Letters 8-18-2014

The Climate Clarified

Climate change isn’t an easy subject. A class I’m taking compared it to medicine in a way that was helpful for me: Climate scientists are like planetary physicians. Our understanding of medicine is incomplete, but what we know is useful...

Beware Non-Locally Grown

The article “Farm Fresh?” couldn’t be any more true than exactly stated. As an avid shopper at the local farm markets I want to know “exactly” what I am buying, from GMO free to organic or not organic, sprayed or not sprayed and with what...

Media Bias Must End

I wish to thank Joel Weberman for his letter “Seeking Balanced Israel Coverage.” The pro-Palestinian bias includes TV news coverage...

Proud of My President

The world is a mess. According to many conservative voices, it would not be in such a mess if Obama was not the president. I am finally understanding that the problem with our president is that he is too thoughtful, too rational, too realistic, too inclined to see things differently and change his mind, too compassionate to be the leader of a free world...

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Dish Cafe

Dining Al Parker For many workers in the restaurant business, long, hard hours are part of the game., Patty Hickman and Randy Waclawski, who have more than three decades of restaurant experience between them, decided that if they were to work that hard, they might as well own a place., So, earlier this year they bought one of Traverse City’s most popular downtown eateries, the Dish Café., “We don’t mind hard work, ” said Hickman, smiling as she wiped down a table. “
Thursday, May 3, 2007

Agave Mexican Grill

Dining Al Parker Down in Mexico the agave is known as the source of Tequila.
Some 2,000 miles north in Traverse City, the Agave Mexican Grill is rapidly building a reputation for outstanding Mexican cuisine at reasonable prices.
In February, husband and wife Javier and Dusty Rodriguez opened their comfortable Garfield Road restaurant, which formerly housed Hockey Heroes, and prior to that, Gordie Howe’s Tavern & Eatery.
They weren’t prepared for the public’s first reaction.
Thursday, March 15, 2007

Cousin Jenny‘s Cornish Pasties

Dining Al Parker Start with a 2, then add zeroes till you reach 2,000,000. That’s how many pasties Jerilyn DeBoer estimates she’s made during her 28 years of running Cousin Jenny’s Cornish Pasties in Traverse City.
“I figure about 2 million to 2.5 million, all handmade,” calculates a smiling Jerilyn, who operates the charming Union Street eatery with her husband, Nick. “And for the first 10 years I rolled all the dough by myself on a rolling pin. That was a challenge. Now we have a dough roller. But our whole business is labor intensive. Our food is all custom made. It’s not mass produced.”
Pasties – a hearty blend of steak, potatoes, onion, rutabaga and seasonings wrapped in a sturdy pastry crust – arrived in Michigan more than a century ago when Cornish miners came to work the Upper Peninsula’s copper and iron ore mines. The pasties were a filling meal that was easy to carry and easy to eat.
Thursday, March 15, 2007

Casino Scene: Odawa

Features Al Parker Northern Michigan casino goers
should grab a fat, red Crayola and circle Wednesday, June 20 on their calendar.
That’s the opening day of Odawa, the huge new casino project being built by the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians in Petoskey.
Thursday, December 7, 2006

No. Michigan‘s Biggest Restaurant

Dining Al Parker All of those snarky old jokes about hospital food just don’t apply to the largest meal provider in Northern Michigan.
Both the quantity and quality of food is impressive at Munson Medical Center’s Cafeteria, which provides some 24,000 meals to patients each month and between 6,000 to 8,000 “transactions” each day to visitors and staff.
“We use the term ‘transactions’ for the Cafeteria because some of those might involve a cup of coffee, a cookie or a salad and are not full meals,” explains Ted Maury, catering and retail manager of the facility. “On a typical day we’ll sell 150 to 200 burgers, 100 pizzas, 100 to 200 sub sandwiches and more than 200 meals from our Innovation Station where we serve special salads and other offerings.”
The Innovation Station, which features fresh, made-to-order salads and other meals, was the site earlier this year of a popular program that enabled Munson’s Cafeteria to offer diners fresh produce from Traverse City area farms.
Registered dietitian Laura McCain worked with Maury and local farmers on the concept which proved to be very popular. Cafeteria staff used the tasty, fresh produce in preparing special meals and also sold the items in bulk quantities.
Thursday, November 2, 2006

Home Grown Eatery

Dining Al Parker When some restaurant owners prepare to open a new store they run marketing surveys, study industry trends and carefully examine demographic samples.
Tanya and Chris Winkelman looked to their own lives.
Thursday, September 21, 2006

