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, February 2, 2009

Vasquez Hacienda

Dining Nancy Krcek Allen Many restaurateurs would tell you that it takes a family—not just any family, but a tight-knit family—to run a successful restaurant. Al and Elaine Vasquez’ Vasquez Hacienda is a case in point. They will celebrate the restaurant’s 35-year anniversary in September.
“I love the people—it’s a family thing,” says Elaine. “The kids who return to work summer after summer keep me young. They come back to see me with their kids—now I’m on to the third generation! I grew up in the restaurant business. My parents came here in 1948. They owned the Rainbow Gardens (where Pearl’s is now)—they were there 25 years. The circle goes on and on.”
“I have nine brothers and six sisters,” says Al. “They have all worked here off and on. My sister, Clelia Bolton, has been here since day one. My wife, Elaine, and Clelia run the kitchen. My sister-in-law, Mary Vasquez, waits tables. Our kids (Jennifer, Al Jr. and Nick) were brought up here. They have done it all: cooked, bartended, you name it they can do it. Nick does the entertainment on Friday and Saturday and Al Jr. sings. Al Jr. has a landscaping company so he mows the grass and snowplows for us.”
Monday, February 2, 2009

Tastemakers: The Cook‘s House a Foodie destination/Toast the localo difference

Dining Rick Coates Chefs Eric Patterson and Jennifer Blakeslee opened The Cooks’ House Restaurant last year “to celebrate the bounty of agriculture and artisan-made products that are found in Northern Michigan.” By showcasing a “field-to-plate” philosophy, the two have found a formula that has their 18-seat eatery among the hottest places to dine in Northern Michigan. Author, local foodie and Epicurean Classic co-founder Matt Sutherland has called The Cooks’ House “as fine a restaurant as any north of Chicago and Detroit.”
Sutherland and his wife Victoria were the “guest cooks” a week ago with a menu that featured duck. The Sutherland’s arrived at 10 a.m. and worked alongside Patterson and Blakeslee preparing a five course meal that wowed the 18 patrons who were fortunate enough to get reservations.
Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Hog Cafe

Dining Al Parker Traverse City’s newest restaurant is a place where customers with hefty appetites can pig out on ham.
Restaurant veterans Jeff Mugerian and Dean Van Steenburg have a simple philosophy for their new eatery, the Happy Hog Café that opened in mid-January.
“We want everybody to walk out of here with a hearty meal,” says Mugerian, who has owned and operated several restaurants in Traverse City, including Pepper’s Grille. “Nobody’s gonna go hungry, that’s for sure.”
Open for breakfast and lunch, the Happy Hog Café is heavy on ham from Dearborn Ham, well-known for quality pork products.
“Our customers will be enjoying ham that is handcarved off the bone,” explained Van Steenburg, who has cooked and baked at many area businesses.
Before opening, Mugerian and Van Steenburg spent weeks refurbishing the location. The result is a fresh, clean look that features a black and white tile floor, orange walls, a black ceiling and Harley-Davidson memorabilia.
“It looks like a Harley dealership,” laughed Van Steenburg, a Harley lover. “That fits right in with the Happy Hog theme.”
Monday, January 26, 2009

Tastemakers: Hooters Hot Wings/FORTY-FIVE NORTH 2007PINOT GRIS

Dining Rick Coates The Hooters in Traverse City is getting ready to celebrate their second anniversary since opening on US 31 in East Bay Township. Last year, the popular chain with 450 locations in 46 states and 21 countries celebrated 25 years in business.
Because of the nature of their business, Hooters at times finds challenges in opening. In fact, even in the college town of Mt. Pleasant, the franchise has to find a different location than the one they had hoped for originally. When Hooters first announced they were going to open in Traverse City 12 years ago, they were met with a public outcry of opposition. The proposed location at that time is now home to Outback Steakhouse.
Monday, January 19, 2009

The Robert Burns Supper

Dining Rick Coates One of the benefits of writing about food and drink is being afforded the opportunity to attend many dinners and events throughout Northern Michigan. I attended 114 dinners and receptions that had a food and drink focus in 2008. While selecting the best one is not easy, certainly the Robert Burns Supper last January at the Betsie Bay Inn (located in downtown Frankfort) easily makes my top five.
The Betsie Bay Inn will again host such a supper to pay poetic tribute to Robert Burns, who was born in Scotland in 1759. In a life that spanned just 37 years, he earned the title “Scotland’s favorite son.” Each year on January 25 (or a date close to his birthday) his life is celebrated and honored throughout Scotland and around the world wherever Scottish clubs and organizations exist. The Betsie Bay Inn’s 4th Annual Robert Burns Supper will take place Saturday January 24.
Monday, January 19, 2009

