Pretzel Bell, an Old Favorite, Begins Anew

. June 30, 2016.

Pretzel Bell

226 S. Main St. 
734-994-2773 |
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11am-11pm |
Fri 11am-midnight | Sat 10am-midnight | Sun 10am-10pm

“Mom, do they have pretzels here?” my twelve-year-old son asked.

My family was sitting in the Pretzel Bell, a new restaurant at the corner of Main and Liberty, a legend reincarnated from Ann Arbor’s past. The original Pretzel Bell, or P-Bell, an infamous campus watering hole from the 30s to the 80s, closed over 30 years ago. 

Not surprisingly, a soft baked pretzel with warm cheese dip and honey mustard ($7) is available. We ordered one as we perused the menu, soaking in the atmosphere of the building, which formerly housed Lena and Café Habana.

There was a lot to soak in, too. The Pretzel Bell celebrates its University of Michigan connections with old school sports memorabilia everywhere. I noticed one patron spent more time looking at pictures and trophies than he did eating his meal. There is a comfortable mix of tables, booths, and high bar tables surrounded by walls of repurposed wood and even a gym floor. Like the old Pretzel Bell, patrons have started carving their names in the tables. The lower level houses a bar and lounge.

The opening bell

Appetizers include the aforementioned pretzel, plus items like Wolverine Wings and P-Bell fries with curry, herb-lemon, or cheese and bacon options. There are sandwiches, including the Diag Turkey Burger, salads like the Big House Chop, and main dishes such as Rackham Prime Rib and the North Quad Noodle Bowl. 

I selected the Pickle Brine Chicken with butternut squash, roasted brussel sprouts, and coriander honey ($14). My husband chose the Victors’ Cheese Steak: shaved prime rib, smoked onions and warm pimento cheese spread ($11). My son picked the Daily Fish, which was halibut, with microgreens ($14). He substituted fries for the accompaning minted peas, toasted farro, and roasted beets. 

My daughter, 9, chose Mini Mac ($8) and potato tots from the kids’ menu. Other choices included grilled cheese bites, chicken fingers, a burger or clubhouse sandwich ($7-8). Each came with fries, potato tots, fresh fruit or vegetables.

Clear as a bell

A small bowl of kettle chips was a nice surprise, crispy and hinted with dill pickle. The pretzel was served warm, chewy on the outside, doughy on the inside. It was enough to share four ways, subtle and tasty cheese dip. 

Our server informed us that the kitchen was out of micro greens and brussels sprouts. My son accepted more fries while I agreed to sautéed summer squash and zucchini. Alas, together with the pureed butternut squash, they tasted rather bland with my meal. The Pickle Brine Chicken was crispy and hot with a sweet honey glaze. The center was moist, but the ends a bit overcooked.

My husband enjoyed his meaty cheese steak. The pimento cheese spread was a flavorful addition. My son was pleased with his halibut and fries, consuming all. 

“I’ve had better,” my daughter commented on her mac and cheese served with a sprinkling of fish crackers on top. 

“What would make it better?” I pressed. 

“Maybe less cheese,” she suggested. Perhaps she is not used to real vs. blue box cheese. Ahem, I sampled it, finding it rich and creamy.

We ended with strawberry rhubarb pie and vanilla ice cream ($7). Dessert was delicious: sweet with a chewy, yet flaky, gingersnap crust. Other tempting choices by the P-Bell’s pastry chef included an ice cream sandwich, farm cake and chocolate brownie.

The new incarnation of the Pretzel Bell rings loud and clear. 

The Short Course

Kid-friendly: Yes
To avoid wait: Dinner is busiest. Go early or try lunch.
Noise level: High if busy; moderate other times.
Bathroom amenities: Changing tables in both men and women’s restrooms
​High chairs? Yes
Got milk?  White or chocolate, lemonade, and soft drinks
Kids’ menu? Yes
Anything healthy for kids? Kids can order fresh fruit or vegetables as sides. 
Food allergy concerns? All ingredients in dishes can be identified and food can be prepared separately.