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Zingerman's Roadhouse


tammylc
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Apparently, even Zingerman's is not immune to opening week jitters. They opened on Monday and we went there for lunch today to celebrate closing on our house. I try never to go to restaurants right when they open - it takes them time to settle into their routine, and why should I be a guinea pig? But it's Zingerman's, so we had pretty high expectations. Which, sad to say, were disappointed.

After being seated and brought water and bread, we waited long enough for our server that I felt the need to ask one who was passing by if he could please find our server. She arrived and took our order, but the promised refill of the bread basket never arrived. Service was pretty slow, and it took a while for the apps to come out. The BBQ'd oysters were hot and tasty and very nicely done - cooked but still very tender and not rubbery. I thought the clam chowder was pretty tasty, but Eric and Robyn are bigger clam chowder fans, and they said it was only average. Also, I think the clams weren't well cleaned, as the chowder seemed to have some sandy bits.

Eric had ordered a burger for his entree, and about the time we would have expected to get our food, the server came by to tell us that they had run out of ground beef (they grind their own) and were in the process of grinding more, and did he want to order something else or wait? He asked how long the wait would be, and the answer was never forthcoming, but after waiting a while and snagging a random person to bring us some more bread, our entrees appeared. The burger for Eric, crab cakes for Robyn, and a Pit-Smoked Chicken Wild Mushroom and Fiddlehead Fern salad for me. I immediately notice that my salad is missing the promised aged Quebecois goat cheddar, and we eventually get the attention of our server, who brings out not only the cheese that should have been on top, but also some roasted yellow tomatoes that should also have been a garnish (and were major big yum). The salad is a warm salad, with tasty tender chicken and a lovely mix of wild mushrooms and roasted fennel and leek on top of wilted spinach, served with a buerre blanc vinaigrette (and the cheese and tomatoes that had been brought out to me). It was only at the very end of the meal that I realized that there had been no fiddlehead ferns on my fiddlehead salad...

Meanwhile, Eric has eaten about a third of his burger, when he arrives at the center of the patty (ordered medium rare) and discovers that it is still raw. We call over our server _again_ and send the burger back. I'm pleased to report, however, that there was nothing wrong with Robyn's crabcakes, which were actually quite tasty, although the kitchen appeared to be exhibiting a lack of imagination - every dish was garnished with chopped scallions. Eric also felt that the burger toppings didn't live up to Zing standards - the mustard and ketchup were both just Heinz. My suspicion that this was purposeful was confirmed later - the goal of the restaurant is to highlight American food, so french mustards are out.

Service has been slow all along, so Robyn finishes up his meal and leaves to go back to work. Eventually Eric's burger comes, but having eaten two apps (the oysters and the clam chowder), tastes of my salad and Robyn's crab cakes, plus a Vernors Gelato Float, he's not very hungry and asks to have it wrapped up to go. Even though we're both pretty full, we can't resist trying the S'mores - Zing started making their own graham crackers and marshmallows earlier this year, so we had to give it a try. Very tasty, although Eric thought that the chocolate marshmallows were a little overkill, and preferred the plain ones.

The burger, S'mores and Eric's coffee were all comped to make up for all of our troubles, but the bill for the two of us still came to $36 before tip, which seems awfully excessive. Everything on the menu seems overpriced by at least $3 or $4. My giant glass of fresh squeezed lemonade was really yummy, but $3.50 buys an awful lot of lemons. And even if the beef was Niman Ranch and freshly ground on site, Eric didn't think his burger and fries were really worth $12.

On our way out, the hostess (someone I used to work with) asked if everything was okay. Since she was a friend, I told her that no, we hadn't exactly been impressed, and she had us pass on our opinions to some unnamed guy (probably the manager or something). As I told him, we understand that this is only their third day, and we're willing to cut them quite a bit of slack, but that if things are this unprofessional in a couple of weeks, we'll be very disappointed.

Hopefully I'll have better things to report after our next visit. The menu has lots and lots of things we'd like to try, so I know we'll be back, but we'll give them a couple weeks to settle in. Zingerman's has set really high standards for themselves - I hope they can meet them, and am pretty sure they will be able to, so I hope to able to retract this negative review pretty soon...

