A List of Ann Arbor's Most Hygge Restaurants
Ann Arbor is known for having great restaurants. And if you have dietary restrictions, even better! Just about every restaurant can accommodate vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free. But it’s winter now and what if your goal is to sit in a cozy tavern, eat comfort food, and maybe even watch the snowfall? Then this list of Ann Arbor’s most hygge restaurants is for you!
But first, you may wonder, what is hygge (pronounced HOO-gah)? Hygge is the Danish term for experiences that make you feel cozy and safe. It is often activities you share with others that allow you to connect in a deeper way with them. It could be a hike in the woods, a shared meal, cuddling up on the couch while watching Netflix. It is simple pleasures that increase your happiness. You can hygge alone, but it most often involves others.
I have researched what the Danish consider to be the criteria for a “hyggelig” place. My source is Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living and the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, Copenhagen.Some of the key elements that determine if a place is hyggelig:
Lighting: The lighting should be soft and natural. Overhead florescent light is not hygge. Candles and lamps are hygge.
Wood and other natural materials: The Danes prefer the comforts of wood, brick, and ceramic in their surroundings when trying to hygge.
Vintage: Things that are or feel old are very hygge
Comfort food: The Danish are known to really like to eat traditional meat and potato dishes, and/or comfort foods.
Fireplaces: Warmth and fire places
Budget: I was also mindful of the prices. One of the books I read said if you stumble upon a place a bit too expensive for the occasion, citing that you were in the mood for a more hyggelig place is a perfect way to preserve your dignity. Hygge is egalitarian above all.
1. Grizzly Peak
A local brewpub that makes “Ann Arbor’s most hygge restaurants” list serves favorites like Cheddar+Ale Soup or the Sunrise Burger. A great place to huddle up in a cozy wooden booth with soft lighting and a lot of of red brick inside and out.
2. Old Town
Established in 1971, Old Town really lives up to its name. It’s small with an abundance of wood and brick. The lighting is on-point with a mix of nostalgic Tiffany Style hanging lamps and sconces over the tables. It definitely has that cozy “neighborhood pub” vibe. The food is also classic tavern food and they have classic chili cheese fries on the menu.
A long time favorite of Ann Arborites is Ashley’s. Their beer menu lasts for days and you can get almost any type of beer from all across the globe. It has a lot of heavy dark wood and exposed brick. Their menu is full of comfort food too like Bacon, Cheddar, and Chive Fries and Fried Cheese Curds.
ABC is another brewpub with a lot of wood, brick and cozy lighting. They changed up the menu a few years back and eliminated the pierogi and other comfort foods for trendier dishes like Vegan Brat and BBQ Pulled Jack Fruit but they still have burgers, cheese bread, and beer cheese pretzels. They also have darts and shuffleboard if you want to participate in a social activity. Or if you can get a window seat it’s a great place to sit and watch the snowfall while on a date.
If the hygge vibe is what you are after, seek out the original Knight’s Steakhouse on Dexter Avenue just outside of downtown. It has a vintage decor and feels like gramma’s house. Tons of wood, brick, and although the lighting is a mix of canned lighting and lamps, the retro feel makes up for it. They are also known for their juicy steaks and strong pours (1 1/2 ounces).
Fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, ribs and mashed potatoes – The Roadhouse has comfort down! It also has a fireplace, wooden furniture, and a vintage Spartan trailer outside where you can drive up and get your food to go or grab a cup of their coffee and world-class baked goods.
Conor’s probably has the most Hygge elements when grading a restaurant. Comfort foods like Shepherd’s Pie, Chicken Pot Pie, and stew are on the dinner menu. The inside is full of cozy wooden booths, well-worn wooden bar stools, and also one of the few places with a fireplace.
The above places can all be great places to gather and hygge. Just don’t forget the cardinal rule, be present! Most of the aforementioned places do have a TV but you can chose to sit in a corner out of view, keep your phone tucked away, and start creating memories with the ones you are with.