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Wednesday August 05, 2020
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Dream Deferred

The Covid-19 crisis closed the Arbor Tree Lounge before it could open.

by Trilby MacDonald

From the April, 2020 issue

The Holiday Inn Ann Arbor near the University of Michigan has been rebranded as the DoubleTree by Hilton Ann Arbor North. Guy Hollerin's, the restaurant in the Holiday Inn for more than fifteen years, is now the Arbor Tree Lounge. Following a $9 million renovation, the hotel and restaurant have a fresh look and feel, with clean lines and a bright, open design. Gone are the dark colors and heavy wood furniture of Guy Hollerin's, and the U-M sports memorabilia has come down from the walls. The Arbor Tree Lounge has a light, cosmopolitan atmosphere, with sleek surfaces, wood flooring, and neutral tones. Heidi Keller, the chef since 2005, is delighted with the changes.

"It's like a dream come true," she says. "A lot of the time in these hotel renovations, food and beverage operations are the last places that get investment." The owners instead completely remade the restaurant with all new equipment. "They asked me to write the menu and design the kitchen that would help carry out the menu," she adds.

Keller had trained at high-end Ann Arbor restaurants, and her personal taste veers towards lighter, vegetable-centered meals. Her innovative departures from Guy Hollerin's menu during the annual Restaurant Week demonstrated she could tackle the challenge of a menu overhaul. During Restaurant Week, "people were willing to try something new. They asked chefs to feature local ingredients on their menus, and we saw a huge response."

The new menu retains many favorites like burgers and steaks, but adds lighter preparations of classic American favorites, like pot roast tacos with chipotle peppers and pico de gallo. Keller buys from local growers like Tantre Farm and Fluffy Bottom Farms when she can, and from Preferred Brands near Detroit's Eastern Market, which buys from local farms before seeking products from out of state.

The restaurant was operating out of the ballroom while renovations were completed and was set to open March 16. "We were supposed to open on Monday. Instead, we got laid off on Tuesday. This is not how this week was supposed to go!" laughs Keller. The hotel has 217 rooms, but now fewer than twenty-five people check in daily, most for hospital services, so the owners decided not to keep the restaurant open. "My heart goes out to the waiters and all of the people who work hourly," says Keller.

Arbor Tree Lounge, 3600 Plymouth Rd. (734) 769-9800. Opening date TBA.     (end of article)

[Originally published in April, 2020.]


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