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!

A2 Bucket List: Comet Coffee

Number 6 on my Ann Arbor Bucket List was to visit Comet Coffee, which is a tiny coffee shop tucked away in the Nickels Arcade (a cute shopping area downtown).

I’ve heard from various sources that Comet Coffee is the best “real” coffee in Ann Arbor. Apparently, all that deliciousness I consume from Starbucks/Espresso Royale/Panera doesn’t count.

One thing I really enjoyed about Comet was its simplicity. Yes, it’s true that I order, with alarming regularity, drinks like a “grande non-fat no-whip raspberry mocha.” However, at Comet, there are just a few choices, so today I simply ended up with a “macchiato.” Nice change of pace.

The coffee was good but strong. I suppose since I don’t drink real coffee all that often, it was stronger than I was used to. But, I liked it. And, they decorate it with a swirly pattern, which always makes me smile.

They also have a nice little selection of pastries – I grabbed the pain au chocolat. I went pretty early in the morning so it was very quiet, just me and a few other folks in the store. I just sat there, read a bit, and enjoyed my breakfast. A perfect, peaceful start to a weekend morning.

7 down, 53 to go!

A2 Bucket List: Zingerman’s Deli

Number 1 on my Ann Arbor Bucket list was to have a sandwich at Zingerman’s.

What can I say about Zingerman’s that hasn’t already been said somewhere by someone else? It’s an Ann Arbor institution. It’s delicious. It’s a tad bit pricey. Aziz Ansari loves it. And, it is fantastic.

First, I spent some time browsing around the shop. So many cool products for sale. It’s times like these I wish I was still employed and could spend $40 on a bottle of olive oil.

Then, while I waited for my sandwich, I stopped by their bakery next door and grabbed some gelato. Back story: I read in People magazine that Mario Batali loves their ginger gelato. My first reaction was: that’s disgusting. Ginger gelato? I mean, doesn’t that sound kind of strange? My second reaction was: I’m going to try it and find out for sure.

Verdict: it’s pretty tasty, actually. A little too ginger-y for me, but I guess that’s kind of implicit in the name. It’s definitely not a gelato I’d select on a regular basis, but it was an interesting experience. I’d give it an unexpected thumbs up.

Finally, the main reason for my visit – a sandwich. I chose the #27, “Pat and Dick’s Honeymooner,” which is described as “smoked turkey breast, Wisconsin muenster & sweet-hot honeycup mustard on grilled challah bread.” It was yummy, but the “sweet-hot” mustard was a little heavy on the “hot” for me. I also got a gigantic pickle. When they asked me if I wanted a “big” pickle, I forgot that when they say big, they aren’t kidding. That thing was huge. But delicious. (I really want to say “that’s what she said” right now, but that’s way too immature, right?)

Anyway…here it is:

And that was my glorious day at Zingerman’s. 6 down, 54 to go!

A2 Bucket List: The Cupcake Station

I love cupcakes. And, it seems, everyone loves cupcakes. And I’m not just taking the word of this sign; on Pinterest, my “Let Them Eat Cupcakes” pinboard is – by far – my most followed/liked/repinned board.

So, when I see a cupcake shop, I am always game. This summer, I checked out the Cupcake Station in Ferndale and loved it. Then, I learned that there was also a branch in Ann Arbor. Obviously, it became a must-do.

And so, number 59 on my Ann Arbor Bucket List was to have a cupcake at the Cupcake Station. Last week, I walked to the corner of State and Liberty and did just that.

The first thing to say is that it was hard to select my cupcake. There are so many delicious-sounding options to choose from. And they’re all so pretty!

In the end, I wound up with this loot (to share). Doesn’t it look mouth-watering?

Clockwise from top left, we have Samoa,  Cream Francais, Red Velvet, and Campfire, which is their special cupcake for September. Let me just hit you with their description of this cupcake:

“Our signature Dark Chocolate Cake filled and frosted with Marshmallow Buttercream, rolled in Graham Cracker Crumbs, finished with Chocolate Chips and a Graham Cracker.”

Ummmm, wow. In the immortal words of Rachel Zoe: I die.

Here’s a closer look at that bad boy. Not the best picture, but you get the idea. It was SO. DELICIOUS. Why don’t they have this every month?

