Click to Print
. . . .

Home Grown Eatery

Al Parker - November 2nd, 2006
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.
“My whole heart is in this,” said Tanya, who with her husband is operating the Home Grown Organic Eatery, Traverse City’s only restaurant featuring only organic food items.
“We feel passionate about serving people high quality, organic food.”
That passion comes from deeply personal experiences. Their young son, Dre, suffers from cerebral palsy and was relying on medications, while their daughter, Samantha, was suffering from asthma and taking daily doses of three medications. Chris was diagnosed with a seizure disorder and saw his daily dose of medications rise steadily until he was taking six pills a day with only minimal success.
“I was a stay-at-home mom and just did some research into foods,” explained Tanya. “I learned that high fructose corn syrup is in just about everything. I knew we had to do something about the way we were eating, so I threw out all our food and we went to a strictly organic diet and went off our drugs.”
In just under a year, the family has been feeling much better, said Tanya. As an added bonus, the family has shed about 75 pounds.

Tanya and Chris also decided they wanted to spread the gospel of organic eating beyond their circle of friends and family. They looked around for a Traverse City restaurant to purchase and settled on the Big Bay Café at 223 West Grandview Parkway, across from TC’s Open Space.
They bought the Big Bay Café from owner Christy Steinmeier and operated it for about a month to sell off the food inventory. About $3,000 worth of food was donated to the Father Fred Foundation before Chris and Tanya expanded the restaurant, repainted the interior and
re-opened it in mid-August as the Home Grown Organic Eatery.
“We sold our house, moved into a small apartment, and sank our hearts and souls into this place,” said Tanya.
The Winkelmans understand that many people are unfamiliar with organic foods, which are foods that are certified to be
grown and produced free of chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, irradi-ation, or a number of other questionable practices as determined by a third-party certifying organization. Located in Traverse City, Oryana Natural Foods Market is Northern Michigan’s oldest source for organic and healthy foods.
“When I found Oryana, I was intimidated at first,” confessed Tanya. “But we learned quickly and spent a lot of time visiting local co-ops, looking for organic items. We tried different brands and quickly found out that anything you can get
non-organic you can get organic.”
They also learned that there were no other totally organic eateries in the area. “Other places offer some organic items, but they usually don’t dabble in hot foods or meats,” said Chris. “We thought we could offer these organic items and be extremely comparable in price and portions to other restaurants.”
Chris and Tanya rely on their staff of five part-time workers. “They’ve been tremendous in helping us get going,” said Tanya. “We’ve gotten support from so many people, our staff, our suppliers. It’s been tremendous.”

Each day the eatery hosts “Live Lunches,” featuring live entertainment in their “room of self expression.” It’s a laid back atmosphere in a room highlighted by colorful murals.
The Home Grown Organic Eatery’s menu offers three specialty pizzas – the Carnivore, the Herbavore and the Vegan. There’s a tasty selection of baked pasta dishes, including Cheesy Italian Chicken, Chicken Broccolini, Eggplant Parmesan and Vegan Delight.
Some of their most popular items are the eatery’s sandwiches, wraps and burritos. You can try a Poor Ol’ Man, with ham, green onions, herbed cream cheese, sprouts, baby Swiss cheese and Romaine lettuce. Or Mama’s Favorite with tasty hummus, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, baby spinach, cheddar and jack cheeses and drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette.
Perhaps the most intriguing menu item is the QPTBSOTP sandwich, which stands for Quite Possibly The Best Sandwich On The Planet. It’s piled high with ham, turkey, green onions, green peppers, Romaine lettuce, cheddar cheese, pesto and garlic salt.
“We know that people are afraid of new things, but we really urge people to try organic eating,” said Tanya. “When they do, they usually love it. And our organic foods have four to five times the nutrients of non-organic foods.”
For less adventurous eaters, the eatery offers a quarter-pound organic burger, a vegan burger and organic all-beef hot dogs. There’s also an assortment of soups, salads and appetizers. Beverages include fresh made juices and smoothies. For dessert there’s a nice selection of Moomer’s ice cream.

Breakfasts, available only on Saturday and Sunday mornings, include pancakes, waffles, French toast, breakfast burritos and an “organic-man breakfast” for the hearty eater.
Some people may wonder if organic cooking is flavorless and bland, remembering how zesty a slab of tofu can be.
“That’s not how I cook,” said Chris, who has 15 years of restaurant experience, working as a manager at Bower’s Harbor Inn and the Freshwater Grille before going into business for himself. “In fact, I’ve been asked to lighten up on the spices.”
Prices for organic items are slightly higher than non-organic foods. For example, the sandwiches on the eatery’s menu range from about $9 to $11 each. The burger is priced at $7.83, with cheese costing an additional 94 cents.
“You can spend $8 at a drive thru on garbage, or you can come here and spend $9 and get a great meal,” said Chris,
with a smile.
“You’ve heard of top-shelf liquor, well this is top shelf-food,” echoes Tanya. “You can pay the farmer now or pay the doctor later. I think it would be great if this whole town was lined with organic restaurants.”

The Home Grown Organic Eatery is open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. To phone in a take out order, call 932-4690 or fax an order to 932-4692.
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5