Episode 13: Iconic restaurants of Ann Arbor, featuring Gail Offen

Like and subscribe to “Listen In, Michigan” podcasts on Spotify, iTunesTunein, and Stitcher.

Episode 13: Gail Offen — “Iconic Restaurants of Ann Arbor”

Hi this is Deborah Holdship, editor of Michigan Today.

In this episode of “Listen In, Michigan” my guest is U of M alumni Gail Offen, coauthor of the book Iconic Restaurants of Ann Arbor. This is not your standard where-to-eat guide. It’s more like a love letter, actually to all the savory and sensory memories generated by the local dives, diners, and pubs that define one’s college experience. So whether you left your heart at the Pretzel Bell or Steve’s Lunch, this book has many a tasty treat in store. Gail, as you’ll soon discover, has a real thing for Pizza Bob’s. But for now, let’s hear what other spots she and coauthor John Milan showcase in the book. First, we take a trip to Ann Arbor’s Historic Old Town Tavern. So if you’re ready, let’s belly up to the bar with Gail.Gail Offen: It actually started in the late 1800s. You know that factory? I don’t know what it is now, near the Old Town a little further west. So they started the Old Town as a bar for when people would get off the early morning shifts, they’d have a place to go have breakfast and drink basically. And it’s still a great gathering place for people. Still family run. In fact the family that runs it actually built all the wooden booths and tables that are in the Old Town. People I know that come back to Ann Arbor, that’s the one place they want their friends to meet them is at the Old Town. People associate their college time with some incredible memories. Whether you embellish them or not, it’s a carefree time before the weight of the world was on you. Maybe you met some of your best friends in some of these places. Maybe you even met your future spouse in some of these places. So you’ll always look back. To us, these restaurants are iconic because they’re such a part of your memories here in college. And the incredible thing is you can come back here and a lot of them are still around. That’s what people who read this book, they’ll write to me and they say to me and say, “I can’t believe the Brown Jug is still around. I can’t believe Crazy Jim’s is still around, even though it’s in a different location.” So it’s instantly, it’s like that. It’s a memory. When you go back to a place like Dominick’s and you used to sit there in the summer and hoist a glass of sangria in a mason jar. You can still go back there and do it, and it all comes flooding back to you. And that’s what I think is so wonderful. These things trigger great memories in us, these places.

Holdship: You’re in your college town. You worked here for many years, too?

Offen: Yeah. Love it.

Holdship: What’s your go-to place when you come back?

Offen: My gosh, it depends what kind of mood I’m in. And how many meals I can fit in in a given amount of time. I mean, maybe I’m in a mood to go to Pizza Bob’s, a place where I used to work and still has the iconic chapati with that amazing orange sauce that you just want to sit and drink it like a shot by itself because it has mystical properties, and it’s just such a great old-school place to go to. But maybe you want to go right up the street to Frank’s, a wonderful place that’s like out of another era where they frown on you bringing electronics in there which is very, very rare and you could sit at the counter and feel like you’re back in the sixties again.

Holdship: Yeah that connection between food and nostalgia is very strong.

Offen: And because there’s also things here that you can’t get anywhere else. You know I said that thing about the chapati or the ordering experience which is so crazy at Crazy Jim’s. There are certain things that really, when you drink them or eat them, they are quintessentially Ann Arbor.

Holdship: And you time travel almost.

Offen: Right.

Holdship: Your cells grow back.

Offen: You have more hair.

Holdship: Your wrinkles go away. (Laughs.)

Offen: Oh yeah. You’re young again and there’s so many places– luckily there’s still so many places that you can still do that.

Holdship: Now “iconic.” Pretty strong word. I mean, did you have to think about that?

Offen: Well that’s what I love. There’s a debate. Your iconic may not be my iconic. Now there’s certain ones we can all agree on like the Pretzel Bell or Drake’s or the Del Rio, the ones that we have on the cover of the book, obviously Zingerman’s. But then there might be some that are sort of on the bubble and we love hearing from people that say, “Well why don’t you put x in the book?” And actually Jan Longone, who helped us with the book, wants to do yet another one and there may be more iconic restaurants that weren’t even in there. Jan Longone’s collection at the Hatcher, anybody can go look at it. There’s boxes and boxes and it’s fascinating to just wade through all that stuff. Chefs come from all over the world to look at her. She has one of the largest collections of cookbooks.