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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I try never to go to restaurants right when they open - it takes them time to settle into their routine,

very wise advice. I've been burned too many times going w/in the first two weeks of a restaurant opening.

"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be"
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Great post, Tammy -- thanks. I'll probably give them a try the next time I'm in A2.

BTW, here's a well-written and interesting article about the business side of Zingerman's.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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Ouch.  I expect they'll improve.

Bruce

Me too. But they will probably still be too expensive.

To a certain extent, I think the sandwiches at the deli are too expensive as well, but I just never order them - I get stuff from the deli - bread and cheese, occasionally soup, sometimes some sliced smoked duck - even if I spend as much or more as I would have on a sandwich, I feel like I got a better deal.

It remains to be seen if I'll be able to execute that sort of end run with the Roadhouse. Their dinner menu looks more promising than lunch did - an appetizer and a couple sides could make a great and reasonably priced meal.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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Funny--I put on my Zingerman's t-shirt this AM and found this post!  Where is the restaurant located?

2501 Jackson Rd -- in the Westgate Shopping Center at the SW corner of Jackson and Maple (just north of where Stadium becomes Maple) in Ann Arbor. It's in a former Bill Knapp's restaurant.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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Good review -- thanks! And welcome to eGullet, mitten.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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  • 2 weeks later...

My wife and I looked forward to the arrival of Zingerman's Roadhouse ever since the sign announcing its opening first appeared on Jackson Road. After stopping by on a couple of previous occasions only to find waits that numbered in the hours, we were able to manage for lunch two days ago, only having to wait about fifteen minutes.

My biscuits and gravy were as described in the menu and were tasty good. My wife's fried grits were, however, misrepresented. The Vermont cheeze that was reported to be part of the presentation was nowhere to be found, and if somehow infused in the grits, their taste was totally masked by a pepper sauce that bordered on being too hot for consumption (at least for our taste), and nowhere in the menu did it refer to this as a spicey dish. We informed our waitress who apologized, though with no offer to substitute anything else as would most other restaurants of similar venue.

The check arrived, and with taxes and tip we paid $40 for two vegetable dumplings, two small squares of grits, and two glasses of water. With nonalcoholic drinks and desert we would have easily paid over $60. Keep in mind, we're talking lunch!

All things said, we will not be recommending Zingerman's Roadhouse to our friends. We would much rather have had two sandwiches at the original Zingerman's for half the price (now there's a bargain?). There are many other places in Ann Arbor with food as good and prices that are more reasonable.

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We went to Zingerman's Roadhouse last night. Big disappointment! The service was EXTREMELY slow! It was at least 45 minutes from the time we ordered until our food arrived. When it did, my wife's chicken breast was overcooked. My (so-called) BBQ beef sandwich was a bunch of fatty, chewy, stringy meat with some kind of bland tomato sauce for $12.50. I sent it back and got a burger, which was good. Still, the overall experience was not pleasant.

I think the Zingerman's folks need to get on a plane immediately and head to Kansas City. Head over to Gates BBQ and see what a REAL BBQ beef should look and taste like!

But, it probably won't make a difference. In Ann Arbor, Zingerman's is like "the emperor's new clothes"...people figure if they're spending this much, it MUST be good!

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But, it probably won't make a difference.  In Ann  Arbor, Zingerman's is like "the emperor's new clothes"...people figure if they're spending this much, it MUST be good!

Generally I agree, but this place has been getting a lot of negative press. The Zingerman's bloom may be off the rose...

I'm going there Friday for a friend's birthday - hope my experience is better!

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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Last night we celebrated a friend's birthday with dinner at Zingerman's Roadhouse. Scott stopped by on his way home after work to get our name on the list, and we ended up being seated around 6:20. Eric got stuck in traffic, so he and I were a little late and didn't get there until abotu 6:40 or so (we were aiming for 6:30).

All in all, a _much_ better experience than last time! We didn't have to send anything back, service was attentive and prompt, and in true Zingerman's style, they went out of their way to make sure we were happy. We were initially seated at a corner booth, which really wasn't big enough for 6 adults (one very pregnant) and one energetic 3 year old. But at our request, they moved us to a bigger table as soon as one became available, and were really friendly and accomodating about the whole thing. So in general they do appear to be on the upswing. Drawbacks - really, really noisy. Like yelling to be heard across the table noisy. The hostess telling us that while she "had her eye on a couple of larger tables for us, the people at them were "camping," so it might be a little while." "Camping" is a not a word you should with your customers...

