What crêpe?, Ann Arbor, Michigan

What crêpe?, Ann Arbor, Michigan

So, last week it was waffles (or wafels) and this week it’s crepes, it looks like I’m on a breakfast treat roll. Although, you can eat lunch at dinner at the new crepe spot in Ann Arbor, as well. I’m actually planning to try dinner there later this week.

Josh and I celebrated our six-year wedding anniversary last weekend the best way we know how, eating our way through the day. We started off at another Ann Arbor newbie in the former Squares location, What crêpe? (I’m going to affectionately refer to this new spot as ‘circles’ for fun). Honestly, I was sad to see Squares go. I thought they had pretty tasty food at a reasonable price for downtown.

What crêpe?, Ann Arbor, Michigan

It was the first weekend What crêpe? was open so it was pretty quiet the morning we arrived. Only a couple of other tables were filled. My first impression was, ‘Wow, look what they’ve done with the place’. The new decor has truly transformed the previous Squares fast food space into a ritzy and posh place to eat. It seems the hip interior follows suit with their other locations based on the photos I’ve seen of the Royal Oak and Birmingham locations. Dark walls and chandeliers are a big part of the ambiance, although if you look closely you may notice they’ve recycled the previous establishment’s chairs (I suppose that’s the ‘green’ thing to do).

There were plenty of staff on hand just in case a crowd showed up, but hostess and waitress were efficient and friendly. They also made a point to cover the days specials. If you look at the menu on their website you’ll get a pretty good idea of what’s available, although the Ann Arbor menu has some differences which they don’t reflect yet on the online version.

What crêpe?, Ann Arbor, Michigan

I was drawn to the Honey Bear crepe, which was filled with peanut butter and graham cracker crumbs, folded into pretty triangles and garnished with fresh berries and a drizzle of honey. It was right up my alley and delicious. I loved the slight texture the graham cracker crumbs gave the filling. I would have liked a few more berries to cut the sweetness of the peanut butter and honey, but aside from that there were no complaints on my end. Josh had a breakfast-burrito-style crepe stuffed with eggs, sausage and a few other goodies. He really enjoyed his dish as well.

Despite the tasty meal, the prices are a touch high for breakfast to make it a regular stop (at least for the less substantial sweet crepes like I had – which are around $12-$14), they might even rival Zingerman’s in that respect. I think a breakfast splurge once in a while is well worth it, but I have a hunch I’d feel more satisfied and feel a better sense of value getting a savory crepe at lunch or dinner for a similar price. They also have a selection of wine and cocktails on the menu if you like that sort of thing. They encouraged us to get a mimosa at 8:30am, but that’s a bit early for me to indulge. I guess my age is showing.

All in all, this was a good start to our celebration of love and food. We made our way back through Ann Arbor by stopping at Mighty Good Coffee for hot chocolate and lattes (the Brown Sugar Sea Salt is a must!), Eastern Accents for some pastries (sadly, closing this weekend), Songbird Cafe for lunch and the Gandy Dancer for dinner.

The Songbird Cafe, Ann Arbor, Michigan

The Songbird Cafe, Ann Arbor, Michigan

I have fallen in love with a little cafe in Ann Arbor, Michigan called, The Songbird Cafe. I find reason to stop in at least once a week or so. The staff is very pleasant and efficient and the coffee and food are simple, but delicious.

Their caramel latte is just the way I like it. They don’t skimp on the foam, which tastes like a coffee marshmallow to me! So many places these days only fill the latte with milk and leave off the froth, which is my favorite part when done right (and Songbird does it right!).

Caramel Latte at The Songbird Cafe - Ann Arbor, Michigan | Everydayfoodieblog.com

I know I’m enjoying a great latte when it tastes rich and luxurious even when I order it with skim milk, and that’s exactly what I’ve gotten every time I’ve ordered one at this sweet little cafe. Beezy’s, and now The Songbird Cafe, are my two favorite places in the Ypsi/Ann Arbor area to order an espresso drink.

I’ve also had some tasty food at Songbird, including:  oatmeal cookies, a divine apple hand pie, a simple, but delicious caprese sandwich and breakfast.

