you up with everything you need to enjoy what some consider the most scenic stretch of the Huron. It can get busy on weekends so call ahead to reserve your trip.
1610 Washington Hts.
You’ll find natural beauty wherever you turn at Nichols Arboretum. From the north entrance, walk to Riverfront Landing and picnic by the water. It’s an especially beautiful spot with awe-inspiring vistas of the Huron River. FYI: The Arb, as it’s known to locals, doesn’t have a parking lot, but metered street parking is available nearby.
7217 W. Liberty Rd.
Run by members of the local Tsogyelgar Buddhist Community, White Lotus Farms is only about 10 minutes from downtown and is a popular place to pick up fresh breads, pastries, and micro-greens. Kids will especially love the koi pond, the petting zoo filled with adorable baby goats, and the soul-soothing flower gardens.