Where – the epicurean college student might ask – can you simultaneously experience New York edginess and Midwest friendliness while enjoying high-quality, locally-produced food and imported wines…at modest prices? You need not look farther than Babo: a local market and neighborhood eatery at the corner of East Washington and South Division.
Since its opening in December 2011 by Sava Lelcaj, three years after the launch of Sava’s, the State Street restaurant that bears her name, Babo has already become an Ann Arbor mainstay — so imagine my surprise when I kept hearing people say they’d never been there. (???)
For the unacquainted, here’s what you get: a unique fusion of an upscale market, deli and outdoor cafe, offering customers an excellent produce selection, fresh grocery items, exquisite (and varied) meats, breads, coffee, cheeses and wines from around the world.
With Babo you can grab take-out or groceries, but I suggest eating in. It’s one of the coolest atmospheres in Ann Arbor with the elegant, loft-like interiors and floor-to-ceiling windows. In cold weather, the tall, community table is a great eat-and-study space; in warmer weather, the twinkle lights on the patio make Babo perfect as date location or low-key Saturday evening out. Bonus: on those nights, you can also listen to great, local artists brought in to perform each weekend.
I’d start things off with a sandwich. For $8, you can pile on Michigan’s finest meats, cheeses and homemade spreads and sauces. I highly recommend any one of Babo’s roast beef selections, served with brie and topped with horseradish aioli.
If you’re not in the mood for a sandwich, opt for a prepared meal. Soups are $4 per bowl, cold meals are $8 per pound and hot meals go for $12 per pound. These include everything from fresh salads to pastas, wraps, meats, potatoes, and Babo’s famous Four Cheese Macaroni.
And if you’re bringing along friends don’t miss Babo’s cheese and meat platters, between $11 and $15, which pair nicely with wines starting at $10 per bottle.
If you’re not a super-foodie, talk to the staff. These outgoing food artisans are more than willing to talk shop, suggest sandwich combinations or tell you which wine to pair with that cheese. Follow their recommendations and you won’t leave disappointed.
Whether you come for fresh groceries, breakfast, lunch or just for an evening of classy pleasure, Babo delivers without breaking the bank. That is, of course, if you and your friends don’t order three bottles of French wine to go with that cheese platter. But hey, you only live once.
Address: 403 East Washington Street, Ann Arbor MI 48104
Hours of operation: Monday-Saturday, 8 am-10 pm; Sunday, 9 am-10 pm