9 Best Dinner Restaurants in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Food & Drink

Ann Arbor, located in southeastern Michigan, is home to the University of Michigan. While this university town has lots to offer, football is the main attraction in the autumn. Every home football Saturday, you’ll find more than 110,000 visitors in the Big House, also known as Michigan Stadium. If it’s a late game, you’ll need sustenance to cheer on the home team, and if it’s an early one, you’ll be famished after all the excitement.

In no specific order, here are nine of the best dinner restaurants to try in Ann Arbor, Michigan. These restaurants represent a variety of styles, cuisines, and price points and are some of my favorite Ann Arbor restaurants.

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Sava’s

Located on State Street, just steps from the University of Michigan’s central campus, Sava’s features American cuisine with an international twist. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. On Sundays, they also offer brunch. They’ve marked each vegan dish on the menu to make selecting a vegan option easy. Vegans will enjoy the Hippie Bowl, a dish featuring tempeh and brown rice, roasted vegetables, sweet potato, avocado, and coconut.

The bar at Sava's one of the best dinner restaurants in Ann Arbor, Michigan
The Bar at Sava’s

The Atmosphere

The two-story restaurant seats 200 people and has large windows letting in light. The upscale décor features green plants for a garden feel. Heaters on the patio take the chill out of those cool Michigan spring and fall evenings.

The Menu

One of my favorite dishes is the wagyu beef cheeseburger served with cheddar cheese on a challah bun spread with Dijonnaise. The lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion make it a classic burger, while the Dijonnaise adds a bit of a twist. They serve it with garlic and Parmesan fries, upping the ante on a cheeseburger and fries.

Piper’s Pro Planning: Although Sava’s is a big restaurant, larger parties should make reservations.

Miss Kim Korean Restaurant

Chef Ji Hye Kim was a semifinalist in the 2024 James Beard Awards Category of Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH). With a menu rooted in Korean tradition, Miss Kim showcases those dishes using the finest Michigan ingredients.

The Atmosphere

Miss Kim Korean Restaurant features a casual dining atmosphere with table service.

The Menu

My favorite dim sum is the pork-belly hand-steamed buns featuring slow-roasted pork belly, cucumbers, ginger scallion sauce, and hoisin. The cucumber’s freshness cuts through the pork belly’s fat, making for the perfect bite. Miss Kim also offers other varieties of steamed buns, including fried tofu, fried chicken, and mushrooms. These small two-bite buns are the ideal starter.

Piper’s Pro Planning: Miss Kim Korean Restaurant is located in the Kerrytown neighborhood on Fifth Avenue. But the entrance is on Kingsley Street and adjoins the parking lot. Either enter via the parking lot at the corner of Kingsley and Fourth Avenue or through the courtyard on Fifth.

Interior at Blue Tractor in Ann Arbor
Interior at Blue Tractor in Ann Arbor

Blue Tractor

Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery offers an internationally influenced menu focusing on barbecue and craft beer. The restaurant uses applewood and hickory to smoke their meat low and for up to 18 hours.

The Atmosphere

Reclaimed barn wood decorates the walls, while the butcher-shop-style murals add to the theme. Painted concrete floors and ceilings featuring exposed industrial fittings painted black scream, BBQ. As with many BBQ restaurants, the atmosphere is casual, not picnic tables and paper plates casual.  I think this is a great spot for a game day dinner. 

The Menu

They top the beef brisket quesadilla with melted cheddar, sweet corn relish, Pico de Gallo, and pickled jalapenos. Then, they add a dollop of chipotle cream. The condiment is a sweet and spicy BBQ sauce.

The balsamic baked beans are hearty and made with brown sugar, white balsamic vinegar, and red and green bell peppers. Southern dishes like collard greens and grits are a highlight, but you’ll also find the rest of the world represented. The Bibimbap offers a taste of South Korea, for instance. You choose the protein, usually beef, and they mix it with smoked soy sauce, sweet soy shiitake mushrooms, kimchi, and pickled vegetables. They serve it over basmati rice, top it with a fried egg and gochujang, and garnish it with scallions.

Vegetarians will find a hearty meal here, unlike many BBQ restaurants. I enjoyed the triple-cheese macaroni and cheese with smoked Cheddar, Wisconsin-aged Cheddar, and gouda. They top the dish with toasted breadcrumbs for a flavor-packed vegetarian option.