Holdship: Oh yeah I know who you’re talking about.

Offen: But she also has a menu collection and it’s from all over, but a lot of them are Ann Arbor menus and those are fascinating just to look at if you like to look through that kind of stuff.

Holdship: Yeah. So, do you like to look through that kind of stuff?

Offen: I definitely do, because people think the stuff that you throw away– but it someday, it’s going to have a place in history and tell you how people lived then.

Holdship: Did something just give you like a visceral shock when you saw it?

Offen: Well yeah actually there’s one in the book for La Seine which is one of our favorite stories because Ruth Reichel, she was the editor of Gourmet and she was a U of M graduate. And so when she was here she worked for this place called La Seine which was this fancy French restaurant that only lasted a year and two weeks. That was from 1966 to 1967. And they hired the chef who was, he was trained under the guy that invented the crêpe suzette. And that was one of the menus we found for Jan that has all these duck la ronge and chateaubriand and things like that in there.

Holdship: So how long did it take you to decide what you’re going to put on the cover? Were there some fights about that?

Offen: Yeah there were definitely some fights about that and then some of them obviously ended up on the back cover instead. But we wanted it to be like if somebody picked it up they go, “Wow. I haven’t seen that in a long time.” And especially the Fleetwood and obviously Drake’s. When we were doing this book people said, “Are you going to put in this book– is the Pretzel Bell, that was number one. Number two is Drake’s. The number three surprisingly was the Whiffletree. And when I was talking to the owner, he said on the weekends sometimes the line to get in would be so long, it would merge with the line getting into the Old German which was like a few blocks away. The lines would actually be like, “Well which line are you in? And it was, for some reason, people remember the fries, there was a lot of things they did there. Whatever chemistry they had, the people really always ask about the Whiffletree.

Holdship: That is an interesting point that chemistry because it’s like what makes it an iconic restaurant? You have atmosphere. You have the people who work there. You have the food. What is it? Like, what is that alchemy? What have you sort of discovered in talking to all these people?

Offen: It’s– sometimes it’s the food. Sometimes it’s a place. Like for example the Pretzel Bell. So many people celebrated their 21st birthday there. So it was like a rite of passage kind of place. And so people would go there and they would tell their friends to go there. And again it was really iconic. But then I look at a place like Dominick’s and their schedule revolves around U of M. They open up on spring break and they close the week after the last home game. So you think about it, it’s mostly spring and summer. You’re sitting outside. You’re with your friends. And so that’s the kind of thing you look back again in your mind’s eye. You can see yourself sitting there. Almost like a movie sitting there and enjoying things with your friends. So I think a lot of these gathering places are the places the people remember– or people remember… for example Drake’s. My mother used to study at Drake’s and that was a long time ago. And so again you remember some of those little cozy moments where you would be in a booth at Drake’s eating a grilled pecan role and drinking a limeade. And that– there’s no other place you could do that.

Holdship: And then you bring up an interesting point. Being able to go some place that your parents may have gone or your children can come to a place where you may have gone. That connection!

Offen: That loop! It’s so true, because I find people tell me when they come in for football games they always go, “I always go to Pizza Bob’s,” or I always go to this place. My uncle used to make donuts at the Brown Jug and the Brown Jug, actually, is the longest surviving restaurant now still operating. It’s been around since 1936. So I think about that; I think about my uncle working there, I think about my mother at Drake’s, I think about all these places that I also went to. And then you look back at some of these places. You look where Drake’s is now and it’s a Bruger’s Bagels when you go. Really nobody could have saved Drake’s. You look back and it’s… just you look at some of these icons and think why couldn’t somebody have stepped in and saved them?

Holdship: You broke the book sort of into sections: the legendary and long forgotten, local favorites and student standbys, still here and going strong… So, tell me about some of the legendary and long forgotten that really get people going.

