A2 Bucket List: Brunch at Cafe Zola

Number 26 on my Ann Arbor Bucket List was to have brunch at Cafe Zola. I went around 1pm, which doesn’t exactly scream “brunch time” to me, but they serve brunch until 4…so, I’m counting it, clearly.

Cafe Zola doesn’t take brunch reservations unless you have a big party, and when we arrived, it was  packed. So, we ended up crowded awkwardly in the front entrance, right up against the poor folks who were trying to eat at the bar. But, that was pretty much the only negative part of the experience, and I can live with that if I am rewarded with yummy food.

As we were doing the aforementioned awkward waiting game, I kept seeing waiters walk by with delicious-looking smoothies, so that was the first thing I ordered once we sat down. I got the Five Berry Crush smoothie and it was tasty – although, ultimately, not that different from any other smoothie I’ve ever had, so perhaps not worth the price.

It was my entree that I really loved – I got a salmon burger, and it was delicious. When I think of “burgers,” I don’t immediately (or ever) think of salmon, but it was a good combo. It also came with a spicy mayo sauce that was fantastic (and very good for dipping french fries in).

All in all, I’d recommend Cafe Zola – and I’d definitely go back!

14 down, 46 to go!

A2 Bucket List: Mani Osteria

My sister and my best friend both live in New York City and – I’m not going to lie – sometimes I get a little jealous of this fact and wonder why I didn’t pick a law school in a bigger city. I’m not sure if I even want to end up in New York, but I just love all the different options for food, culture, and entertainment that it has. An example of great food options is that last week was NY Restaurant week, where you can get all sorts of expensive food for relatively reasonable prices. But…guess what? It also happened to be Ann Arbor Restaurant Week, too! So, I say, take that, New York. We’ve got everything you do! (Not really) (But I still love Ann Arbor anyway).

Anyway. All this is to say is that I partook in A2 restaurant week and also checked off an item on my Ann Arbor Bucket List while doing it – number 35, eat at Mani Osteria. Mani is a relatively new-ish restaurant in Ann Arbor, and every time I walk by, I think, I want to eat there. I emailed my friend Alisha, who was going with me, a list of my preferred restaurants from those that were participating and when she chose Mani, I was pretty pumped. And so we went.

All in all, I thought this was a pretty great meal. Since it was restaurant week, we had a limited menu to choose from, but there were still awesome options. I had their sangria to drink and it was really good – I swear there was a hint of, like, cinnamon it it? Not quite sure, but it was good. For my appetizer, I had arancini (basically, croquettes with cheese inside) – very delicious. For my entree, I had a red onion and pistachio pizza. I was a big fan of the onion + nut + goat cheese combo, and they used old spaghetti sauce cans as the pizza stands, which I thought was a fun touch. And for dessert, we had cannoli – one pistachio, and one filled with chocolate. I thought it was a great meal, and I’d definitely go back – especially for the pizza.

13 down, 47 to go!

A2 Bucket List: Vinology

After a long hiatus from A2 Bucket List-ing, due to finals and Christmas break, I am now back it at with number 51, eating at Vinology. I went there for my birthday dinner and it was a pretty excellent meal all around – though it definitely goes in the “splurge” category, as far as restaurant options go. Here’s a look at our meal:

I have dreams of being a wine connoisseur one day, but I’m decidedly not there yet. Thus, I found the key to their wine menu helpful (and fun):

This isn’t actually my beer (I was drinking Shiraz), but I took a picture of it anyway:

I got the winter Caesar salad to start, and it had the most unique presentation I’ve ever seen for a salad – it came in a cocktail glass. It also induced me to eat an anchovy for the first time in my life – and I didn’t hate it.

For my entree, I had the coq au vin – it was quite tasty. The chicken was very moist, which isn’t always the case with restaurant chicken, so that was a plus. And the mashed potatoes were to die for.

And finally, dessert – praline ravioli. It was one of the more unique desserts I’ve ever had. The ravioli texture was a bit questionable for a dessert, but the flavor was great; they essentially tasted like Nutella. And you just can’t argue with that.

And there you have it – a delicious meal. 12 down, 48 to go!

A2 Bucket List: Frita Batidos

Number 60 on my Ann Arbor Bucket List
was to eat at Frita Batidos. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have found my new Ann Arbor food obsession.

I admit that I initially wanted to eat there because I’m a huge Top Chef fan, and the restaurant is owned by Eve Aronoff, who was on season 6. On top of that, I had heard several friends rave about it recently, so that made me really want to go.

Whenever people hype a place, it generally becomes an opportunity for me to go to said place and find myself winding up pretty let down. Isn’t it true that things almost never live up to the hype or your expectations of them? But, I thought this restaurant was a rare exception.

