fig. a: the Roadhouse
If only road food was this easy all the time. I mean, sure, there wouldn't be the thrill of the hunt, but at least we'd be fully satisfied.
You might have heard of the good people at Zingerman's. They established a delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan, back in 1982 that long ago became a legend. They knew what it took to keep the Jewish deli tradition alive, and they knew how to name a good sandwich,* but things didn't stop there. Not only did they fashion themselves into perhaps the country's premier purveyor of fine foods, featuring a brilliantly curated selection of America's must-have regional specialties, but they established a veritable empire of good eats and tasty treats right there in Ann Arbor. In addition to the deli, Zingerman's line-up now includes a bake shop, a creamery, a coffee shop, a candy "manufactory," and Zingerman's Roadhouse, their full-service restaurant.
Visiting the constellation of Zingerman's businesses in quick succession is a feat that requires so much will power, so much self-control (it's all so tempting!), that Zingerman's has named it the Tour de Food and actually enters all those who successfully complete the circuit in a 24-hour period in a rather generous draw (you stand to win a $250 gift certificate). But for those who are just passing through Ann Arbor, the Roadhouse makes for an awfully convenient and delicious pit stop, and a great introduction to Zingerman's particular brand of magic. Imagine a restaurant that served all your favorite American comfort foods, using only the very best ingredients sourced from the best producers across the continent, and prepared with the utmost care. Imagine that same restaurant adding a top-notch barbecue pit** built into a vintage Airstream directly adjacent to it. Now imagine that restaurant situated in a Eastern Michigan strip mall just seconds from the I-94. That's Zingerman's Roadhouse for you, and if you've got an aversion to dining in strip malls, well, it's time to get over it because you don't want to miss out on a place like this.
fig. b: exterior decorating
When you step up to the restaurant, you're going to have to decide whether you want to go to the restaurant, or visit the barbecue/bake shop/coffee shop next to it. I recommend that you do both: visit the restaurant, eat to your heart's content, then swing by the Airstream to pick up some goodies for later.
fig. c: the perfect brunch
If you happen to visit Zingerman's Roadhouse in the morning, you'll find an extensive breakfast & brunch menu to choose from. For brunch there's a full assortment of omelettes, waffles, and egg dishes to choose from, and some of them get kind of elaborate, but you might just want to go for the grits & eggs combo, featuring Anson Mills stone-ground grits, eggs any style, scallions and Cabot aged cheddar, fresh biscuits, Nueske's applewood-smoked bacon, sorghum molasses, homemade preserves, and a side of homemade hot sauce (upon request). That was exactly what I wanted, and it was exactly what I got. Even better, it was just as good as I imagined. Really good coffee, too.
Jeez, why couldn't every brunch be like this?
fig. d: streamlined for better smoking
Afterwards, I paid a visit to the Airstream to pick up some treats for the road. I mean, I had to make it all the way to Montreal that day--I was going to want to have lunch at some point, right?
So I picked up a smoked whole hog pulled pork sandwich, some Zapp's potato chips, and another coffee for the road.
fig. e: pulled pork picnic
And wouldn't you know it, a few hours later I had myself just about the tastiest picnic lunch you could imagine, considering I was traveling along the 401. The only thing was that I forgot to ask for a side of some barbecue sauce or hot sauce. Good thing I just happened to have a bottle of Arthur Bryant's barbecue sauce on hand (!). You know what they say: Be prepared.
Zingerman's Roadhouse and Road Show, 2501 Jackson Ave., Ann Arbor, MI, (734) 663-FOOD
* Actually, naming is a big part of the Zingerman's story. They were meant to be called Greenberg's, but then one thing led to another...
** How good? Well, Jane & Michael Stern included Zingerman's in their list of the top barbecue joints in America when they put together their special BBQ edition of Popular Plates back in 2010. When they did, they wrote: "...Zingerman's goes beyond any ordinary definition of a barbecue restaurant. But we would be horribly remiss not to include it here, because the pulled pork is as succulent as any found in North Carolina [!], and it is only a slight exaggeration to say it melts in your mouth." That's a helluva claim, and I haven't traveled the BBQ trails of the Carolinas extensively enough to weigh in with any authority, but I can say that that pulled pork sandwich tasted mighty fine to me. I would have served it on a bit less bready of a roll (Zingerman's uses one of their famous onion rolls), but that's just me.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
fig. a: the Roadhouse