Much like the poem that sits at the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor, I am asking Eastern Michigan University to send me their tired, poor and hungry student masses. I am here to rescue you—if only to provide a guide to good eats around Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. I am Lorrie Mayzlin, a culinary arts and hospitality management student at neighboring Washtenaw Community College, set to transfer to EMU to finish a degree in restaurant management.
I have traveled extensively throughout Europe, dating as far back as the early 1970s. I have tasted the good, the bad and the I-don’t-ever-want-that-to-grace-my-tongue-again. Unlike some Food Network stars, though, I have not had the opportunity to eat the exotic and abnormal.
Being a student at WCC and not having anything of worth to put into my growling stomach has prompted me to scour the neighborhood to find some delectable delights, and because I am a student, I have to bypass the restaurants whose menu prices begin at $20 a plate.
I will present my picks for good eats in the area. I would appreciate feedback or suggestions, and I will check them out and report to you.
The first review is for a not-so-normal place many students wouldn’t think to go for lunch.
Whole Foods Market:
Huron Parkway and Washtenaw Avenue, Ann Arbor
From vegan to carnivore, fresh fruit to hot deli or pizza, this store has everything. My best pick for a meal (personal choice) is spanakopita, which is Greek for spinach pie. You get two large pieces, and if you tell them you are going to dine in (they have tables, microwaves, utensils and condiments at the front of the store for guests), they will heat your item up at the counter and put it on a plate for you. This dish is made on-site, and will set you back a cool $4.78. Add a beverage from Free Trade Coffee to any number of juices, teas or natural sodas, and your lunch will set you back about $7 per person.
The biggest challenge at Whole Foods is parking: At times, you will have to park closer to Barnes & Noble or Walgreen’s. The staff is super friendly and is always willing to help you out. If you are unsure of what you would like to eat, they will give you a sample of anything in their store, even if they have to open a package to do so, so don’t be afraid to ask to taste something.
From what I understand, the tofu is amazing, as are the many salads that grace the deli area. I highly recommend the tortellini pasta salad, filled with tortellini, various kinds of cheese, pickled zucchini, Greek olives, tomatoes and feta cheese with a tangy sauce over the top.
If you are looking for something even cheaper, my second recommendation is one of their slices of pizza. The pizza is made in a stone oven, and it can have any number of amazing toppings, the cost is a scant $3 for a large slice.
If you would like to indulge in a glass of wine, you may only have it (along with your lunch) in the upper level of the store, located near the back and accessible by an elevator. On certain evenings, you can enjoy the various live performances that come to entertain the guests in the store.
The second review is for Sidetrack Bar and Grille, located at 56 E. Cross St. in Depot Town across from the Hudson Museum.
No matter what you order here, the food is good, plentiful and served promptly. It has been a local favorite for more than 20 years. Known for their onion rings, deep fried pickles and burgers, my favorite is the Amtrak Double Cheeseburger.
Two four-ounce burgers layered with your choice of three pieces of cheese, lettuce and tomato will cost you $8.95, and is enough for the heartiest of appetites.
I highly recommend the basket of onion rings for an additional $5.95, which is filled with large rings. For under $18, you can have a wonderful lunch that will tide you over until dinnertime, skipping all the snacks the rest of the day.
If you have a lighter appetite or budget, you can have the restaurant split the burger in half and then you can split the cost with a friend. Don’t be afraid to choose a different menu item; everything here is fantastic and reasonably priced. If you would like to have alcoholic beverages with your meal, the prices range from $4 to $9 on average.
Reservations are not necessary, and no matter the day of the week or the time of the day it is fairly full of guests.
During warmer months, prime seating is available on their patio, overlooking the Amtrak train lines that run next to the building.
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