Eclectalife — March 18, 2009 at 6:24 am

I Love Ann Arbor


My wife and I moved about two and half years ago to be nearer to Ann Arbor because it’s truly one of the most awesome Midwest towns. It combines the excitement of a university town with progressive liberal politics and sprinkles the whole thing with awesome restaurants, pubs, and places to shop.

One of our favorite hangouts is the Arbor Brewing Company where we’re Mug Club members. ABC is run by two very liberal (and cool folks) and in the past year they have upgraded their menu to include some very great food, most of it made in-house and using local sources for the ingredients. They even use take-out boxes that are compostable.

And, of course, they have great beer.

Last night we decided to wade into the morass of St. Patrick’s Day celebrators and venture to our favorite pub. As expected, it was a madhouse when we walked through the front door. We were greeted by a familiar face behind the host’s stand (as I said, we go there quite often). “Anne and Chris!” he welcomed us. “Two for non-smoking?” Ayup, that’d be us. He remarked at our fortitude, coming out to hang with drunk college kids and told us how they had just had to kick some drunk frat boys out (something that never happens on a normal night at ABC.) Indeed, I looked around and realized I was surrounded by young and very drunk 20-something frat boys and sorority girls, most sporting Kelly Green t-shirts with some “clever” phrase on them like “French Me, I’m French” or “Fuck Me, I’m Irish”.

Then the host asked, “So, the question is, how soon do you guys want a table?” We laughed, thanked him and said we were going to be playing darts so he didn’t need to bump us to the front of the line. I started a tab and picked us up a couple of stouts and headed for the dart boards.

The dart room is a smokey mess on many nights and last night was no different except that someone had decided to flaunt the “No Clove Cigarettes” sign and fill the room with a cloying cloud anyway. While most everything else at ABC is awesome, their dart boards are a bit of a disgrace and getting darts to stick in the bull is nearly impossible. We each won a game and then got called to our table. On our way there, we were greeted by name by several employees who seemed grateful to see some familiar faces among all the drunk Greek college kids who are never seen at ABC except for St. Patrick’s Day.

Looking at the Specials card, I was once again reminded WHY we eat at ABC so often. There on the menu was an Irish Vegetable Stew, completely vegetarian. We ordered two and what we got was a most delightful bowl of hearty soup. It had big chunks of potato and carrots and parsnips sitting in a savory, peppery vegetarian gravy and topped with steamed kale. On the side were two big hunks of whole grain soda bread.

Whole grain soda bread? Are you kidding me???!

After a couple more beers we decided to treat ourselves to a half-pint of Steamroller Russian Imperial Stout for dessert. This high-alcohol stout is a taste treat and it will definitely knock you flat if you drink too many of them.

After dinner I went up to the bar to settle my tab. One of the bartenders whispered into the ear of the other, they both looked over at me and the second one nodded. The first bartender came over and said, “We really don’t have a tab for you so just go ahead and take your card.” “Really?” I asked him. “Yeah, you guys come in a lot.”

I laughed and, with that, we collected our stuff, dropped off a tip for the bartenders and headed out, waving good-bye to our friends that work at ABC.

Free beer, great vegetarian food and bar staff that greet you by name? Yeah, Ann Arbor is okay by me.

I’m just sayin’…