In old railroad slang a “gandy dancer” was a maintenance of way laborer, left over from when the tracks were laid by hand and a gandy pole was an implement used for tamping, while another man held tongs on the railroad spikes to hold the rails in place. Now all of this labor is performed by machines, but the term has kind of hung around in the parlance of railroad enthusiasts. I mention this arcane knowledge, because we had lunch at the Gandy Dancer recently in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I had never been there, but my Bride had. The restaurant is actually in a beautifully restored Michigan Central Depot built in 1886. It is a lovely landmark not far from the downtown district of the city or the university.
We were seated out where the passengers and the luggage wagons would have waited for the next train, depending on the direction. Of course, now this area was entirely enclosed, basically in glass to look out onto the tracks for both commuter and freight trains; while we were there, we watched two trains pass the station/restaurant with nary a vibration. Leave it to me, to notice that some of the spikes seemed to have worked their way up, but I felt more at ease after the first train traversed the rails. The bar was installed in the center of the building, which was probably where the tickets were sold, and there were plenty of other rooms for passengers, freight and luggage that were now part of the restaurant dining areas. The restaurant also does special events and weddings when someone is interested in fine food, a destination and a unique themed atmosphere. The restaurant was part of the Chuck Muir restaurants which are still scattered around Michigan, Ohio and Florida, but this is now part of the Landry Hospitality Group.
My Bride wanted a Negroni for lunch, an aperitif that she really enjoys if it is made well and she was happy. She had the Coconut Shrimp with Mango Salsa, Sweet Thai Chili Butter, Coconut Ginger Rice and fresh Asparagus. I had the Bacon Cheddar Burger with Grilled Onions and Mushrooms served with French Fries and Malt Vinegar. Unfortunately, she decided that I had the better of the two dishes, as she thought her dish was rather bland, but she did enjoy the Fries with a Canadian twist. She didn’t want any wines, but I saw that they had an interesting wine flight of three, so that is what I ordered and I will discuss the wines in the next article.