The food:

Appetizers: we split three apps around the table.

The fried green tomatoes were pretty standard, and overpriced at $7.50 for three tomato slices.

The cheese plate was really good - very generous portions and pretty good variety. It was supposed to have six varieties, but we only got five - Point Reyes Blue (nice, and this is from somebody (me) who doesn't like blue cheese), Quebec aged goat milk cheddar (I've had this before and it's quite good, very sharp), and two from Zingerman's creamery - the Bridgewater, which I can't find any information about online, but was a soft tangy farm cheese, and an aged goat's cheese, which was smooth and mild. I believe the fifth cheese was Midnight Moon, another goat cheese, because it certainly didn't taste like the "un-4-gettable cheddar" a Vermont raw milk cheddar aged for 4 years. It's possible that what I thought was the goat milk cheddar was actually the un-4-gettable, but I'm not certain because they weren't marked, and if they were explained, it was before I arrived. In any case, searching on Midnight Moon today brings up descriptions of a nutty quality, which the mystery cheese certainly had. I found it to be almost gruyere like. So - good cheese plate. Heavy on the goat cheese, however. I like goat cheese, so this wasn't a problem for me, but not a very balanced presentation. The plate also included some grapes, pecans, local honey, and bread crisps.

The last app we split were some raw oysters, which I did not partake of, given my current state. The malepeque were apparently much better than the kumamoto.

Soups: between the group of us, we tried 3 out of 4 soups on the menu.

Clam Chowder - Even though Eric said this was "only okay" on his last visit, that didn't prevent him from getting it again. I didn't hear anything to imply that it had improved between visits.

Beef Chuck Chili - with "hand cut Niman Ranch beef chuck in an anho chili broth with black beans." This was a dark brown bowl of chili. Excellent flavor, good texture on the meat. Spicy, but not too hot, maybe a touch of chocolate in there. Good bowl, assuming you don't think beans in chili is blasphemy, which I don't.

New Mexico Posole - made with Niman Ranch pork, roasted New Mexico green chilis and hominy. The favorite of the table, this was a _very_ spicy but extremely flavorful broth, filled with nummy bits of goodness. Really good soup, but probably too spicy for me to eat more than a couple spoonfuls of.

Only soup we didn't try was the New Orleans Gumbo. Maybe next time.

Entrees:

To no one's surprise, I managed to order the least roadhouse-esque item on the menu, the Braised Niman Ranch Lamb Shank. This was served in an ancho chili broth with New Mexico white corn hominy and mole verde. The broth was divine, flavorful without being hot. The mole verde packed a bit of a punch, but had a delightful tang to go with. And the lamb was awesome - tender and very flavorful.

Everybody else ordered more typical roadhouse food - ribs, pulled pork, grilled chicken, BBQ beef brisket, and dry aged top sirloin. Most everybody's dishes were served with mashed potatoes and sauteed greens as sides. The mashed potatoes were just astounding. I took a bit of somebody else's, and was just overwhelmed by the taste of... potato. Like really wonderfully intense, excellent potatoes. On further sampling, it was clear that there was a lot of butter and some cream in there too, but the potato flavor was just really dramatic. They use Yukon Golds, which are excellent mashing potatoes.

Since only Sue's dinner came with the "Fresh Green Bean Casserole with Wild Mushrooms and Onion Rings" and she wasn't willing to give hers up, I ordered a side to share around. General consensus - very good, but completely different from the standard American green bean casserole. Some things cannot be duplicated with fresh ingredients! See this week's Foodblog over in General Food Topics for more discussion on that very idea.

Everyone had good things to say about their dinners. The pulled pork was served dry (ie. no BBQ sauce) but still managed to be jucy and very flavorful. Similarly, Sue's chicken was excellent and moist. Eric thought the full rack of ribs was a little small, but given that all the meat is Niman Ranch, I'm attributing that to the lack of hormones and pigs grown to be gigantic, but completely lean and thus flavorless. The steak was good - Sarah's immediate reaction was that it was underdone from the medium rare she ordered it, but I disagree - it was pinkish-red and warm throughout, which to me spells medium-rare. A rare steak will be red in the middle and have a cool center. But she didn't regret eating it the way it was served and said it was "perfect." I thought it was pretty darn tasty too.