Offen: Well I think of places like the Del Rio, because again to me that was very much Ann Arbor where it was run like a commune or a co-op where everybody got to make decisions equally. I had a friend that worked there. And you know that would really hold things up, but they hit a hole, in the middle of their busiest time, they would hold a staff meeting to decide on whether to add a pickle to the side of a sandwich or something. It was truly Ann Arbor, it was truly a spirit of the sixties and seventies were all decisions were made by the people. And I feel like that’s a real window in time of a place like that. That was a big hangout and a place that’s really very very much missed and they’re famous debt burger as well. Interestingly enough, the guy that started the Del Rio, his father was a lyricist for The Wizard of Oz. He wrote all the lyrics to the Wizard of Oz and his name is Ernie Harberger his father’s name was Yip Harberger and that was his connection. Sarah Molten, you know, the chef — she went to U of M. She worked at Del Rio too. So everybody has stories about the Del Rio, and another place I love to talk about is Le Dog, and now that’s still open, but it’s one of the few places where you can get amazing soup and put things like cassoulet and all kinds of wonderful things. It’s all cooked from scratch. Now that’s an incredible place as well.

Holdship: And it’s such a nondescript place as well.

Offen: Oh my gosh, you would have no idea that the food was that good! No, and he’s got rules too. That’s another great Ann Arbor Story. Jules, who is a wonderful man and one of the… that was one of the other great things, and to meet the people that own these places and to hear the stories. And he, in the in the eighties, when he was still the location now he doesn’t have the beautiful location on Liberty anymore. It’s just on Main Street, but during the art fair, the people who services his pop machine refused to deliver. So he threw out all their equipment on the street and said no pop ever. Still, it says “no pop ever” on his his thing. He proudly displays that. There’s another thing as he refuses to do anything about social media, and very proudly you can’t be on your cell phone! Again, you have to go up, order your soup, you know, be very specific about it. And then, it’s just again a wonderful experience. Somebody waited ‘till lobster bisque day which is Friday, and put a wedding ring in the cup of lobster bisque. Somebody almost had to have the heimlich maneuver, she did say, yeah. She thought it was a lobster shell. Yeah, dumb idea but it but it’s only in Ann Arbor, right?! (Laughs.)

Holdship: Okay, so then we have local favorites and students stand-bys.

Offen: Angelos is one of those places that people love to come back too. The song that Dick Siegel did about Angelos with their famous raisin toast is great, and then another place that people may have missed when they were here, and now that they maybe can afford to go to is the Gandy Dancer. You know, people tend to forget about that, but it’s so wonderful. It’s in an old 1920s train station that was almost demolished, came super close like three times to being demolished. And finally was saved and has become, to me, a real iconic Ann Arbor restaurant.

Holdship: Okay, how about still here and going strong?

Offen: Zingerman’s has never really gone anywhere. But, you know, it’s funny when you’re here you take a lot of places for granted. Then you realize a place like Zingerman’s has such national attention and we’re so lucky to have a place like that. A place that cares so much about food and has done so much for the community with food. It’s celebrating its 35th anniversary.

Holdship: That’s amazing!

Offen: Yeah. And then I also look at a place like Seva’s which was started out as a little hippie grocery store, “Soybeans Sellers” it was called on Liberty Street. And then it became in that same location, one of the first vegetarian restaurants. In the seventies there was Indian Summer and there was Eden. There was a real like renaissance of vegetarian restaurants. And Seva’s still survives. Now it’s out near Niklas Stadium. But it still has a really loyal clientele, even though it moves. So to me that’s one of those places that students still remember, but now it still exists even if it’s somewhere else.

Holdship: Yeah what’s fascinating is that you may miss the building, but if the food tastes the same? Right on! You know? Crazy Jim still tastes the same or if Seva’s food still tastes the same, then you can still go there and almost have the same experience, you know?

Offen: Yeah! And then the community supports it. For Crazy Jim’s they did a Kickstarter for the new location when they had to move and people felt so strongly about it you know but it’s great to know the rules are still there. You have to order in the right order and everybody knows that.

Holdship: So stressful!

Offen: I know! And then you feel sorry for the out-of-towers that are like, “Now let me see… what do I want?” And then I look at a place like Washtenaw Dairy which is still around that people still go to for donuts and things like that. That to me is another old school place that people can still go to and have some great memories.

Holdship: So going back to that whole concept of Ann Arbor and thus the vibe of Ann Arbor, I guess, coming through these restaurants. Like, why do you think that is? What do you think that means? What makes Ann Arbor unique?

Offen: There’s this place called Mod’s that we didn’t talk about, which was a very beloved place on Forest St. And literally all the partners that are in ZIngerman’s all met at Mod’s and then they all they went off to do other things but then they all came back together to be the managing partners in segments. They were like dishwashers and waiters and things like that, and it’s interesting to me how these people would meet. The people that started the Main Street ventures: Gratzi, and Real Seafood, and Palio, they all met working at the Gandy Dancer. They all trained there, and then they went and started their own restaurants. So they learned from people, then they got together and formed their own restaurants which went on to become new icons. Now you wonder who’s meeting at these places, and what restaurants are they going to start?

