Red Hot Lovers Gets Cold

Popular hot dog spot has been closed since before Christmas
Detail from a sign taped to the window of Red Hot Lovers on East University.

Detail from a sign taped to the window of Red Hot Lovers on East University.

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.

Red Hot Lovers is dwarfed by Zaragon Place.

Red Hot Lovers, the yellow building on the right, is dwarfed by Zaragon Place, an apartment complex still under construction.

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.”

reopen sign

This sign is taped up from the inside of the restaurant.

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.

Sign on the outside of Red Hot Lovers.

Sign on the outside of Red Hot Lovers.

Rich Rod

Detail from the sign on the front window of Red Hot Lovers.

Red Hot Lovers

The construction of Zaragon Place spills into the area in front of Red Hot Lovers.

Section: Business


  1. January 24, 2009 at 7:09 am | permalink

    Zaragon Place construction materials are encroaching onto the sidewalk? Sounds like Community Standards needs to get a call.

  2. January 24, 2009 at 10:35 am | permalink

    Wow. Another A2 institution in jeopardy or possibly already gone. How sad is that? Thanks for keeping the local news in the forefront of your reporting. This is yet another example of how important it is to support your locally owned businesses. If we don’t all do our part, we will end up with a community that looks like the newly constructed building. An autonomous anywhere non distinct community that is unidentifiable.

  3. By JPW
    January 24, 2009 at 12:25 pm | permalink

    Jack hammers? I think not. I’m a decades-long fan, but the recent changes have been the cause for many I know ceasing to go to RHL. No waffle fries (and disparaging comments about them by the counter staff), no lemonade, and generally surly folks at the counter have been the norm. They had a tradition and they actively spurned it. Folks I know, like me, went back repeatedly hoping we’d just been there on a bad day, but the bad day was the new norm. Didn’t have to be this way.

  4. By Steve
    January 24, 2009 at 10:49 pm | permalink

    The place was mismanaged. They took out 1/3 of the already limited seating to put in a crepe machine and pointless counter area. Incredibly stupid. How did the new owners confuse the existing menu and patrons with that of Cafe Zola?

  5. By James
    January 24, 2009 at 11:17 pm | permalink

    Wow, this is terrible news. I love RHL . . . they MUST re-open.

  6. January 25, 2009 at 8:28 am | permalink

    Last time I was in there I noticed that there was no cranberry juice, which I had counted on for proper chicago dog digestion.

  7. January 25, 2009 at 8:50 pm | permalink

    Another restaurant which closed recently (utility shutoff signs on the door) is Seajoys (formerly Chennai Vilas), the Indian buffet in the 200 block of North Main. I enjoyed going there, but it was ominously quiet at lunch.

  8. January 29, 2009 at 3:03 pm | permalink

    what?! the best items, no the ONLY items anyone should be ordering are

    1. Chicago Dog
    2. Cherry Coke
    3. Chili cheese waffle fries

    crepes? cranberry juice? that’s for fools!

  9. By Chris
    January 29, 2009 at 10:09 pm | permalink

    Don’t forget the tofu dog, Serious Style. And half fries, half onion rings. Those are respectable orders.

  10. February 3, 2009 at 3:54 pm | permalink

    Red Hot Lovers phone number is now “Suspended”. Seems like a bad sign. There’s no owner updates on their facebook page.

  11. By Dave Askins
    February 3, 2009 at 3:57 pm | permalink


    Michigan Daily has a piece suggesting there’s reason for optimism: Red Hot Lovers Will Be Back

  12. By Ivan
    February 11, 2009 at 3:40 am | permalink

    RHL’s has been going down an ugly road for awhile now. Less seating, higher prices, and declining quality have driven away regular customers such as myself. ~$7 for two coney dogs on dry buns? I’m going to Quickie Burger.

  13. By will
    February 15, 2009 at 7:19 pm | permalink

    Red Hot lovers used to be great. Then came less seating, higher prices, and surveillance cameras. I hope if it re-opens it will feel as comfortable as it once did, with ample seating and no cameras.

  14. By dan pritts
    February 24, 2009 at 12:52 pm | permalink

    anyone have any suggestions for alternate spot to get a chili-cheese-fry fix?

    I agree about the decline at red hots. The new owner(s) really screwed the pooch. That said, service had improved somewhat, although was not back to the previous owners’ levels.

  15. By AlexP
    June 23, 2009 at 12:47 pm | permalink

    This is sad, as RHL used to be so much fun. But the past couple years have been pretty bad. The food, seating, and price changes took their toll, but the absolutely filthy interior was the last straw for me. It seems like ownership just gave up on the place.

  16. By Rex
    July 8, 2009 at 7:34 pm | permalink

    Mr Spots on south state comes close to Red Hot’s fries.

  17. By Demetrius
    July 13, 2009 at 1:13 pm | permalink

    I remember going to Red Hot Lovers about five years ago, and it was the best experience I had in my life. I would literally travel from Detroit just to eat their Chili Dogs and waffle fries (add a side of cole slaw on top of the dog and you had yourself a meal!) Needless to say, like many people have said on this site, the service and food have gone downhill, so I know for a fact that construction was not the problem. It was the FOOD! Combine that with the awful seating, and you are bound to lose customers… The new owners are simply clueless, and if the place does open back, I, along with many others are hoping the old owners come back because the new owners are for lack of better words, awful!