A note on portions - dinner portions are huge! 3 of us took home entire meals for the next day, and the others didn't bother taking home leftovers, but left vast amounts of sides on the plate. Typical American roadhouse portion sizes, that's for sure. Which as long as I remember to only eat half, is fine, although in general I prefer more reasonable portion sizes.

Dessert:

We tried a bunch of things - the warm apple tart, key lime pie, chocolate chess pie and black magic brownie sundae. All were fine, but nothing special.

</lj-cut>

Some random comments: The tea service was impressive, but the water was just tepid. The paper hand towels in the bathroom unfolded very large. Jon's comment - "You could wash your car with one of those." There's no kids menu, per se, but the waiter will tell you that they can do a kid's size burger or hot dog, or modify the amish chicken nuggets app to be kid friendly as a dinner (take off the honey mustard and hot sauce, add some french fries). And there's a kid's mac and cheese listed in the mac and cheese portion of the menu. The parents at the table were impressed that the kid's portion was a reasonable kid's size - too often they go to restaurants where the kid's portion is as big as the adult's!

Bottom line? Certainly a much better experience. I didn't stick around long enough to see the check - I was tired and came home to sleep while the rest were "camping" and chatting, but I suspect it was scary. Dinner did seem a slightly better value than lunch, especially if you can make two meals out of it! I think you can get a reasonably priced meal at the Roadhouse by splitting an entree and a couple of apps - that would be more than enough food for two people. Or just order an app and a couple of sides. The menu is not very vegetarian friendly at all - two apps, several salads, 1 "specialty entree" and 3 of the mac and cheeses on yesterday's menu were vegetarian, plus most of the side dishes. But not much variety within those choices, and no protein source other than cheese.

Will we go back? Yep, probably. It's right down the street, afterall. Hopefully the hub-bub will eventually die down and it will be possible to get dinner at a reasonable time without waiting for an hour. Even they've been surprised at how busy they've been, and you'd think they would've known what to expect! A lot of problems in the early days stemmed from them being crazy busy straight through from open to close, where they'd expected things to slow down some in the middle of the afternoon and leave time for prep. So they added a third full shift to work after close and prep for the next day.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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  • 1 month later...

Well, as I predicted above, the hub-bub has definitely died down. I'd been noticing plenty of spots in the parking lot the last few times I've driven by, so when we were looking for a place for dinner last night, we decided to give the roadhouse another try.

It was moderately busy, but there was no wait and we got seated right away. First thing we noticed is that prices on a couple of things have come down - most noticeably the hamburger, which has dropped from $12 to $11.50 - significant only psychologically, but I expect people feel better about paying $11 for a burger than $12...

Our waiter was way over friendly and over helpful, bordering on pushy. He annoyed us both. Eric ordered the raw clams as an appetizer. He chose 3 varieties from the 5 that were available, and really liked two of them. The third was only so-so. We both had soup - I got the cream of wild mushroom and he got the chili. The mushroom soup was quite good - nice flavors. plenty of mushrooms, and not so creamy that it was overly thick and filling.

For dinner I wavered between the pot roast and the buttermilk fried chicken. Annoying waiter was no help in making a decision, but I ended up going with the pot roast. It was a _big_ portion of slow cooked Niman Ranch beef chuck, carrots, onion, and sadly, only _one_ yukon gold potato. The sauce was rich and flavorful - clearly had tomato in there somewhere, but it didn't taste tomatoey. But the portion was absolutely huge. I ate what I wanted, Eric tasted some, and I still had enough left for an ample lunch today.

Eric got the burger, and for the second time in a row, it was undercooked. He likes medium rare burgers, but after our last experience with their burger he ordered it medium, just in case. It was _still_ underdone! So we sent it back. The replacement burger was medium well, but that's generally what happens when you send something back, and it was fine. The hand cut french fries are really tasty, though.

