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The Communicator

Restaurant Tour Guide of Ann Arbor

From midday feasts to nights out, here are four restaurants in Ann Arbor that you don’t want to miss on your next dining adventure.

Bigalora is located right off Washtenaw Avenue, in the Arbor Hills shopping mall. Open for lunch and dinner, it’s a lively location for casual dining indoors or out. They offer an array of appetizers, pizzas, salads, pasta and entrees.

For an appetizer, I ordered the Prosciutto E Grana. For $13, you get quite the assortment. This small plate includes many pieces of thinly sliced prosciutto di parma. To pair with the classic Italian ham, there’s Grana Padano cheese and arugula. The star of this plate may be Bigalora’s signature focaccia bread, flavored with hints of garlic oil, rosemary and sea salt.

The Crispy Brussels Sprouts are a must-try starter. If you’re not typically fond of this cruciferous vegetable, this item on the menu will be sure to change your mind. They are cooked to a crunch with tangy red wine vinegar and topped with crumbly Grana Padano. The Manila Clams Guazzetto is more of a summery dish, but delicious. Manila clams are known for their meaty and firm texture, which blends well with the sweeter tomato sauce and chili. They also come with focaccia bread for dipping.

For my main meal, I chose the Vegetali Pizza. It’s a white pizza — consisting of house-blend mozzarella but no tomato sauce. This dish is the best of both worlds: hearty vegetables and soft dough. Embedded in the melted cheese, there are slices of roasted yellow tomatoes and red drop peppers, providing little bursts of fresh flavor. Sitting on top of the pizza is arugula salad, which happens to also be an entree item on the menu. The leafy greens are dressed in lemon oil and accompanied by thick slices of Grana Padano cheese. The total price of this two-for-one pizza is $16.5

2You can’t go wrong with their classic red pizzas such as the Margherita Buffalo or Bacco Sausage. However, Bigalora’s selection of white pizzas is unique, customizable and adventurous.

Starting with the Crispy Brussels Sprouts pizza. This unusual pizza consists of two types of cheese, Grana Padano and house blend mozzarella; topped with the same Brussels from the appetizer, with the addition of pancetta. This is a great choice if you’re looking for a warm garlic-cheese taste with intense salty flavors in each bite.

The Funghi pizza is one of the most unexpectedly delectable pizzas on the menu. Not being a mushroom person, I was skeptical of the combination at first; mozzarella, mushroom ragù, goat cheese and thyme. However, the rich taste of the mushroom ragù and creamy goat cheese make this pizza have a mature and hearty taste.

Next up, one of the most popular items on the menu — the Spicy Agrodolce pizza. From the sweet caramelized onion to the house-made sausage and garlic oil, this dish screams flavor. Agrodolce is a classic Italian sauce, ‘agro’ meaning sour and ‘dolce’ meaning sweet. The recipe for this typically contains some type of sugar — like honey — vinegar, pine nuts and a mixture of dried fruits and vegetables. It comes out to be a rather sticky consistency with hints of sweetness and acidity. Agrodolce is often added to charr2ed flavors as a complement to bring out a fresh taste.

Besides their amazing pizzas, Bigalora has substantial entrees: Chicken Parmigiana, Wood Roasted Salmon and Eggplant Parmesan. You can also find a wide variety of pasta dishes like Rigatoni Bolognese and Fettuccine Alfredo. The Strozzapreti Norcina is a delightful option if you’re looking to indulge in more than the classics. The truffle oil and cream give it quite a smooth and luscious flavor.

As for dessert, you should stick around for the Frittelle: fried strips of Bigalora dough covered with sugar, along with a freshly-made chocolate hazelnut spread and strawberry compote to dip.

Stray Hen
A popular spot among university students, Stray Hen meets all the requirements for a midday feast. With menu items ranging from buttermilk pancakes and adventurous toasts to a double cheeseburger, you are certain to find something you might like on the corner of East Washington and Division Street.

Stray Hen’s atmosphere is modern, upbeat, and cozy. Although there are tons of seating options, you can grab items to-go from the baked goods display, grab-and-go salads and coffee bar.
The food comes out very quickly, but you can still sip on your drinks while you wait. The iced and hot dirty chai tea lattes (with oat milk) were coffee shop quality; they provided the perfect balance between sweet, spices, and creamy milk.

For a fresh yet filling breakfast plate, I ordered the North Side scrambler. This scramble includes the perfect pairing of egg whites, chicken sausage, avocado, spinach, tomatoes and gouda cheese. I also added a side of red-skinned potatoes, which are perfectly crisped on the outside and soft on the inside.

