Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Blue Tractor in Ann Arbor

The Blue Tractor opened up in Ann Arbor on Monday. The An Arbor Chronicle wrote up a piece about it, and yesterday, I decided to "lunch" there, and so - after my Spanish class - cycled down Washington (to where Jewel Heart used to be) to pop in there. The decor is very blue-collar, Midwest-farmer kitch (if that is even something you might call "kitch"), with weathered wood on the walls (hope they sand them down a little to ensure that kids don't get splinters) and radiator grates of old tractors lining the walls like pictures. The lighting is provided by large glass "headlights" that hang from the ceiling chandelier-style. Looking up into the ceiling-space, you notice large exposed ductwork hiding against a blacked-out background; the "exposed infrastructure" look mashing together with tractor-and-weathered wood.

One small note - the layout is a little odd, probably due to the fact that it is spread out over two store areas. The side with the restaurant entrance does have a nice anteroom/foyer that doesn't have two doors in-line with each other (a really great thing when it's winter in Ann Arbor, and opening a door - or two in-line doors - forces bitterly cold air into the restaurant). However, once you enter the restaurant - if you want to go to the bar - you have to walk through the dining area. Although this is a similar situation to what you find at Grizzly Peak, in that multi-storefront restaurant/micro-brew you walk through the waiting area to get to the main bar (the "Den" has its own entrance, along with the shared entrance with the Peak). Here, there will be always be the chance that there will be a few diners that will be seated next to the high-traffic path to the bar (unless they decide to provide a dedicated bar entrance). It is also quite dark in the dining area, and while this might not be a hardship for dinner during the winter, it was a little off-putting to be seated in a dim room with rough, dark wood walls during an otherwise relatively bright late-fall day. The bar area, however, has large floor-to-ceiling windows that let in a lot of light.

Since I knew that Blue Tractor was associated with the same company that owns Grizzly Peak - located two blocks west - and Cafe Habana - located almost directly east - (at least it seems that way on the website), I decided to try the beer sampler, and at $5.95, I thought it was a good deal. Perhaps continuing on with the Midwest-farmer theme (there only needed to be large pictures of "amber waves of grain" to complete the image), the beer sampler arrived in a six-muffin tin, with one glass given over to a helping of honey-roasted peanuts. IMHO, a nice idea for a serving tray, especially with the provision of the peanuts. One problem is that if the beer selection increases beyond six beers, the tray would become obsolete... This makes me wonder if Blue Tractor will increase their selection in the future (or not)... VERDICT: 3/5. The beers were decently good, but most were much lighter than I prefer (the seasonal autumn ale I really liked, though).

Looking over the menu, I decided to go for the five sliders with shoestring fries. At $9.95, this, too, was (IMHO) a good deal - so long as the sliders were good. I was not disappointed. They came out in a basket - the sliders stacked on top of the fries. The mayo-based sauce used in the sliders was quite good, and each patty was cooked to perfection. It was also a lot of food. VERDICT: 5/5.

Now, would I go to Blue Tractor again? Sure, if not for the beers, then to see if the rest of the menu items compare favorably with the sliders.

UPDATE: Apparently, other people also found it to their liking...

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