Dessert was a brownie sundae. The sauce wasn't hot fudge, as I expected, but a thick milk chocolate sauce from Sharffenberger. The brownie was Zingerman's black magic brownie (no nuts), topped with a scoop of Zingerman's Creamery vanilla gelato, with a mound of whipped cream and some pecans on the side. The whip cream was the creamiest I have ever tasted and was so fabulous I was still eating it with a spoon long after I'd had enough chocolate and ice cream. They brought out the carton of heavy whipping cream for me to check out, but no butterfat content was noted on it. It must have been incredibly high though, to give such a creamy texture.

Bottom line... still too expensive. I think I'm portraying a culinary bias here, but it seems I just don't like to pay that much for big oversized dishes of American food, even if that American food is made with the best quality ingredients. It was still just pot roast, y'know? I just don't think that Zingerman's opening a roadhouse in Ann Arbor really fulfilled any unmet need. A place for good Spanish food - now that would have been neat. Or any of a myriad of other cuisines that Zing is knowledgeable about. But the American food thing just really doesn't work for me.

But I'll probably still go back to try the fried chicken.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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  • 2 years later...

My wife and I ate at the Roadhouse for Sunday brunch this week. It was incredibly satisfying.

We started with a couple doughnuts. Certainly wasn't like any doughnut we had eaten before, with almost a hard crust on the outside. Great flavor, with kinda-burnt-in lumps of brown sugar. Is that the only kind, or is it a doughnut of the day system? The only thing that put me off about them was this weird old-oil aroma that occasionally fooled my brain into thinking I was eating a fried catfish filet.

My wife had the eggs over grits, and I had the eggs and corned beef hash. Just really, really good.

It's true that things were a little pricier than I'd like, with a breakfast hovering around ten dollars per person, but I think that if I lived in the area (we're from north of Chicago), I'd have to make the Roadhouse brunch a regular event.

So it was a surprise to me that around 11:00, it was only ourselves and maybe 10 other diners in the entire place. Is the restaurant not doing well, or are there too many other good options for a Sunday breakfast?

This was our first weekend in Ann Arbor, and our first time experiencing the Zingerman empire. All you Ann-Arborites suck. :wink:

Edited by Anko (log)

Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about.

Troy McClure, hosting the film, The Meat Council Presents: Meat and You - Partners in Freedom

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So it was a surprise to me that around 11:00, it was only ourselves and maybe 10 other diners in the entire place.  Is the restaurant not doing well, or are there too many other good options for a Sunday breakfast?

This was our first weekend in Ann Arbor, and our first time experiencing the Zingerman empire.  All you Ann-Arborites suck.  :wink:

I think the restaurant it still doing a booming business, but it does seem like bruch hasn't really caught on.

I've come around a lot to the restaurant since I made these original posts here, I'm happy to say. Tonight I attended one of their montly special dinners, and it was the best one yet!

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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This was our first weekend in Ann Arbor, and our first time experiencing the Zingerman empire.  All you Ann-Arborites suck.  :wink:

So, can you make it to the Heartland Gathering and experience more Ann Arbor suckiness? :wink:

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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I might have to try brunch at Zingerman's Roadhouse or the monthly dinner, cause the lunch there hasn't impressed me. I had an average burger served on a bun as thick as a loaf of bread. Other lunch items haven't impressed me-crab cakes were 90% breading. Not good and way overpriced.

I think there's a certain segment of Ann Arborites who like paying too much. Like they think they're getting something better automatically because they're paying big bucks. I'll pay for good food, but Zingerman's was not that good the times I've tried it, and they're charging Emeril prices.

Vinology was much better and less expensive. Perhaps the dinner at the Roadhouse is better, I'd try it based on the opinions of some here.

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I think there's a certain segment of Ann Arborites who like paying too much. Like they think they're getting something better automatically because they're paying big bucks. I'll pay for good food, but Zingerman's was not that good the times I've tried it, and they're charging Emeril prices.

I struggle with this all the time. Am I enjoying the meal because I'm enjoying it, or because the menu has the words "heritage" and "organic" in it, or because people on EGullet or LTH liked it? My BS detector definitely went into overdrive when the menu described "heirloom" grits.

