Look out! The Jolly Pumpkin, brewery-turned-sensational-snacking-spot, is serving up a smackdown and shaking up Main Street’s somewhat stagnant repertoire. Not to hate on Main — it’s clearly a fixture of the Ann Arbor food scene and a prime, if not solo, player in the city’s upscale dining selection. Yet despite its abundance of options and relative accessibility to community members, you won’t find many students there grabbing dinner on a typical Friday or Saturday night.

Why not? The traditional dichotomy between Main Street and campus-area cuisine options may be due to distance. “I have class in an hour, therefore I am going to eat Jimmy John’s for lunch.” However, we can’t ignore the price point. I mainly avoid Main because my pockets aren’t that deep. Classic statements like “I’m going to eat dinner on Main because the parents are in town” or an overheard recounting of a ludicrously expensive date at Chop House or Gratzi only further stigmatize Main’s pricey appeal.

The Jolly Pumpkin might be starting to bridge this gap. Having opened in Ann Arbor in Sept. 2009, it’s the most recent addition to an increasingly successful Jolly Pumpkin franchise, already well established in Michigan with its brewery in Dexter and restaurant, brewery and distillery in Traverse City. It’s rapidly asserting itself as a worthy opponent to compete with another local favorite just off Main, Arbor Brewing Company.

Like ABC, the Jolly Pumpkin brews its own. Unlike ABC, its food is excellent. Solid enough to comfort but not so heavy that it weighs you down, the menu is secretly sophisticated. Don’t be fooled by the category breakdown advertising a modest spread of appetizers, sandwiches, salads and pizzas. The Jolly Pumpkin’s take on cuisine is a master mix of some American classics, with twists as fresh as their ingredients (collected daily from local markets). Try the truffled French fries or the “Not Just a BLT” BLT featuring applewood-smoked bacon, arugula, roasted tomatoes, house-made mozzarella and salsa verde on toasted farm bread.

Boo! The Jolly Pumpkin will scare you with how strong its salad game is. The grilled romaine — with croutons made from layers of thinly sliced potatoes joined together by cream then lightly breaded — is about as decadent as they come. These will haunt you in the greatest way. Vegetarian and vegan options accommodate just about any dietary need. And, the brewery provides a not-so-short list of award-winning in-house beers to accompany any dish.

An eclectic atmosphere and staff complement the equally eclectic menu. Inside, the walls are a pale burnt orange punctuated by quirky paintings and family photos. Multi-hued glass beads hang like drops off of cast iron rods as lighting over the booths and cast shadows on a wooden statue of a lion sipping a beer above the bar. Two massive chandeliers whimsically constructed from cooking utensils hang at either end of the café, further emphasizing the comfortable yet funky vibes the Jolly Pumpkin so effortlessly emits.

The service is friendly, approachable and helpful, meaning the waiter will tell you his real feelings about the horseradish beet soup special. The bartender is probably wearing a Tigers hat as he wipes down the cherry wood counter. Your hostess has tattoo sleeves and a sweet smile.

If you can find it, modestly nestled among some of the louder facades, make sure to stop in. The prices are surprisingly moderate, especially for lunch. It’s not necessarily a $4 sandwich from Potbelly, but only a stone’s throw away from the $8 you’d spend on a Reuben from Amer’s. The Jolly Pumpkin is perfectly poised to bring more student foot traffic to Main.

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