Sunday, December 12, 2010
We rarely get new "upscale" restaurants in downtown Ann Arbor (the last two I can think of were Grange and Jolly Pumpkin, both of which have definitively carved out niches in the food scene - such as it is), and there's definitely a bit of buzz that will build until a new establishment opens. Mix that with the relative fame (+ Top Chef infamy) that Eve Aronoff, proprietor of eve, has around town, and the opening of Frita Batidos was eagerly awaited throughout the fall. Not least by me, because I love Latin American food (esp. Cuban/Mexican), and we have terrible, terrible options in this town for it.
Eager to pull off my best Frank Bruni impression (without the eating disorder, of course), I made three different trips to Frita Batidos on Friday. One in the morning (sadly, they're not serving breakfast until next month), one for lunch, and one for dinner. What I found was a somewhat inconsistent, relatively tasty menu.
The aesthetic of Frita Batidos is sort of like modernist picnic-chic - ice blues and white dominate in a space filled with clean lines and tables you'll remember from summer camp. It doesn't scream Cuba, although the colors are a little Miami. For a morning pick-me-up I ordered a Chocolate Español and churros, making the mistake of asking for "churros con chocolate" as though I actually was in Mexico D.F. Oops. But they were delicious, the chocolate thick and rich, perfect for dipping with the orange, cinnamon, and nutmeg spiced churros. But they definitely weren't $8 delicious - a ridiculous price.
At lunch I had a subtle, delicious salad, though of course you can't go wrong with avocados and guava vinagrette. Because I'm a vegetarian I made sure to go with plenty of carnivore friends, all of whom liked their fritas but weren't fans of the small size. You get a very, very basic burger at Frita Batidos - one you can augment with different options (cheese, egg, salsa, etc.), but for a price. At dinner, I had the black bean frita wrapped in lettuce; the healthiest option of all, and certainly good, but again not at the $7 price. One friend had Cuban Sloppy Joe and pronounced the picadillo to be amazing and amazingly authentic. Sides, like the coconut rice and plantains, were savory and quickly consumed. The colado - a jug of Cuban coffee served in tiny thimbles - was a perfect after-dinner conclusion, and one friend raved about the smoothness of the coconut batido milkshake.
In general I think it's worth a trip (maybe with rich friends or parents footing the bill so you can really satiate yourself), but not a regular spot. I'm eager to see what might happen when they start serving alcohol (they've filed the application) and breakfast (January 3 is the current estimate), especially because I have an irrational love of chilaquiles. Because I have opinionated friends, feelings regarding the high points and success of Frita Batidos abounded. The non-headline items were the favorites - the churros, the sides, and the coffee. And since Frita Batidos is open until midnight (and until 2 AM Thursday through Saturday), we agreed that churros con chocolate would be a great late-night drunk food snack. I can definitely see myself saving money at one of the West Side bars, only to blow it all away on a greasy, chocolately, fried meal that I don't need to eat. I'm sure I'll love it.
Posted by GH at 2:30 PM