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Good Eats: Isalita, Ann Arbor, MI

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image via Isalita
Downtown Ann Arbor is home to a new dinner hot spot and we were lucky enough to give it a try. ISALITA is a trendy tapas eatery that is always bustling with crowds and delicious indulgences.

Insider Info.

Plan your visit. We do not like to wait, so if you are like us, you will need to plan. Isalita is open Tuesday-Sunday at 4pm, and it is best to get there as close to 4pm as possible. If you can’t make it there early, call 20 minutes before you plan to arrive 734.213.7400 and they will put your name on the list to give you a jump on your wait. Be aware though, if you come between 6pm and 9pm on a weekend, there is a good chance you will be camping out for over an hour.

Hit happy hour. If you are looking to save some cash but still want to give Isalita a try, go Tuesday-Friday between 4pm and 6pm for good deals on special items…Tuesday: $2 tacos, Wednesday: guacamole discount, Thursday: nacho deals, Friday: fundito (a cheezy chorizo or mushroom concoction that is a customer favorite) on special. There are also drink specials during these hours, but you must sit in the bar area.

Go as a group. I think the only way to enjoy tapas is to go as a group, order a bunch of small plates and eat family style. An added bonus is that they take reservations for parties of 6 or more.

Order only the best. We went to Isalita with a large group and were able to try many of the items that are on the menu, so if I were to go back,

I would definitely order:

  • The truffle or mango guacamole ($9). Choose one or the other or if you have a big table, get both. It is fresh and delicious and the tortilla chips are crunchy and addictive. Don’t let them take it away until it is licked clean, you will want it to garnish other items…guac is good on everything.
  • The salsa trio ($5). There are levels of taste and heat in each one and I loved mixing them together and into my guacamole. Who can go to Mexican food without chips and salsa?
  • Duck Confit Flautas ($9). I am not usually a duck fan, but I wanted to eat everyone of these without sharing. Sweet and savory and just delicious.
  • Sweet Plantians ($4). These are a mix between a french fry and a south of the border dessert. I could not get enough of the crispy sweetness. Order more than one plate or be prepared to fight.
  • Al Pastor Tacos ($10). This glazed pork belly and pickled pineapple literally melts together inside your mouth. Everyone was crazy about them.
  • Enchilada Roja ($6). These mild chicken, coconut and poblano enchiladas were a table pleaser and a real warm, rich comfort dish.
These items were pretty good:
  • Black beans and rice ($3). If it doesn’t feel like Mexican food without beans and rice you won’t be disappointed in this offering; it just wasn’t as special as the other items on the menu.
  • Enchilada verde ($7). This crab, shrimp and cheese dish was good, but the flavors weren’t nearly as remarkable as the the Enchilada Roja.
Skip these:
  • Baja Fish Tacos ($12). So deeply fried, you cannot even taste the fish and it’s not garnished with anything especially flavorful or tasty. A disappointing dud.
  • Salmon Ceviche ($12). In all fairness, I do not generally enjoy raw fish, but this was especially unpleasant to me. My husband, on the other hand, thought it was great, so it’s up to you.
Try something new. I was extremely impressed with most of what we ordered, the interesting flavor combinations and inventive pairings. I truly wanted to order the entire menu! I can’t wait to give their sweet corn soup, chopped salad, queso fundido, tortilla soup and forest mushroom tacos a try. Have you been? What did you love?
Bring your wallet. Tapas are deceivingly expensive and you always want to try more than you plan on. It is realistic to plan on $15-$20 per person on food alone. Just plan it so you aren’t shocked when the bill comes.
Decide carefully about kids. I cannot imagine taking my gang here during their busy hours, but it would be a fun family spot without the crowds, just make a reservation to ensure you don’t have to wait. They are kid friendly (booster seats, high chair, etc.) Small plates can be perfect for kids, especially if they enjoy a little culinary adventure.
Ask for churros. Just small one-bite desserts, they were the perfect light, sweet, and hot ending to our crazy good meal. I do not see them on the menu, but ask your server.
If you go. 
Address. 341A East Liberty Ann Arbor (the signage is not very good and it is easy to miss; right next door to Mani).
Hours. Tuesday-Thursay 4pm-10pm. Friday-Saturday 4pm-11pm, Sunday 4pm-9pm.
Happy hours. Tuesday-Friday 4-6pm, bar seating only (tables available).
Menu.
Reservations. Taken for parties of 6 or more. You can call ahead 20 minutes to get your name put on the list.
Ambiance. This place is loud and crowded. The atmosphere is fun and lively but don’t expect a quiet romantic evening. Sometimes we found ourselves almost yelling just to be heard. That being said, it was all worth it. The food and service was fantastic and it was a wonderful night with friends.

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