Holdship: Very interesting!

Offen: There’s this sense of community, and there’s a lot of pride in that! When you look at a guy like Tom Hackett who owns Afternoon Delight. And he’s a delight. And he’s on his third generation of people who stand in line to get into his restaurant on weekends. There’s another iconic place. I mean he’s famous for his bran muffins. How many places would you just stand in line for bran muffin? But he says it gives some such pleasure to talk to people who show up with their grandkids and say, “here’s where I used to come.” And that to me is really very, much Ann Arbor. It also had the first salad bar in Ann Arbor.

Holdship: Oh! Who knew?! Very nice, a good distinction.

Offen: A lot of people talk about Steve’s Lunch.

Holdship: Yeah.

Offen: Steve’s Lunch was one of the places that people first had Korean food when we’re talking about different cultures coming to Ann Arbor, most people hadn’t even heard of… and it was popular in the seventies. It was on South University. It was just a little counter hole-in-the-wall family run place.

Holdship: And then the Village Bell which was a cousin of the Pretzel Bell.

Offen: So that’s right. That was the cousin of that. And the thing I put in there, they brag about how stiffly they poured their drinks, which is maybe why they went out of business. Or that was a cousin of the Pretzel Bell. And also down the street there, a lot of people remember Bicycle Jim’s which was upstairs and was really famous for their fried mushrooms and their Yosemite Sa m sandwich. And that was another iconic place where people would gather and drink. There’s a lot of bars the people iconically went to. And one of those I wanted also mention was Blind Pig. It used to be this place where you could go in the space with its very smoky basement, and you could listen to these wonderful blues players. I mean, really nationally renowned people, but the interesting thing about the food there was they didn’t have a real kitchen. The woman who was the chef there went on to start al-dente pasta which is a very famous pasta in Whitmore Lane, its internationally Monique de Shane. And she would turn out these gourmet European dishes. And all she had was a hot plate, and a toaster oven. And she would make all this stuff on it because there wasn’t even a kitchen!

Holdship: Amazing!

Offen: And that, to us, was really iconic. You just think about a smoky place, an old blues player sitting at the piano, and it’s one of the first places in Ann Arbor that served espresso. So they had a very, very cool European kind of vibe. When people came from places that didn’t have what we call “ethnic restaurants: nowadays. When I mentioned the thing about Korea and there was also Connet which was a little hole in the wall Korean restaurant which started out up on the hill over by the hospital. So maybe people came from cities where or little towns where they didn’t have an Indian restaurant, a Korean restaurant, even a Chinese restaurant. So here they are, coming to Ann Arbor and they’re tasting these foods for the first time. Even German food! Ann Arbor was really… again there’s still German restaurants here because it was a huge part of Ann Arbor’s heritage. And so this was maybe exciting for people who never had this kind of food before.

Holdship: You have a lot of great photography in the book as well.

Offen: The Hatcher Library with Jan Longone lent us a lot of the pictures in the book, and Susan Weinberg whose collection is at the Burden lends us a lot of that as well. And then some of them we got from the Ann Arbor News. So we got them from all over, but they don’t even have to be exotic When you look at a place like Delong’s Barbecue Pit which was really iconic for a lot of people because it was one of the few places that delivered really late at night for students, and a lot of people talk about that. That was from 1964 and it went on for 37 years. Well and then, of course Pizza Bob’s, which you know I used to make triple thick milk shakes for stoners at two in the morning. I’m still so proud of that.

It’s interesting the restaurants are just a peg on which you’ve hung this bigger story. This connection and this love for Ann Arbor in the University of Michigan. And I hope that this book will encourage people to make that trip back to Ann Arbor and go back to some of these places and be pleasantly surprised, and be able to relive some of these things again.

Holdship: Ok, the pressure’s on! Where are you going to go when you return to town? Gail would love to hear. So go to facebook.com/annarborrestaurants. And if you’d like to heat other episodes of “Listen In, Michigan,” go to the Michigan Today homepage, michigantoday.umich.edu. They can also be found at Tune-In and iTunes just look for “Listen-In, Michigan.” Alright, thanks so much for listening. We’ll see you next month. As always go blue, and congratulations to the class of 2017. I’m outta here, I’m going to Pizza Bob’s.