The Michigan Maple salad features maple syrup in their vinaigrette and Michigan-dried cherries. The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center indicates that Michigan is the number-one producer of tart cherries nationwide. The Michigan Maple features mixed fresh greens topped with zippy goat cheese, red onion, and crunchy almonds. That all results in a stellar Michigan dish.

Piper’s Pro Planning: Live music Tuesday through Saturday adds to the fun. Check their website for their music schedule.

Batidos are milkshakes made with sweetened milk, fruit, and ice.
Batidos at Frita Batidos in Ann Arbor

Frita Batidos

Two Cuban street-food dishes, fritas and batidos inspired Eve Aronoff’s restaurant Frita Batidos. A frita is a burger made with spicy chorizo, crowned with shoestring fries, and served on a soft egg bun. Batidos are milkshakes made with sweetened milk, fruit, and ice. AtFrita Batidos, they make theirs with Guernsey Dairy vanilla bean ice cream for a super delicious treat from one of the best restaurants in Ann Arbor.

The Atmosphere

Frita Batidos features a bright and airy atmosphere with white-and-blue decor.The restaurant offers counter-style service with picnic-table-style seating. If you’d prefer to dine alfresco, their counter-style service lends itself to taking your meal outside to enjoy at one of the tables on the sidewalk.

The Menu

I love plantains, and there are several versions on offer at Frita Batidos: crisped plantains with a choice of cilantro-lime salsa or an avocado spread; twice-fried plantains; and loaded plantains that come topped with black beans, Muenster cheese, an avocado spread, cilantro-lime salsa, and crème fraîche.

Piper’s Pro Planning: If you have special dietary needs, reference their online menu guide. It will tell you which dishes suit vegetarians, vegans, those avoiding dairy, and those avoiding gluten. It even references flavor profiles, so if you’d prefer a spicy dish or one with a delicate flavor, you can choose just the suitable dish.

Zingerman’s Roadhouse

Zingerman’s Roadhouse elevates farm-to-table food by using produce from local farms. While Zingerman’s frequently handcrafts their dishes, the standout characteristic at Zingerman’s is “giving great service.” In fact,  co-owner Ari Weinzweig authored a book on providing excellent service, “Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service: Treating Your Customers Life Royalty.”

The Atmosphere

Like its name, Zingerman’s Roadhouse is fun, lively, and casual. Weinzweig’s collection of over a thousand sets of salt and pepper shakers in glass cases covers the walls, adding a touch of whimsy to the décor. They have a retro feel, reminding me of 1950s America. Children play “I Spy” while waiting for their meal.

The Menu

My favorite dish is macaroni and cheese made with handmade Cheddar from Vermont, cream, Dijon mustard, and onions. The macaroni and cheese menu section offers six varieties, one without embellishment and others with additions like pimento cheese and fried chicken or bacon.

The chili and Cheddar fries are hand-cut, twice-fried potatoes put in a bowl, served with a topping of ancho beef chuck chili, and sprinkled with Cabot Cheddar cheese and scallions. The beef cubes are tender, and while the chili is flavorful, it isn’t overly spicy.

The Roadhouse BBQ Plate offers pit-smoked Niman Ranch spareribs, South Carolina pulled pork, BBQ beef with Red Rage Tomato BBQ sauce, and pit-smoked chicken with Red Rage tomato BBQ sauce. Bacon-braised greens grown on the Roadhouse farm and mashed potatoes accompany the BBQ. Don’t fear the name Red Rage. It is a mild BBQ sauce with a bit of a zing.

Piper’s Pro Planning: Zingerman’s sells their coffee products online so that you can make their coffee at home.

Pot Roast at Carson's
Pot Roast at Carson’s

Carson’s American Bistro

The patio seating at Carson’s American Bistro, the patio seating made it the perfect spot to enjoy Michigan’s stunning sunsets and one of their signature cocktails, a Carson’s Mule. The fire pits kept the chill off during the crisp Michigan evening. In addition to the patio seating, you’ll find seating at the bar, booths, high-top tables, and standard-height tables.

The Atmosphere

Carson’s presented their menu on a tablet. It was a fun, interactive way to explore the meal options. Each menu section contained a list of dishes, and when you touched it, the menu opened an electronic window to reveal the dish’s image, a detailed description, and the price. The same window offered wine pairings. Technology made it an exciting way to decide what’s for dinner.

A large gas fireplace welcomed you as you entered, along with their friendly host. The modern western décor included stacked stone and several Frederick Remington sculptures of horseback-riding cowboys, adding to the upscale western décor. The atmosphere and dress were business casual. The atmosphere and dress are business casual.

