Babo and Revive + Replenish
by M.B. Lewis
While fast-sprouting housing towers transform the downtown skyline, a pair of stylish new-model grocery-delis have emerged to serve cosmopolitan downtown residents. In contrast to the late White Market on William--a friendly but fusty place that stocked generic snacks and home-cooking basics--both Babo and Revive + Replenish specialize in inventive prepared foods. Both are spinoffs from State Street restaurants (Sava's and the Red Hawk, respectively); both have good locally roasted coffee (Ugly Mug at Babo's, Mighty Good at R + R); and both provide working stiffs and the new urban elite alike with solutions for quick lunch and dinner.
Babo, on the ground floor of Sterling 411 Lofts at the corner of Washington and Division, brings a world of panache to the "need me a little something" model. The slightly sweet and highly satisfyingly buttery mashed purple sweet potatoes exemplify the trendy comfort food Babo prepares so well; for an amazing meal add BBQ ribs, country-fried steak skewers, grilled veggies, or any of a dozen other dishes in the hot case. The mac-and-cheese "turnover" (it looks like a mini-pasty) adds bacon and turkey to a rich cheesy elbow macaroni, then wraps the whole thing in crusty dough for a junk-food fix you can almost justify. Less successful is the mac-and-cheese croquette, which meanders off on a fried-dry detour with the same core ingredients. Babo's cold case holds lovely earthy salads, including fresh-even-in-February tomato-and-pesto caprese.
A carless prof who lives a block away calls Babo her lifeline for chicken dinners with French wine and so much more. "The grocery part even has dog food!" another colleague exclaimed on her first visit, before indulging in a quick lunch of tender baked whitefish, edamame salad, and lemon tea.
Revive + Replenish, a paired deli and minimart, bookend the original Zaragon high-rise on East University. The word that surfaces most often when sampling their sandwiches and made-to-order salads is "refined." A very traditional chicken club could have been made by your mom, with
mayo and a frilly fringe of lettuce on whole grain bread. The racier "Cubano" packs roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and yellow mustard into a crusty sesame toast ciabatta. Portobello mushroom and red peppers make for another tasty and filling panini. Less successful is the Vietnamese chicken sandwich with pickled veggies, which got a little mushy on a French bread roll. Washtenaw Dairy donuts duke it out with Zingerman's and Pastry Peddler baked goods on crowded counters, and you can get fruity smoothies any season of the year. If that's not enough in the treat department, Replenish has private-label baggies of almonds and macadamia nuts, candy and cookies, and 5-hour Energy shots by the register. There's also real food, like yogurt, veggies, potatoes in crates, and boxed Amy's entrees in the frozen case.
"These are the kinds of places I think about when I think about Ann Arbor," a visiting law student from Ohio said on a recent visit to both Babo and R + R. Neither has anything resembling a dollar menu, but both offer real food and fresh-baked bread--even if you have to choose between that and $7 boxes of cookies. In case you need help deciding, the heavenly rosemary-cranberry Raincoast crisps at Babo are worth every penny.
Babo, 403 W. Washington, 997-8495. Baboannarbor.com. 8 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. Cold takeout available all day, hot takeout after about 11 a.m.
Revive + Replenish, 619 East University, 332-3366 (Revive cafe), 332-3355 (Replenish market). Cafe open Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-10 p.m., Sat. & Sun. 10 a.m.-10 p.m., market open 10 a.m.-midnight daily.
[Originally published in March, 2013.]