Memories are made of this

Gail Offen, BGS ’78, knew it was a bold move titling her book Iconic Restaurants of Ann Arbor (Arcadia Publishing, 2016).

Iconic Restaurants of Ann Arbor, book coverAfter all, “my iconic may not be your iconic,” she says.

That said, few readers — student, professor, traveler, or townie — could dispute the “iconic” status of the establishments Offen and co-author Jon Milan present in their 96-page ode to the tastes of the town they love.

The book is filled with rare photographs, advertisements, menus, and other ephemera culled from numerous sources, most notably the Janice Bluestein-Longone Culinary Archive in U-M’s Special Collections Library in the Hatcher Graduate Library.

Listen in, as Offen serves up a menu of memories sure to get you salivating. Sadly, one no longer can savor the limeade at the long-shuttered Drake’s, the Sicilian pizza at Thano’s Lamplighter, or the Detburger at Del Rio (named for cook Bob Detweiler).

But fear not! You can still dive into the hippie hash at Fleetwood Diner, spoon up some lobster bisque at Le Dog, or grab a coveted bran muffin (yes, you read that correctly) at Afternoon Delight Cafe. In fact, you may even be able to afford the Gandy Dancer now…

Which of Ann Arbor’s most beloved diners, dives, pubs, and joints do you still hold dear?

Hear more “Listen In, Michigan” podcasts. Subscribe at iTunesTunein, and Stitcher.

Comments

  1. Marc Shapiro - '71

    I loved the Del Rio. Worked there tending bar ’72-73. My favorite was not the Detburger but the hot shaved & stacked ham and cheese on an onion roll.

    Reply

  2. Robert Hoop - 1981 (MPH)

    The Cracked Crab, located downtown, was my favorite restaurant in Ann Arbor for many years. Excellent food. Good service. Reasonable prices. However the Cracked Crab expanded and the place went downhill after that. Eventually it closed.

    Reply

    • Bruce Buchan - 1978

      The Cracked Crab was my favorite restaurant in Ann Arbor and the Sea Maiden’s delight was my favorite meal. I was so disappointed when it expanded, as were others. Great memories.

      Reply

  3. Mary Robins English - 1960

    I fondly remember The Pretzel Bell and The Parrot.

    Reply

  4. Linda Grigg - 1975

    Pizza Bobs was the best! Huge subs, great pizza, Sister Ann calzone, delicious milkshakes, delivered up by Fast Eddie! Nothing like it since.

    Reply

    • Jacqueline Matchett - 1984

      I worked at Pizza Bob’s! Quite an experience…. They would make any kind of pizza. One time someone ordered a chocolate pizza. We went out the back door, bought some chocolate chips and made it for them!

      Reply

  5. Jack Edgerly - 1979

    I remember a great dinner at the Whiffletree on W Huron, Steve’s Lunch on South U had the best breakfasts, late night/early am The Jolly Tiger on Stadium, and while on Stadium, who could forget Everett’s Drive-In for outstanding burgers.

    Reply

  6. William Boor - 1978

    I have no recall of Del Rio but Pizza Bobs was great for subs, and Gandy Dancer was very nice for a special meal. Bicycle Jims for the mushrooms and Lamplighter and Cottage Inn for Pizza. Cracked Crab was great on paper plates with a dive location and then they upgraded to hard plates and a nicer spot; the food was still good but it seemed like twice the price. My favorite though was Metzgers which I think was on Liberty and now is alive and well way out west of town. There was also a French restaurant back in the 74-78 time frame but I cannot recall the name. In any case, you could enjoy a number of different cuisines all within walking distance of campus. Thanks for the memories.

    Reply

    • Mark Summers - 1977

      I think the French place may have been Chez Crepe.

      Reply

    • Ted Levine - 76

      I worked at Bicycle Jim’s when it opened. Great times and great mushrooms.

      Reply

  7. George & Caroline Wanstall - 1963

    Who can forget the Pretzel Bell? More for its revelry and the joy of reaching age 21. When I think about memories as a student of going out for fun with friends AND a really affordable, good meal, I think of the Cottage Inn. To this day, when we return to AA, we never miss a chance to revisit the Cottage Inn.