Pangea‘s Pizza

Dining Al Parker Millions of years ago, before dinosaurs, before birds, even before Joan Rivers, geological forces drove the earth’s three major land masses into a single ubercontinent – Pangea, a Greek word meaning “all lands.”
A new Traverse City eatery, Pangea’s Pizza, reunites the diverse food flavors of the world’s seven continents into a fun, mouthwatering pizza experience, according to Chris Girrbach, who co-owns the restaurant with his parents Ed and Phyllis Girrbach.
Thursday, September 7, 2006

Doggone Good

Dining Al Parker Nick McAllister is a busy guy.
In one quick swoop, he slips a tasty Vienna hot dog into a fresh bun and then slathers it with chili, onions and mustard. The result is a Motown – the most popular menu item at McAllister’s new eatery, the House of Doggs.
“Business has been really good,” said McAllister who opened his Coney Island-style restaurant just before the summer tourist crush began in Traverse City. “It was really heavy at first, and then leveled off. I’m curious about the fall and winter.”
But he’s pretty confident about the House of Doggs, given the number of customers who’ve become regulars at his family-friendly, music-themed restaurant that features 13 varieties of hot dogs.
McAllister, 41, moved to Traverse City from the Grand Rapids area this spring and spent two months readying the building that formerly housed The Muffin Tin at 115 Wellington, just off Front Street.
“I really like how hot dogs are a traditional American thing,” explained McAllister. “That’s what I wanted, a fun family place to gather.”
A graphic artist, McAllister was living in Rockford and driving to Battle Creek where he did work for Kellogg’s. He grew weary of the long work commute that kept him away from his family and began dreaming about moving to Traverse City and opening a hot dog place. He even designed the logo and built a sign.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Blue Tractor

Dining Al Parker Following in the footsteps of a legend
is never easy.
Just look at George Lazenby, the one-flick wonder who tried to replace Sean Connery behind the wheel of James Bond’s “Aston Martin.” Or Andrew Johnson who succeeded Abraham Lincoln and ended up getting impeached.
It’s pretty much the same in the restaurant game. But the 100-some employees of Traverse City’s Blue Tractor Cook Shop are working hard to forge their own distinctive niche among area eateries.
Traverse City natives Jon Carlson and Greg and Marty Lobdell purchased the former Dill’s restaurant on Union Street near Eighth Street in historic Old Towne and last month opened the Blue Tractor.
Their company, Mission Management, is working from a simple premise – Dill’s simply cannot be re-created – and they are crafting their own new Old Towne tradition with the comfortable, brawny Blue Tractor.
“We’re Traverse City’s best new local secret,” laughed General Manager Mary Pat Compagnari, who managed the company’s popular North Peak Brewing Company before moving to the Blue Tractor.
Thursday, June 15, 2006

Good Harbor Grill

Dining Al Parker Ann Derrick and Brendan Burrows have crafted what some folks would consider a dream lifestyle.
They winter aboard a 30-year-old sailboat, cruising the lustrous, blue waters of the Caribbean and spend their summers running their restaurant, Glen Arbor’s popular Good Harbor Grill.
It may sound idyllic, but it’s also a lot of hard work, say the couple, who are celebrating 15 years of owning the eatery, which is nestled at the corner of M-22 and M-109.
“We’re open for five months – May through September,” explains Brendan. “So there’s plenty to do each spring to prepare the restaurant for our visitors.”
Ann and Brendan, plus their two sons, Josh and Cos, are joined annually by a staff of about 20 young people who make the Good Harbor Grill a friendly, service-oriented place to enjoy a relaxing meal. Their staff is a mix of local residents and summer kids.
“We rely on our staff so much,” says Ann. “Many of them work with us year after year. They have a sense of ownership in the place.”