One last thing to note – on the side of the Cupcake Station’s shop, they have painted the following words. After my visit, I can assure you this – they ain’t lying.

5 down, 55 to go!

A2 Bucket List: Le Dog

Number 34 on my Ann Arbor Bucket List was to eat the lobster bisque at Le Dog. I had planned to tackle this once it got a little chillier because soup is definitely a cold weather food. But, this being Michigan and all, we went from 90 plus degrees and heat advisories last week to rain and unseasonably chilly (even for Michigan) weather this week. And so, I knew last Friday was the day, because so many factors were conspiring in its favor:

  1. I was walking down Liberty Street
  2. It was rainy and chilly
  3. I had cash in my wallet (which I never do, and which you need for Le Dog)
  4. It was Friday, and you can only get the lobster bisque on Thursday or Friday

So, yeah, everything seemed to be just about right for my inaugural visit.

Before we get to the food, a little background information. I’ll be honest – I walked by Le Dog many times during undergrad without giving it a second glance. One, it’s kind of an unassuming shack-like building (see next photo). Two, it’s almost always closed – it’s only open on weekdays, from 11:30am-2pm. So, chances are, even if you did notice it, it would not be open at that moment.

But, I’d recently read – in numerous sources – that the soup at Le Dog was really, really good. I have no idea why I wasn’t aware of this fact during undergrad, but there it is. And, I had also heard that the lobster bisque was their signature item – so naturally that’s what I had to have.

So, I ended up with the lobster bisque ($6) and a Zingerman’s pretzel roll ($1), and it was a nice little meal, especially for a rainy day. The soup was good – I’m not a huge fan of lobster, so I don’t know if I’d classify it as “great,” but it was really tasty. And also? Really, really brightly colored. I mean, like, shockingly orangey-pink.

I definitely plan to go back in the future – there are a lot of delicious-sounding soups waiting to be tried.

4 down, 56 to go!

A2 Bucket List: Sava’s

One of the best things about coming back to Michigan for law school has been the chance to catch up with old U of M friends who are also back for grad school. And, since catching up with old friends usually entails grabbing a meal, that’s also a convenient way to cross another item off my Ann Arbor Bucket List.

Earlier this week, I grabbed lunch with Liz and Vanessa at Sava’s, which was Number 19 on my Ann Arbor Bucket List. Sava’s is located right on State Street, so I’ve walked by it many times before, but had never given it that much thought until now.

One thing that you don’t realize looking at Sava’s from the front is how huge the restaurant is – it goes waaaay back, and has two floors. Or maybe I’m just really unobservant, and everyone knew that except me. Anyway…

I also really liked the atmosphere inside Sava’s – a nice open space, but it still felt pretty warm and cozy at the booth. Also, you can kind of see this on the left side of the picture below, but the booths were upholstered with the prettiest fabric. I’m sure 99% of people could care less, but hey, it’s the little details that count.

Now, onto the most pressing matter – the food. I had the pecan chicken sandwich with cranberry aioli and onion. I also got a side of sweet potato fries because they have pretty much become my new culinary obsession. It was all pretty solid, and I would definitely go back.

3 down, 57 to go!

A2 Bucket List: Blimpy Burger

Number 32 on my Ann Arbor Bucket List
was to have the onion rings at Blimpy Burger, which is kind of a dive-y place but is nonetheless an Ann Arbor institution.

The first thing to note about Blimpy Burger is that they don’t fool around when it comes to ordering. There’s even a guide to ordering on their website (yes, like a dork, I reviewed it beforehand). There’s also an abbreviated guide at the restaurant itself:

I’m not going to lie – I was afraid I would mess up and they would yell at me. Luckily, I did not, and I ended up with this:

First, the burger – a plain (i.e. no cheese) double on a regular bun with ketchup and pickles. I think maybe if I were the type of person who wanted a quadruple with bacon, fried egg, grilled onions and a ton of other stuff on it, I might have been more impressed by Blimpy. But, I keep it plain and simple – so a Blimpy Burger was ultimately a lot like any other burger to me.

Second, the onion rings. These were quite good. They also used sweet onions, so I thought they tasted different from typical onion rings. My one complaint is that they came out like a big glob of one giant monster onion ring – kind of challenging to eat.

2 down, 58 to go!