Don't leave the Great Lake State without trying the #73.

Credit: Dan Sarah of Zingerman's Media

Our series on America's favorite college haunts spotlights the best diners, delis and bars at institutions of higher education all over the country.

Once they escape the sneeze guard-lined confines of the dining hall, it is possible for college students to subsist on sandwiches alone. And as such, a go-to sandwich shop proximate to campus is vital. In Ann Arbor, Michigan, that sandwich shop is Zingerman’s. It is no exaggeration to say that the plush sandwiches at Zingerman’s are a way of life for the students at the University of Michigan. Opened in 1982 by two alumni, Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig, the deli and bakery has inspired such mania among students and faculty the duo was chosen to give the school’s 2015 commencement address and receive honorary Doctor of Law degrees. But what, really, is all the fuss over an $18 sandwich?

For most UMich-ers, it comes down to quality. “The Zingerman’s experience is incredible from the second you walk in the door until the second you leave,” says Adam Krefman, alumnus and current Director of Brand Development for Pitchfork. “They are combining fancy ham from Italy with this bread they just made in house and this one specific mustard from Vermont and cheese from Wisconsin. Each element is specifically crafted. These people are perfectionists and sandwich wizards.” Everyone has a favorite from Zingerman’s massive menu, but by far the most beloved is the #73: Tarb’s Tenacious Tenure. The classic creation features the deli’s freshly baked farm bread (“fluffy, not too dense, just amazing,” Krefman recalls), smoked turkey, avocado spread, muenster cheese, tomato, and Zingerman’s house-made Russian dressing. Not impressed yet? A young woman named Maddie Lakind literally made her decision to attend the University of Michigan based on the taste of #73 alone, writing

And, in a move that appeals to every broke college kid’s sensibilities, Zingerman’s offers unlimited sampling. The store stocks hundreds of different kinds of oils, mustards, vinegars, and breads, and you can test just about anything. And all while you do it, you’ll be guided by no fewer than ten employees, all dedicated to making sure your specific store needs are met.

Zingerman’s success has led the company to receive many lucrative offers to expand, but the founders have famously turned them all down. All of the restaurant’s money goes straight back into the business, which now counts a sandwich shop, a creamery, global food tours, even a five-day camp dedicated exclusively to testing out different types of bacon. It’s worth visiting the shop to get the Zingerman’s experience firsthand, but if Ann Arbor isn’t in the cards, not to worry: you can mail order practically everything that’s available at the deli, from the bread to the bacon.