This past Friday evening, for the first time, I partook in the Ann Arbor Art Center’s annual fundraiser – Artini Martini Crawl! The event tickets we purchased provided six drink tickets that could be redeemed at any of the eight different downtown establishments, between 7:00-10:00 PM, including:
At the end of the evening, participants texted in their vote for their favorite Artini Martini.
Our first stop was a place I had never been to before: Babs’ Underground Lounge. In fact, a week or two ago, for the first time, I walked down the block of Ashley Street where Babs’ is located and noticed their sign.
After venturing “underground,” we walked into a relatively non-lively space – and Radiohead was playing, which was awesome. I’d like to come back on a night or time when the atmosphere is livelier, and it looks like it could be a chill place to hang out.
I would have loved a menu sheet of some sort for the event, or a written or verbal description of the drinks at the locations, but at most places throughout the night, the bar staff were understandably too busy to be able to provide descriptions. At all participating locations, the drinks contained the event sponsor’s liquor – Pearl Vodka!
At Babs’ Underground we each received pretty pale pink martini, which tasted like pink lemonade! Maybe not the cleverest or most innovative – but certainly delicious. So candy-sweet and delicious, it would be easy to down a few of these – which could be dangerous! I don’t know all of the ingredients, but I do know this contained Pearl Vodka, pomegranate juice, and lemon juice/lemonade.
After our first martini, the huz and I decide we should probably get some food in our stomachs before proceeding. We had a later start than planned, and didn’t have a chance to grab dinner before the event, so we made a pit stop next door to Babs’ at Sweetwaters, where we split a tuna wrap and a peanut butter cookie.
With some food in our stomachs, we then headed up to Main Street, where the rest of the participating restaurants and bars were located.
Second stop: Vinology. This is another location I’ve never been to, which made it high on my list of places to stop during our crawl.
Artini participants were invited to a gorgeous ground level room in Vinology, down a flight of stairs from the bustling crowd upstairs. I found this to be very nice, as it really made the “crawlers” feel like special guests, more than any other place we visited, and unlike some of the locations where we felt mildly ‘in the way’ of the non-Artini patrons.
Vinology’s lovely cocktail presentation paired beautifully with the charming atmosphere. Again, I wasn’t able to obtain a detailed description of the drink, however I do know this contained, among other ingredients, Pearl Vodka and tea, with cute sugar cubes available for stirring into one’s drink to sweeten them up. Bowls of tea leaves were also prettily scattered throughout the room.
The drink was a bit bitter for me and I wasn’t extremely effective at dissolving my sugar cubes, however, this drink was voted the most “innovative” of the event, and I agree! I appreciate the thought that went into this creative cocktail.
Vinology bonus points: appetizers! We each had a slice of pita covered in a thick sauce seasoned with flavorful Indian spices, atop a bed of arugula. It was good!
Third stop: Café Felix. I was just here last week for Martini Monday, remember?!
Café Felix was not very organized for this event. There was no real dedicated area for Artini participants, which could partly be due to the fact that their space is not that large to begin with. However, the wait was quite long, and throngs of confused people were milling around, amongst a throng of empty glasses. With that said, Café Felix had the favorite cocktail of both the huz and I! (Though it was not voted the overall winner of the event by all participants.)
Check out this creamy coconut cocktail, with Pearl Vodka, and topped with sweetened coconut flakes and drizzled with chocolate. This was pleasantly sweet but not overly so, and had a delicious, thick, rich consistency. Mmm how I loved this! It tasted like a Mounds bar.
The huz enjoying his favorite martini of the event, but trying to stay out of the way of the crowd, at Café Felix:
Stepping outside of Felix…
..making our way to our fourth stop: Black Pearl.
These martinis – can you say gorgeous!? A friendly gentleman at Black Pearl enthusiastically described the cocktails, which contained a citrus Pearl Vodka, blood orange juice, vermouth, and an edible baked candied blood orange garnish. It was evident that a great deal of care went into the execution of these drinks.
Black Pearl ended up being a fun location to hang out in, with a decently sized area in the front of the restaurant, facing Main Street, where crawlers could sip their cocktails.
