College towns have a special flavor that’s driven by the energy of the student population and their quest for new things. Ann Arbor is an outstanding example, always an amazing place to visit with strong sports, cultural and culinary options.
The University of Michigan is a large research school with an affiliated medical center. Its football stadium, Michigan Stadium, is known as the Big House and seats well over 100,000 — one of the largest in the country.
The University Musical Society is the big concert and dance presenter but is closed until the fall, as is the football stadium. Festival performances pick up the slack in summer.
Other places to visit include the Nickels Arcade, with its distinctive shops near the university, and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, which has more than 100,000 artifacts.
One of the best known pieces of public art in Ann Arbor is a mural painted on a wall of a now-closed bookstore depicting Woody Allen, Edgar Allen Poe, Hermann Hesse, Franz Kafka and Anais Nin. Ann Arbor remains the U.S. city with the most bookstores per capita, including the new Literati.
As for food, Ann Arbor boasts many outstanding places to eat. In addition to Zingerman’s Delicatessen and Frita Batidos, check out Japanese comfort food at the Slurping Turtle served up by award-winning chef Takashi Yagihashi.
Ann Arbor Art Center
With a gallery shop and exhibits, the Ann Arbor Art Center was founded in 1909. Its focus is contemporary art, which is shown by inclusiveness of genres, styles, aesthetics, concepts, materials and processes. The museum is unabashed about borrowing.
The gallery hosts eight juried and curated exhibits per year by local, national and international artists. “Art Now: 2015” is the first of a new series that will present, on a rotating basis, printmaking, photography, sculpture/3-D and painting.
All “delis” are not created equal, as Zingerman’s proves. It’s been an Ann Arbor institution for more than 30 years. While founded as a Jewish deli, it’s branched out a bit — while retaining its roots — and has a significant national mail-order business. It’s rejected many offers to franchise.
Zingerman’s uses artisanal food products and is sensitive to seasonal ingredients. Its corned beef won best of show at a slow-food corned beef taste test in New York City.
Sandwiches include corned beef, pastrami, chicken, turkey, fish, beef, pork and vegetarian, with imaginatively conceived toppings and served on hand-cut breads baked in house.
Sides include knishes, latkes and four varieties of potato salad.
The Zingerman Bakehouse opened in 1992, and makes breads, pastries and sweets such as five varieties of brownies. Raisin-oatmeal cookies are made with maple syrup.
University of Michigan Museum of Art
With recent physical expansion and renovation of its longtime home in Alumni Hall, the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art sees itself as a “town square” for the 21st century. It’s now able to show more of its large collections of African, American, Asian, European, Middle Eastern, modern and contemporary prints, drawings and photographs.
The American collection includes Hudson River School landscapes, an early James Whistler seascape, and works by Helen Frankenthaler, Franz Kline, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol.
The Asian Collection includes works from the third millennium B.C. to contemporary creations and features pieces from China, Japan, Southeast Asia, Java and Afghanistan.
The museum store sells artworks, jewelry and T-shirts.
The Purple Rose Theatre
Just west of Ann Arbor, the Purple Rose Theatre was founded by actor Jeff Daniels, a native of Chelsea, Mich., to be a significant regional theater and “voice from the heartland.”
The theater’s summer production, running from June 11 through Aug. 29, is the world premiere of “2AZ” by Michael Brian Ogden. It is set two years into a war that threatens the future of mankind but holds the possibility of rebirth. With the amenities of civilized life gone, the thriller is also a journey into the depth of the soul and the monsters it may hold.
Purple Rose also has an extensive educational program, including classes, apprenticeships, readings and lectures.
At Frita Batidos, the cuisine is Cuban-inspired street food taken to a higher level. With diplomas from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, chef and owner Eve Aronoff has more than 25 years of experience in culinary businesses and favors big, bold flavors and contrasts.
Fritas are traditionally Cuban burgers made with chorizo with french fries on top and served on a soft egg bun. Arnoff’s menu includes fritas made with black beans, chicken, fish or beef, with extra toppings including a sunny-side-up egg, cilantro-lime salsa or avocado spread.
Batidos are tropical-fruit milkshakes, such as coconut cream, fresh lime, hibiscus, passion fruit and chocolate Espanol. Rum can be added for a hard milkshake.
Sides include plantains served crisped or twice-fried, garlic-cilantro french fries and coconut-ginger rice.
Mark Kanny is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or [email protected] ___
This article was written by Mark Kanny from The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.