Happy Hour

A weekly snapshot of Happy Hours around the region…

Everyday, open-7 p.m., $1.75 highballs, $2.50 house chardonnay, $2.00 drafts, $1.00 off everything else.
310 Cass St., Traverse City

Sunday-Thursday, 3-6 p.m., $1 off all drinks.
422 North 5th St., Roscommon

Lulu's Bistro
Thursdays, 5-9 p.m., $3 wells, $2 off drafts, select $5 wines.
213 N. Bridge St., Bellaire

Boyne River Inn
Everyday, 3-6 p.m., 1/4 off drinks.
229 Water St., Boyne City
Rendezvous Lounge, Odawa Casino
Thursday & Friday, $2.25 domestic drafts, $3.25 well drinks, $3.25 house wine.
1760 Lears Rd., Petoskey

Choice Bits!

Round-the-region snapshots of the dining scene. 

RUTHIE'S CHICKEN & DAIRY TWIST: Roasted chicken and ice cream, malts and shakes.
201 N. Bridge Ln., Bellaire. 213­-533­-8538.

Practically an Up North institution, the place to find out the latest fishing or snowmobile news from the locals and visitors who gather for their hearty breakfasts, steaks, burgers, soup & salad bar, & homemade desserts.
10921 Main St., Honor. 231­ 352­6585.

When you've worked up an appetite from all the bowling and karaoke that Boyne City Lanes has to offer, you'll find a selection of hearty fare to choose from, including homemade soups & desserts. Cocktails are served at the Lanes,with live entertainment and glow ­bowling nights.
1199 West Boyne Road, 231-­582­-6353.

Open 7 days a week for lunch & dinner. Full Chinese menu, as well as Hunan & Szechuan entrees.  Daily specials, special combination plates,  a lunch & dinner All You Can Eat Buffet. 
616 S. Mitchell St., Cadillac, 231­-876­-8888.

Take a trip back to the '50s where chili dogs & frosted mugs of root beer are still served up by carhops at this All ­American institution. Elvis has been known to make an appearance during their annual summer “A&W Cruise Night” in August, as do cars from the 50’s and 60’s that we remember well.
At the bottom of the hill, 21 Lake St., Frankfort,  231-­352-­9021.

From Antler Ale to Wolverine Wheat, Big Buck specializes in microbrewed beers. Offering the usual beef and buffalo burgers, steaks, and ribs, plus more unusual fare, like their portabella sandwich with red onion marmalade and provolone cheese.
550 S. Wisconsin Avenue, Gaylord, 989­-732-­5781.

A refined atmosphere, subdued lighting, and an appetizing selection of epicurean treats awaits the diner at this Harbor Springs corner landmark. Menu selections range from their smoked whitefish ravioli appetizer to their Atlantic salmon, baked polenta and eggplant, tomato basil fettuccine, or filet mignon ­ and their brunches include one of the best versions of Eggs Benedict around.
101 State Street, downtown across from Bar Harbor, 231­-526-­1904.

Pool tables, a full bar, friendly service and a varied menu make the Village Inn popular with families and locals.  Dinners include Lamb Skewers, Blue Corn Enchiladas, Charbroiled Whitefish, Lasagna and Ribeye.  Also burgers, sandwiches, salads, appetizers and pizza.  Lunch and Dinner.
Just north of the blinking light 116601 Lacorre Ave. on M­22,  Empire. 231-326­-5101.

One of Petoskey's first restaurants, Jesperson's is famous for homemade pies and fresh turkey. Breakfast and lunch.
312 Howard, Petoskey, 231­-347­-3601.
Located in Building 50, grilled panini's, soups, wraps, baked goods, specialty coffees and teas.
1200 W. 11th St., Traverse City, 231-­947­-7740.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Julienne Tomatoes

Dining Kristi Kates Fresh is Best at
Julienne Tomatoes
By Kristi Kates 4/27/09

On one of Petoskey’s quaint side streets resides a hidden gem café with a quirky name and exceptional food. Julienne Tomatoes - named for its owners, Julie Adams and Tom Sheffler - spells out the secret of their success simply and directly underneath the logo that adorns their front door - they are “makers of good food.” For Adams and Sheffler, owning and running their popular cafe was a dream years in the making; but it was when they moved to the Petoskey area in 2000 that the wheels really began to turn.
Monday, April 27, 2009