Black Pearl’s blood orange martini ended up being voted the overall WINNER of the Artini. After Café Felix’s creamy, heavy drink (which, remember, I did LOVE!), this citrusy cocktail tasted especially crisp and refreshing, with a very balanced level of sweetness. And it was truly so pretty – as I was telling the huz during the event – Black Pearl’s really seemed like the most artful drink we had enjoyed up until that point in the event.
Having a nice time at Black Pearl:
Mélange also had a dedicated room for Artini participants, with lots of lounge-y seating, which was very nice! Melange’s martini was right up my alley – a Key Lime cocktail! I love me some key lime pie!
This was definitely a neat idea. I would have liked to have seen the graham cracker garnish on the rim of the glass, but realized that would likely be too time-consuming when trying to serve hundreds of guests. This was quite yummy – the lime was very apparent, but tasted slightly artificial-y (no, that’s definitely not a real word.) I was feeling quite good at this point, so it was probably a good thing that we only had one more location to hit after Mélange! …Though it would have been fun to be able to try all eight locations, if the event were designed that way.
The huz and I had been kind of planning on going to Ravens Club for our final drink, but after hearing rumors from other participants that Ravens Club’s drink was bitter and that Rush Street’s was very good – we decided to go to Rush Street instead.
I was a bit hesitant to go to Rush Street, because, well, Rush Street has a bit of a reputation. Actually, it would probably be more accurate to say that those who GO to Rush Street have a bit of a reputation, because the atmosphere of the lounge (if you were to subtract the people) is actually quite nice. But, basically when those living in Ann Arbor get too old to go to Rick’s, they start going to Rush, one might say. And if you’re not familiar with Rick’s consider yourself lucky because it has a not-so-classy reputation, to say to least.
But hold up – I am not trying to bash Rush Street here, because we actually ended up having one of our best times of the evening at Rush, surprisingly! I would even say my impression of the lounge changed. Rush Street at 9:30 PM on a Friday night is vastly different than Rush Street at midnight on the weekend, when most people go. And at 9:30 PM, it’s actually pretty enjoyable.
Our cocktails were actually made to order – containing a flavored Pearl Vodka (berry?), passion fruit liqueur, a splash of lemon, a strawberry garnish, and topped off with bubbly champagne.
Another pretty red drink! This was very reminiscent of strawberries and champagne (uh, I guess because it IS strawbs + champagne, duh Megan), with a crisp, mild sweetness, while the champagne bubbles tickled your nose. I’m serious. It was good. This was tied with Black Pearl as my personal second favorite drink, and was voted the runner-up by Artini-goers. (That purple thing is a candle holder, FYI.)
Yummy drinks and good music playing at Rush.
This couple was awesome. I love it. I truly hope we’re that cool when our hair is turning gray.
Rush Street. I know I was six martinis deep at this point (only 3 oz pours though!), but really, we had one of our most fun times here, and stayed here the longest.
Really though, we had fun at all locations! This was a fun way to spend an evening, and we ran into a few people we knew as well.
After our crawl was complete, it was time for our SERIOUS meal of the evening. Our real dinner.
Fleetwood! Yes, I know I had sworn off Fleetwood for good eleven months ago, but c’mon guys – there’s no way I can stop thinking about their FOOD! Plus, I swore if the terrible server we had before was there that we would peace out. And she didn’t show, and server we had was good – so it was all good!
While waiting for our food to come out, we texted in our Artini votes – two votes for Café Felix’s coconut cocktails!
This was truly the best combination ever. You want sea bass? You want scallops? Steak? Forget that.
Instead bring a few dollars to Fleetwood and get this because it’s just as good.
R U READY for the most gluttonous combination of foods EVAR?:
- 50-50 Burger, patty made from half BACON and half beef, prepared as a patty melt, on toasted, buttered, seeded rye, with melted Swiss and caramelized onions. Truly a combination of all my favorite foods.
- Pancakes (half order) – Two big fluffy ones, and man oh man, were they GOOD!
Uhh…look at this?! I don’t even know what to say about this because how does one capture the epicness of a burger containing 50% bacon.
One just eats it and enjoys it because it is heaven.
I ate about 2/3 of my food and brought the rest home for lunch next day.
Hooray for Artini! Plus we helped raise some money for the Art Center. Yay!
Currently listening to: Infinity – The xx.