    Reply

  8. WILLIAM E TAYLOR, MD - 65 BS, 70 MD

    I grew up in Ann Arbor and I always thought Drake’s was a unique place, and went there in high school, and in undergrad. I worked at the Pretzel Bell briefly, and always thought they had pretty good food, besides all the suds. I was sorry to hear the Old German closed, and always go to Metzgers when I am in the area.

    Reply

  9. Jack D. Rollins

    On the Good Ship Lollipop: Childhood Memories of Drake’s — The Drakes were my grandparents. Growing up in Ann Arbor, attending Ann Arbor High School (Go Pioneers), made me a genuine townie and in my case already a long-standing connoisseur of the sandwich shop’s menu. To me, it was like an enchanted place all full of sweets and cinnamon rolls soaked in high octane butter. I did not propose to my wife there, and I am sorry about the lady who lost her tooth, but the many testimonials this story occasioned gave me a sense of comfort knowing that so many others still hold cherished memories of the lasting goodwill, generosity, and food that seemed to gentle the condition of every man Jack who entered the door disappearing quickly in the cavernous wooden booths which lined the walls. These memories anchored in the many desperate lives who experienced the joy of Drakes paralleled mine. When my father married the dashing Jacqueline Drake, Grandpa Drake sold my father a house (which I grew up in) for a few hundred dollars which my father paid back in monthly increments of fifteen dollars a month. As I remember it, there was no interest.

    Reply

    • Chris Wiedrich - 1985

      I envy you that connection and what I assume were hours & hours spent at Drake’s. Often, I only realize how much a place has meant to me after it’s gone. I was lured in by the red and white striped bags of candy as a 7th grader visiting my sister at U-M for the weekend. When I arrived on campus six years later, Drake’s was my spot to hydrate after racquet ball at the League or meet friends after class at the MLB or Frieze Building. I often wondered which booth my parents sat in when they were undergrads — did they always choose the same one, like me? — or living in town during Dad’s grad school. I appreciated the continuity of atmosphere and menu. The grilled pecan roll was my go-to lunch. Sentimentality helped places like Drake’s continue through the years…until it didn’t. When my daughter arrived on campus as a freshman, I wished that I could have treated her to a grilled cheese. Drake’s will always live on in the wonderful memories of all the old patrons.

      Reply

  10. Daniel Ziegler - 1980

    Does anyone else remember “Crazy Jim’s” at the corner of Packard and Division? The sign in the window boasted, “Cheaper than food.” The Crazy Jim burger was a mix of some kind of meat and other things.

    Reply

    • Marvin Rau - 1985

      Blimpy Burgers! Loved ’em!

      Reply

    • Deborah Swanberg - 1979, 1985, 1988

      My dad took me there when I was a kid, many years ago in the 1960s. I loved spinning on the tall stools at the counter. Loved the fried veggies and hamburgers It’s moved next to the Fleetwood Diner, and still going strong, tall stools moved too. I just took my daughter there a week ago, it hasn’t changed.

      Reply

  11. Sheri Circele - 2008

    I don’t think any has mentioned Bimbos, next to or near the P Bell. So wish the new P Bell had brought back that black russian rye bread! Stadium Tavern is another local fav (now gone, corner of Liberty and Stadium). Yes Jack, go Pioneers, class of 1972.

    Reply

    • Bob Hartzler - 1973

      I worked at Bimbo‘s in the early 1970s. The pizza was good, the beer flowed freely, and peanut shells were all over the floor. The Mickey Finn banjo band was fun for kids and for adults. On weekends after the place closed, we’d go to someone’s apartment for “last call“ and party until dawn sometimes.

      Reply

  12. Chris Holden - ,'83 '91

    I’m a Drakette, forever a Drakette though my tour of duty was 1980-1984. My sister and one of our best childhood friends from Livonia were Drakettes. Those of us who worked there named ourselves that. Millie and Truman Tibblals, owners of Drakes for eons, until it closed, liked to hire siblings and friends. The entire job interview was “when are you going to start working here?” We loved the work atmosphere despite having to wear a skirt, any skirt, even if you were wearing army boots, heels, rain boots or Converse high-tops. We paid ourselves from the cash register and put our tax $ in a peanut can under the phone. Truman was the biggest cheap skate ever, and very resourseful. Floors were painted with surplus battleship grey paint. The upstairs Martian room was closed for business by the time my contemporaries were there , but we got to see the Circa 50s wallpaper when it bacame the tea stockroom. Truman made the simple syrup for limeades at night. The AAPD checked in on him every single night. Millie was on duty in the day.