But halfway through the meal I decided the food was just better. The eggs were better, the doughnuts were better, the hash was better, the coffee was better. The toast was some kind of chewy farmhouse bread that could hold all of the above without breakdown. Even the "heirloom" grits (which my wife is considering paying $20 a can for from the catalog, so I sure hope they're better).

That being said, I can't say anything about how the roadhouse compares to other stuff in the area. I had looked forward to trying either Vinology or Eve or Zola's Cafe, but, alas, there was no time.

Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about.

Troy McClure, hosting the film, The Meat Council Presents: Meat and You - Partners in Freedom

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I think there's a certain segment of Ann Arborites who like paying too much. Like they think they're getting something better automatically because they're paying big bucks. I'll pay for good food, but Zingerman's was not that good the times I've tried it, and they're charging Emeril prices.

This is a good point. I've been in AA for a year now and quickly discovered that the same thing applies to the original Zingerman's deli. It's always crowded. The prices are very high. The staff is incredibly snobby (but in a way where they try to come off as hip, regular people just trying to steer you to the good stuff -- I don't need to be *told* to buy the one olive oil I *will* like...unless I ask, just let me try them without the commentary!). $11 for a sandwich? Come on. I know it's high quality ingredients, and the sandwiches are great, but that price strikes me as a "look at me" premium.

The funny thing is that Morgan and York (aka Big Ten Market) on Packard is much, much better. They don't have as complete a selection as Zingermans (but they do have wine and beer). Their staff couldn't be friendlier. It is never crowded. The prices aren't low, but you don't feel you are paying too much. Now they have large self-service vats of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and maple syrup.

Regarding Zingerman's roadhouse...I've only had the pulled pork from the camper outside, and it's very good. Contrary to my rant above, it's only $6. Quite a bargarin.

Edited by Darren72 (log)
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I don't think it's the Ann Arborites who like to pay too much - it's the people who venture down from the Detroit suburbs (particularly the Northwest side) and the out-of-town visitors who have read/heard about Zingerman's - and many of them (parents visiting kids in school) are New Yorkers who don't blink at the prices.

I agree about Morgan & York - I love that place. It's great to go there when I'm having company and decide on a bunch of cheeses and have them help with wine pairings. If they're not too busy, they'll give you lots of samples, and if they're busy, they give you samples of what the person ahead of you is buying while you wait.

Zingerman's Roadhouse has definitely aged for the better. On our most recent visit, we did it "chinese style" and got a bunch of dishes to share. We had lots of fun with it. I would never order the macaroni and cheese for dinner, but having a smaller portion was great. Our most memorable experience there was last year on Father's Day. My parents were eating there for the first time, and my mom was wondering why they picked a Roadhouse format. Ari came around to fill our water glasses, so I asked him. He ended up sitting down with us, talking for a long time, and then brought out some samples of things he wanted us to taste (including the above-mentioned grits). That's the kind of thing that makes the Zing empire stand out to me.

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The funny thing is that Morgan and York (aka Big Ten Market) on Packard is much, much better. They don't have as complete a selection as Zingermans (but they do have wine and beer). Their staff couldn't be friendlier. It is never crowded. The prices aren't low, but you don't feel you are paying too much. Now they have large self-service vats of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and maple syrup.

I often feel like I pay too much at Morgan and York, actually, particularly for wine. Their wines are always $2-$3 more than I expect or see them listed for elsewhere. Their cheese and other items are pretty reasonable, though, and they do have a great cheese counter - better than Zingerman's, sometimes.

That said, I like both stores. I'm really surprised by your characterization of Zingerman's employees as snobby - that's never been my perception. Really enthusiastic and knowledgeable about food, and eager to share that, absolutely. But not snobby.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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I don't think it's the Ann Arborites who like to pay too much - it's the people who venture down from the Detroit suburbs (particularly the Northwest side) and the out-of-town visitors who have read/heard about Zingerman's - and many of them (parents visiting kids in school) are New Yorkers who don't blink at the prices.

I agree about Morgan & York - I love that place.  It's great to go there when I'm having company and decide on a bunch of cheeses and have them help with wine pairings.  If they're not too busy, they'll give you lots of samples, and if they're busy, they give you samples of what the person ahead of you is buying while you wait.

