West End Grill, Ann Arbor, MI

My husband and I went to one of our favorite restaurants in Ann Arbor, The West End Grill, this past weekend to celebrate the five year anniversary of our first date (I know, how cute, right?). I requested the server we’ve had every year we’ve come in the past to enjoy an anniversary dinner, Malia, because she’s fantastic! I was happy to hear when I called on a Tuesday afternoon to make a Friday night reservation for that same week that they were able to accommodate both my late reservation request and our preference for this particular server. It can sometimes be difficult to get reservations at the last minute here because of the limited number of tables.

It was a full house when we were seated for our 7:15 reservation. The intimate atmosphere and candlelit tables create a feeling of romance. It can get a little bit noisy when the dining room is at its peak because it’s a small place, but it helps to create a charming and lively setting.

Malia made a point of thanking us for arranging to have her as our server when she took our drink order. We started on The West End Grill’s signature and incredible beignet rolls — deep fried rolls that aren’t greasy or too heavy, but have a nice light fried exterior and lightly sweet and soft interior. Watch out, they’re addictive!

A few of the servers have been at The West End Grill for a number of years, but I’m still impressed with their recital of the appetizer and entree descriptions from memory. Customers can follow along with the titles written on small chalkboard menu. Although the menu rarely changes, there are plenty of selections to choose from. We passed on appetizers this time, but from past experience I can highly recommend the Honey Mustard Shrimp wrapped in bacon and the Blue Cheese Tarts. Even if you don’t order an appetizer you’ll be full by the end of the meal. The basket of delicious rolls and a choice of soup or salad come with each entree.

On this visit I ordered the Petit Fillet with a salad sprinkled with blue cheese crumbles and the roasted garlic vinaigrette. For some reason I was not as impressed with the salad as I have been previously. The greens were fresh, the grape tomatoes and blue cheese were good, but the dressing didn’t seem to have as much flavor as I had remembered. It seemed a little heavier on the oil and had less garlic flavor than I would have liked. The fillet was a perfect medium rare and melted in my mouth. It came with green beans, two baby carrots and parmesan truffle french fries. The beans were cooked just the way I like them, crisp, but not too soft. The carrots were a bit crunchier than I would have expected and made a better garnish than a side vegetable. The fries, I have to admit, initially hit me as glorified fast food fries. They had a similar cut and crunch typical of many burger places, but the flavors grew on me quickly. The salty parmesan and the complexity of the truffle oil set in after a couple of bites and I was hooked. I also stole the roasted asparagus that came with my husband’s scallop dish. He’s not a fan of many vegetables so it worked in my favor this time. The asparagus was perfectly roasted and seasoned.

Malia was kind enough to offer us our choice of champagne or dessert on the house because of our anniversary celebration. We chose dessert, but I have to admit that even with my strong sweet tooth, most of the desserts offered didn’t really interest me. They had key lime pie, sticky toffee pudding, carrot cake, a nut based brownie with ice cream and molten lava cake. We went with the molten lava cake. It came with a pairing of chocolate and a berry sauces on the dish and the cake was topped with a fresh strawberry. The exterior of the cake was a little under-sweet, but when you hit the center the rich bittersweet chocolate melted and made it worthwhile. I wasn’t knocked over by this dessert, but I also prefer my chocolate with another strong flavor like caramel or raspberry and there just wasn’t enough other flavors to balance the chocolate out for me.

I love coming here for the great service and good food. The romantic atmosphere makes it a nice choice for a celebration dinner.