To explain a little bit about eating there, here’s a snippet from their menu guide:

Inspired by the spirit of Cuban culture and revolving around a fantasy inspired by two traditional Cuban culinary elements – The FRITA – a Cuban burger made from spicy chorizo served with shoestring fries on top in a soft egg bun and BATIDOS – tropical milkshakes made with fresh fruit,crushed ice and a drop of sweetened milk – with or without rum. Like burgers and shakes, Fritas and Batidos are a natural pairing and the whimsical menu is the result of dreaming about these two dishes for years!

So, what did I get? First, I had a Turkey Frita with avocado spread. It was delicious. I don’t know all the culinary expert words to describe food in a fancy way, so that’s about as articulate as I can be. But, suffice it to say, it was amazing. My mom got a Cuban Sloppy Joe, and I think she loved hers as well. Here’s a look at our spread:

And here’s a close-up of my turkey frita:

Next, I have to talk about the batidos (aka milkshake-y things. Yep, that’s a technical term). They were freaking AWESOME. I had a mocha flavored one – so yummy. And my mom had a coconut-flavored one – I tried it, and it blew me away. So sweet and so flavorful.

So, yeah, frita + batido = deliciousness. If you live in Ann Arbor and you haven’t been, what are you waiting for? Go now.

11 down, 49 to go!

A2 Bucket List: Rod’s Diner

Number 20 on my Ann Arbor Bucket List was to have a Collider at Rod’s Diner. Not sure what a Collider is? Read on. (Preview: it’s glorious.)

I didn’t discover Rod’s until my senior year. Which basically meant I was in Ann Arbor for three whole years without this deliciousness; what was I doing that whole time? But, it is kind of a hole-in-the-wall type place. And, honestly, from a caloric-intake perspective, it’s likely better that I didn’t know about it for awhile anyway.

It’s also a quirky place, selling a ridiculous combination of food. I believe you can buy both Korean dishes AND massive amounts of fro yo there. Because, you know, those two always go together.

The other cool thing about Rod’s is that the walls are literally covered, top to bottom, with pictures of people eating Colliders. My picture is not up there. Yet.

Okay, now we get down to the nitty gritty. What is a Collider? Basically, anything you want it to be. You choose a flavor of frozen yogurt and add as many toppings as you like (and they have a pretty extensive list). The thing I like is that, no matter what, it’s $6. None of this crap where they weigh your frozen yogurt concoction and charge you accordingly.

As you can see, I always keep it pretty simple. Usually, I just get chocolate yogurt, heath bar chunks, raspberries, and maybe chocolate sauce. This time, I threw in some cookie dough because I was feeling jazzy.

And here is my concoction:

P.S. When I was in undergrad, I had a theory that adding the raspberries was somehow a responsible choice. Like, it doesn’t matter that you’re getting a ton of sugary and calorie-filled toppings because, look, there’s fruit! I’m pretty sure this theory has no basis in scientific fact. But, it does in my mind…

10 down, 50 to go!

A2 Bucket List: Prickly Pear Margaritas

Number 45 on my Ann Arbor Bucket List was having a margarita at the Prickly Pear. This is one bucket list item that I’d done plenty of times in undergrad but love so much that I wanted to do and document again.

The Prickly Pear is a lovely little Mexican restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor on Main St. (and I do mean little – it’s tiny in there. Expect a wait on weekends.) The food is always good, but I have a soft spot for their margaritas in particular. They are really, really good.

Last weekend, we left the Purdue game in the 3rd quarter and headed up Main St. to the restaurant. It seemed pretty apparent that we would win at that point, and you can call me a terrible fan all you want, but sometimes you just need a margarita.

And sometimes, you just need two, which is what I eventually ended up with. The first was raspberry, the second lime. And I also got crab cakes. All very good.

So cheers to the Prickly Pear! I’m sure I will be back.

9 down, 51 to go!

A2 Bucket List: The State Theater

Number 4 on my Ann Arbor Bucket List was to see a movie at the State Theater. I had visited a couple times in undergrad (once for Garden State, once for Juno), but it’s always good to go back.

The State is a lovely little theater. It’s definitely past its prime – you can see that it’s becoming more and more rundown – but it’s an Ann Arbor institution nonetheless. And, also, I love that they give you old-fashioned tickets there. Just a little thing.

The movie we saw was the Ides of March, which was particularly appropriate for my Ann Arbor bucket list, as several parts of the movie were filmed in Ann Arbor. It was also fun to see with an Ann Arbor crowd because, at one point in the film, the new intern says, “No, I’m a Buckeye,” and everyone in the crowd booed. Love it.

And, finally, a bit about the movie itself. I completely loved it, especially toward the end of the movie. It sort of builds into a fast-paced game, and Ryan Gosling’s character becomes a little frantic/unglued, and you’re not quite sure what move he’s going to make next. I thought the whole movie was fantastic, but particularly the end – so suspenseful, exciting, and well-paced. Also, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti were perfect as veteran political consultants. I knew I would love Ryan Gosling in this role, but I was ultimately even more fascinated by Seymour Hoffman and Giamatti’s characters. Not that I don’t love me some Ryan Gosling. You can’t really go wrong there.

8 down, 52 to go!