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Pete‘s Pub & Grille

Dining Al Parker In less time than it takes to read this sentence, Jack Petersen, Jr. deftly preps and delivers two Jager Bombs to a pair of thirsty customers at Pete’s Pub and Grille in Traverse City.
A small crowd of customers is drifting into Pete’s on a sunny mid-March afternoon and Jack and his staff are kept busy – too busy to talk to an inquisitive reporter. But, in between serving customers, Jack – Jack Jr. to the staff – makes time to share the story of how Pete’s Pub and Grille was opened in 2004.
“I saw an ad in the paper that this place was for sale and pitched the idea of buying it to my mom and dad,” says Jack, whose father Jack Sr. worked for the city of Traverse City for more than 30 years. “We thought it was a good deal and put together a proposal and eight months later we opened.”
Housed in a cozy brick and dark green building, Pete’s is located at 120 Park St, a site that has been home to several restaurants and watering holes over the years, including Billy’s Bar, the Durango Steakhouse, DJ Kelly’s and the Left Bank Restaurant and Lounge.
Thursday, March 2, 2006

Green House Cafe

Dining Al Parker Wally Green has a simple philosophy to explain the success of The Green House Café, the popular downtown Traverse City eatery that recently celebrated its fifth year in business.
“One mistake that restaurant people make when they first put together a menu is that they include items that they like,” explains Wally, who owns and operates the restaurant with his wife Joy. “We’ve worked hard to produce items that the public likes.”
And Wally understood that one of the things that the public really likes is soup. He knew that Stone Soup was a restaurant in this same location and that it was a success for years.
So, much to the delight of their customers, Wally and Joy decided to emphasize soups. Every day, diners have their choice of eight different homemade soups to ward off the winter chills. Chicken noodle, broccoli cheddar, baked French onion, vegetarian garden vegetable, and chili are available each day. Three others are offered on a rotating basis. In the summer, they offer a variety of cold soups, such as gazpacho. They sell a lot of soup to takeout customers – by the cup, bowl or quart.
The Green House Café is open for breakfast and lunch. The breakfast fare is pretty standard with eggs, biscuits and gravy, omelets and griddle goodies, including buttermilk pancakes and French toast. Every day Green bakes fresh pastries from scratch, including a variety of “big-as-your-head” muffins that are a meal alone.
Thursday, January 5, 2006

Big Bay Cafe

Dining Al Parker Take about a half-pound of high quality ground beef and form a patty by hand. Then blend in a couple of “secret ingredients” before char broiling the burger and serving it with crunchy fresh lettuce, tomato and onion on an oversized, toasted roll.
The result is the best burger in Traverse City.
That’s the opinion of Big Bay Café owner and chef Christy Steinmeier, who serves up 45 to 50 of these tasty behemoths to beef lovers on a typical day at her restaurant at 223 W. Grandview Parkway across from West Bay.
On Thursdays and Fridays, the Big Bay Burgers are paired with an uber serving of hand-cut fries for only $4. The golden fries alone are well worth the price. They are super fresh, cut from potatoes with each order. After frying they are doused with nuggets of kosher salt and served up hot – none of that sitting under a glow lamp, here.
Budget-conscious diners will appreciate Big Bay Café’s other ongoing specials – 50-cent Starbucks coffee seven days a week and free fries with any burger or sandwich.
“We think we have the best burgers in town,” says Christy, who opened Big Bay Café about eight months ago in the former site of Bubba’s (across from the old Traverse City Light & Power location) on the busy Grandview Parkway. “Whatever we make for our customers, we make it our very best.”
Thursday, December 29, 2005

Le Naro

Dining Al Parker The management of Le Naro Pub is guided by a simple philosophy.
“We want people to feel comfortable and special at the same time,” says the Lake Leelanau eatery’s general manager Randy Smith. “When folks come here, they’re the guest of honor and will get special treatment. At the same time, we’re not pretentious at all.”
They’re not pretentious, but they are far from run-of-the-mill. 
The restaurant’s unusual name comes from the original name of the village of Lake Leelanau, French vernacular for “The Narrows.” Later, Le Naro was given a post office and christened Provemont. In 1924 the village and the post office were renamed Lake Leelanau.
But don’t let that Le Naro Pub moniker fool you. This is far from a beer and burger joint, although you can enjoy a tasty Le Naro burger – a full half-pound of specially seasoned beef on a Kaiser bun – with your choice of several national or regional brews. 
Along with burgers, reuben sandwiches, patty melts, chicken wings, cheese sticks, and other typical pub fare, Le Naro Pub’s menu boasts such rare pub fare as:
• Brick Chicken, a semi-boneless chicken breast char grilled under a brick and seasoned with olive oil, garlic, lemon and fresh herbs.
• Blue Crab Cake Dinner, three succulent blue crab cakes served with a savory Le Naro sauce.
• Bleu Cheese Encrusted Flank Steak, which is char-grilled, sliced on the bias and topped with crumbled bleu cheese.
Other hearty meals include a daily pasta special, a grilled filet mignon, a marinated top sirloin steak, a whitefish platter and a satisfying chicken pot pie.