The interior of Anna’s House is bright with splashes of blue, green, and rainbow stripes against a white palette and so many patterns that manage to draw the eye without being too busy and distracting (it kind of reminds me of a beach house). The decorations on the walls and shelves are appropriately retro and kitsch—one blue and gold porcelain teapot looks like it came from my great-grandparents’ farm. And the U-shaped counter in the center of the restaurant is classic diner.
Yes, Anna’s House is a chain—the Ann Arbor location is the eighth to open—but it is a Michigan chain that began in Grand Rapids in 2002, and all locations are located within the peninsula state. While I love to support Michigan-based businesses, that isn’t why I am highlighting Anna’s House.
I am excited for the dedicated gluten free kitchen space and full vegan menu that is given out alongside the conventional menu without special request. Vegan isn’t considered unusual or offered as a concession at Anna’s House—it’s part of their thing. As for the gluten free kitchen, Anna’s House had this to say when I queried them:
We definitely do our best to ensure a safe dining environment for those who have gluten intolerances and other food allergies. We dedicate a certain area of our kitchen to preparing allergy orders. If you have an allergy, we suggest letting your server know right away so that we can cook your dish in this area. We have separate containers, pans, and cooking utensils that we use ONLY to cook these special orders.
I have not encountered many restaurants with such dedication. After speaking with multiple representatives of the restaurant, I feel confident bringing my vegan and gluten free friends here. And the food is delicious! I don’t know where their gluten free bread for toast comes from, but I really enjoyed it. I can’t wait to try the gluten free cinnamon roll!
Truthfully, I am not really a breakfast eater, so having so many items on a menu that I had trouble deciding between was a new and wonderful experience for me. I took my mother to Anna’s House in Kalamazoo for a belated Mother’s Day, then went with my husband to Ann Arbor’s location a week later because my mother and I had had such a great experience.
Anna’s House is located near Briarwood mall and surrounded by other competing chain restaurants—but it is definitely a welcome addition to the foodscape, especially to the more commercial south side of town.
Anna’s House is located at 445 East Eisenhower Parkway in Ann Arbor, and is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day of the week. For more information, visit annashouseus.com or call 734-726-9490.
Between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, there are over 30 places to get tacos. If you want to open a new taqueria, you had better bring something new to the table. La Taqueria in downtown Ann Arbor does just that. They aren’t a Mexican restaurant, but do fusion tacos with North, Central, and South American and Asian inspirations. The tacos are served in soft corn tortillas with obligatory cilantro and lime wedge.
I started with chips, of course, and ordered two tacos. The first was the vegetarian Hongo, grilled portabellas (I love portabellas) and fresh corn with guacamole and queso fresco. The flavor profiles were so delicately balanced, I was impressed. It wasn’t just a good taco, it was an interesting taco. I chewed slowly because I didn’t want to miss anything.
The second taco I chose was the Sesamo, comprised of Asian-inspired grilled sirloin in sesame soy sauce with house-pickled cucumber slaw. It sounds so simple, and yet, it was the first time in my life when I truly wanted to meet the chef. The Sesamo was a fusion fiesta in my mouth. I could taste the freshness of the ingredients. I now think about it every time I am downtown. I was able to taste the Barbacoa taco ordered by my dining companion, and it was absolutely delicious, but it was no Sesamo.
Most of the food items on the menu are $4 or $5, which I felt was appropriate given the quality of the ingredients and how much is stuffed into the tortilla. Two tacos with salsa and chips (made in-house) was more than enough for me, though my zealous taste buds wanted to keep going. And the strawberry cucumber lemonade was a terrific choice of beverage. They also have horchata, but were out of it on my first visit.
Every day of the week has its own special, such as tofu on Tuesdays and the Hamburguesa on Saturday (a cheeseburger taco with grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and special sauce, so exactly what you were thinking). The drink menu includes beer, wine, fountain pop, coffee, tea, and specialty drinks of both the alcoholic and nonalcoholic nature.
There is not a ton of seating, which is not too unusual for newer downtown restaurants, but what there is is comfortable. Even without the specials, the menu is varied enough to keep one interested for many visits, but who doesn’t enjoy a good hamburguesa wrapped in a corn tortilla? I’d give it a try.
Located at 106 East Liberty Street in Ann Arbor, La Taqueria is open Monday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, visit lataqueriaannarbor.com, call 734-369-6922, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Life Is Sweet Bakery & Cafe
I am a sucker for a good photo–in my defense, my grandfather was a photographer—so Instagram is right up my alley, and the Life Is Sweet Bakery & Cafe has one of the most beautiful Instagram accounts I have ever encountered. If their pictures don’t make you hungry, nothing will. The cookies are works of art and so adorable!
According to their website, the owner, Margaret Prince, not only has “a baking and pastry certification from Washtenaw Community College,” but worked in Whole Foods Market bakery for eight years. Suffice it to say, she knows her stuff. So it was with great anticipation that I headed to Milan to check this place out in person. I was not disappointed! Life Is Sweet is utterly delightful and completely worth the drive. For those of us who can consume gluten products without too much trouble, bakeries like this are paradise
The color pallette is soft but colorful, the furniture like something you would have in your dining room at home—if you painted your wood furniture white, sea foam, rose, and other muted tones. The effect is both fun and cozy. There is even a pair of rocking chairs by the window.
If you choose to dine in, there are grilled sandwiches made fresh, such as the beef and cheddar (my choice) and Cubano (my husband’s). I recommend the chai latte, which was neither too sweet nor too spicy. The coffee was also nice. Since Life Is Sweet is a cafe as well as bakery, you can enjoy staples like lattes and cappuccinos with your sandwich, cream puff, creme brulee tart, danish, cake, scone, lemon bar, ice cream, or countless other delectables.
There are also wraps, salads, parfaits, bottled sodas and teas, and more in the commercial refrigerators along the back wall if you can’t stay. You will also find cartons of Guernsey Dairy ice cream in addition to the cones up front, so you can even have your ice cream to-go.
And, of course, there are the pastries. And cookies. And biscotti. And brookies. (Brookies are an invention of Prince’s, “a thick, chewy, deep dish, personal cookie,” like “if a brownie and a cookie had a baby.”) All wrapped and ready to go home with you!
The butter cookies come in an impressive array of flavors including birthday cake, earl grey, chai, cherry, lavender and lemon, and more. You can also get cookies in the most adorable shapes! Dinosaurs, frogs, cupcakes, mason jars, hearts…
If you have an event, they have a Gathering Place for you to entertain, as well. This would be a wonderful spot for a child’s birthday party, a club meeting, or a bridal shower.
Life Is Sweet made my heart and my taste buds full and happy!
Life is Sweet Bakery & Cafe is located in Milan at 42 East Main Street. Hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit mplifeissweet.com or call 734-628-7184. And follow on Instagram @mplifeissweet!