When he opened his new restaurant, Quay, Charlevoix native Eric Hodgson encountered a challenge on many levels.
Three, to be exact. That’s how many floors there are in his Bridge Street restaurant.
The second and third floors overlook the park across the street and Round Lake beyond. That’s great for guests, but not so much for the staff, who have to take food from the first-floor kitchen up a flight of steps or two.
“The building is extremely difficult. It’s a neat experience for diners but a challenge for staff,” said Hodgson. “That’s why we have a limited menu on the Terrace Bar.”
Hodgson’s wife Dana is from Beaver Island, and the two own three places there: The Shamrock Bar and Grill, the Beachcomber Bar, and the Beaver Island Lodge.
When they discovered the former Whitney’s Oyster Bar location was available, they decided the time was right to venture back to the mainland.
“People told us Charlevoix needed a destination restaurant,” Hodgson said, noting that for special occasions people would often travel to places like Traverse City, Petoskey and Boyne City.
On the third floor, the open-air bar features a great view. The view extends to the second floor as well, where the menu reflects what Hodgson calls New American cuisine. Steaks and fish are featured as is pork, chicken and lamb; with sandwiches, soups, salads, and wraps available for lunch.
Quay beckons locals and visitors alike.
The soups and many of the small plates and salads are the same on both the lunch and dinner menus: Rustic tomato soup with roasted garlic croutons, whitefish tostada with cucumber salsa, and crab cakes with cilantro aioli are among the choices.
Other choices earlier in the day are tabbouleh made with red quinoa, arugula, and grape tomatoes; a Cobb salad with blue cheese vinaigrette; and duck confit flatbread.
Sandwiches include a crispy shrimp po’boy; Italian muffuletta with salami, mortadella and capicola; roasted pork, capanota melt with eggplant and peppers; and a certified Angus burger.
Quay really lights up in the evening, with what Hodgson hopes are selections appealing enough to preclude traveling out of town.
Steak lovers can try the ribeye with sweet potato and gorgonzola gratin and grilled asparagus. The grilled adobo pork tenderloin is served with a cornbread panzanella, smoky citrus barbecue sauce and grilled vegetables.
Pan seared halibut is accompanied by candy stripe beets and potato and mortadella croquette, while whitefish provencal boasts tomatoes, artichokes, caper berries and crispy rice cake.
The namesake Quay Burger features foie gras, arugula, blackberry relish, and caper scallion aioli.
Hodgson says the whitefish is one of the most popular dishes.
“Whitefish in Northern Michigan – everybody’s got a favorite,” he said. “Many people have said this is the best whitefish they’ve had. That’s extremely high praise.”
Hodgson says he is partial to another of Quay’s fish dishes.
“My favorite is the halibut. It’s wonderful,” he said. “And the lamb chops – I’m a lamb chop fanatic.”
For starters, you can’t beat the watermelon gazpacho. The cold soup is enhanced by feta cheese, vanilla bean oil and fresh mint. It’s refreshing and different.
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Hodgson credits his culinary team, headed by Chef Meghan Wruk and sous chef Darwin Fishinghawk, for the dishes served at Quay. He says the menu is the creation of Wruk.
“She’s worked a lot of places in Northern Michigan,” he said. “She’s extremely talented.”
Hodgson credits scratch cooking as the basis for Quay’s well-rounded menu, which includes homemade flatbread crackers, as well as the aioli and sauces.
“We do everything from scratch,” he said. “Nothing comes out of a bottle or jar.”
Hodgson says after the summer rush he intends to change things up, both in terms of hours and the menu.
“In the shoulder seasons we’ll probably go with more comfort foods at lower prices,” he said. “That’s better for locals, but we’ll keep the standards high. Our goal is to serve the best food in Northern Michigan at a reasonable price.
The name is derived from a landing place or provisioning site for ships.
“It’s the name of a dock or structure which is used to provision a boat,” he said. “It plays off the wharf at the municipal dock across the street.”
Even if the provisions aren’t making it onto a ship anymore, Hodgson doesn’t mind.
“This location has been a tavern or restaurant for over 100 years,” he said. “Even if boats don’t provision here, the crews can.”
Prices start at $6 for soup or salads. Other small plates start at $9. Sandwiches begin at $9, and entrees at $23.
Quay is open seven days, lunch from 11am- 4pm; dinner 5pm-9pm.
The restaurant is located at 307 Bridge St. Call (231) 547-7450; online, visit quayrestaurantandterracebar.com or visit its Facebook page.