After seeing so many versions of familiar foods, professionals especially appreciate innovation. But is it fair to demand it from a clearly traditional venue, one well versed in excellence within its chosen provincial European parameters?
Personally, I'm always hoping that all aspects of a dining experience-menu, service, atmosphere-meet their full potential and together lift the evening to a memorable realm. Restaurants can do that classically, or they can hop aboard the latest fad. With a wine list into the thousands and decades in the same space with the same style of cuisine, the Earle has chosen the traditional path. Its challenge is that familiarity breeds lofty expectations, magnifying flaws that might pass unnoticed where the novelty quotient is higher.
The Earle dates back to 1977, to a very different Washington Street. Before there were brewpubs, espresso depots, African, Asian, Eastern European, and Cuban-inspired restaurants on Ann Arbor's trendy restaurant row, big chowhouses like the Old German, Metzger's, and the Cracked Crab piled food onto plates. Even with its cave-like space, the Earle's elegance must have brightened the horizon like Julia Child floating in on Mary Poppins' umbrella.