The empty storefront startled me. I didn’t know how to interpret the sign on the door that read: “Working hard on getting reopened and will be seeing you all so soon.” It was so vague. It was early fall, and I was not taking Fred’s disappearance well — being told I couldn’t have it only made me want it more. I checked their Instagram (@Fredslol) with regularity and impatiently waited for word of reopening. When news of their January relaunch finally arrived, I was elated.

The old Fred’s was a charming, shoebox-sized café tucked away on South U. The sunny California vibe inside was a rupture from gray of the street. The aesthetic was trendy, but it wasn’t trying too hard — it was small and cramped, but clean and white.

The new space is similarly cute, yet different.

When I entered, it was clear that the place was far from its humble beginnings. The new place gobbled up the old one: It’s sprawling. Every inch was packed. I opened the door straight to a line. What’s more, the place was bustling. The energy was palpable. Waiters were zipping around, swapping trays of avocado toast for beautifully illustrated number cards.

I have to confess, I despise nearly every variety of vegetable. However, every January, after the onslaught of “clean eating” content, I think to myself: “Maybe I do like healthy food, maybe it’s not that bad.” Unfortunately, that message never sticks. Salad just does not excite me the way a plate of fries does. However, despite my distaste for superfoods, at Fred’s I cannot help but exchange green for greens. Turns out, all I need to get excited is a pretty presentation — and in that regard, Fred’s excels. The food styling is next level where every single item on the menu has its custumors reaching for their phone. You’d be hard pressed to find a dish that is not vibrant and multi-hued.

Arguably, even more beautiful than the food is the café itself; it is spacious, light and the décor evokes a very West Coast x Marrekesh vibe. Long gone are the days of the hallway-sized café. Unlike before, where the only seating was a cramped counter, the renovated space now has room for dining. Alternatively, you can lounge on the plush steel blue couch while drinking a latte from the coffee bar. If you’re into healthy food that doesn’t taste like sawdust, or you’re just into taking photos of your food (no judgment), it’s worth the trip. Fred’s perfectly satisfies the gap in the market for reasonably priced, casual, clean, aesthetically pleasing food and is overall a great new (well, half new) addition to the Ann Arbor food scene.

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