Boutique hotels and B & B’s are the fashion of the moment, but when it comes to billeting symphony orchestras or hosting conferences, it takes a large, full-service hotel. There’s only one on campus: the fourteen-story former Dahlmann Campus Inn, which Chicago’s A J Capital Partners bought last year and retooled as the Graduate Ann Arbor Hotel. It will continue to host the orchestras and conferences (as well as, famously, the U-M football team the night before home games), but the Graduate has also trained its focus on another demographic.
A J, which stands for “Adventurous Journeys,” has various hotels in its portfolio; the Graduate is part of a young but growing chain based in college towns. With its clubby plaid, polished wood, and block M’s, the Graduate is aimed straight at loyal, sports-driven U-M alums. Kelly Card, the local Graduate’s director of sales and marketing, says they also hope to make the Graduate’s restaurant, Allen Rumsey Supper Club, a dining destination. The supper club theme seems well calculated, simultaneously giving weekending big donors a reminder that they’re in a rarefied, moneyed environment, and that this is a time to let their hair down and have fun.
The older and more Midwestern you are, the more you’ll remember supper clubs. “It’s a very upper Midwest thing,” says Brian Haines, food and beverage liaison for all Graduate hotels. “Great Lakes, particularly northern Michigan and Wisconsin.”
Allen Rumsey’s menu might have been pulled from a 1960s time capsule. Its cover is a rustic charcoal drawing of a northern scene that looks like vintage Michigan folk art. The food, Haines says, follows the classic supper club profile: “relish trays, steaks, fried Great Lakes fish, a lot of tableside food prep” like Caesar salads, cocktail carts, flaming meats, and desserts.
“Ann Arbor is a big foodie town,” Haines says. “Our chef works with the farmers market.” That’s Loren Halprin, an Ann Arbor returnee who once worked at the Gandy Dancer. Even the liquor is local. “For our cocktail cart, we work with the Ann Arbor [Distilling Company].”
Asked whether one should dress up to dine at Allen Rumsey, Card hesitates for a microsecond, then answers diplomatically: “Hey, it’s Ann Arbor. Of course not.”
Allen Rumsey Supper Club, 615 E. Huron, 769-2200. Sun.-Thurs. 5-10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 5-11 p.m. graduateannarbor.com