Local delicacies: Ann Arbor’s Juicy Kitchen offers recent, customized brunch and to-go delicacies

ANN ARBOR, MI – Kelby Behan and Aaron Ziola counted on their love of business and a loyal customer base to lead them to success when they acquired Juicy Kitchen from original owner Susan Todoroff three years ago.

Behan had worked in the restaurant for Todoroff for about three years. With limited business experience, she and her partner Ziola only had about a year to orientate themselves before the COVID-19 pandemic turned things upside down.

“We had such a good foundation – so many locals and regulars, especially on this side of town,” said Ziola. “We already did wholesale, but we expanded our wholesale to a few more locations in town and offered some take-away options.”

Wholesale sales rose from around 10 percent of gross sales before the pandemic to over 30 percent, Ziola said. Their goods are available at Argus Farm Stop, White Lotus Farms, RoosRoast, Agricole and Constellation Collective. Although the brick and mortar business had to be shut down for a few weeks in the early days of the pandemic, Juicy Kitchen was able to keep all of the staff due to the increase in wholesale.

The company prides itself on customization, offering vegan and gluten-free options and alternatives for just about every menu item. Creative substitutes for meat and wheat abound, including lion’s head mushrooms, which are said to recreate crab cakes, brinery tempeh as a substitute for corned beef in a griddle or instead of eggs, and cashew-based cheese in starters and baked goods.

“There’s something best to describe for everyone,” said Ziola. “We never hesitate to make changes or sub-ingredients. We try to be a place where people can be selective and get what they want. “

As the interior of the restaurant is small, picnic-style seating has been added to be shared with the neighboring North African restaurant, El Harissa. Customers can order online or by phone. Behan and Ziola also added an outdoor table that displays baked goods, specials, and take-away options.

“We love getting in touch with our customers so much and I think that still gives us the opportunity to do that instead of going into fast food mode.” Behan said.

At this point, carryout sales are close to pre-pandemic dine-in sales, Ziola said. With that in mind, the couple plan to continue performing for the summer only, though they are considering returning to dine-in in the fall once Michiganders are vaccinated again.

Juicy Kitchen, 1506 N. Maple Road, is open Thursday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Customers can order online at www.juicykitchen-a2.com or by phone at 734-585-5562.

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