Tastemakers: City Park Grilled Salmon/Mackinaw Trail Winery

Dining Rick Coates City Park Grill Salmon 4/27/09

Legend has it Ernest Hemingway frequented the City Park Grill during his youth, where he was seen scribbling what would eventually become his “Nick Adams” stories. Since opening in 1875, the Park Garden Café (which became City Park Grill in 1997) has been at the center of Petoskey’s social scene. It continues to have a vibrant live music scene featuring the best musicians the region has to offer along with the occasional traveling band.
Monday, April 20, 2009

Phil‘s on Front

Dining Nancy Krcek Allen Phil‘s on Front
Nancy Krcek Allen 4/20/09

Northern Michigan foodies will be happy to know that Phil Murray, former chef-owner of the popular restaurant, Windows, is back in the kitchen. This February Murray opened Phil’s on Front, a bistro and chocolate lounge.
Murray’s hits just keep on coming.
In 2006, after 21 years at Windows, Murray retired from restaurants. “I took lots of naps. I went bicycle riding. I opened Chocolate Exotica (and Windows Catering at West Front Market).” Murray smiles. “Then I got tired of having nights, weekends and holidays off.”
After a mission trip to Peru with Bob Foote and other eye doctors (no, he didn’t feed them—he helped with eye exams), Murray got a call from the owner of Ciao Bella, the space where Phil’s on Front is now located. “I think I had $19 in the bank,” says Murray. “I called old customers and investors and they came through. January 21 we began negotiating. We closed on February 2 and by February 12, we opened.”
Monday, April 20, 2009

Tastemakers: Morels are here/ The Spirits of Michigan

Dining Rick Coates A few weeks back I appeared on the Omelette & Finster Morning Show on KLT as the guest news anchor. As part of an April Fool’s prank I made up a story along with the hosts that the weather conditions had eliminated this year’s morel crop. Both Omelette & Finster played the story up and we even had a person pose as a Professor of Botany from MSU call in confirming the story. We eventually told everyone that it was simply an April Fool’s joke. Well not everyone heard that we were just joking and organizers of various morel events in the region have been getting calls asking if there were going to be morels this year.
Monday, April 20, 2009

Michelle Bommarito takes the cake

Dining Rick Coates Michelle Bommarito Takes the Cake

By Rick Coates

Food Network celebrity chef and world-renowned wedding cake designer and pastry chef Michelle Bommarito is a ball of energy. Her friends, family and colleagues find it hard to keep up with her. So what is Bommarito’s secret to what seems to be endless amounts of energy?
“I consume ‘super power foods,’ and I eat five to six small meals a day,” said Bommarito. “I also learned some life lessons along the way that the secret to healthy living is moderation in all things, including work.”
Bommarito will be making several appearances this weekend at the Chef’s Challenge at Shanty Creek Resort. On Friday, April, 24 she will be giving a free seminar, “Eat Well, Move Your Body & Watch What Happens.” Bommarito also expects have several impromptu discussions throughout the weekend on wellness and eating healthy.
While Bommarito is most known for celebrity chef appearances on the Food Network by winning the first wedding cake challenge and finishing second twice, and most recently appearing on a new show, Last Cake Standing, she is now focusing her talents and energy on helping people learn to live and eat right by offering seminars all over the country.
“I am still making wedding cakes and other pastries but I’m being more selective on what a take on. The wedding cakes I make require me to be on location for three days as I have to put the cake together,” said Bommarito. “I have always had a passion for eating right, but at first I didn’t understand the moderation aspect of it all. I took things to the extreme.”
Monday, April 13, 2009

Tastemakers: Jordan Inn Chef‘s Challenge/Forty-Five North Unwooded Chardonny

Dining Rick Coates With the Epicurean Classic departing, the Chef’s Challenge in one short year has vaulted itself as the must-attend “foodie” affair in Northern Michigan. While the Challenge is two weeks off, organizers came up with a unique way to promote their three-day event (April 24-26 at Shanty Creek Resorts). The Chef’s Challenge this past winter offered non-profits in Northern Michigan the chance to auction off seats at fundraising events for the Preview Dinner on April 18 at the Jordan Inn in East Jordan.
This all-Michigan menu helped several regional non-profits collectively raise more than $5,000. A few seats remain for anyone interested in a unique culinary expedition. First of all, dining at the Jordan Inn is a treat in itself. Chef Joe Krumholz has a unique way of creating his menus at this historic inn located in the heart of East Jordan. Chef Krumholz allows the first havndful of dinners that make reservations to dictate the menu offerings for the evening.
Monday, April 6, 2009

