Navigating the Ann Arbor restaurant scene, vegan-style
I dove head first into veganism when I came to the University my freshman year. There were no vegetarian training wheels to ease me into a major lifestyle transition of no animal products whatsoever. For those who aren’t familiar with the “eat food not friends” mantra, vegans don’t eat any animal-made products, including milk, eggs, any kind of meat, honey and a jumble of other animal-originating produce. There are many variations to the vegan lifestyle, like whole-starch, low-fat vegans and raw vegans who don’t eat anything cooked. Beyond food, vegans do not wear clothing derived from animals, like wool, leather or fur. Definitely no Canada Goose jackets.
Surprisingly, transitioning into veganism didn’t feel like that big of a deal for me. My diet had already largely consisted of vegetables, fruits and all the heart-healthy grains, and I knew there was no way in hell I was going to eat chicken-something-sketchy at the dining hall.
I honestly was not entirely informed on the medical, ethical, anatomical, economical and environmental reasoning behind the vegan lifestyle. I just felt like it was the right thing to do at the time and have stuck with it for over a year. But now looking into it, there’s so much logic behind veganism, not only for personal well-being, but for the viability of the Earth and every living creature on it (watch any documentary featuring innocent animals being brutally slaughtered in extensive quantities to learn more).
The traditional Ann Arbor culture is rooted in an earthy, liberal arts scene: the perfect climate for vegan restaurants to thrive. I would appoint Kerrytown the vegan hotspot, with The Lunch Room, Detroit Filling Station, People’s Food Co-op and many others scattered across the neighborhood. The Ann Arbor restaurant scene puts any myth that the vegan diet is unappetizing or boring to shame.
The Lunch Room:
The Lunch Room will always be Ann Arbor’s vegan gem. From seitan-made hot dogs (2 for $10) to vegan pad thai ($12), The Lunch Room demonstrates vegan culinary creativity at its finest. They also serve a spread of vegan desserts, like ice cream sandwiches ($6) made with coconut milk and your choice of cookie outsides (ginger and fudge being my top choices). Not to mention The Lunch Room’s charmingly snug location nestled in the middle of the Kerrytown Market two streets away from the notorious Ann Arbor raised sandwich stop, Zingerman’s Delicatessen. Walking into The Lunch Room, you’ll be greeted by string lights, cobblestone pavement and kombucha. Vegan paradise awaits you.
Detroit Filling Station:
Head up another classic Kerrytown cobblestone road, past the Kerrytown Farmers Market and you can find the Detroit Filling Station, situated on the corner of Detroit Street and Catherine Street. For Sunday brunch, check out the Greek scramble ($13) bursting with tofu-based scrambled “eggs,” bell peppers, Yukon potatoes and herbed aioli toast, vegan pancakes ($3-$12) and almost any other breakfast item you crave. I really give kudos to the Detroit Filling station for nailing a solid vegan breakfast, the hardest vegan meal to master, as nearly all traditional breakfast plates center on animal sourced ingredients. Plan a visit on a Wednesday night for live jazz music or Thursday night for live bluegrass.
Walking into Fred’s, you’ll find yourself in a bright space lined with quirky wall art and wooden furniture displays that must have come straight from a ‘Boho-mod’ Pinterest board. Fred’s menu thrives on clean eats that you will crave for days after. They serve unusual but inventive açai bowls, like the Mermaid Bowl ($10) with pineapple, coconut milk, blue algae and a medley of other superfood toppings, plus a line of freshly made smoothies each costing around $7-$8. And, as always, this vegan spot has a filling avocado toast ($7.50) served on sourdough bread, because healthy fats and carbs are a must.
Argus Farm Stop:
I only discovered Argus Farm Stop this year, but now you can catch me there almost every morning drinking a golden turmeric latte with almond milk ($3.25) alongside a vegan energy bite ($3) from Juicy Kitchen. Two of these farm-centric locations have found homes across campus, one on Packard St. and the other on Liberty Street. Part cafe and part market, the Argus Farm Stop offers an array of artisanal products to purchase and taste, all of which are sourced from local farms around Michigan. They have lentil stews, baked goods from Juicy Kitchen and Tasty Bakery and crackly fresh bread provided daily. Argus is a low-profit organization with a mission to support local food systems. According to informational plaques displayed around Argus, “our country has lost 93% of its farms growing food since 1950.” While not all products here are vegan friendly, purchasing locally sourced food products are ultimately more economically and environmentally sustainable than most other commercial options.