Restaurant in Review: Save Room For Spencer

Spencer, a local small plates restaurant, has been flying under the radar since 2015 on 113 E. Liberty. I’ve walked past its little storefront for a little over a year now and whenever I’ve looked in, it has perpetually seemed like it’s closed. One day I looked them up, found their hours, and made a date with friends to go to brunch. I was sincerely surprised by their communal atmosphere! Not only is it great for dates, but the freshness of recognizable ingredients likely straight from surrounding farms, which is always a plus. The menu can change daily based on what Abby Olitzky and Steve Hall, the co-owners of Spencer, find from their local partners. Be it fresh watermelon radish or tart endive they have it all!

As you peruse the menu at the café-style front register, the wall of rotating wines alerts you to the dual purpose of Spencer as both a restaurant and wine bar. A short menu meant for sharing, both in portion size and in cost, centers the meal on interacting with the people around you. The three long tables encourage you to talk to each other and admire strangers' plates. Sparing descriptions of each plate lead you to take a risk with each choice; trust me it always pays off.

To start, we got the banana to split complete with fresh whipped yogurt and morning seeds. Any dedicated health nut would have been shocked at the clever incorporation of these three ingredients into such a light dish. The beauty of the dishes at Spencer is that they seem deceptively simple and don’t overwhelm you. As someone who is very picky when it comes to yogurt, I didn’t expect to enjoy the homemade vanilla yogurt, but it was more like a cream cheese frosting that cut the sweetness of the banana beautifully. In theory, I could make this dish at home, but the ingenuity of Abby’s kitchen is that I’d rather sit down and try her take on this classic breakfast. Next came the Belgian waffle with malted maple. Sticking to tradition, this Belgian waffle was yeasted- resulting in a crispy exterior and a fluffy interior. *Swoon* I had only just put the first bite in my mouth, when it was gone and I wanted more. My friend had never had crème fraiche (a whipped, smooth cheese) and this was the perfect dish to accompany his first flirtations with the classic French topping. Waffles in all their perfection as a food item already need to meet very low expectation, but these beyond cleared them. While I would have wished a quirky element added to it like fresh rosemary or lavender, all the flavors on the plate were at their best. No brunch would be complete without a savory option and the endive salad gave us that nice crunch in between the softness of the rest of the meal. Topped with hazelnuts and an acidic tarragon vinaigrette, the bitter endives were balanced with slices of sweet Honeycrisp apple. A neutral watermelon radish absorbed much of the salt that would have otherwise overwhelmed the platter. The colors alone reminded me of the infrequent, but pleasant spring days we’ve been experiencing recently. However, what may have added to this dish for me would have been a creamy goat cheese.

Finally, the woman at the register recommended that we get the cheese plate curated by the co-partner Steve Hall, who has previously worked as a cheese monger for Zingerman’s (Obama's favorite restautarent in Ann Arbor for all you outsiders). A non-confrontational, nutty gouda cut into generous triangles was accompanied by candied walnuts and the same apples used in the endive salad. Spencer’s commitment to the uncomplicated ingredients and the overall approachable interior reminded me of the classic little restaturents in Paris or London. Spencer knows what good food is and doesn’t try to mystify the dining experience. You’re there to be with friends and have conversations about Israel and Palestine or the new Billie Eilish album, complimented by some innovative farm-to-table interpretations of classic dishes.

Spencer is open Wednesday to Monday from 5-9 P.M. as well as 10 A.M-2P.M Saturday and Sunday. Prices can range from $4-14 per dish and all the portions are sharable regardless of price. They offer free wine tastings every Thursday from 5-7pm and wine club memberships.

 

You can learn more about their mission and events at http://www.spencerannarbor.com Go fall in love with flavor! I promise you will not regret it.