Hometown Foodies

Ann Arbor has been named one of America’s foodiest towns more than once, and it just keeps getting foodier. There are over 300 places to eat in Washtenaw County, with more restaurants per capita than New York City. Downtown Ann Arbor alone has 200 restaurants, and 180 of them have pulled patio permits.

Ann Arborites spend 60% more than the national average on dining out and entertaining. There are lots of opportunities to take cooking classes and a plethora of local produce and products. Chocolate makers, gelaterias, distilleries, breweries and brineries. Cuban, Ethiopian, Indian, Asian, Turkish, Moroccan, Middle Eastern, Italian, German, Salvadoran, Eastern European, Mexican, Spanish. There’s always something new to taste.

Ann Arbor has long been a foodie town. People who are passionate about kimchi or ice cream or pesto and have the kind of community that welcomes and supports them. Or food-related passions, like the largest collection of culinary historical manuscripts in the world is located in the Harlan Hatcher library at the University of Michigan. It started as a private collection by a local woman named Jan Longone, and she eventually donated over 20,000 pieces to the University.  She also started the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor, a group that meets monthly to talk about the history of food and gastronomy.

Many famous foodies went to the University of Michigan, like Ruth Reichl (’68, MA ’70) and Michael Stern (’68). Sara Moulton (’81) started cooking at the Del Rio, a rebellious little bar and restaurant that’s sadly no longer open. Rick Bayless did his doctoral work in anthropological linguistics at the U before moving to Mexico and writing his first cookbook. Bayless attributes his decision to go with his food passion instead of academics to a conversation he had with Jan Longone in Ann Arbor. 

Mario Batali likes to stop here and eat at Mani Osteria and get supplies at Zingermans on the way to his Michigan summer home. Anthony Bourdain wanders through town from time to time. Man vs. Food made a stop at Tios. The Food Network’s Triple D hung out at Crazy Jim’s Blimpy Burgers, and Alton Brown awarded Zingerman’s Roadhouse the “Best Comfort Food IN THE COUNTRY” for their mac and cheese.

Pretty cool for a town of less than 120,000!

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