Sitting on a bowl of cauliflower rice is chicken sausage, a poached egg and an array of colorful vegetables — the Cauliflower Rice Bowl is equally as delicious for breakfast or lunch. This bowl is topped with crunchy sesame seeds and a flavorful Sriracha tahini dressing.

You can’t go to Stray Hen without trying their dessert-like breakfasts. I was blown away by the Cinnamon Roll French Toast, which tasted like warm nostalgia.

Although Stray Hen leans towards the pricier side, you can dine affordably if you stick to the basics.

Arguably one of the best-hidden sushi spots in Ann Arbor, Sadako is located on South University Avenue. Sadako is a Japanese restaurant that serves a variety of lunch and dinner options, including bento boxes, udon noodles and bowls. Although the restaurant itself is small, they have quick and efficient service. One of the best parts about Sadako is the miso soup that comes complimentary with some dishes. This soup is light and pairs well with other flavors.

I ordered The Sadako Crunch Roll — just one of the many ‘crunch’ rolls featured on the menu. Crunch rolls usually contain tempura shrimp, avocado, and fried tempura flakes; they aren’t a part of traditional Japanese sushi, but they are a delicious addition to regular sushi. This roll consisted of avocado and crab salad topped with crunch and special sauce. The avocado was fresh tasting, and the sauce added an element of sweetness to combat the saltiness in each bite.

Sadako offers a variety of non-traditional sushi rolls, including a sweet banana roll, Philadelphia roll and Mexican roll. Sticking to the basics, I also tried the Tempura Shrimp Roll — made up of fried shrimp, thinly sliced cucumber and crab. This roll has a solid flavor on its own and tastes even better when accompanied by ginger and soy sauce.

On the lunch menu, you can order ‘combos’ from the sushi bar. These combos highlight dynamic pairs of flavors such as spicy tuna and salmon. If you’re looking for variety, a bento box is another option. Sadako’s bento boxes typically contain a protein such as chicken katsu or freshwater eel, four pieces of sushi, tempura vegetables and rice.

Although you might not think to try this dish, the Agedashi Tofu is a pleasant surprise and makes for a great appetizer. Served in a bowl of dashi broth, this crispy deep-fried tofu is old and well-known in Japan. Another delicious starter is the House Salad. The sweet and spicy ginger dressing makes up for its simplicity.
Sadako is very affordable and has an overall pleasant dining experience.

Pacific Rim
For a special occasion or a night out, Pacific Rim creates a calm environment and serves vibrant food. The interior of the restaurant creates a vastly different environment from the busy streets outside; you will immediately notice all of the natural wood tones and bamboo, giving a warm ambiance.

Pacific Rim serves unique pan-Asian dishes. Although their menu is smaller, they have a variety of seafood entrees, grilled chicken, red meat and a vegetarian noodle dish. You can also find a wide selection of starters like zucchini-scallion crepes and Saigon spring rolls.

For dessert, the warm chocolate cake is made fresh for you while you’re still enjoying your entree. If you can’t make up your mind, you can always have the ‘Crème Brûlée Tasting’, which comes with three miniature flavors.
I ordered the popular ‘Seared Sea Scallops’ for my main dish. These highly-rated scallops are pan-seared with rutabaga vegetables, chopped snow peas and edamame beans. They sit on top of coconut-jasmine rice, which tastes like slightly sweeter white rice. What makes this dish so special is the orange carrot-lemongrass sauce. This sauce ties everything together and adds a slightly sweet, tangy and creamy element.

The ‘Seared Big Eye Tuna’ is another impressive dish. This tuna is served with a ginger-miso sauce and a slightly spicy wasabi oil. It also comes with a fresh jicama salad and crispy sushi rice. This tuna is imported daily from Hawaii, which is evident in taste.

For a meat-free entree, the Thai Peanut Noodles topped with caramelized tofu are equally tasteful. This bowl is bursting with flavor. Salty peanut sauce pairs perfectly with the rice noodles, which are topped with cilantro and curried chickpeas.

Dining at Pacific Rim feels like you’re invited to a dinner party, it’s the full experience while also receiving great service and a welcoming atmosphere.

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About the Contributor
Emmy Chung
Emmy Chung, Journalist
Emmy is going into her fifth semester on the Communicator staff. She is excited for what the year will bring and finally being a senior! She spends most of her time playing soccer, which she has played since the age of six. Emmy enjoys being outside as the weather gets colder, going on long runs, and discovering new coffee shops.

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