For breakfast I always order the green tea muffin with candied ginger and topped with walnuts, their cherry granola yogurt parfait,  a side of fresh fruit and a caramel latte, of course!

The muffin is lightly sweet and heavenly. I love that the walnuts are sprinkled on top so they don’t interfere with the soft texture of the muffin too much. The candied ginger wakes up the taste with a subtle and sweet zing. The granola parfait is made to order in a cute little mason jar. The yogurt is plain Greek yogurt so I usually grab just a touch of honey from the coffee bar to take the edge off. The fruit Songbird serves has always been well picked and absolutely fresh.

Songbird Cafe - Ann Arbor, Michigan | Everydayfoodieblog.com

I also enjoy seeing the love that went into the decor of this little place. I never went into this building when it was the beloved Flim Flam diner, but I imagine it’s quite a bit different inside now than it was then.

You walk in to be greeted by the friendly staff at the coffee counter and the chalkboard with specials of the day (their daily soups are fabulous as well!). The counter has lovely slats of wood and a granite top. The side walls have a touch of exposed brick for a rustic feel.

To the right is the dining area, the open entryway to the seating area is accented on side with a lovely leaded glass door. The tables are plenty with a mix of cushioned benches and simple wooden chairs. Library shelves line the back wall. Light pours in from the front window making for a very comfortable and cozy atmosphere to enjoy some simple, but lovely food.

Brunch at Grange, Ann Arbor, MI

Brunch at Grange, Ann Arbor, MI

One of the best brunch experiences I’ve had was on a recent visit to Grange Kitchen and Bar in Ann Arbor. It’s a sweet little space with an intimate atmosphere with a mix of contemporary and traditional with exposed brick walls, simply framed photos along the wall and antique furniture. They also put a focus on locally sourced ingredients.

The day Josh and I visited I was in the mood for something on the savory side. I asked our waiter for his opinion when deciding between the duck and potato hash and the shrimp and grits. He strongly recommended the duck hash. He indicated that although some places are hit or miss when it comes to preparing this bird Grange does an excellent job.

When our meals arrived I was very happy I followed our waiter’s recommendation. The duck was rich and moist and well flavored with a blend of herbs and a nice textural contrast to the crisp potatoes and sauce-like yoke from the sunny-side up egg when it broke. My dish came with a side of grilled toast, but I’ve never been one to enjoy dipping my toast in an egg dish. I asked if their might be some jam or jelly for it and was pleasantly surprised when the waiter came back with the chef’s recommendation of a side fresh rhubarb compote. It was a lovely sweet and tart accompaniment to the bread.

My husband chose to go with one of their signature brunch choices, a freshly ground burger with bacon jam, roasted garlic mayonnaise and topped with a fried egg. He said it was incredible. I took his word for it as 10am was a bit early in the day for me to think about a burger, even if it did include an egg.

The brunch prices at Grange are in the $10-$15 range which, given the quality of food and service is very fair. We’ve already made the easy decision to return to Grange for brunch.

Frita Batidos, Ann Arbor, MI

Eve Aronoff, who made a brief appearance on the TV show Top Chef, opened a second restaurant in Ann Arbor last month. Frita Batidos is Cuban inspired and geared toward a more casual crowd than her restaurant in Kerrytown, Eve. Customers order at at the counter and then choose to sit at a bar style counter or share one of the picnic tables with other guests while they wait for staff to call out their name and run the food over.

My husband and I stopped in for lunch. I ordered the Beef Frita, a beef patty on a brioche bun with sweet chili mayo and topped with fries; I added a slice of Muenster cheese as well.  I  also chose a strawberry flavored tropical soda. The burger was on the small side, but very juicy and flavorful. The shoestring fries on top of the burger was a change for me, but I enjoyed them. They were still soft and full of potato flavor. The sweet chili mayo was delicious, but not especially spicy. Despite the high quality of the ingredients I did find the overall value a little low at $9 for an small elevated cheeseburger that didn’t include anything else. The soda was made with seltzer water and syrup. The drink was a bit heavy on the sweetness for my taste and a little lacking on the bubbles. It might appeal more to the kids in the crowd.

