410 East Liberty Street
11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.,
Monday through Friday
Operating out of a conspicuous red shack adjacent to a house on Liberty Street, Le Dog is an enigma to many passers-by. Its title food, the hot dog, is a staple of the rushed lunch. What kind of hot dog stand can afford to close its doors to the desperately hungry after just three hours?
The secret of Le Dog’s success is a rotating menu packed with comfort food and a price that’s right at around five to seven dollars a meal.
But ordering at Le Dog means adhering to strict stipulations. Only cash is accepted. And stern signs warning against talking on your cell phone is evocative of the Soup Nazi from “Seinfeld.”
The soup selection is the main reason Le Dog need not cater to customers’ desire for convenience. Offering six to eight soups a day, Le Dog has trained its clientele to memorize the weekly rotations and schedule meals accordingly. The cult following of the lobster bisque, available only Thursday and Friday, is a prime example of Le Dog’s hold on its customers.
But Le Dog’s everyday selections have followers, too. Jules Van Dyck-Domos, the stand’s owner, recommended I try his Gypsy Grill, a spicy sausage dressed in hot sauce atop a bed of garlic-mashed potatoes. The sauce, which tastes slightly of barbecue sauce, has a salsa consistency and is brilliantly packed with chopped tomatoes, peppers and onions.
Some may complain about the inconsistency of the menu, but it’s ultimately the charm hole-in-the-wall that always leaves the customer wanting more. I know I’ll go back for another fix.
334 Maynard Street
8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
In this nondescript Maynard Street diner, any customer still sitting at a table at 2:45 p.m. is given a direct reminder of the restaurant’s hours of operation. Down your coffee. It’s time to go.
Yet, it isn’t hard to pardon the 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. hours at Frank’s Restaurant. Walk in and you’ll immediately feel the humble, old-fashioned nature of Pete Poulos’s family diner.
“I’m old,” Poulos said, explaining that he can’t keep the hours he used to.
The native of Greece bought the restaurant from his brother-in-law Frank in 1973, and ever since has taken pride in cooking everything himself.
“I’m happy to be here each day,” he said, showing me his collection of letters and post cards from past visitors who love his cooking. Last week, he received three new postcards in a single day.
The diner’s menu is as casual as the atmosphere. You’ll find a mostly American breakfast and lunch menu with a few Greek dishes dispersed throughout. There’s a feta cheese and kalamata olive Greek salad or a Greek omelet with gyros meat, feta and tomatoes.
The daily specials advertise a few Greek dishes and a couple of American staples like Poulos’s homemade chicken noodle soup. If you’re really lucky, Poulos might pull out an old Greek favorite for you — but only if you’re lucky.
When I sat down at Poulos’s bar, I eyed the french toast of two customers to my right and placed an order of my own. Sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, the dish is airy inside but well-crisped around the edges.
Poulos treats his customers like family, wishing them a “good day” as they depart. If you’re looking for affordable flapjacks and a bit of genuine conversation, be sure to stop by Frank’s.
802 Monroe Street
10 a.m. to 10 p.m.,
Monday through Saturday, spring and summer
Why does Dominick’s, widely known across campus for its pitchers of sangria, close at 10 p.m. each night and shutter its door completely during the winter?
“We’re not a bar,” owner Richard DeVarti said. “We were a successful restaurant before we got our liquor license.”
The restaurant’s proximity to houses and the perils of staying open during heavy drinking hours were two reasons DeVarti cited for closing his doors at 10. But he said he mainly wants to preserve the lazy-afternoon ambience.
The outdoor bench seating is popular on warm days, while inside, long family-style tables attract a cozy crowd whose conversation is a lively buzz rather than the deafening chatter found at bars like Good Time Charley’s or The Brown Jug.
Although DeVarti stressed the restaurant side of Dominick’s, students generally come for the sangria. DeVarti explained that he’s diverged from his original recipe only slightly in an attempt to serve more students as its popularity grew.
The sangria is classically served on ice with sliced oranges. Subtly enhanced with sweetener and liquor mix-ins, the red wine’s fruity flavor shines through. Although pricey at more than seven dollars a pint, Dominick’s sangria provides a better buzz than you’ll find at happy hours elsewhere.
Another popular drink is Dominick’s own “Constant Buzz,” a frozen pink mix of tropical fruits and hard liquor. I enjoyed the pineapple-strawberry kick, but its overly sweet nature brought me back to the days of masking cheap liquor with Kool-Aid mixers.
Dominick’s is the place to visit before you head to the bars or for a midday breather. Where else on campus can you sit at a family-style table and drink alcohol from a mason jars?
251 East Liberty Street
8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday to Saturday
8:30 am–3 pm, Sunday
You might be wondering why a restaurant with the tagline “It’s good for you… Anytime” is only open until 3 p.m.
But with the lucrative catering side of Afternoon Delight accounting for 50 percent of revenue, owner Tom Hackett said he doesn’t feel the need to corner any of the dinner market.
“We’ve got people working around the clock,” he said. “There are too many restaurants in Ann Arbor to compete for a dinner spot.”
It’s clear from their large sandwich, salad and breakfast selections that the restaurant aims to be the perfect brunch place and nothing more. With more than 35 sandwiches that come with a complimentary trip to the salad bar, anyone who wants variety and creativity for less than $10 will be pleased.
The menu features several dining hall staples, but quality ingredients make the difference. The classic grilled cheese sandwich is transformed by swiss and cheddar cheeses melted between slices of grilled sourdough.
The complimentary salad is too good to be free, featuring more than a dozen unexpected options like matzo bread, artichoke hearts, pears, roasted garlic and orange-infused balsamic vinegar.
Overall quality of the food was average. Although my Reuben was stacked high with corned beef, the pumpernickel bread was soggy and sauerkraut portion too small.
All desserts are homemade. Look for the carrot cake, which is prepared with shredded carrots, pineapple, cinnamon and nutmeg and topped with a smooth cream cheese frosting. It’s big enough to serve 2 to 3 so at $1.95 it’s a tasty deal.
Is this campus café worth its odd hours? With a variety and some novelty, it’s at least an inexpensive way to appease a lunch date.