Cash in on Northport’s Soggy Dollar
Just to be clear, you don’t have to use damp currency to pay for your meal at the Soggy Dollar. But the Northport restaurant’s colorful name comes from a time when that was the norm.
It’s derived from when sailors would swim in from their ship and have to pay for their pleasures with the money in their wet pockets, according to general manager Ryan Beyer. While that’s typically no longer the case, it fits in with the Leelanau County town’s maritime heritage.
The Soggy Dollar also fits in the revitalization of Northport, which includes the anticipated new brewpub and a multiplex with a bowling alley, sports bar, kids’ arcade and restaurant, among other offerings. Beyer says he sees the Soggy Dollar and the other businesses, new and old, not as competitors, but as partners helping to revitalize the beleaguered Leelanau County town.
“We’re trying hard to make Northport a destination,” said Beyer, “to be a fullfledged weekend and vacation destination.”
Beyer’s restaurant is certainly doing its part. With an eclectic menu, comfortable indoor and outdoor seating, even occasional live music, the Soggy Dollar is banking on a profitable future.
Not that the present is so bad. “It’s been fantastic,” said Beyer of the restaurant’s business since opening Memorial weekend. “We’ve been welcomed by the community. We’re still producing huge dinner (numbers).”
The Soggy Dollar got its start when Tonya Cook found Stubb’s restaurant for sale. She purchased the longtime Northport eatery and immediately got to work renovating it. The Soggy Dollar’s Facebook page shows numerous photos of the renovation, from painting to installing the bar, tables and chairs.
Beyer was contacted by Cook to see if he’d be interested in running the restaurant. After 20 years in corporate sales in the Los Angeles area, he decided the slower pace of life in Northern Michigan was just the thing for a Traverse City native. He bought a house in Northport.
“I had a paint brush in my hand the first day,” he said with a laugh.
While the renovation process is over, Beyer says they continue to tweak the menu, under the purview of Chef Kylen Kilcherman. He says it’s a little more upscale, appealing to coastal visitors. Selections such as beet risotto and tofu kebobs sit easily alongside the type of fare one might readily expect, such as Lake Superior whitefish and a bistro filet.
Ask Beyer what’s the most popular item on the menu, and you hear crickets. Change the focus and ask him what the best thing on the menu is, and – you get much the same answer.
Finally, after trying to decide among his and the community’s many favorites, Beyer offers not one but several answers. “There’s the rotisserie chicken, Lake Superior whitefish, blackened walleye. Local perch. I’m hearing we have the best burgers in Leelanau County,” he said.
SPECIALS & DESSERTS
For those customers who, like him, have difficulty making up their minds, he says the Soggy Dollar offers a changing series of specials. “We run features two or three times a week, like rack of lamb.”
For dessert, try the crème brulee cheesecake, or better yet, the lemon meringue tart.
Like so many other restaurants, Beyer says the Soggy Dollar is committed to offering as many local foodstuffs and ingredients as possible. “We try to use local foods as much as we can. We’re trying to think a little outside the box, but the goal is for coastal visitors to enjoy it,” he said.
Of course, Beyer knows it’s not just about the visitors, that creating a local market is the key to surviving the winters. To that end, he said the restaurant is planning some special events. It’s already hosted live music, and he promises more, from jazz to blues to folk and country.
It all comes back to building up a strong local economy, which he says is the key to survival for not only the Soggy Dollar but all the businesses in town.
The Soggy Dollar is located at 115 S. Waukazoo in Northport. Call (231) 386-7611. Online, visit its Facebook page.
DON’T MISS: Parmesan crusted whitefish with tarragon aioli, served with drunken sweet potato coulis, with grand marnier, cinnamon and cherry butter
PRICES: Sandwiches from $10/ Salads from $6. Platters from $14, entrees from $16