My husband ordered the Cuban Sloppy Joe which he found to be tasty, but more of a loose meat sandwich than a sloppy joe as the limited amount of sauce, also the sweet chili mayo, kept it from being especially messy. The spices gave the sandwich a nice depth that you don’t get from your traditional Manwich.

After enjoying our sandwiches we decided to give dessert a try. We settled on the fried plantains coated in cinnamon sugar. I am a big plantain fan, but found these to be a little short on plantain flavor and overwhelmed by the cinnamon sugar. The starchiness of the thick cut plantains also got to be a bit much after a few bites and it would have benefited from another texture to cut through it, like ice cream.

Presentation of our food was fun, everything came served on a banana leaf! Both our sandwiches and dessert came out quickly. Staff for the most part were very friendly and enthusiastic with the exception of one gentleman at the counter who seemed to wish he was somewhere else.

I wonder if the community tables will work in the long run. The day we were in was not especially busy, but it can be a little uncomfortable to share your meal at at picnic table next to a stranger. For more a more outgoing crowd it could be fun to chat up new people on each visit though!

The other observation I had was the Frita Batidos breakfast menu. They have a lot of interesting options from Cuban omelets, mango French toast and even potato nachos, but the prices for breakfast are even steeper than the lunch choices. Shouldn’t prices generally go up throughout the day rather than down? I’m not sure I can stomach $4 for bread and jam or $12 for French toast.

I also saw a lot of interesting Cuban coffees and shakes that I didn’t get a chance to try on this visit. I’m especially interested in the ones that use cajeta, or goat’s milk caramel. We may have to see if the early morning prices change, but we’ll certainly be back for lunch!

Squares Restaurant, Ann Arbor, MI

I met some friends for lunch at the newly opened Squares Restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor last week. The restaurant specializes in “Signature Squares” which are housemade white or wheat flatbread with vegetables and/or meat toppings. They also serve salads, a number of housemade side dishes and even breakfast.

They have an order-at-the-counter setup, but it’s slightly unusual. I ordered from a friendly staff member at one end of the counter and when I pulled out my wallet to pay was told that customers pay at the end of the counter. They had us find a table first and wait for our names to be called when our order was ready before they rang us up. While everyone was helpful, I like to order and pay at the same time at a non-table service restaurant. Maybe they’re still figuring that one out.

I had the veggie square with a side of their butternut squash. Although the website features images that showcase most of their squares as open faced sandwiches, mine arrived as a wrap with a side of fresh grapes and an orange slice. The whole wheat flatbread, sun-dried tomato sauce and grilled vegetables, including zucchini, onion, peppers, and mozzarella were really delicious! I did have to peal the foil down from around the sandwich and it was a bit messy to eat. It might work a little better if the flatbreads were served open face as shown in the website photos as I found myself using a knife and fork by the end of my meal. The butternut squash was roasted with cranberries, brown sugar and orange juice added. The flavors were good, but the texture of the squash was on the fibrous side, I prefer my pureed squash smoother. I did snatch some of the broasted potatoes from a friend at the table. They had excellent seasoning and potato taste and were nicely crisped slices. I’ll make those my side dish next time!

Overall, our visit to Squares Restaurant was a very good experience. The staff was very friendly and both the chef and manager checked with our table to see how we were enjoying ourselves during our lunch. Prices are reasonable; my flatbread, side and drink came to a little over $8 with tax.

Flat Top Grill Breakfast, Ann Arbor

I’m going to keep my review of breakfast at Flat Top Grill pretty short: unless you enjoy eating lots of bland flavorless food at breakfast then avoid Flat Top Grill and go for lunch or dinner instead.

I reviewed dinner at this restaurant a couple of weeks ago and raved about the food and service. I was initially thrilled to see that they had a create your own breakfast on the weekends and couldn’t wait to try it. I’m sad to say how disappointed I was with the food this time around.

Service was still very welcoming and friendly. They also do not have a one-dish option at breakfast (they do at lunch and dinner), only an all-you-can-eat. For those of us who eat a normal breakfast this probably isn’t the best value anyway at $9.99 a person ($8.99 for students) which doesn’t even include a glass of juice, milk or coffee.You have an option to make your own omelette, pancake, scramble or french toast with a variety of items from the “bar”. They also have self-serve oatmeal.