Tastemakers: Bear Claw Brewery steak stackers/Sirius maple dessert wine

Dining Rick Coates Bear Claw Brewery Steak Stackers
The general rule of thumb is that most places do one thing real well and everything else just okay. For example, nightclubs and bars that have live music are typically known for their music or good dance scene. Rarely are they known for their food. But there are exceptions, and during my travels through Northern Michigan I have come across many a tavern that has excellent food. For example, the Clear Lake Bar north of West Branch has some of the best walleye anywhere. The Side Door Saloon in Petoskey has great burgers. The perch on Friday night at the U&I Lounge in Traverse City is hard to beat. For years I have been heading to Happy Hour Tavern (north of Leland) for their burgers and whitefish sandwich.
Monday, April 6, 2009

Thai this

Dining Nancy Krcek Allen Thai This...
New café offers a taste of Thailand

By Nancy Krcek Allen

It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes an extended family, five kids and two cities to raise a restaurant. Not to mention talent, determination, nerves of steel and hard work. Myker Vang Hang has them all. Myker and her husband, Cheng Hang, are the owners of the newly opened Thai Café in Traverse City.
Monday, March 30, 2009

Good things happen at Shirley‘s

Dining Robert Downes Good things happen at Shirley‘s
Robert Downes 3/30/09

The first thing you notice about Shirley’s Café Family Restaurant in Mancelona is the vibrant energy of the place. The restaurant gleams spic and span; there are plenty of smiles on the faces of the staff; and there always seems to be a good crowd of customers, drawn by the generous portions of good food.
That positive energy positively radiates from owner Shirley Tracey, who established the restaurant on US 131 in Mancelona just a year and four months ago. Since then, word-of-mouth has made it one of the most popular stops in Antrim County.
Monday, March 30, 2009

Small town Fusion offers big city fun

Dining Nancy Krcek Allen Small town Fusion offers big city fun
Nancy Krcek Allen 3/30/09

When Bobbiesee and Va Chong Ku decided to start looking for a restaurant, Bobbiesee’s father told them to “just drive down U.S. 31.” So they did. In 2003, the Kus bought the former Joann’s in downtown Frankfort and turned it into a thriving Pan-Asian restaurant. “We fell in love with Frankfort,” says Bobbiesee. “We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
In May 2008, the Kus bought and remodeled the former Rhonda’s Wharfside, just down the block from their first restaurant. The new Fusion takes you by surprise with its sleek, big-city look. “Our intention,” says Bobbiesee, “was to provide a better dining atmosphere. We didn’t want to raise prices—we want to give good service, great presentation and taste, for a value price.”
That kind of dedication paid off for Fusion, which earned top awards for Best Asian Food and Best Appetizers from Northern Express readers in 2008.
Monday, March 30, 2009

Tastemakers: Food Safety Modernazation Bill of 2009 HRB875-S425/ International Riesling Foundation

Dining Rick Coates Tastemakers: Food Safety Modernazation Bill of 2009 HRB875-S425
RIck Coates 3/30/09

Over the past week I have received several calls and e-mails from concerned organic farmers and others about a new bill in front of Congress (House Resolution 875 and Senate Bill 425) known as the Food Safety Modernization Bill of 2009. The fear is that the legislation could possibly eliminate organic farming, farm markets and small farm operations such as small orchards and vineyards in this country.
With all of the recent food poisonings and recalls on mass-produced items that have contained e-coli and other harmful bacteria, it was only a matter of time before Washington D.C. was going to step in and do something. But is this bill really the answer?
First, here is a brief definition of the proposed bill from its sponsors: “To establish the Food Safety Administration within the Department of Health and Human Services to protect the public health by preventing food-borne illness, ensuring the safety of food, improving research on contaminants leading to food-borne illness, and improving security of food from intentional contamination, and for other purposes.”
On the surface this sounds good, but if you dig deep into the pages upon pages of this proposed legislation you start to wonder if you will be able to grow food in your own backyard. In typical Washington D.C. fashion, the wording is complex and confusing and leaves room for a lot of interpretation. For example, this new agency would establish extensive and uniform inspections and growing and production requirements for all “food production facilities,” meaning any farm, ranch, vineyard or confined animal-feeding operation.
Monday, March 23, 2009