Zingerman's Roadhouse has definitely aged for the better.  On our most recent visit, we did it "chinese style" and got a bunch of dishes to share.  We had lots of fun with it.  I would never order the macaroni and cheese for dinner, but having a smaller portion was great.  Our most memorable experience there was last year on Father's Day.  My parents were eating there for the first time, and my mom was wondering why they picked a Roadhouse format.  Ari came around to fill our water glasses, so I asked him.  He ended up sitting down with us, talking for a long time, and then brought out some samples of things he wanted us to taste (including the above-mentioned grits).  That's the kind of thing that makes the Zing empire stand out to me.

Oh, it's the Ann Arborites all right...look at Whole Foods. People pay insane prices for meat there because they think they're getting better meat...are they getting better meat than Sparrow Market in Kerrytown? HIGHLY doubt it.

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  • 8 months later...

Zingerman's Roadhouse has a reputation for good food, but they are on the pricey side. My book group is having their meeting at Zingerman's Roadhouse tomorrow night, and we are trying to keep our bill (not including tip and drinks) to $10 per person. There are 8 of us, and we don't mind sharing dishes....what do you recommend? Anyone try their appetizers?

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  • 4 months later...

Had a quick visit to Ann Arbor this weekend to continue my eldest son's college search with UofM definitely on his radar.

Of course we had to hit Zingerman's and we did - completing the Tour de Food (how appropriate for July and Bastille Day weekend) in under 24 hours.

We started Friday night, July 13th (yes, Friday the 13th) by driving directly to the Roadhouse from the Detroit airport. Upon entering the parking lot, we were first greete by sight of the Zingerman's Roadshow.

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We had an 8PM reservation and fortunately we did as the place was hopping.

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Some shots of the open kitchen in action while we were waiting for our table. Taking photos was welcomed and encouraged by the friendly staff.

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It was such a lovely evening that we chose to sit outside. The first person to come by our table to explain the menu, etc. was Ari Weinzweig himself. He couldn't have been nicer and more personable. While I wouldn't have been surprised by his presence at the restaurant, I was surprised by the degree of hands-on involvement he has in the FOH - not just with us, but throughout the restaurant.

The menu encompasses much of the best of traditional regional American cooking and was quite difficult to choose from. Our waitress made it easy by providing us with tastes of various menu items such as the pulled Texas cabrito (awesome, rich, not-too-sweet flavor), South Carolina corn grits with Vermont cheddar and the regular mac and cheese (good and rich) in addition to what we did order. I had a cocktail of a Ramos Gin Fizz that was nicely done. We started with some fried Wisconsin cheese curds (when near Rome...)

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Virginia crab cakes both of which were hearty and delicious. The crab cakes had little filler and good crab flavor, something often missing with imported canned crabmeat.

Unfortunately, at this point my camera started acting up and I didn't get any more decent food photos. For our main courses, my son had top round sliced over mashed potatoes with shiitake mushrooms, biscuits and gravy. I had hand caught Red Snapper from the West Indies with a pungent vegetable sauce, grilled summer vegetables and heirloom Carolina gold rice. Both dishes were hearty and delicious.

I have to add some words about the breads and butter. We were served two kinds of bread, that were hot, crisply and supremely delicious. One was sourdough baguette, but the real star was the Roadhouse Rye, which is one of the finest breads that I have ever eaten. It was so good that even with all the food coming to us we asked for more.

For dessert we had their famous nutmeg donuts and traditional pound cake with beautiful berries and whipped cream.

While the food is not cheap, the quality is definitely there and in my estimation more than worth the tariff. They use top quality ingredients that combined with fine execution makes for a superb if not haute meal. That combined with the outstanding, friendly service goes a long way to explain the success of not only this restaurant, but the entire Zingerman's line. The next morning we shared a breakfast bagel sandwich at the deli and that afternoon also visited the Creamery and Bakehouse. I left the store and the nearby farmer's market having bought plenty. Could I have spent less elsewhere for the same stuff? Undoubtedly, but not likely under one roof and not with such pleasant help and not with such a willingness to let the customer sample all their products.

I can categorically state that should my son wind up attending UofM, all of Zingerman's will become a regular destination for us. Hell, it might even if he doesn't wind up there!

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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