On a busy Friday night in downtown Ann Arbor, my family relaxed on a vintage couch in the lounge at Avalon Café and Kitchen, an extension of Avalon International Breads in Detroit. Their Ann Arbor location opened in December.
One of three varied spaces at Avalon, the lounge is sandwiched between the kitchen (a sit-down restaurant) and the café. The lounge offers Michigan craft beer, cocktails and coffee drinks. These three spaces seem purposeful, mimicking Avalon’s three bottom lines: earth, community, and employees. Committed to its employees’ fair wages, good benefits and growth, Avalon strives to create a community of healing and compassion.
In the kitchen
After a half-hour wait (not unexpected on a Friday night), we were seated in the bustling restaurant. Dark wood tables, exposed brick walls and industrial art fill the space. Seating was cozy and several smaller parties shared bigger tables together. The lighting was low and voices were high.
The dinner menu offered starters, sandwiches like a mushroom burger, entrees such as pork shoulder, salads, soups, and many vegan and vegetarian items.
We started with the salt roasted sweet potato ($8) with dates and spiced yogurt. My husband picked the grilled skirt steak with fresh grated horseradish, shoestring fries, and red wine jus ($23). I chose the Trout Reuben ($14), cornmeal crusted rainbow trout with root vegetable apple slaw, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing on a pumpernickel roll with a side of dressed farm greens.
My son, 13, selected the trout entrée ($25) and asked for everything on the side: root vegetables, Brussels sprout leaves, bacon and a pickled mustard seed cream sauce. My daughter, 10, chose fried chicken with vegetables, honey and a buttermilk biscuit ($12) from the children’s menu. Other kids’ choices included chicken nuggets, noodles and cheese, cheeseburger, grilled cheese and steak ($5-14). Drinks are extra.
The two roasted sweet potatoes tasted like, well, sweet potatoes. We were underwhelmed so our server encouraged us to try another starter. We picked grilled porridge bread with bacon jam and herbed ricotta ($9). The bread’s soft innards and chewy crust complimented the dense bacon jam and creamy ricotta.
“This stuff’s awesome,” declared my husband. I agreed.
My husband dug into his entree. While savory, the meat was somewhat tough, as skirt steak can be.
I liked my Reuben, although I prefer it saucier. The bun, slaw, cheese and trout blended harmoniously and my dressed greens were bright and fresh.
“It was perfect,” my son said of his trout, which he perfectly devoured.
“My chicken was average until I put it in the honey,” commented my daughter. She ate a sizeable amount of fried chicken breast and Brussels sprouts. Her large buttermilk biscuit was flaky and yummy.
Heavenly baked goods
For dessert, we ate warm sea salt chocolate chip cookies and milk ($7). A burst of salt exploded in our mouths before we tasted rich, melting chocolate. The cookies were heavenly.
It struck me how enjoyable the cookies, bread, and biscuit were. They really know their baked goods at Avalon! It made me want to try more from the café or stop by for breakfast or brunch, which the restaurant also serves.
A great addition to the Ann Arbor restaurant scene, we will be back to the Avalon Kitchen again soon.
The Short Course
To avoid wait: Go before 6pm for dinner or try breakfast or lunch
Noise level: High
Bathroom amenities: Changing tables in women’s and unisex bathrooms
High chairs? Yes
Got milk? Yes and lemonade, juice, and pop
Kids’ menu? Yes
Anything healthy for kids? Pick seasonal vegetables for sides. Even the chicken nuggets are made with organic chicken.
Food allergy concerns? Talk with your server. They can accommodate most allergies and many vegan items are available.
Avalon Café and Kitchen
120 E. Liberty | Ann Arbor, MI | 48104
Phone: (734) 263-2996
Hours: Mon-Thu 7am-10pm; Fri 7am-12am;
Sat 8am-12am; Sun 8am-10pm