48 Hours in Ann Arbor for Locavores: Part Two, Zingerman’s!


As I mentioned in my last post, Bill and I were in Ann Arbor over the holiday weekend for a wedding. And any time I go to Ann Arbor, I make a point of stopping at Zingerman’s Deli. Outside of New York City, it’s one of the best delicatessens around.

But I hadn’t been there since I started my food blog in 2009, which is when I changed my philosophy toward food–especially meat. Since then, whenever I go to a restaurant, I ask servers and chefs about their sources for meat unless it is specifically spelled out on the menu (e.g., Grassfed Beef from Such-and-Such Local Farm). If I’m not satisfied that the meat options are from animals that are treated humanely and sourced sustainably, I order a vegetarian meal.

I hadn’t researched Zingerman’s philosophy toward meat prior to my recent trip, so I was all set to make my lunch order a vegetarian sandwich. But as I leafed through the menu, I noticed this blurb on one of the last pages: “Meats made right. Made by responsible producers using humane methods: Columbus Salame, La Quercia, Creminelli, Edward’s, Ham I Am, just to name a few.”

I didn’t have the chance to search all those meat producers via Google on my smart phone while waiting in line to order but I felt that Zingerman’s wouldn’t put that on their menu if they didn’t mean it. So after much perusing of each section….

…I chose #23, Mary’s Commute (a chicken salad sandwich with bacon in it).

Bill had Don’s Rhythm & Blues pastrami sandwich.

After returning home and looking up the meat producers online, I felt funny promoting Zingerman’s as a place for locavores because some of the products have traveled quite a distance. That is the twist here….Zingerman’s is also a provider of gourmet foods and, with the world as their market, I can see why they’ve reached beyond the state of Michigan to offer specialty meats, cheeses, olive oils, and other goods for purchase at the deli (although they do procure many items from local farmers). But before we left, we bought some Garrotxa goat’s cheese from Spain. Sure, we can find goat’s cheese locally but it’s nice to have variety, especially for Bill who’s allergic to cow dairy products so his choices are limited.

These are the dilemmas we face every day in a global economy: Do you buy the grapes from Chile in the wintertime, even though they’ve traveled 3,000 miles and they’re not in season where you live, because they are simply available in your grocery store? It’s a tough call.

At least Zingerman’s tries to incorporate many local products into their offering, and they make many of their own bakery goods, cheeses, gelato, and candy. On top of that, the food is really, really good. And the Ann Arbor Farmers Market is right across the street on Wednesdays and Saturdays!

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4 responses to “48 Hours in Ann Arbor for Locavores: Part Two, Zingerman’s!

  1. Hi! I work at the Bakehouse, and the way I understand it, Ari and Paul view “local” as being as much about having a relationship with the people that make your food as about geography. Everything they sell has gone through a process where they visit the folks that make it, learn about the passion that inspires them and then they build an open relationship where they can say “the _____ tastes a little different this time – what’s up? Is there anything we can do to help?” This works well for both parties, whether they are in Tunisia, Hungary or down the street.

    • Great feedback, Dana! I really like that approach, and it’s good to learn more about the Zingerman philosophy. Thanks so much for your comment!

  2. Even as an ex-pat Ann Arborite, I’ve heard the stories about Ari and Paul’s travels throughout the world sampling local products. (Tough job, but…) Two of my kids have worked at Z’s, and let me tell you, they were pretty well trained on where the food came from, how it was made, etc. Including the stories.

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