Tastemakers: Pontresina Surf-N-Turf

Dining Rick Coates Pontresina Surf-N-Turf
Rick Coates 3/23/09

While restaurants continue to take a contemporary, creative approach to their menus it is nice to go old school from time to time when dining out. A recent visit to the Pontresina in Gaylord (located at the Otsego Club) provided that opportunity. Surf –n-Turf became popular in the ‘60s at east coast steakhouses. While Surf-n-Turf originated with steak and a lobster served on the same plate, today it is considered any beef and seafood combination.
Pontresina, named after Gaylord’s sister city in Switzerland, has built a reputation as being one of Northern Michigan’s best fine dining destinations. They blend the scenic beauty of overlooking the Sturgeon River Valley with inventive menu items. Lobster tails are all about timing; too long, to tough; not enough time, too slimy. So it was a welcome relief to have a perfectly prepared lobster tail paired with a nice filet of beef tenderloin. When ordering beef from Pontresina, certainly one may choose to have it prepared traditionally but I suggest having it Hong Kong style.
Pontresina has it all, ambiance, exceptional service, a first class table top presentation and that all important basket of fresh rolls served with fresh whipped herb butter and roasted garlic. They also serve their homemade Maytag slaw made fresh daily.
Monday, March 16, 2009

Foo0d fight/Epicurean Classic

Dining Rick Coates Last fall after five years in Traverse City, the Great Lakes Culinary Institute at Northwestern Michigan College announced it would no longer host the annual Epicurean Classic. That sent shock waves around the Northern Michigan foodie community.
Community leaders from the mayor to tourism industry officials went to work to find a new location for the popular fall festival. They were unsuccessful and Epicurean organizers announced a month ago they were moving the event to St. Joseph (a shoreline community close to Chicago).
There has been a lot of speculation and a lot of “they said, we said -- they didn’t, we didn’t” going on as to how this could have happened. But after careful examination it appears that this was a good decision for both the Epicurean organizers and for those who oversee the Great Lakes Culinary Institute.
The real loser here is Northern Michigan. The Epicurean Classic brought a major spotlight on the region bringing top notch chefs, drink experts, the media and a lot of foodies from all over the country to the area. It shined a bright light on the local restaurant scene as well as the wineries and farms of the region.
Monday, March 16, 2009

Lumberjack‘s Bar & Grill

Dining Danielle Horvath So what do you do in this economic downturn in the automotive industry if you are a former auto salesman? If you are Paul Schell and Rich Lewis, you buy a shuttered bar/restaurant in Benzie County and bring it back to life. Thus, the former Sleepy Bear Lounge on US 31 in Honor has been reinvented as Lumberjack’s Bar & Grill.
The bar/restaurant has been an Honor institution for decades. The original building was the town hotel for years and was rebuilt after having endured three fires in 20 years, the last in 1984.
Schell and Lewis, along with their wives, Mindy and Tina, met 10 years ago. Between their friendship, business experience and desire to get involved in the community, they have remodeled, refurbished and opened for business on February 27. They picked Lumberjack’s as a reflection of the lumbering history of the area.
Monday, March 16, 2009

Tastemakers: Betsie River Rock Steak/A toast to Bruce Simpson

Dining Rick Coates Crystal Mountain in Benzie County has become a four-season resort destination with amenities that appeal to families, couples and those girl or guys getaway weekends. While the focus might be golfing, skiing, the water park and the new spa, one should not overlook the culinary aspect of experience at Crystal Mountain, especially dinner at the Thistle Pub & Grille.
The culinary team has adopted the philosophy of embracing “local,” by partnering with local famers, wineries, breweries and other establishments to “provide customers with the freshest, most flavorful produce as well as other great Michigan products. We believe it’s important to support small, local economies as well as promote the environmental benefits of reduced food transportation miles.” The restaurant has designated local menu items with a special symbol.