Family day in Ann Arbor: various locations reviewed

For father’s birthday, the fam (Father, Sister, bro-in-law, my honey, & I) spent the day in Ann Arbor, wandering downtown, perusing a bookstore, comic store, art gallery, and eating tasty foods! :D

First stop was Cafe Zola for Sunday brunch. We arrived around noon, on a Sunday, on Mother’s day, so the hour-ish wait time was only to be expected and had the weather not alternated between warm/sunny and snowing (Yes, snowing. In May.), it would have been quite a pleasant wait, hanging out and chatting with some of my favorite people in the whole world. :)

On the upside, Zola staff (fantastically dressed for Mother’s day much like 4-year old girls will often dress if given creative free reign — neon tutus, furry leg warmers, flower crowns and hats, etc.) came out twice during this time to give us snacks! We got amazingly tasty chocolate covered bananas and whip cream-topped cups of berries.

Cafe Zola men's room

Cafe Zola’s men’s restroom mirror. Very alien abduction looking. o_O

I was a fan of the exposed brick decor of the dining area and the guys gave mixed reviews on the bathroom: thumbs up for looking like a space ship, thumbs down for having a ring light in the middle of the mirror that made it really hard to see yourself. The food was good but not stellar, though this could have been due to the fact that they were completely jam-packed for hours – not easy for even the best chefs. I had the smoked salmon crepe, tasty, but nothing that put me into food raptures. Sister and Father had omelettes, the Istanbul and the Classic, respectively. We were all bigger fans of the Classic, the Istanbul was pretty underwhelming. Joe-Bro got the Frittata Zola, which was easily the best thing any of us ordered. Very tasty! Legend got the “Kobe*” burger and ended up regretting his food choice. Though he had asked for medium rare, they brought him medium well. $14 for an overcooked burger, and the beef was pretty disappointing. However, the fries were good –Sister especially liked the fancy house-mix ketchup.

Verdict: Like the decor, like the staff, food was ok but since it was somewhat pricey, we expected much better (In fairness, maybe the food is much better on a day they are not quite so busy). I wouldn’t make a special trip to go there again, but I would be willing to give them another try if friends wanted to go there.

One of Joe-Bro’s requested stops was the Cherry Republic store. Pretty much everything for sale in the store is made with cherries: jam, BBQ sauce, cakes, wine, chocolate covered cherries, cherry wood bowls, salsa, juice, etc. And they have samples of just about everything! :) Cherries are my second favorite fruit, so I will definitely be back to get some tasties!

Dawn Treader. Awesome used book store. Absolutely overrun with books, it’s a cozy cocoon of heaven for the biblioholic. They have an incredible variety of books, as well as glass cases full of rare books. I could very happily curl up on a pile of books in a corner there and make it my home. :)

I’m sure Nickel Arcade would have been awesome, but pretty much everything was closed. Not sure if that was because it was Sunday or because it was Mother’s day. We had some fun window shopping the cool antique stores and I got ideas for photo shoots.

Right outside of Nickels Arcade was Espresso King. I didn’t have anything but the fam seemed to enjoy their coffees. However, I did enjoy the bathroom stalls. Lots of inspirational quotes and good advice. Much more uplifting than one expects a trip to the ladies room to be.

Vault of Midnight is full of comics, board games, action figures, and all the related geeky paraphernalia. Definitely highly recommended, if you’re a geek like me. :)

I’m so excited I finally made it to 16 Hands Gallery. They have both Brian Andreas Storypeople art and Watchcraft by Eduardo Milieris (got an Andreas print, need to save up for a watch). I was happy to see, though not surprised, that the other art, crafts, and gifts available were of equally high quality and taste. Definitely an excellent place to buy a special, unique gift for a loved one (or someone you want to impress) or to get a special treat for yourself. I will definitely go back again and again.

Also, 16 Hands is in a really cool building where there are a whole bunch of awesome and artsy shops. Definitely worth the trip to check out all the fun, funky, artsy-ness. Especially since it was really close to our last stop of the day…

Zingerman's Deli

Zingerman’s Deli lunch: Reuben in front, BLT in back.

Yay Zingerman’s! This was our last stop of the day and the first time I’ve actually had one of their deli sandwiches. Having been informed many times that the Rueben is a must, I ordered that. It was a pretty darn tasty Rueben, not too greasy, full of flavor, and the “small” size was more than enough to fill me up. Everyone else’s sandwiches were pretty good, too. I must say, I’m not as big of a fan of the “new pickle”, which is very cucumbery, but I really liked the “old pickle” which is aged and much more pickley-tasting. Zingerman sandwiches are expensive, but they are made with really high-quality ingredients. However, I’m not a huge sandwich person, so in the future, I’ll probably forgo their sandwich shop in favor of spending my money in the grocery section. But if you love artisan sandwiches, I highly recommend them.

I love their grocery section! The staff is uber-friendly, uber-helpful, uber-knowledgeable, and absolutely gleeful about giving you samples of everything! :D I tried no less than 6 different cheeses and 4 different meats, all amazingly tasty. However, I learned a valuable lesson: if you get prosciutto cut from the bone, have someone start working on that first and then, if possible, have someone else help you with the rest of your order. I got my cheeses first, then ordered 1/4 lb. of proscuitto and it took him over 10 minutes (perhaps 20 min?) to cut it. I am certain that when I open it, it will be the most beautifully sliced prosciutto ever, but standing around for so long to get it was mildly annoying. But hey, if that’s the worst thing I can say about Zingerman’s then they’re still stellar. :)

Dad's bday cake!

Dad’s b-day cake, made by Sister!

After that, it was back to Toledo for the tasty tiramisu-inspired, homemade cream-filled, homemade chocolate ganache-topped birthday cake Sister made for Father! A fun and fantastic day with family. :D

*Restaurants saying they have Kobe beef is a pet peeve of mine. There is a very limited amount of Kobe beef imported to this country and some of that is going for upwards of $350 per steak. The $15 burger you order at a local restaurant is NOT going to be actual Kobe beef.

But, Jen, this beef was called “American Kobe Beef! That’s legit, right?” Without getting into detailed explanations of why it doesn’t work that way (read the articles below if you want details), calling it American Kobe Beef is akin to saying a Chihuahua is a “Mexican German Shepherd,” or how so many restaurants sell krab as real crab, or the Argentinian steroid-ferrets-sold-as-poodles scam. To quote Middle Man TV show, “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.”

Check out this article and this article, both from Forbes magazine, if you want more info.

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About jbakstudios

Generally speaking, is sunshine, butterflies, and crayons, covered in spikes and clad in black. ^_^ Photographer, Belly Dancer, Artist, Yogini, Shibari-ka, Silk-dyer, Geek, and Marshmallow wrangler.
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