Our Cusine Correspondent, Jason, turns to the Jolly Pumpkin for the perfect french fry.  Will he find it?  And what else does this recent addition to downtown Ann Arbor have to offer?  Keep reading to find out!

You'll know you're in the right place if you find yourself at the Jolly Pumpkin in Ann Arbor

Good french fries are surprisingly hard to track down.  Ideally, they should have a crispy golden-brown exterior without a hint of grease. At their worst, they’re limp, soggy lumps of grease with no seasoning and a pale exterior. 

There a couple of key things to making good french fries; the general consensus being that there should be two “fries” (immersions) at differing temperatures, with a soak in warm water in between,  and good fat to fry it in (typically duck fat in the States, some well-regarded French chefs prefer horse fat).  You should take note that the Jolly Pumpkin Café and Brewery in downtown Ann Aarbor must be doing something right, because they have some phenomenal truffle and rosemary fries.


But I will say that the Jolly Pumpkin has more than just great fries. They have about 8-10 artisan beers on tap, all of which are unique and interesting at a reasonable price. If you want to try more than one beer, they do offer a sampler of five beers for seven dollars. They also have some 750-mL bottles that are a little more expensive, but these are all beers to enjoy, not to waste (or get wasted on).

The menu is tangentially the typical bar/grille fare, but with a distinctly upscale touch. Their pizzas have a crispy thin crust, and their sandwiches are flavorful and creative. Good news for the vegetarians, about half of their menu is either vegetarian or vegan friendly, and none of the dishes seem to be poorly thought out.

Unfortunately, the only consistent problem I’ve had with the Jolly Pumpkin has been the service. Specifically, it’s only been the hosts, who were bordering on rude each of the three times I went. On my first occasion visiting, it was just my girlfriend and I. While we are normally content to wait anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, I noticed that several older parties of two that had arrived after us were being seated before us. The notion I got was that because we were young, we were unlikely to spend as much, and were treated less importantly.

The second and third time I went, each time with a larger party, I was reminded rather brashly multiple times that if “unless you have five out of six people, we won’t seat you.” Quotas like that are generally pretty distasteful on their own (see no. 3), but being rude about it is unacceptable. Our servers were nice though, but I can’t say for certain how much they know about the products they are serving.

Keeping all this in mind, if you’re into beer and food, I would definitely recommend a trip out to the Jolly Pumpkin, especially on weekdays when they’re a little less crowded. I hope they get their front of house issues worked out soon, because it’s the one glaring flaw with an otherwise nice restaurant. Seriously though, get the fries. I’m actually willing to go out on a limb and call them the best fries in Ann Arbor. If you disagree, feel free to send me an e-mail at siegfrij [at] umich.edu, and I’ll be willing to give it a try, and maybe a more deserving restaurant the title.