In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll go ahead and admit that I’m a bit of a food and adult beverage nerd. In addition to enjoying the experience, I am especially intrigued by the history behind good food and beverages—including preparation technique and the stories of those doing the preparation.
So, with that said, when I received the invitation to attend a special get-to-know-you dinner for local writers at the Raven’s Club (TRC), of course I accepted. Enthusiastically. Somehow, despite the fact that I’ve lived in or near Ann Arbor for around (gasp) 20 years, I’ve never been to TRC. Obviously, I was excited to taste what this mysterious place has to offer. The part that got me giddy, though, was the chance to meet the owner (Jeff Paquin), chef (Frank Fejeran), and adult sophisticated beverage pro (Zack Zavisa).
Zack has been with TRC since before the restaurant opened in 2011—he even helped Jeff and crew with some of the space renovations. Zack impressed me. In addition to understanding good, local beer, he has curated a list of over 100 whiskey options available at TRC. Personally, my test of a bar’s quality is by way of an Old Fashioned. It’s a simple drink, but it’s so often made poorly. Zack’s Old Fashioned passed muster, for me anyway—not overly sweet, featuring a quality spirit, and with orange oils evident. “I just want straightforward, simple stuff,” he said. “I think Old Fashioneds should be straight and to the point, and that what we made.”
In total, the beverage menu at TRC is as inventive as it is classic. Anyone can find something they’ll like here. And anything ordered will be quality, served with care. Read more about the cocktails offered at TRC on Key to My Cellar.
Ann Arbor’s dining scene is competitive, and TRC’s chef Frank is proving himself a contender. He is working to strike a balance between the tried and true menu options upon which reputations are made, and rotating selections which accommodate diners with more curious palates. Frank has created a farm-to-table, rustic menu which focuses on relationships with local suppliers. One such supplier is Ann Arbor’s own White Lotus Farms. As the White Lotus
farm states, “Three generations of the Tsomo family live on the farm and, together with friends from our Buddhist community, work in the creamery, farm fields and bake shop.” If you’re interested in learning more about Frank and White Lotus, this video may interest you.
When describing his attempts toward a balanced menu, Frank couldn’t help but exclaim, “The friend chicken is the shit!” Although I chose the Brussels sprouts with walnuts and ricotta for dinner, several people around me took the chef at his word and ordered the chicken. They were wise. The Brussels sprouts were tasty, yes—a bit spicy for my palate, but good. Folks all around me were exclaiming about the perfect chicken. Some even shared a few bites with me. If you visit TRC, and if you eat meat, you might want to consider the chicken.
Jeff, our gracious host and one of TRC’s managing partners, is truly passionate about food and beverages. The past four years in the start-up restaurant business have been a test of the skills and knowledge he’s gained in both hospitality management, as well as automotive industry manufacturing management. But, after an impressive management career, it seems as though Jeff may have found his true passion. He says, “We’re trying to live a hobby.”
The care that he, and his talented staff, lend to TRC is evident in each aspect of the experience. Anyone can enjoy TRC. From folks looking for fried chicken and a can of Hamm’s, to those searching for an experimental dish paired with the perfect wine, Jeff has taken strides to ensure that all feel welcome.
If you’re in Ann Arbor regularly, or just for a visit, I encourage you to give TRC a try. They’re located at 207 S. Main St. in the heart of the downtown. See their menus and learn more here.
Have you been to the Raven’s Club? What did you think?