What’s become an institution in Ann Arbor, Michigan was launched by two college buddies: Zingerman’s.
Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw met while working at Maude’s Restaurant and attending the University of Michigan. Bemoaning the lack of a ‘good Jewish deli’ in Ann Arbor, the pair decided to rectify the situation.
Today the duo’s iconic local brand includes a dozen distinct businesses, from eating and drinking establishments to catering and event spaces plus Zing Train, a training program based on Zingerman’s award-winning business model: Rather than franchise across the country, the co-owners opted to expand the brand within the Ann Arbor market.
Zingerman’s Delicatessen opened during 1982 inside a vintage brick building. The deli still looks much as it did then. Massive cases display fresh gourmet cheeses, layered three-deep. Colorful signs advertise Kalamata olives, and Zingerman’s Creamery’s Manchester cheese.
Photo Credit: Emma Boonstra
You can find La Quercia Prosciutto here, too. Handcrafted on an Iowa farm, it is nationally known for its quality. In the adjacent room, floor-to-ceiling shelves display a seemingly endless array of packaged sauces, spreads and spices, and every imaginable pasta shape as well as olive oils and vinegars.
At the adjacent Zingerman’s Next Door Café dozens of salads, soups, sandwiches, and sweet treats await hungry customers. Think massive Reuben or pastrami sandwiches, a simple all-beef hotdog, BBQ chicken, plus latkes and knishes.
Photo Credit: Zingermans
Approximately 15 to 20 minutes from Zingerman’s Delicatessen, Zingerman’s Roadhouse is known for its ‘classic American’ cuisine. Black vinyl booths and Formica tables fill the back dining room. Outside, a 1952 Spartan metal trailer houses a drive-up window—which is doing especially robust business during the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic also inspired the creation of Roadhouse Park, an outdoor area filled with umbrella-covered picnic tables so that takeout customers have the option to savor food on-site.
In a typical year, the James Beard-recognized restaurant serves an average of 7,000 meals per week, using locally produced ingredients to the extent possible. The results? Crunchy fried chicken dipped in buttermilk, creamy soul-satisfying Roadhouse macaroni and cheese with Cabot cheddar and house-made béchamel, and mouthwatering barbecue served with creamy mashed potatoes and bacon-braised greens.
Save room for Ari’s donut sundae. It tops a house-made Dutch donut with brown sugar, peanut halves, Zingerman’s Creamery vanilla gelato, caramel-bourbon sauce, whipped cream, and a cherry.
Using local milk, Zingerman’s Creamery handcrafts over a dozen cheeses using 5.1 percent fat rather than the more typical milk fat of 3.5 percent. These cheeses boast a shelf life of two weeks to one month. Options include a dense and fruity Manchester (cow’s milk), a classic mini Brie (cow’s milk), and the popular Detroit Street brick cheese (goat’s milk) that’s dotted with hand-cracked green peppercorns.
Zingerman’s Creamery also offers gelato, including hazelnut, vanilla, and seasonal Michigan PawPaw gelato that’s made from Michigan-grown pawpaw fruit. Deep, rich, dark chocolate gelato made with Scharffenberger dark chocolate was rated “Michigan’s best” by Detroit News.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Zingerman’s business have responded with various policies to protect guests and employees, including social distancing, mask guidelines, and water carafes on restaurant tables to help minimize staff contact. Most Zingerman’s businesses have remained open through this challenging time.
Previously a restaurant cook and a professional baker, as well as a catering and a cooking school assistant, Lisa Waterman Gray has written food-focused stories for dozens of publications for local, national, and international audiences. Based on the Kansas side of the Kansas City area, she loves getting a ‘taste’ of every destination and telling the stories behind those flavors. Learn more at www.lisawatermangray.com.
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