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Happy Hog Cafe

Al Parker - January 26th, 2009
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.”

The Happy Hog gives special attention to breakfast, served at any time of day. Several egg choices are available, along with hefty three-egg omelettes. For a real taste treat, go for the classic Ham and Cheese ($6.00), which is light and fluffy, yet packed with lots of ham that has been chopped fine. If you don’t see your favorite omelette on the menu, just ask and they’ll build it for you.
If you’ve worked up an appetite, go for the Gut Buster Omelette, with ham, onions, hashbrowns, green peppers, mushrooms, tomato and cheese($7).
French Toast fans will want to try the Happy Hog’s version, which is a satisfying order of three slices made with homemade bread that is baked fresh daily($4.75).
There are also taste-tempting cinnamon rolls, muffins and pecan rolls that go great with a hot cup of coffee.
“Anything we serve here will be on homemade bread and rolls,” explained Van Steenburg. “We bake it all right here.”
For lunch there’s an impressive array of hefty sandwiches, but none is more imposing than the Happy Hog’s BLT. To tackle this beast, you’d better have an appetite. It features a full pound of bacon stacked inches high, fresh sliced tomato, crisp lettuce and your choice of cheese ($8.25).
Ham lovers will want to try the Dearborn Stacked Ham, with thick slices of ham on your choice of breads($7).
Other lunch choices include:
• Gyro, with a seasoned lamb/beef combination, onion, tomato, and homemade tzatziki sauce on a grilled pita ($6).
• Steak sandwich, with slow-roasted beef brisket, sliced thin and piled high, served with grilled onions and green peppers, and your choice of cheese ($7).
• Stacked Corned Beef, featuring a full half pound of thin sliced meat on homemade grilled rye ($7).
• Reuben, a classic with thin sliced corned beef, piled high on grilled rye with kraut and swiss with special Happy Hog dressing ($7.50).
• Grilled Chicken Breast, topped with choice of cheese, lettuce and tomato ($6.50)
• Veggie, with lettuce, tomato, avocado, mushrooms, and your choice of cheese ($5.50).

There are daily homemade soups, including bean or pea soup ($2.50 a cup, $3.25 a bowl) that uses the ham bones from the handcarved Deaborn Hams. At least three salads are available every day.
If you’re in the mood for a burger, the Happy Hog offers several half-pound treats on a homemade bun with lettuce, tomato, chips and pickle spear ($6.50). For a taste treat, add the fresh-cut fries instead of chips.
“We’re one of the few restaurants who still do hand-cut fries,” said Van Steenburg. “But we think it’s important and gives our customers a better dining experience.”
“We’re offering our guests good food at a good value,” added Mugerian. “That’s the idea.”

A smoke-free restaurant, the Happy Hog Café is open Tuesday through Saturday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m; Sunday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and closed Monday. It is located at 810 E. Front Street in a refurbished century-old building that has housed a number of restaurants over the years. Most recently the yellow two-story structure was home to the Hard Luck Café, which relocated a short walk to the east. For more information or to place a takeout order, call (231) 947-HOGG (4644).

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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