The Menu

The food was decidedly American fare. The prime rib was a specialty, along with the choice of Angus steaks.

The chef presented the American-style pot roast beautifully with a side of red-skin mashed potatoes and a rich gravy, and they topped it with crispy onion rings. Crisp-tender green beans with sauteed onions provided a slightly sweet flavor to accompany the meal.

Have Michigan’s Lake Superior whitefish or the Lake Erie perch if you prefer fish. After all, you are in the Great Lakes State.

The vegetarians in our group enjoyed the vegetarian ratatouille with couscous. Basil chiffonade accented the goat cheese in the dish, and a roasted red pepper sauce completed it.

They made the bread in-house from scratch. Toppings of sunflower seeds, parmesan cheese, caramelized onions, and whipped butter enhanced the bread’s flavor.

The house-made tater tots were flash-fried and reminiscent of a potato croquette more than the frozen childhood favorite tater tots. A siracha aioli and corn salsa accompanied this crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside morsels.

The spinach-artichoke dip contained chunks of artichoke and topped with melted mozzarella cheese. Tortilla chips were the dippers.

The chef made the corn chowder with a chicken broth base with a thick and creamy consistency. Potatoes and carrots accompanied the corn. Crispy bacon and cheddar cheese garnished the dish. Cayenne pepper added some zip.

Piper’s Pro Planning: I recommend making reservations, especially during the weekend.

AppleJack Sea Bass at Gandy Dancer in Ann Arbor
AppleJack Sea Bass at Gandy Dancer in Ann Arbor

Gandy Dancer, One of the Best Dinner Restaurants in Ann Arbor

The  Gandy Dancer, slang for individuals who laid and maintained train tracks before machinery took over the job, is rich with railroad history. The restored 1886 Michigan Central Depot is an architectural landmark, which makes the Gandy Dancer part of American Railroad History.

The Atmosphere

The Gandy Dancer is one of Ann Arbor’s fine dining experiences. The depot’s original oak ceiling, rock walls, stained glass, and fireplace secured the building a place on the National Register of Historic Places. Gandy Dancer also offers outdoor dining on a covered patio. While I’ve often thought of Gandy Dancer as a special occasion restaurant, the amazing food has me making up reasons to visit. 

The Menu

The food menu, updated weekly, is seafood-forward. About 80 percent of the appetizers contain seafood. The entrée choices are about 50 percent seafood, and the other half are a combination of proteins like beef and poultry. The menu doesn’t indicate vegetarian and vegan options. Check with the server about selections. The menu from the cocktail bar offers a cocktail served under glass, and when the server removes the dome, the smoke makes for a fun happy hour. The experience, in addition to the food, makes it one of the best dinner restaurants in Ann Arbor.

My favorite dish is Applejack Sea Bass. Tart sun-dried Michigan cherries mixed in a sweet bourbon reduction top the dish. The dish’s name comes from the combination of apples and bourbon. The sea bass comes with a wild rice risotto.

The Surf and Turf consists of a six-ounce perfectly cooked filet, topped with maître d’ butter, and an oven-roasted lobster tail. Under the holiday features, the Surf and Turf becomes the ultimate Surf and Turf with the addition of crab stuffing to the lobster tail. The dish comes with smashed redskin potatoes and asparagus.

The house-made breadbasket includes a unique mixture of warm rolls and everything crackers. The crackers, with the same topping found on everything bagels, come with a smooth salmon pâté.

Piper’s Pro Planning: When the passenger train passes the restaurant and blows its horn, diners at Gandy Dancer applaud. To participate in this tradition, check the train schedule before making reservations.

Exterior at Mani Osteria in Ann Arbor
Exterior at Mani Osteria

Mani Osteria & Bar

In Italian mani means “handmade,” and osteria is the Italian term for a tavern. Mani Osteria lives up to its name with its house-made pasta and handmade pizza crusts. Small-production wines complement the meals, making it one of the best dinner restaurants in Ann Arbor.

The Atmosphere

The two-story dining room’s décor is traditional European with a contemporary twist. A large bank of windows lets natural light through. The bi-level dining room’s décor combines old-school European with a modern feel. Framed antique wooden mirrors add to the décor.

We had a high noise level on Saturday night, with everyone talking and enjoying their time. The atmosphere was that of a boisterous Italian family dinner.

The restaurant serves Italian cuisine in a casual environment. The exhibition kitchen’s classic white subway tile was the perfect backdrop for the pizza maker’s performance. He stretched the crust by hand and placed it in a wood-fired oven.

