Certain restaurants, after countless visits, create seamless harmony between patrons. The regulars acclimate to the simple menu, the neighborhood ambience, the charismatic servers and the melt-in-your-mouth mints at checkout. Jerusalem Garden, a Mediterranean Mecca on 5th Street, builds that harmony on the first visit.

Pick a seat, any seat — within the confines of the 25 available. The Garden’s floor plan doesn’t cater to the commercially inclined: Instead, it offers crammed barstools and a single hugging hallway. It doesn’t suffocate, but somehow comforts courtesy of its tight quarters.

Established in 1987, founder Mr. Ramlawi ran the falafel station himself, crowning himself “Lead Gardener.” He settled for nothing but greatness in every rice pudding, every chicken shawarma and every finger-lick of hummus. That standard for excellence is held today. A falafel pioneer in Ann Arbor, JG embraces the same old recipe and, when dipped in chilly hummus, swoons its victim.

No wonder dozens of student orgs, local businesses and professional events cater from The Garden daily. Its tradition, affordability and timeless ambience are secondary to why JG rules. And no, it’s not open late. But trust us, sobriety nicely complements this gem.

— ANDREW MCCLURE

Here is the Best of Ann Arbor 2013 List

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