Nat Geo Travel associate producer Rebecca Davis recently returned from a trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan. What was intended to be a whirlwind visit with her newly transplanted sister quickly became a colorful culinary tour around one of the most charming college towns in America.
Here are some of the high points of Becky’s trip in her own words:
Biggest Selling Point: If you’re like me and like exploring new places by way of your stomach, Ann Arbor will not disappoint. From Lab‘s honey lavender lattes to sweet masterpieces at Cupcake Station, indulging my inner foodie was a breeze. Hip brew pubs planted on what seems like every corner make it easy to follow up delicious meals with locally crafted suds. Not a beer person? Try the dry cider at the Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery.
Memorable Moment: No foodie tour is complete without brunch. And Amadeus, an Ann Arbor staple specializing in Central European eats since 1988, made for a worthy destination. Fashioned after classic Viennese cafés, the restaurant’s wooden floors, heavy entrance curtains, and knickknack-lined walls ooze Old World charm. While the complimentary house-made jelly and bread will whet your palette, my favorite nosh was the fruit pierogi, which reminded me of an edible Jackson Pollock painting. Another welcome amenity? The staff at Amadeus couldn’t be nicer (the last time my sister had eaten here, the owner stopped her on the way out to give her a book on Poland simply because he thought she might like it).
Authentic Souvenir: During a late-winter “heat wave,” everyone seemed to be out and about at the Saturday morning Ann Arbor Farmers Market. It runs year-round (though in winter the selection is more limited), so be sure to stop by to snap up some local goodies to take home. While I was browsing honey and seasonal produce, a table of baked goods caught my eye. A sucker for sweets, I settled on a pack of homemade donuts topped with apple icing and cinnamon sugar. In addition to being some of the best donuts I’ve ever had, they stayed fresh for days!
Stand-Out Culinary Experience: If there’s one restaurant you won’t want to miss, it’s Frita Batidos, a Cuban restaurant in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor. Walk inside and you feel like you’ve been transported to a simple, modern NYC restaurant with spartan white walls and wooden picnic tables as seats. We ordered our fritas (Cuban-style burgers) piled high with avocado, eggs, and french fries (a fritas staple), but for all their mouth-stretching goodness, the real treat was the batidos (shakes). I went a more classic route with chocolate Español, but my sister’s hibiscus shake really stole the show. Add a shot of dark rum to any batido for a buck and you’ll be in hog heaven.
Local Quirk: We walked around University of Michigan‘s campus to get a feel for the wide range of architectural styles that come together in Wolverine territory. As we passed beneath the Engineering Arch, I was filled in on a bit of campus folklore: If a couple shares a first kiss under the arch, the two are destined to marry. The legend may elicit raised eyebrows, but some now-hitched U of M alumni claim to be living proof that it’s true.
What’s your favorite thing about Ann Arbor? Share your recommendations by leaving a comment below.