A Winter Dinner at Nonna‘s

Dining Nancy Krcek Allen Though Nonna’s sits on Leelanau County’s doorstep, it feels a world apart. As you drive up the winding, snow-covered expanse off M-22 near Glen Arbor that leads to the spacious Homestead resort grounds, it’s even quiet. So different from summer hubbub, it’s almost mysterious. Soothing.
John Kloo, the restaurant’s front-of-the-house manager, is the first person to greet you as you walk through the door into the intimate warmth of fireplace and food. In the background Sinatra sings popular Italian songs. “Nonna’s is Glen Arbor’s hidden gem,” says Kloo. “It’s the perfect little getaway.”
If you’ve lived here long enough you might remember the 52-seat restaurant through several incarnations — its last was as a spaghetti house. “When I first came here in 2005,” says executive chef John Piombo, “Nonna’s was red-checked plastic tablecloths. It just wasn’t my style.” Piombo left for a year to take a job in Miami, but he wasn’t really happy there. After a call from the Homestead, he returned in early 2008. With him came the white linen and sophisticated menu that reflect his sensibility.
Monday, January 19, 2009

Tastemakers: The Inaugural Balls

Dining Rick Coates Okay, history is being made this week with Barrack Obama becoming the first African-American President of the United States. President Obama is poised to possibly become one of the greatest presidents of all time, if he is successful in leading this country out of if its current doldrums. Faced with a multitude of challenges -- including two wars and one of the worst financial crises the country has ever seen -- the Obama administration has its work cut out for them.
Monday, January 12, 2009

Tastemakers: Bowers Harbor Inn Big Three Dinner/Monavie Acai

Dining Rick Coates It seems Congress is not the only one willing to help bail out the “Big Three” automakers. Bowers Harbor Inn on the Old Mission Peninsula is currently giving away a free dinner to all who buy or lease a new car made by one of the Big Three automakers. The purchase or lease must take place at a local dealership.
Now, on the surface a free dinner might not seem incentive enough to purchase a new car. But having dinner at Bowers Harbor is not just your average out-to-eat experience. My first fine dining experience (that I recall) as a kid was when I was about 10 and was at Bowers Harbor Inn. The chef came to our table and could tell that I was restless and asked if I wanted to help him out. He said they needed someone to catch frogs from the pond out back so that they might be able to serve fresh frog legs for dinner. So I headed out back. Well, I guess the chef didn’t think I would actually catch any frogs. I ended up catching a dozen and being proud I headed into the kitchen, opened the box, and before I knew it frogs were jumping all over the place -- including into a fry pan and soup pot.
That was a long time ago, and I have dined several times since at the Inn including 20 years ago for my first wedding anniversary. I had my favorite that night and it remains my favorite today: their Fish-in-a-Bag.
Monday, January 5, 2009

Tastemakers: Amical cookbook series Secrets of the Red Lantern/ Michigan Cabernet Franc

Dining Rick Coates I have speculated in previous writings that while cookbooks are great sellers, they are probably the least read after their purchase. I have more than 200 in my collection and at least 50 of them I have never used to prepare a recipe. Recently, my daughter and I started cookbook Sundays where we take one of my cookbooks and create the evening meal from it. I would like to take credit for it, but I stole the idea from Dave Denison at Amical in Traverse City.
Denison has been offering a cookbook series for years at Amical. It starts in November and continues through the first week of May. Along with his culinary team, he creates a menu from a featured cookbook. At Amical the menu is featured for a whole week. I love this concept because it gives you a “try before you buy” opportunity with the cookbook.
Monday, December 29, 2008

Tastemakers: Taste the Local Difference 2009/ MIchigan Sparkling Wine

Dining Rick Coates Last year in my Tastemakers column I pledge to “go local” in my eating and buying habits and to keep track of my efforts and report back a year later. As I wrote that column I stepped on the scale and it was ugly. I was 241 pounds -- 60 pounds more than my wedding day weight. Now there is a danger in working in and writing about the business of food and drink, and weight gain is one of those hazards. My 6’3” frame and my signature sweatshirt look hid those pounds somewhat from the public, but looked and felt like that “s” word.
So I made a decision one year ago to change my approach. One part of that was to watch my consumption habits. I write about the appreciation of food and drink, but I had reached a point of not appreciating what I was consuming. Some weeks I would attend 10 or more events that had “free” food and drink, and I took full advantage.
Monday, December 29, 2008

The Cedar Rustic Inn

Dining Nancy Krcek Allen As near as a hairdresser is to your ear, your stylist might slip in a word about his or her favorite place to dine and drink.
You should listen up.
Hairdresser Mark Lizenby, owner of Hair Force One in Traverse City, has been planting good words about the Cedar Rustic Inn in Cedar. Lizenby is one of many Leelanau County locals who have discovered Cedar’s secret treasure.
“Mark is here every other day, to eat dinner or for carry-out,” says Nikki Ackley, who with husband and chef, Aaron, runs the Cedar Rustic Inn in Cedar. “We didn’t expect local loyalty so early—local people are our bread and butter. We couldn’t make it without them.” said Nikki Ackley.
The Ackleys have an impressive resumé of restaurant and bar experience. Aaron, a four-year graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, has been in the restaurant business since 1989. He has worked at Art’s Tavern, La Senorita, the Homestead, the Casino, Boone’s Prime Time, the Village Inn and the Cove. “We wind up knowing everybody because we’ve worked in so many places,” says Aaron.
“I have bachelor’s in English,” says Nikki. “I tried to find a job teaching, but it didn’t work out, so I waitressed. It prepared me for now.”
Nikki is the restaurant’s front-of-the-house manager. “In the winter I work mostly weekends.” She spends time with the couple’s two children, Annabelle, 4, and Adrienne, 5 months. “In the summer I work full-time.”
Monday, December 22, 2008

