If anyone doubted that Red Hot Lovers had a following, the large sign taped to its front window makes that clear: “We Miss You Red Hots – Come Back Soon!” But those fans have nowhere to go: The East University eatery known for its hot dogs and waffle cheese fries closed just before the University of Michigan’s holiday break last year, and hasn’t yet reopened.
A handwritten sign taped on the inside of the front window states: “We will be re-opening A.S.A.P. Don’t give up on us.”
Though just last December Red Hot Lovers came in second in the Ann Arbor News 2008 Readers Choice Awards for best hot dog (bested by Le Dog), The Chronicle heard earlier today about its possible demise from Stopped.Watched. correspondent Nancy Shore. So on a Friday afternoon we took The Link over to see if it was true. If it wasn’t the case, we could justify the trip with an order of chili cheese fries.
But in the shadow of the Zaragon Place construction site, the place couldn’t have looked more desolate: darkened windows, stools upended on the counter, and a ripped screen on its front door. There’s no answer on the store phone, and its website doesn’t indicate that anything has changed.
A worker at the Zaragon site on Friday afternoon said they thought it would reopen after UM classes resumed after the holidays, but that he hadn’t seen any activity there. “I ate there as much as I could, but I couldn’t keep them in business by myself,” he said.
An April 2008 Michigan Daily article quoted Aaron Blumhardt, manager of the restaurant, who said that noise from jackhammers at the construction site made it hard for customers to hear each other. He also told the Daily that there were fewer available parking meters nearby, so customers who used to drive over no longer came by. Construction of Zaragon Place began in 2007, after the city approved the project on the site of the former Anberay apartment building, a much smaller 84-year-old structure.
Construction also apparently caused Google to skip that section of the street for its Street View feature, which began including Ann Arbor in its coverage last June. In a June 12, 2008 Ann Arbor News article, Larry Works said he’d tried looking for the restaurant using Street View: “I like to go to the Red Hot Lovers with my boys, and I realized they missed that section because at the time it was a place where they were doing construction.”
Articles of incorporation for Red Hot Lovers Restaurant, filed with the state in September 2007, list Troy Slade as the incorporator, with an address in New York City. Slade is also listed as general manager on the restaurant’s FaceBook page – RHL has more than 850 FaceBook friends, some of whom are dismayed to find it closed. On RHL’s FaceBook wall, Matthew Hedgecock wrote: “Ahhhhh noooo what the hell happened?! I just grabbed a six pack and was swinging by for waffle fries and a Chicago dog and they were shut down! Don’t tell me that stupid condo construction next door put them out of business. I just moved to Ann Arbor last year and RHL was my favorite restaurant!”
ArborWiki has already taken note of the closing, too: “There has been a water shut off notice on the door for approximately one week. After closing for the winter break, Red Hot Lovers did not re-open.” That addition to ArborWiki was made on Jan. 21. The Chronicle did not see a water shut off notice on the door.