The bucatini, a hollow spaghetti-shaped pasta
The bucatini, a hollow spaghetti-shaped pasta

The Menu

Wood oven pizzas and pasta are just some family-style menu items. Carnivores will enjoy entrees like the Tuscan ribeye, lamb chops, and fire-roasted branzino. Vegetarians will appreciate the eggplant Parmesan.

The Verde salad was my favorite dish. Beginning with a base of mixed greens featuring romaine as the main ingredient, they accented with other greens like frisse. The grated pieces of aged gouda were the only components of the dish that weren’t green but rather a pale buttery yellow. The chefs arranged tart Granny Smith apples cut matchstick-style in a haystack for more height. Blanched haricots verts and edamame added a crisp component, while pieces of creamy avocado made for various textures. A sherry vinaigrette made from basil oil added another green element to the Salad. The dish was big enough to share as a side salad.

The Supreme pizza started with a thin, crispy crust and a smoky wood-fired flavor. The dish competes with the pizza I’ve had in Italy. To start, mozzarella cheese directly covers the tomato sauce. As a traditional supreme pizza, they top it with sausage and pepperoni. The pepperoni slices are crisp and slightly cupped from the wood firing—red onion, green bell pepper, and mushrooms round out the toppings.

The bucatini, a hollow spaghetti-shaped pasta, had a bright tomato-basil sauce. The pasta served as a foundation for the meatballs that topped the dish. The one meatball weighed about a quarter pound, making it enough for two when paired with a salad and appetizer.

Piper’s Pro Planning: If you prefer alfresco dining in this Italian restaurant, the street-facing patio offers heaters to ward off the chill of a fall day.

The Taco Salad at Detroit Street Filling Station
The Taco ‘Bout it Salad at Detroit Street Filling Station

Detroit Street Filling Station

Located near Kerrytown, across from the farmers market, Detroit Street Filling Station is one of the Ann Arbor area’s vegan restaurants.

The Atmosphere

The atmosphere is casual table service. The friendly servers provide all the information you’ll need to embrace or experiment with vegan cuisine. While I’m not a vegan, I love to try new types of food and enjoy new vegan dishes occasionally.

The Menu

The Taco ‘Bout it Salad features greens, cabbage, grilled tofu, seasoned corn tortilla crumbles, Pico de Gallo, and avocado presented guacamole-style with a cashew nacho cheese and southwestern ranch. If you prefer, you can order this as a wrap.

I ordered the Detroit Street hearty chili, a broth-based chili that incorporated sweet potatoes, black and kidney beans, tomatillo, butternut squash, and tortilla chips. To accompany it, I had a raspberry basil grilled cheese. The way the chef creates it includes raspberry jam, cashew cream cheese, provolone-style cheese, fresh basil, and spinach. I have a nut allergy, and they were able to swap out the cashew cream cheese with an extra slice of the provolone-style cheese.

Piper’s Pro Planning: If you’d like to duplicate some of your favorite dishes from Detroit Street Filling Station, check out the recipes on their website.

If you’re road tripping in Michigan, here are some other Michigan towns with great restaurants.

Pin this to your favorite Pinterest Restaurant Board!

Amy Piper
Amy Piper

While Piper is a lifelong Michigander, she’s had adventures worldwide. Bomb-sniffing dogs chased her in the middle of the night in Bogota (working late), gate agents refused her boarding to Paraguay (wrong visa), and US Marshals announced her seat number on a plane while looking for a murder suspect (she’d traded seats). It’s always an adventure! She even finds exciting activities in her home state of Michigan, where she lives in Lansing with her husband, Ross Dingman, her daughter, Alexis, and two granddaughters.

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5 Comments

  1. Sonia

    The sea bass at Gandy Dancer looks excellent, definitely my kind of place. Thanks for the recommendations!

    Reply
  2. ROXIE YONKEY

    Can’t wait to try these this summer!

    Reply
  3. Darla G

    I love the pig on the wall at the Blue Tractor, but I would go with the beef brisket quesadilla for sure!

    Reply
  4. Ivan Kralj

    There is definitely a diversity on offer. You have the best job!

    Reply

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Welcome to Follow the Piper! Discover interesting destinations, and practical planning tips for packing more travel into your everyday life.

Our founder and author, Amy Piper, is a freelance travel writer, blogger, photographer, and author specializing in luxury and multi-generational travel. She is a native Michigander who travels through the lens of a food lover and has been to 41 countries and 45 states.

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