Transylvania, Romania, may be Dracula's hometown, but it's also the hometown of something much sweeter?chimney cakes. The cylindrical cakes, which were originally baked on hot coals by the area's Hungarian residents, look a little like ribbon wrapped around a spool. To make them, bakers roll special dough by hand into an even strip, and then wrap the dough around a wooden or steel cooking roll. Next, they coat the dough in sugar and bake it. The result is a fully, soft inside and a crispy outside that is quickly coated in sweet toppings while it's still hot.
They used to be made only for special occasions in Romania and Hungary, but they've become quite popular and are slowly spreading across the world. In 1985, when the Chimney Cake Caf? opened, they officially touched down in Ann Arbor.
In the decades since then, the cafe team has added flair to the traditional pastry. They've started stuffing savory, garlic-and-cheese-covered chimney cakes with fillings such as chicken and feta cheese, and they've improved upon hot coals as their cooking method, upgrading to modern ovens and lasers. They also specialize in chicken and lamb shawarma. However, they still create the popular sweet cakes coated with such toppings as Nutella, Oreos, and coconut.
Jungle Java was designed to create a space where parents could enjoy a good cup of coffee while watching their children play in a safe and soft environment where tykes traipse through a well-padded multilevel maze of forest huts and treehouses. Toddlers can take time away from the fray in a separate safari area equipped with soft tunnels, slides, and age-appropriate cryptograms. As children romp, parents plunk themselves in the soft folds of a leather couch or power through some work on the free WiFi network. Jungle Java's caf? carries a menu of coffee drinks, smoothies, and snacks that include all-beef hot dogs and turkey and avocado sandwiches on eight-grain bread.
Swirls Cafe elates taste buds with a cavalcade of cupcakes crafted fresh daily in a panoply of inventive flavors. Customers can wrangle a dozen cupcakes from the 12–15 different varieties in each day’s rotation, such as strawberry cheesecake, lemon cake blooming with blueberries, and german-chocolate cupcake with coconut-pecan frosting. The apple-pie-spice cupcake draws inspiration from its sister dessert, apple pie, and the classic red velvet sports a tiara of silky cream cheese bejeweled with pecans, coconut, or cinnamon. Alternately, party planners can splendorize the skyline of any birthday, baby shower, or mime-school graduation with a cupcake tower, which assembles 18 sugary girders into a pinnacle of pastry architecture adorned with custom decorations
Omelette & Waffle Café’s menu solves breakfast conundrums with a day-breaking spread of customizable omelets and airy belgian waffles. Wrapped in a warm, eggy blanket lined with american cheese, much like Betsy Ross’s original flag prototype, the Farmer's omelet mixes up a patchwork of ham, onion, mushrooms, and green peppers with crispy hash browns ($6.59). City folk find rural respite in the Country omelet’s savory swiss-laced folds, which are studded with sausage, onions, spinach, mushrooms, and green peppers ($6.59). Treat bored taste buds to the excitement of a tailor-made creation by designing your own omelet ($4.25) filled with standard fare, such as broccoli, asparagus, or spinach ($0.49 each), or stuffed with premium toppings, including gyro meat, feta cheese, turkey sausage, or corned beef ($0.85 each). For a sweeter sun salutation, sink your fork into the crisp, buttery panes of a belgian waffle topped with nuts, fresh fruit, or hand-churned yogic energy ($4.99). The café also stocks edibles for lunchers, including BLTs ($4.50), grilled-cheese sandwiches ($3.50), and homemade chili ($2.99).
Since 1996, City Coffeehouse has drawn in guests with the scents of freshly brewed arabica coffee, simmering specialty drinks, and ambrosial baked gourmet desserts. Organic and fair-trade beans percolate into cups of specialty Almond Joy lattes and seasonal Mudslide cappuccinos with irish cream after thorough grounding, and 13 types of hot chocolate warm esophagi. The café strives to emulate the communal atmosphere of the traditional coffeehouse, hosting local chess and book-club meetings—as well as confused Edinburgh intellectuals imported straight from the 18th century—amid the vibrant red walls and framed artwork that surround clusters of tables and cushy couches. A 5:30 a.m. opening time accommodates early risers, and free WiFi encourages Internet exploration. Special events and regular open-mic nights give visitors the chance to perform yodel covers of Prince hits before a respectful audience.
After Somali militias destroyed the Hassan family's perfume store, they decided to push through their poor luck and open a restaurant. This was no easy task: Because the streets of Mogadishu weren't safe for women, sisters Amina and Hawa Hassan would do the cooking, then send food to the restaurant in the morning. Unable to make sandwiches fresh, they put a Somali slant on the calzone, which a customer named the “min.” The name translates to “bomb” in the Somali language, in honor of the item’s heft and powerful flavor.
Since moving to the United States in 1996, things have become easier for Amina and Hawa. Samosa House bustles with people who chat over the calzone-style minato with ground beef and fresh veggies. The menu centers on Somali dishes, which blend culinary influences from India, the Middle East, and Italy, but also includes less traditional vegetarian and chicken options. After polishing off a steaming curry, diners congratulate Amina on her reputation as a star samosa maker for local fundraisers.