    Reply

    • Nina Koenigsberg - 1965, 1967

      Drake’s – best late night tuna sandwich with a coffee milk shake. There would be a group order every night shortly before the dorms closed. Heaven on earlth….

      Reply

  13. William Hall

    My father William R. Hall worked for Mr. Tibbles at Drake’s in the late 1930’s, said that Mr. T was good to work for. I claim to be a true creation of Drake’s. While not on the menu, my father met my mother there for the first time.

    Reply

  14. Betsy Johnsmiller - 1973

    I worked at Drakes in 1973 after I graduated because my job at UM Medical library didn’t pay enough. I recall making the tuna and egg salad daily and nothing like a Drakes malted. My mother loved to study at Drakes in 1942-44 while in nursing school.
    I am also an alumna of the Gandy Dancer when it first opened. Every time the train went by, all servers stopped and sang “I’ve been working on the Railroad”. Best meal—lobster dinner with fresh strawberry shortcake for dessert.

    Finally, I grew up in Ann Arbor. Can’t forget about The Brown Jug. I and many of my friends worked there in high school 1966-1968. Close to all of the action on campus. We loved being there!

    Reply

  15. Mary Ann Sauer - 1956

    No one mentioned Preketee’s on Main Street!

    Reply

  16. Alan Echt - MPH 1985

    My wife and I were just reminiscing about the fruit punch at Kana Korean restaurant…and of course, the bi bim bap at Steve’s Lunch.

    Reply

  17. Mark Kuyawa - MPH 1988

    My favorites include Gandy Dancer, Cottage Inn for best pizza ever, and the Greek restaurant on Main Street, but I don’t remember it’s name. They had the best gyros sandwich around!

    Reply

  18. Katherine Erwin - 1980, 1983

    So many great food memories in Ann Arbor! Lamplighter’s pizza was always my favorite. The Earle for fancy dinners with parents. Favorite Sunday night meal was a chipati (can’t remember the name of the simple take-out place, just off South U) accompanied by a Pizza Bob’s caramel-hot fudge milkshake. There are dozens of noodle shops in A2 now, but back when there weren’t dozens, there was Donburi on State, which was cheap and delicious. And Raja Rani for Indian. And the amazing bean sprout and cheese omelettes at Steve’s Lunch. I’m sad to walk by the locations of these places —always wish I could conjure them back!

    Reply

  19. Lynn Glazewski - 1976

    Remember PJs, on the corner of State and the atrium, where you had to climb that circular staircase to get up there? Also Central Cafe on Main, where you went after the bars closed to rub elbows with local music luminaries like Dick Siegel and Steve Nardello. What was the name of the place above the Community News Center on Liberty? We went there all the time, but I can’t remember the name. They had the best gazpacho…..

    Reply

    • Steven Levicki - 1982

      The restaurant above Community News was the PanTree. In the late 70s, my gang and I would go there once the Rubiayat disco and the Flame Bar closed, around 2:30 a.m. My little brother (EMU grad) worked there as a waiter.

      Reply

  20. Don Windeler - 1964

    I recall the times working at Drake’s, making hamburgers including the Bleu cheese burger, and marveling at the number of butter-grilled pecan rolls sold. My favorite experience was making deliveries in one of the two ’54 stick-shift Ford’s. My initial shifting was kinda rough, but after a week, I got pretty good at it.
    To the point that I was a little too comfortable (fast) one night, then realized there was a cop following me. I continued more cautiously back to the shop. He followed me in. But he just sat down at the counter and had a coffee.
    Sad to know Drake’s is gone.

    Reply

  21. Gary Bailey - '69, '71, '72

    What about the Purple Pickle on Washington, I believe. They had great reuben sandwiches and chili. Small place with good prices.

    Reply

  22. David Waldstein - 1985

    At Drakes, you would write down your order on those little green pads with the tiny pencils. My friend Eric and I would go after every history of The Viet Nam War class in Tuesdays and Thursdays and I would order a grilled pecan roll and a milkshake with “French vanilla.” Someone had told me their French vanilla was special, but they didn’t always have it, so I would always ask first, and they would smile and nod, yes, and I would enthusiastically write it down. Then one night I’m at a party with a crew of Drakes workers and they revealed that there is no special “French vanilla” at all and that it had become this huge joke amongst them that I always asked for it and that they just humored me. Pretty funny. It was like this big revelation.
    It was also the first place I ever had chocolate covered pretzels. I went there with a woman once and as we walked out I casually pointed to them and mentioned they were good. When we went on a “date” a few nights later she gave me a bag of them, and I was genuinely touched that she remembered and went back and got them for me. That was the high point.
    Wasn’t there something about tons and tons of coins upstairs?

