It’s on the west side of Ann Arbor, but Aamani’s Smokehouse & Pizzeria has an Up North feel. There’s a big barrel smoker alongside the rustic parking lot on Dexter Ave. just west of Maple. You can pull right up to the small dining room’s door. There’s even a cut-through to the all-purpose party store next door, which has money orders, lottery tickets, groceries–you name it.
It’s just a four-table owner-operated lunch and dinner spot, but Aamani’s has surprising breadth. The two top-listed “Smokehouse Plates”–pulled smoked chicken and pulled smoked pork–are both good in different ways. The chicken is straightforward and surprisingly moist. The pork is shredded, drier, and so full of complex spices that the meat ends up a cinnamon color, with a flavor more sweet than peppery.
Along with a basic red barbecue sauce, you have a pink option: a house-smoked cherry-horseradish aioli. The rapid-fire way chef-owner Aaron Wiess rattles off the ingredients suggests that he’s created that concoction himself. The servings are generous, and, with cornbread and a couple sides, two plates will feed three people for about $25.
Several offerings surprise with a subtle little extra something. Vinaigrette coleslaw has mango tidbits, and super-crispy crusted fried chicken has a dusting of flaked sea salt on every piece. Smoky-sweet collards come with a lot of bacon. Otherwise workaday baked beans also have a lot of bacon–as well as smoked pork. There’s also a super-cheesy pizza (made to order, or by the slice in the hot case if you time it right). A very thin complement of sauce is a distinguishing factor. But the crust is crusty, which is what really matters.
I made two visits on different days of the week and still managed to miss trying both favorite items recommended by the cashiers at the party store next door: the Monday special coney dogs and the “Wicked Wednesday” smoked rib-eye sandwich served with cheese, onion, and peppers on a toasted bun. I will be back to try that sandwich some Wednesday. I also missed the ribs (most of the meats are from Sparrow in Kerrytown … what else do you need to know?).
I did get to try the Friday special: smoked-meats jambalaya, lightly spiced, with a smattering of decent-size shrimp. Chef Aaron says it will be available every day after Easter, when he plans to apply a year of lessons learned to streamline the menu and hours. He will let go of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday dinner, closing at 3 p.m. those days. He plans to put some picnic tables around the smoker at the back of the parking lot and open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
West-siders looking to avoid a drive into town, or anyone looking to try out a new entry in Ann Arbor’s growing category of artisan meat-smoking, can check out what’s cooking any day but Sunday.
Aamani’s Smokehouse & Pizzeria 2529 Dexter Ave
Till Easter: Mon.-Thurs. 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Closed Sun. After Easter: Mon.-Wed. 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Thurs.-Sat. 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun. TBA.