Zingerman’s Roadhouse takes farm-to-table dining up a notch. Not only do they use produce from local farmers they also grow it on their own four-acre farm eight miles from the restaurant. Their farm has a hoop house, which allows year-round farming. While they grow over 50 different crops including heirloom tomatoes, peppers, squash, head lettuces, and herbs, their creamery makes their traditional cream cheese, and their coffee company roasts coffee beans. Add James Beard Award-winning chef, Alex Young to the mix. There you have the recipe for a truly flavorful meal.
Location: Zingerman’s Roadhouse is at 2501 Jackson Road, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Menu: The menu is a single double-sided sheet describing the day’s offerings. Our server enthusiastically offered a menu tour. The items range from more than a dozen fresh fish arriving within 24 hours of leaving the water to grass-fed, free-range cattle raised on the restaurant’s farm. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free items are available.
There’s a strong influence of southern American dishes on the menu, with buttermilk-fried chicken, pimento cheese, BBQ, meat and 3, grilled Carolina white grits, and a New Orleans Creole grillades and grits.
You’ll also find a few items with an international flair like Moroccan couscous with harissa and roasted vegetables.
Thoughts: While Zingerman’s makes food traditionally and it’s frequently handcrafted, their standout characteristic is “giving great service,” in fact co-owner Ari Weinzweig wrote the book on it: Zingerman’s: A Guide to Giving Great Service. He started a training company as part of his business empire, and now he trains other companies in “giving great service.” The servers are enthusiastic and genuine in their customer interaction.
Moreover, like its name, Zingerman’s Roadhouse is fun. It’s lively and casual. Weinzweig’s collection of over a thousand sets of salt and pepper shakers in shallow glass cases line the walls, adding a touch of whimsy to the décor. They have a retro feel that reminds me of 1960s America. Children search for their favorites or play “I Spy” while waiting for the meal.
To avoid the frequent lines, reservations are recommended.
My favorite dishes are:
- The chili and cheddar fries are hand-cut, twice-cooked potatoes served in a bowl and topped with ancho beef chuck chili and then sprinkled with grated Cabot cheddar cheese and scallions. The small cubes of beef are tender, and while the chili is flavorful, it isn’t too spicy for those who avoid the heat. The sharable portion size is $8.50.
- The macaroni and cheese made with Martelli pasta and milk, hand-made cheddar from Grafton Village in Vermont, real cream, Dijon mustard, and onions. The macaroni and cheese menu section has six varieties, one without adornment, and then others with add-ins like pimento cheese and bacon or fried chicken. All types come as small or large portions, from $11.50 to $19.00.
- The Amish free-range buttermilk-fried chicken dipped in a batter made from black pepper-spiced buttermilk and deep-fried. You have a choice to the number and parts you prefer. Mashed potatoes smothered in house-made chicken gravy and a mustard coleslaw served on the side.
- The Roadhouse BBQ Plate includes pit-smoked Niman Ranch spare ribs, BBQ beef with Alex’s Red Rage Tomato BBQ sauce; South Carolina pulled pork and pit-smoked chicken with Alex’s Read Rage tomato BBQ sauce. Bacon-braised greens grown on the Roadhouse farm and mashed potatoes accompany the BBQ. Don’t fear the name “Alex’s Red Rage” it is a mild BBQ sauce with a bit of a zip.
- Ari’s donut sundae built from a house-made Dutch donut made with buttermilk and hints of molasses, lemon zest, and nutmeg. Bourbon-caramel sauce drizzles over the donut and vanilla gelato. House-made whipped cream, Virginia peanuts, and a cherry top it all off.
Price range: Zingerman’s Roadhouse has a wide range of prices. Starters range from $5 for a plate of sweet potato fries to $14 for steamed Blue Hill Bay mussels. Entrees range from $11.50 for Roadhouse macaroni and cheese to a 16-ounce bone-in rib eye for $42. Our dinner for two was around $60.
Hours: Monday through Thursday 7 am to 10 pm, Friday 7 am to 11 pm, Saturday from 9 am to 11 pm, and Sunday 9 am to 9 pm.
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