Everyone is a local at Art‘s Tavern

Dining Nancy Krcek Allen The ancient Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu once commented on how inexhaustibly rich and different is sameness. He could have been describing Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor. If he’d ever had a conversation with owner Tim Barr, Chuang Tzu would likely have found a philosophical comrade.
“Our philosophy is no change -- but change,” says Barr. Barr’s efforts to keep Art’s the same -- while fostering slow, responsive and renewing change -- has kept summer hordes coming back year after year. “When we needed to put in new windows, we designed a plastic window that looked exactly like the old one. We replaced the old booths and made sure that the angle of the back, and the seat, were as near the same as the old ones. People waiting in line in summer will say to me, ‘Why don’t you put on an addition so you can seat us faster?’ I tell them that then we’d be like every other restaurant.”
Art’s familiar atmosphere has sometimes come with costs the public doesn’t see. “I spent almost half a million to straighten out our sewer system,” says Barr. “It was originally set up as a shared deal with the next door neighbor. I ended up buying the property and set up a state-of-the-art system to treat our waste water.”
The changes that do come are often at the urging of Tim’s wife, Bonnie Nescott. “My wife was the one who, before it was popular, urged me to bring in specialty beers and the different toppings for our burgers. We brought in salads because it was what she liked to eat. Our clientele has changed. When I bought Art’s in 2000, it was just burgers and fries. Now we sell more food than liquor.”
Monday, December 22, 2008

Tastemakers: Christmas Cookies/ Black Star Farms Spirit of the Season

Dining Rick Coates The other day a colleague of mine was talking about making cookies for the annual “Christmas cookie exchange” she participates in with her “girl’s night out” group. Now this Christmas cookie exchange concept was a part idea that Betty Crocker probably dreamed up. In the 1963 edition of her cookbook (my birth year and a gift given to me by my grandmother when I headed to college) she references the idea: “A popular once-a-year party is the Christmas cookie swap party. Friends and neighbors gather each bringing one dozen of her holiday specialty for each woman at the party. Cookies are set out to sample and admire and coffee is served. Afterward each one takes home a wonderful variety of festive cookies.”
Monday, December 15, 2008

A taste of the delicious Mideast at Zakey

Dining Al Parker Restaurant owner Nabiel Musleh is a man on a mission.
“My goal is to provide the most delectable excellent Arabic food experience in Northern Michigan,” says the outgoing owner of Zakey, a cozy little eatery tucked behind Roy’s General Store at the intersection of Three Mile and Hammond roads, south of Traverse City.
A native of Jordan, Musleh came to this country as a teen to get an education. He accomplished that goal by earning three college degrees and soon forged a career of restaurant management. Over the years he worked for a number of restaurants, including Wendy’s, Taco Bell, TGIF, Red Lobster, Applebees, Perkins and Minerva’s.
“Growing up, I had eight brothers and three sisters,” says Musleh. “My Mom would be cooking in the kitchen all day long. When we all got together, it was a celebration.
In 2006, while working two jobs, Musleh ran a booth out of Folgarelli’s Import Food Market on Traverse City’s busy Front Street. Later he brought Middle Eastern fare to Minerva’s at the Park Place Hotel.
“I did Middle Eastern food at Minerva’s and the response was overwhelming,” he says. “I decided to fill the void for Middle Eastern food in Traverse City.”
Monday, December 15, 2008

Tastemakers: Green Winter Solstice Party/Bell‘s Christmas Ale

Dining Rick Coates Chris “Wink” Winkelman has a lot of irons in the fire. He is the front-man for the band Soul Patch. In between gigs he operates the Home Grown Eatery in Traverse City (near the West Bay beach volleyball courts). This weekend Wink is doing something else he enjoys: organizing and promoting a music festival that is rooted in social causes involving the environment and the food we eat. The Green Winter Solstice Party will take place Friday and Saturday night at Short’s Brewery in Bellaire.
The two-night event will feature music from Wink’s band, The Fun-Dub-Mentals both nights, Luke Winslow King on Friday night and Pinky Lee on Saturday night. Offering samples of their products will be the Grain Train, Oryana Food Co-op, Home Grown Organic Eatery, Serenity Tea Bar and Cafe, Higher Grounds Coffee, Unity Fair-Trade Market Place, Paradigm Energy and Short’s Brewery. They will also have representatives on hand to talk about “how to go green” in your daily life.