Polished Look, Hometown Feel

. October 30, 2012.
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Carson’s American Bistro 2000 Commonwealth Blvd. Ann Arbor, MI 48105 Phone: (734) 622-0533
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11am-10pm; Fri 11am-11pm; Sat 4pm – 11pm; Sun noon-9pm www.carsonsamericanbistro.com

‘That’s a chain I’ve never heard of,’ I thought a half-dozen times when I drove past Carson’s American Bistro. The exterior of the restaurant, located just off Plymouth Road on the north side of Ann Arbor, resembles many burger and sandwich restaurants across the states.

But actually, Carson’s is one of kind. The restaurant, launched in 2005, is owned by Mainstreet Ventures, the group responsible for Ann Arbor dining heavyweights The Real Seafood Company, Gratzi, Palio, and The Chop House.

Fine family dining

The interior of Carson’s is elegant with western décor like antler chandeliers and bronze Frederic Remington replica sculptures. Elevated booths in dark wood against walls and ceilings painted in earth tones combine to exude a calm, classy feel- ing. An inviting stone patio is appealing for when the weather’s right.

It was a busy Saturday night when my family of four dined at Carson’s. We were seated at a table in close proximity to other full tables, practically touching elbows with our neighbors. The closeness with our neighbors would be the only disappointment of the night.

The menu offered a selection of start- ers, salads, soups, sandwiches, seafood, pasta, and entrees featuring beef, pork and chicken. Our server informed us that Carson’s is known for its “King of Roasts,” a slow-roasted prime rib, and its fresh sea- food, flown in several times each week. My husband and I ordered the bistro chips to start, homemade potato chips with roasted garlic, applewood smoked bacon, ched- dar and bleu cheeses ($7.95). I selected the cedar-planked salmon for my main course ($18.95) while my husband chose the bison burger ($13.95).

Taking notes

The kids’ menu included five items: grilled cheese, chicken fingers, a grilled chicken sandwich, a hamburger, or mac and cheese. Kids’ meals cost $3.95 to $4.95 and include either fries or vegetables, a drink and ice cream. My 8-year-old son ordered a cheeseburger and fries while my 5-year-old daughter selected mac and cheese and green beans.

“The milk is delicious,” my daughter stated after sipping her drink. “Write that down.” She was less taken by the bistro chips, which were too strong for her palate. My husband and I, though, loved the decadent bleu cheese, roasted garlic, and bacon crumbles on the generous portion of tasty chips.

Next, we noshed on some warm, multi- grain breadsticks with caramelized onions. “I love these so much,” my daughter said, enthused. “Write it down.”

Un-chained

When we dug into the main course, my husband raved about his bison burger, made with lean ground American bison topped with lettuce, tomato, cheddar and applewood smoked bacon ($1.00 extra). My cedar-planked salmon was moist and light, with a touch of sweetness. It was accompanied by nice al dente green beans and satisfactory rice and coleslaw. My daughter’s mac and cheese was made with ziti and real cheese. “Mom, this mac and cheese is delicious,” she comment- ed. “Write that down.” My son had no complaints about his cheeseburger, which quickly disappeared.

The kids selected multi-colored Superman ice cream for dessert while my husband and I sipped some Great Lakes coffee. When the bill came, we found it was reasonable for the quality and quantity of food we had eaten.

In the end, I found that my first impression of Carson’s was wrong. While it may look like a chain restaurant from the outside, Carson’s classy interior and quality food make for a singular din- ing experience. 

THE SHORT COURSE
Kid-friendly Yes
To avoid wait Go during the week or before 7pm on Friday and Saturday nights.
Noise level Moderate to high                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Bathroom amenities Changing tables in both Men’s and Women’s                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     High chairs Yes
Got milk Yes Kids’ menu Yes
Anything healthy for kids There is a grilled chicken sandwich for kids and they can also choose vegetables as a side dish instead of fries.
Food allergy concerns Make sure you let your server know of any allergies when you arrive. The restaurant is dedicated to accommodating and advising you regarding ingredients.