A2P Foodist: Restaurant Review—Sava’s
Restaurant Review: *** (good, reliable)—Ratings range from zero to five stars and reflect the reviewer’s reaction to food, with ambiance, service and price taken into consideration, as well.
216 South State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Hours: 8 a.m.-midnight daily
Reservations suggested for Sunday brunch.
Trying to find the door to a restaurant and almost walking into a research lab is something I have never done before, except at Sava’s. Once you get inside, the first thing you notice is a cramped waiting area with a few benches with more room for the maitre d’ than for customers waiting on a cold Sunday morning, most on their feet, for more than 30 minutes if you forget to make a reservation at least one week in advance. If you were informed enough to make a reservation, you are seated in the middle of what seems like a busy road where customers and wait staff alike bustle up and down the narrow restaurant to reach the extremely popular Sunday breakfast buffet. The décor of the restaurant is 50 shades of gray with wood accents. The noise, when the restaurant is full, is ear-splitting, and this makes conversations difficult even with the people sitting next to you.
The Sunday buffet costs $16 per person, plus drinks, tip and taxes, is actually what it’s talked up to be. There is a full table of hot prepared foods such as pies, potato dishes, corned beef hash, corned beef (other guests commented that the corned beef was a little too salty) and a plethora of egg dishes, including poached eggs. Each of the dishes on the buffet was hot when it was supposed to be hot; cold when it was supposed to be cold, and all the house made pastries—excluding the bread and bagels— were delicious. Pastries, in fact, were uniformly the perfect combination of “ooie” and “gooie.” The homemade poptarts are flaky-amazing, and the fruit-filled poptarts come highly recommended from a fellow brunch diner.
After that brunch I was anxious to return. I went for lunch. The restaurant, which had been bustling and full on the weekend when we were last there, was empty and quite quiet except for staff members who were lurking around and chatting among themselves.
The restaurant has an exposed ceiling, wood floors and a second floor indoor balcony area that, while charming, amplifies the noisy first floor. When I visted for lunch, Sava’s was a winter wonderland and decorated with oversized Christmas ornaments covered in glitter and an immense Christmas tree also covered in glitter and fake snow. My fellow diner and I sat down at a high-backed booth with padded seats and a wooden table. The server came promptly over and took our drink orders—a Coke for me, and a sparkling water for my guest. Usually it’s a bad sign when you server starts your meal by bringing tonic water (used in the making of mixed drinks) instead of the sparkling a.k.a. soda water requested, but the server apologized quickly, when found, and brought the correct drink.
We ordered an appetizer at the same time as our food, and fell into a deep discussion about, of all things, Punnett squares. The conversation was pleasantly interrupted when our appetizer came (spinach and artichoke dip). We tried to dig right in but found, when an entire castle keep of pita chips is stacked around the dip, it can make it slightly difficult to find the food. When we did make it in, we found that perhaps the pita chips, which themselves where very crisp, warm and tasty, were placed in the castle like formation to stop you from drowning in the copious amounts of oil in the roux. The dip was a disappointing mixture populated with huge chunks of tinny canned artichokes and bits of wilted spinach. Once we dismantled the pita chips, found a small amount of the roux devoid of artichoke chunks and were able to taste the flavors themselves, they were actually quite good.
Our entrees came as soon after we were finished with the spinach and artichoke dip. Our main courses consisted of a steak sandwich with regular fries that I had selected and a burger with sweet potato fries for my companion. The fries, which come in small portions and are a la carté, make a pricey lunch pricier—$3 for regular fries and $4 for sweet potato. Both the regular and sweet potato fries were served hot and perfectly crispy. While sandwiches themselves were good, the steak in my flank steak sandwich ($10) was bland, and the meat in my companion’s burger was also in need of a bit of salt and pepper. In my steak sandwich the horseradish sauce (which appeared to be grated horseradish mixed in with a small amount of mayonnaise) overpowered the meat. When combined with the wilted arugula and balsamic braised onions there was simply too much going on—as if the sauce would cover for the meat.
The burger ($7) on the other hand was cooked perfectly medium well, had very fresh vegetables and a snappy sauce made with mayonnaise and hot sauce—the same sauce served with the sweet potato fries.
We concluded our meal with dessert even though a dessert menu was as hard to find as the door to the restaurant (we had to locate our server and request one). We tried the peanut butter cheesecake, cooked by Sava’s in-house pastry chef. The cheesecake was silky smooth and extremely chocolaty. While it was called peanut butter cheesecake, the peanut butter flavor was lost in the layers of chocolate. I’m not complaining; I love chocolate. If you’re looking for the taste of peanut butter, you’ll get it from the crumbled peanut butter cups that surround the square of cheesecake. The peanut butter cheesecake had a layer of peanut butter cheesecake sandwiched between two layers of chocolate cheesecake. All of this was perched on a double chocolate Oreo crumb crust. Alas, the crust was slightly soggy, but you won’t notice.
Yelpers, collectively, give Sava’s 3.5 stars. On Yelp.com, multiple reviewers praised the sweet potato fries, and panned the noise levels. While our service was good both times, more than a few Yelp.com reviewers commented on what they considered spotty service at Sava’s. All in all the food, ambiance, service were, for the most part pleasant, but not worth the $52 some dollars we paid for lunch, (including drinks and tip). Sava’s is a great restaurant for Ann Arbor, but I wouldn’t rush there. If you do decide to find your way to Sava’s, put it on your calendar for brunch with friends. Just remember to go the Sunday after payday.
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