WLAA BEST OF: Best Healthy Lunches for the New Year in Ann Arbor


With the new year, many people make New Year’s resolutions, often having to do with dieting or at least eating healthier. This is sometimes difficult after all those memories of holiday indulgences such as tempting treats like Christmas cookies or a special New Year’s Eve dinner.

Along with my own personal preferences about healthy lunch choices when eating out, I received recommendations from neighbors and friends about their favorite spots. In no particular order, here is a list of the top restaurants for healthy lunch choices.

Seva—This restaurant was in downtown Ann Arbor for 41 years (where Jerusalem Garden currently is) before moving to 2541 Jackson Avenue in 2014—part of Westgate Shopping Center. They brought over much of the beautiful art and stained glass from their former location. Seva offers wonderful salads and vegetarian entrees, like black bean and sweet potato quesadilla, which can be made vegan. Their “Beyond Burger” is a chargrilled 100% plant protein “without the health, sustainability and animal welfare downsides of a traditional animal-based burger.” Also featured on Monday through Friday is a lunch special of a grilled cheese sandwich and bowl of soup or salad.

Juicy Kitchen, according to many, has lovely and healthy lunch choices, as well as yummy breakfast foods. I enjoyed a grilled eggplant sandwich there, with caramelized onions and goat cheese, which was out of this world. They recently advertised the “detox bowl,” which features sautéed kale, cauliflower rice, carrots, red onion, roasted mixed peppers topped with spiced chickpeas, cucumbers and pomegranate with a cumin cashew sauce. This dish is also vegan and gluten free. They state that they use locally-sourced produce whenever possible, their chicken is hormone-free, and they use organic vegetables and grains when feasible. Currently, the artwork of wonderful, local artist Carol Morris is on display there through February. Juicy Kitchen is located at 1505 N. Maple (off Miller).

Pilar’s Tamales—The founder, Sylvia Nolasco-Rivers, is usually happy to see you with a bright smile even though she is busy and working hard. Everything about this place is warm and inviting. The decor is wonderfully bold and bright and features works from many local artists. Their lunch specials include handmade Salvadoran tamales and pupusas. My favorite is the “Tamale Special with one tamale with Pilar’s salsa, organic casamiento (black beans and rice), fried plantains, curtido salad (cabbage slaw with onions, carrots, oregano, and apple cider vinegar), and your choice of Pilar’s special drinks”.  Another delight is their beautiful hibiscus tea, which is an incredible balance of flavors. PIlar’s offers vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, soy-free, and nut-free options as well. Pilar’s is located at 2261 West Liberty Street.

Jerusalem Garden—I have been going here since an undergraduate in college. I remember the kind and soft-spoken founder, Ribhi Ramlai, who took great pride in his falafel making and welcomed anyone in his tiny original restaurant, established in 1987, near the Ann Arbor District Library. I often went to its former location for a quick and fairly inexpensive meal. There is a beautiful painting of Ribhi in the restaurant now. The family has done well in keeping alive the tradition set by Ribhi. In the airy and roomy Liberty location, headed by Ribhi’s son Ali Ramiawi, they have many delectable healthy dishes such as their fatoosh salad, taboloi, vegetarian grape leaves, and babaganoush. Jerusalem Garden is located at 314 E. Liberty Street.

Zingerman’s Deli—Somehow, I often crave a sandwich for lunch. It must be due to all those years of having to pack one as a student. By many accounts Zingerman’s Deli still has the best sandwiches in town—by some, the best in the nation. If you share one of their sandwiches with a friend and have a cup of chicken soup with it, your lunch can turn out to be pretty healthy. Chicken soup has been prescribed for some to heal a leaky gut, fight infections such as cold and flu, reduce joint pains, along with help a host of other ailments.  A good example of a pretty healthy sandwich is the Georgia Reuban, which has all-natural, 100% preservative-free turkey and coleslaw. They have many vegetarian options as well. Zingerman’s Deli opened in 1982 by Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig in an historic building near the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market. Zingerman’s Deli is located at 422 Detroit Street.

The Lunch Room—The lunchroom is a vegan restaurant, serving only plant-based food. They claim that their diners never have to worry about the presence of meat, dairy, eggs, honey or anything processed with animal products. Their pad thai, for instance, is chock-full of tofu and veggies, such as red bell pepper, cabbage, cilantro. Favorite salads reported were the Lumberjack Salad and the Sante Fe Salad. The Lunch Room’s Diner & Canteen is located at 407 5th Ave, and their other restaurant, the Detroit Street Filling Station is at 300 Detroit Street.

Bewon—Many Korean food options are considered healthy, such as Bibimbop with a wide variety of veggies and different proteins from which to choose. My favorite Korean restaurant is Bewon because the atmosphere is so relaxing, often with classical music playing, and beautiful flowers in the windows, and the owners are so nice. They were founded in 2001 and also display an array of lovely art. The food is also top-notch. Lately, I have been loving their Kimchi Jigae, which is a fermented cabbage stew that is also offered vegetarian. Reportedly Kang’s and Kosmos also have excellent Bibimbop as well. Bewon is located at 3574 Plymouth Rd.

Poke Fish—My favorite option here is the sushi burrito. This is like a regular Mexican burrito, but everything is wrapped in seaweed. You can pick your protein, veggies, sauces, and even some herbs. I usually like to get a bit fresh salmon, cucumbers, avocado, wasabi sauce, and other healthy ingredients. PoCai, another similar kind of restaurant, is also a fairly new addition to the area. They have something called the “Beet-Bim-Bap,” which has brown rice, sesame kale, spicy tofu, kimchi, avocado, beet/zucchini slaw, guchu mayo. They also have a regular Poke Bowl as well. Also, regular sushi is a pretty healthy option too. My favorite sushi in Ann Arbor is Sushi Town, with fresh ingredient and pleasant people. Poke Fish is located at 3500 Washtenaw Avenue.

Silvio’s Organic Restorante e Pizzeria

My weakness when dieting is certain Italian staples like pasta and pizza. But Silvio’s, which is located at 715 North University Avenue, is unique in that they offer more health-conscious items such as gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian options. Notable is the “Verdure all Griglia,” which are seasonal grilled vegetables with EVO and Balsamic, “Brushetta Verdure” is nice, or whole-wheat pizza with lots of veggies such as rapini greens and artichokes. And their garden salad is a good spring mix with onions, tomatoes, carrots, artichokes, mushrooms, asparagus, and olives, topped with Silvio’s handmade Italian dressing.

Another pizzaria that has wonderful salad options is Neopaplis. They have a custom salad option with a choice of lettuce (Romaine, arugula, or spinach) and lots of great veggie choices like artichokes, beets, broccoli, cucumbers, peppers red onions Roma tomatoes, and more.

NYPD has wonderful salads also and their healthy pizza toppings include garlic, onions, zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant, artichokes, tomatoes, and even more veggie choices.

Another place mentioned by others is Vedge cafe in Kerry Town. First Bite on Main Street has a fantastic menu—both healthy and tasty. Fresh Forage reportedly has delicious and healthy options for everyone from omnivores to vegans. Other quick and healthful options are the salad/soup/hot bars at Plum Market, Arbor Farms, and the Fourth Ave Food Co-Op.

Here is to a healthy and happy 2019 for all!


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