Eating Up the Past

Eating Up the Past

For those still mourning the loss of Drake’s (tart limeades), Del Rio (the Detburger), and Bicycle Jim’s (fried mushrooms), take heart. “Iconic Restaurants of Ann Arbor,” an image-packed book coming out next week, should soothe your stomach. Co-authored by Gail Offen, ’78, and Jon Milan—with an introduction by Ari Weinzweig, ’78— the paperback captures cherished eateries of yesteryear (birthdays at Bimbo’s), as well as hallowed kitchens still cooking today (hippy hash anyone?).

Chunky slices of raisin toast can still be found on Angelo’s menu. Washtenaw Dairy’s milkshakes are still the creamiest, and the Gandy Dancer’s bartenders continue to welcome train travelers. From the Heidelberg and The Earle, to Afternoon Delight, the Cottage Inn, and Real Seafood, sliding into a favorite old booth is still possible decades later.

Gobble up a sneak preview of this foodie book here, complete with photos and excerpts. Sigh, but salivate. Though the storefront or location may now differ, the meals taste like memories.

  1. For many locals, springs starts when Casa Dominick’s opens. Since 1960, this charming hangout started by Dominick DeVarti, comes to life the Monday after U of M’s spring break and closes after the last home football game. Many a student has spent long sunny afternoons sipping homemade sangria or beer from a mason jar—before mason jars were trendy. (Photo: Author’s collection)
  2. The Fleetwood is still there serving hippie hash (hash browns covered in vegetables and topped with feta). The Fleetwood began as the Dag-wood Diner … constructed by Donald Reid in 1949. Mark Hodesh bought it in 1971 and renamed it the Fleetwood. It has had several owners and several closings, but at this time it thrives, as current owners have added Greek food to the burgers, sandwiches, and the two greatest words in the English language, “breakfast anytime.” The last of Ann Arbor’s 24-hour diners lives on. (Photo: Author’s collection)
  3. Say what? Since the dawn of sprouts, Seva has been serving up creative vegetarian food. (Initially), housed in a former VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) post on Liberty Street …  Seva was formerly the Soybean Cellars restaurant and natural foods grocery. Depending on who one asks, the name is a variation on the French phrase ça va, Sanskrit for “satisfaction,” or just a word that means “black bean and sweet potato quesadillas,” a menu favorite for almost 40 years. The Jackson family, who bought Seva in 1997, moved it complete with some of the original stained-glass pieces, to the west side of town in 2014. (Photo: Original Seva courtesy of the Ann Arbor Public Library. Current Seva, author’s collection)
  4. For such a free-form joint, Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger has a particular set of rules for ordering. These involve when to order patties, fryer food, and condiments, among others. That is all part of the charm. Hemming, hawing, and ordering out of order brands one as a rookie. Get it right and get one of the juiciest burgers in town. Opened in 1953 by Jim Shafer,  it nestled among dorms on South Division Street. Rich Magner, the owner since 1992, moved it to its current location on Ashley Street. (Photo: Author’s collection)
  5. Clint Castor Sr. opened the Pretzel Bell in 1934, shortly after the repeal of prohibition. Going to the P-Bell was an Ann Arbor rite of passage. It was the place to go to celebrate a Michigan victory—bells ringing, beers raised, and a deafening din, intermittently overshadowed by a chorus of the victors.  The Bells rang up their last sale in 1984, when the Pretzel Bell went dark, and the party was over. This past year, a new iteration of the Pretzel Bell opened on Liberty and Main Street. (Photo: Original Pretzel Bell, courtesy of  Bentley Historical Library. New Pretzel Bell–not shown in the book–author’s collection)
  6. The Jug. One of the oldest college sports rivalries led to a traveling trophy. And that led to a restaurant. The Brown Jug has been on South University Avenue since 1936. University of Michigan memorabilia lines the walls, to the delight of students, alumni, and fans. Pizza is a favorite, along with food named for some of the former U 0f M players who chowed down here. Where else can folks get a Charles Woodson stacked ham sandwich? (Photos: Old Brown Jug courtesy of The Brown Jug. Brown Jug today, author’s collection)
  7. There is good bar karma when a place has been serving guests since 1898. Jerry Pawlicki bought Merkel’s Friendly Corner in 1972 and started building up the Old Town by constructing the bar, tables, and cabinets. Early on, the bar opened at 6:00 a.m. for third-shift factory workers. Now all walks of west siders come to hear music and eat burgers and gourmet grilled cheese. Now Jerry’s sons Chris and Steve carry on dad’s good ideas. (Photos: Original Old Town courtesy of the Ann Arbor District Library. Seva today, author’s collection.)

“Iconic Restaurants of Ann Arbor,” $22.95, is available at and


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