I was disappointed with the fruit selection for the french toast and pancake options. The pineapple was canned and the strawberries out of season and tasteless. “Bland” pretty much summed up the french toast as well as the pancakes and the oatmeal, even with the toppings . Nothing stood out food-wise here. The potatoes were beyond mushy and the sausage was flavorless.

Unfortunately, since it looks like Flat Top Grill doesn’t know how to make a good breakfast we won’t be back in the future for any morning meals. However, they are much better with savory foods so we’ll definitely be back soon for lunch or dinner!

Flat Top Grill Dinner, Ann Arbor, MI

I’d been anticipating the opening of Flat Top Grill, a Chicago based restaurant chain, in the Huron Village shopping center at Washtenaw and Huron Parkway for the last several months. I had fun with their interactive website that let’s you “create your own” virtual stir fry. I received a special email invitation last week to make reservations for a pre-opening charity event. They offered preview meals to email insiders for $5 per person before their official opening on Monday, November 15; all proceeds went to Eli’s Place.

My husband and I made reservations last Friday night for 7pm. They were packed when we arrived, but they were well organized and we were seated within a minute or two of coming in the door. The host also gave us a coupon good for a free dessert that night, a nice surprise.

Our waiter, Kurt, greeted us enthusiastically and promptly after we were seated. After learning we were “newbies” to the Flat Top Grill he walked us through their process. From past experience,  Mongolian Barbecue, and similar restaurants, had made me leery of these create-your-own stir fry places because I feel like the customer is often left to fend for themselves, but still leave a tip at the end of the night. Flat Top Grill has a much better system: they have your wait person meet you up at the stir fry station and take you through step-by-step if you need it. They also had additional staff on hand the night were were there to help you put together your ingredients as well.

I wasn’t sure what type of sauce to go with so Kurt was nice enough to ask about some of my tastes and mix a sampler cup of sauce for me to try with peanut sauce, sweet and sour sauce and Jamaican jerk sauce. It was awesome. I added the appropriate proportions to my bowl of white rice, tomato, summer squash and onion. For my protein I chose beef. Shrimp is normally a little extra, but it was free the night we were their for the event so I added that as well. I also added their special bread, called roti prata which was sort of like a thin naan if you’re familiar with Indian cuisine.

One of the best things about Flat Top Grill is that you have a wooden stick with your table number and your name penciled in that stays with your dish while it’s prepared so you don’t have to stand and wait for your food. The waitstaff brings your completed dish back to your table when it’s ready so you get to relax with your drink instead. I also appreciated their strong attention to any food allergies. They have special colored sticks that you insert with your ingredients before they’re prepared to make sure the appropriate precautions are taken to avoid contamination.

My stir fry was fantastic. The sauce combination that my waiter suggested was even better than I had imagined. The beef came out nice and tender, not dry. The shrimp was fresh and delicious. I loved the texture and taste the bread added to each bite. I’m used to eating most breads on their own, but it was a nice change to incorporate it into the main dish.

We chose the Cinnamon Fresh Fruit Roti for dessert. They take their special thin bread coat it in cinnamon-sugar and stuff it with seasonal fruit and creme anglaise. A cherry orange glaze is added to the top and a side of French vanilla ice cream. They also serve two sides of house-made whipped cream. I love fruit based desserts so this was a winner for me. The crisp cinnamon-sugar coated bread and soft fruit on the inside were a nice contrast. The house whipped cream was nice and light and the small scoop of ice cream was just enough without going overboard. For you chocolate lovers they also have an amazing sounding Triple Chocolate Storm dessert to finish your evening.

This is how all create-your-own stir fry restaurants should operate. I never felt like I was floundering to figure out how to make my meal. I was able to sit and relax while my meal was prepared and then brought out to me. I felt like service was incredibly attentive and friendly. The atmosphere was fun and  lively. I definitely felt it was a place I could feel good about leaving a tip for my server despite the fact that I put my own ingredients on the plate because they created an interactive experience.

We’ll be headed their for breakfast tomorrow and I can’t wait to report back on that visit!