    Reply

  23. Martin Gurvey - '64, '65

    I’m surprised that nobody mentioned the Betsy Ross Shop in Nichols Arcade, otherwise known as “The Bestsy”. Being in the School of Music, the Betsy catered to most of us. Great breakfasts for under a dollar served by Peggy and Dolly, who were there many years. I was there when JFK was shot, so I’ll never forget the Betsy.

    Reply

  24. David Ellies - 1969

    The Old German, Crazy Jim’s & it’s great Blimpy burgers, Bimbos, and the P-Bell were all favorite places for food and fun. Clarence Bird, an accounting instructor, playing a lively organ at Kale’s Waterfall on Stadium Blvd., the Liberty Inn for great burgers, and I can’t remember the name of a quaint little bar downtown on Liberty or Washington street with 25 cent shells of draft that was frequented by History Prof. Karl Reichenbach.

    Reply

  25. Alan Machcinski - 1970 to date

    My favorite hangout was the Del Rio. Oder up the ante-pasta salad and the detburger. Usually had live music on the weekend. And the humongous collection music on cassette tapes on the wall behind the bar.
    On the South U side is the Brown Jug. The Purple pickle had some tasty offerings. Downtown we had the Del Rio, Cracked Crab, Old German, Mr Floods Party, Marks Coffeehouse. When you ventured out to Ypsilanti, the favorite was the Sidetrack.

    Reply

  26. Lisa Hoberg - 1976

    What about Dominic’s? West side of campus adjacent to the law school? Decent coffee, pastries, lunches, dinner, wine… One of me favorites!

    Reply

  27. Edward Reckford - 1970, 1975

    South U Restaurant, with their hot roast beef sandwich and hot turkey sandwich, and John Sinclair and fellow White Panthers hanging out at all hours….

    Reply

  28. Christopher Lumpkin - 1998

    I worked at Gratzi for a couple of summers while at UM. I worked with some great people, some of whom I still have great friendships. The restaurant community was tight back then and I have a lot of crazy stories and crazier memories. One of the most stressful and memorable and favorite times in my life. GO BLUE!

    Reply

  29. Ronna Simon - 1981

    I was a Drake’s fan, too, but Angelo’s was the place to go for breakfast (raisin toast, anyone?). It’s still there, upgraded, and I’m glad it’s still around. When I was a freshman in Bursley, we’d have Omega pizza delivered in the middle of the night.

    Reply

  30. Michael Thomas - 1985

    Does anyone remember the name of the restaurant that served fried ice cream? It was the best I have ever had!!

    Reply

  31. Timothy Ernest - 1978

    I worked at Omega Pizza near “The Hill “dorms. I delivered pizzas. The owner provided the car. I got fired by the nice Greek owner the day I came back from delivering because, as I recall, an Ann Arbor cop caught me driving up the wrong way on a 1 way street and, OK, maybe for speeding, too. Needless to say, I was down in the dobbers when I returned to Omega HQ because no way would my tips cover the citation(s) from the officer! Anyway, the owner noticed my usual upbeat self was missing and so asked me why? I confessed to him what happened. He looked at me sympathetically, then basically gave me the “good news/bad news” treatment in reverse order. “You’re fired. That’s the bad news. The good news? I’m putting you on the phones from now on, to take orders coming in. No more pizza deliveries for you.” He was a great fellow. He also had a female manager who was no nonsense; strict but fair.
    Omega Pizza was not a bad pie, a little greasy to be sure, but they had nice salads including a fantastic antipasto salad as I recall.

    Years later, it closed down, the building and others near it were razed to make room for the massive new wavy U-M science building. This made me a little sad for some reason. Call it nostalgia, call it what you will… Oh well, they say nothing is permanent. C’est la vie.

    P.S. I got my kid brother a job there and, fortunately, he did fine despite his heavy engineering work load at the University of Michigan.

    Reply

Leave a comment: