Just When I Thought I Didn’t Miss Dining In At Restaurants – Reflecting on Haab’s (Ypsilanti, MI)…

Like countless others attempting to adapt to “pandemic survival,” I’ve attempted to adapt to the pandemic in a variety of ways. I cook more meals at home, and when my husband and I want food that was not prepared by me, we get takeout food – or wait in sometimes very lengthy lines at drive through windows – or even have food delivered. We haven’t “dined in” at any restaurants for quite some time (more about that in a bit).

Last night was no different – we did one of those things. My husband had a craving for fried chicken (the kind you have to eat off the bone) and rather than just wait in a half hour (or longer) line at Popeyes (or the new “Chicken Shack” that opened nearby), we decided we’d order from Haab’s in downtown Ypsilanti, MI. Believe me – our local KFC is NOT an option if you’re craving fried chicken. Let’s just say our local KFC is not the best representation of what Harlan “Colonel” Sanders would have envisioned in his most fanciful fried chicken dreams. Before I get into describing Haab’s, here’s a picture I do not own from Wikipedia:

One of two dining rooms at Haab’s

As you might have surmised from this photo, Haab’s is a place steeped in tradition (fancy way of saying it’s really super old old). It’s been around since 1934, when FDR was president – and when some of your grandparents – great grandparents – or parents – might have been small children or mere twinkles in their daddy’s eyes. Updated decor is about as important to them as updated menu items. Hey if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. If you’re a local, you know what you’re getting when you go to Haab’s, and it’s NOT gluten-free vegan quinoa bowls or deconstructed avocado toast. It’s mostly “meat and potatoes” fare.

For locals like us, it’s a popular place to bring family for birthday dinners since even the oldest person in the dining party will likely find something they want to eat – whether it’s liver and onions (vomitrocious!), or the ever popular London Broil – or just a good old fashioned steak. They may no longer do the free birthday meals (apparently too many customers abused the perk), but it’s still a good “family” place. I’ve eaten there with my family and extended family countless times – I’ve seen other friends eating there with their families. They even have a couple of vegetarian choices, which might appeal to the more fussy and likely younger members of the dining party.

For lovers of alcoholic drinks, Haab’s offers a happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and it’s among the best deals in town! With all drinks and munchies (mostly of the deep fried variety) costing just $2-$4 each, it’s easy to see why if you don’t arrive right at 4 when happy hour starts, you’re not likely to get a spot at the bar or at one of the tables. That’s the catch – you have to sit in the bar area to score the awesome happy hour deals.

Since some of you who follow my blog, use as “toilet reading” or as a sleep aid might already know, I’m kind of a fan of trivia. So you might be interested to know that reading the Haab’s menu actually helped me get an answer correct in a trivia game! What was the question about? I’m paraphrasing here, but the gist was “What appetizer is made from chicken livers marinated in a soy based ginger sauce wrapped in bacon?”

The answer? Rumaki! I’ve never eaten it, or seen anyone else eating it, but apparently it was a trendy “tiki” thing to eat in the 1950s-1960s. And Haab’s hasn’t forgotten about this appetizer. There are, after all, plenty of other places to go for more pedestrian appetizers such as spinach/artichoke dip and nachos. But if you want rumaki? You might have to make it yourself – or call around. Best ask your grandma for a recipe. Don’t worry, I won’t show up at your house and try eating all of it if you make it (hard no)!

Wayne from “Letterkenny” explaining how I feel about the possibility of eating rumaki

So when was the last time I actually “dined in” or “drank in” at Haab’s? I had a birthday meal with my husband and parents right before the pandemic madness hit in February, 2020. My husband and I arrived earlier than my folks, so that we could partake a bit in happy hour drinks before they showed up. Hey, I’m a cheap date, if nothing else.

Fast forward to a recent Saturday afternoon, and it was decided – we were going to call in a dinner order for Haab’s – and even get dessert. For dinner my husband got the “chicken in a basket,” which is a half fried chicken, biscuit and potato (he got baked). I got the fish and chips, but also wanted the baked potato instead of fries.

With takeout food, presentation is always lost in translation. This is the blueberry cobbler cheesecake with white chocolate curls on the top (a lot more tasty than it looks)! Be nice – it had to survive a trip in the car nestled in a Styrofoam box. It probably looks more handsome sitting on a nice clean plate!

So we got our food home and were going to eat it, but (the horror) NO BAKED POTATOES! And I was so craving a good old fashioned baked potato with all of the fatty goo 😦 I called them, explained what happened (or didn’t happen, as it were), and my husband went to fetch the taters.

I started eating my side salad while I waited for him to return, when suddenly…I realized something was wrong – very, very wrong. It was just too quiet. So I fetched my laptop, queued up Spotify, and did a search for “’70s and ’80s easy listening.” It didn’t take long to find what I was looking for – Christopher Cross songs? Check. Olivia Newton John AND Juice Newton? Check. Valium era Chicago songs? Yup! Here’s the playlist link: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/22fOcPkJZ4xngAuOep1oqI?si=0MiWdEsPQMOaPQV6lVOLgQ&fbclid=IwAR0UH9WkSfGyeVg1DnZ5ZHF6eodHSnZBLPDO64qxMbg_sNr2Xa5Pb0fT8B0&nd=1

When I would eat at Haab’s with my mom, we would sometimes turn it into an informal “name that tune” game with the easy listening tunes.

It will be a minute before I’m comfortable dining in at a restaurant again. I’ve only had one of two of my Pfizer vaccination shots, and I’m living in a U.S. state with very high rates of positive COVID cases. But one day I will have some happy hour cocktails and fried fatty apps there again while listening to Leo Sayer and Neil Diamond jams – but I’ll pass on the rumaki!

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