Saturday, April 23, 2016

Pretzel Bell Now Open To The Public In Ann Arbor

Written by  Paul Starr
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Ann Arbor’s newest dining and drinking destination opened its doors Thursday, April 14, welcoming sports fans, families, university students, faculty, alumni and friends to ring in new Pretzel Bell traditions and raise a glass to the exciting legacy of sports and local life in Ann Arbor.
Located at 226 S. Main Street, the 8,000 square foot restaurant seats approximately 110 patrons on the main level and features a downstairs bar with seating for an additional 100. Both floors of the restaurant invoke a modern feel with retro twist and a sports and culture theme.

“Reclaimed wood from stadium seating and segments of basketball flooring are incorporated into the design of the space, both in the dining room and bar,” said Jon Carlson, co-owner of Pretzel Bell. “Those elements – combined with University of Michigan memorabilia, photographs highlighting Ann Arbor’s cultural history, and as the name suggests, multiple bells throughout the layout – create a warm and nostalgic ambiance, suitable for dining with the family or watching the big game with friends.”

The dining room boasts comfortable seating for large and small parties at tables and cozy booths, as well as a service bar, open-face kitchen and Main Street frontage. Additionally, no matter where you look, patrons have a clear view of exciting sports relics and TVs to ensure no one misses the winning the goal. Downstairs features a central bar with plenty of TVs, seating at high- and low-top tables, a VIP section and private dining space for up to 15 people.

“It’s two floors, but all one Pretzel Bell. The layout allows us to accommodate a larger variety of patrons at once,” said Brent Stevens, general manager. “Guests seeking to grab dinner with family can eat upstairs, while those looking to enjoy a couple beers and appetizers can hang out downstairs – either way, you’ll want to try something off of the food menu.”

Executive Chef Neal Diebold created a delicious assortment of traditional fare with modern flare and nostalgic touches. A creative approach to your mom’s cooking, diners can look forward to comfort foods made with a dedication to local ingredients and an artisanal twist, including: meat and potatoes - crispy potato tots, shredded cabernet short rib, beef gravy, Danish blue cheese and roasted parsnips; grilled flatiron steak – a flatiron steak coated with a brown sugar rub and served with roasted vegetables and au gratin potatoes; the crunchy bird – a sandwich featuring pickle-brined fried chicken and gruyere cheese topped with Creole mustard and apple slaw on a crusty roll; and pork and grits – delicious hominy grits,  pastrami spiced pork shoulder and red sauce served with a cheddar biscuit.

“The menu isn’t about what was served at the old Pretzel Bell,” Diebold said. “We wanted to do a delicious reinvention of some of those flavors that we all associate with family and home, in a setting where you can meet up for a real meal and make new memories.”

Of course you’ll need a drink to wash down dinner, and Pretzel Bell’s beverage selection is one to tout. Beer fans can enjoy a selection of domestic and craft brews both on tap and in bottles, or check out the special mystery vending machine located behind the bar and packed with an assortment of favorite beer brands.

“For $2.50, patrons can tell the bartender they’d like a beer from the mystery vending machine, and the bartender will push one of the unmarked buttons.  Beers are distributed at random, so patrons can expect a surprise – from Bell’s Two Hearted to Pabst Blue Ribbon,” said Stevens. “The concept provides a fun twist on ordering a drink, and if you don’t like what the vending machine selected for you, the only way out of it is to trade with your buddy.”

If beer isn’t your thing, Pretzel Bell offers a satiable wine list and an assortment of classic and craft cocktails classified as, “legends and leaders.” From Manhattans and Cosmopolitans to craft creations like the Universal Remote, featuring bourbon, Grand Marnier, lemon, ginger beer and Jerry Thomas bitters, or Super Good Advice, including gin, St. Germain, grapefruit juice, lime juice, simple syrup, Peychauds and salt, there’s bound to be a cocktail to grab your attention.

The drink selection even includes craft mixtures for younger patrons dubbed, “The Freshman Class.” These non-alcoholic beverages include options like Red Berenson, a sweet, herbal and citrusy mix of lemon, green tea, peach and agave, and Touch The Banner, a cool bright drink including blueberry, lemon, agave and mint, inviting patrons of all ages to enjoy something truly tasty.

The name “Pretzel Bell” pays tribute to the new restaurant’s inspiration – a well-loved eatery from Ann Arbor’s past, which opened in 1934 and became a local mainstay for 51 years before finally closing its doors on Liberty Street in 1985. Remembered by University of Michigan athletes, fans, students, faculty, foodies and Ann Arborites as “their place,” Pretzel Bell was the spot to gather with friends on game day and all the days in between.

University of Michigan athletes and alumni, including Fritz Seyferth, Matt Grabowski, Bruce Zenkel, Bruce Elliott, Dugan Fife and Andy Mignery, approached fellow U-M alum and restaurateurs Jon Carlson, Greg Lobdell and Chet Czaplicka to work together and reinstate a legendary establishment for future generations to enjoy and begin traditions of their own.

“Traditions were a huge part of the original Pretzel Bell, and we wanted to make sure they were incorporated into the new restaurant,” said Greg Lobdell, co-owner of Pretzel Bell. “But, rather than following old traditions, we’re making our own. For example, all guests will receive a commemorative bell on their birthday! Plus, special for twenty-first birthdays, the guest’s first beer is on us, and he or she will take home the pint glass it’s served in.”

Guests are invited to visit Pretzel Bell, make memories and celebrate the opening of a new Ann Arbor legend.

Pretzel Bell is open with normal business hours from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Pretzel Bell’s lower-level bar is open from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday though Friday; 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday. For more information, visit or connect with Pretzel Bell on Facebook (, Twitter (@PretzelBellA2) and Instagram (@PretzelBell).

Paul Starr

Paul Starr

Paul Starr is the creator of the I'm a Beer Hound and one of the organizer and the driving force behind Art & Craft Beerfest, Lansing Beer Fest, Beerfest at the Ballpark Spring & Fall. When he's not working on Beer Hound he's probably watching the Lions, Tigers or Red Wings. Being a recent new Dad of twins, he doesn't have much extra time these days for mischief.