2011.12.21 Anyone for some Bi Bim Bob or bone marrow?

Written by David Green.


If you have a child who’s a picky eater, take my advice: Send him or her to Thailand. That’s what it took for Maddie to completely get over years of a diet based largely on pizza and chicken nuggets—at least if she’d been left to her own devices.

Sure, she’d started eating things like veggie burgers and falafel sandwiches before she went to Thailand for an overseas study program, but it was her travels in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Bali that really seemed to change her picky palate.

Now, when we meet Maddie in Ann Arbor for dinner, there’s a whole new kind of problem: The restaurant choices are endless and she’s open to most of them. Plus, she’s not partial to any except maybe Arbor Brewing Company...but how many black bean burgers with spinach and red peppers can one girl eat?

Since her days in Ann Arbor are numbered—she’s headed back to California in January and then will travel to New Zealand to work on organic farms—choosing new restaurants seems like the best course of action. 

So, when we learned about one, Bell’s Diner, from Sybil and Stephanie Diccion this weekend, it seemed like we should check it out. Bell’s Diner serves Korean food and breakfast fare all day long. It’s the restaurant we should have known about during Maddie’s college days. Instead of us suffering through Pizza House, Maddie could have enjoyed pancakes while we entered heaven with Bi Bim Bop. So, I e-mailed her about it.

“Sybil suggests Bell's Diner for dinner. Are you thinking of somewhere to eat yet?”

“I’ve never heard of Bell’s Diner. I have a coupon for a free meal at Mongolian BBQ...,” she said, and then sent me a link to the Bell’s Diner menu with these comments.

“It’s expensive. I’ve heard of Chris Wicks, though...I think he might do Selma stuff sometimes.”

“Selma” is Selma Café, a unique eating establishment (only open on Friday mornings) in an Ann Arbor couple’s home. It’s a “local foods breakfast salon” staffed by volunteers (Maddie among them) with the food often made by local chefs.

Chris Wicks? I’ve never heard of Chris Wicks. But I’ve already searched Bell’s Diner online and read that it’s good and it’s cheap.

I go to the link she’s sent.

For starters, among other oddities, you can choose these:

Snail Fricase, mushroom, hen egg, parsley, quinoa.

Crab, spring onion, red dulce, fennel, sand.

For the main course?

Monkfish, oxtail, turnip, pickled herbs chicken, Jerusalem artichoke, girolles, game chips, venison, beetroot, cocoa, salsify, bone marrow.

“Are you on drugs?” I ask Maddie. “This appears to be a menu from England...the prices are in pounds.”

(I can’t imagine that her palate has expanded to include bone marrow and snails—or sand for that matter. Still, I’m a little bummed that we won’t get a chance to try the “AMUSE BOUCHE” offerings. Not that I knew what Amuse Bouche meant before I looked it up. “Funny mouth” is what I would have guessed using my limited knowledge of French, but it’s a single, tiny, bite-sized hors d’œuvre.) 

“Oh. Yeah. I wondered why it was euros...just thought it was trying to be authentic,” Maddie says. “I swear there’s a guy named Chris Wicks who owns restaurants in Ann Arbor though...”

I ask if Bell’s Diner (the Korean and breakfast one) sounds like someplace she’d like to try for our early dinner, but she doesn’t really care. We decide to go and check out the menu (it’s not online) and then decide. 

There’s no menu on the door so we head inside and ask to see one. We tell the waitress we’re not sure about eating there, but she invites us to sit down in a booth, read the menu, and then decide.

David takes his coat off almost immediately. I read about Bi Bim Bop and am ready to order. It’s all up to Maddie. She looks up from her menu and says, “Isn’t that Stephanie right there?” 

David and I turn around and our bouches are amused to see Stephanie Diccion just starting a late lunch with her son, Ian. 

We joined them for a great meal and conversation, but I kept wondering, Where is Chris Wicks?

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