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Steer a course for Modes

Al Parker - September 7th, 2009
Steer a Course for Mode’s
Extended family carries on tradition
at landmark restaurant

By Al Parker 9/7/09

Anita Mode smiles broadly at a customer’s joke, runs a cloth across the already gleaming wooden bar, then greets another visitor to the family’s venerable restaurant, Mode’s Bum Steer located in Traverse City.
“We’ve been here for 34 years now,” she says with pride. “It’s been very good to us.”
Mode’s is very much a comfortable family-run operation. For most of those 34 years Anita ran the front of the house, while husband Bob was a fun-loving fixture in the kitchen. When Bob died two years ago, their daughter Skylar became manager and shares responsibilities with her mother. Son Chris helps out as a bartender.
“We also have our extended family – our staff,” says Anita. “We have 10 employees and most of them have been with us for years. This year we took all our employees to a Beach Bums game. It was a fun time.”
With its long, narrow profile, the interior of Mode’s Bum Steer welcomes visitors with a relaxing laid-back vibe. With no windows, it’s like entering a cozy hideaway. Wooden, glass-topped tables and comfy red 60s-vintage chairs provide seating for 80, making it the kind of place you can forget your troubles and truly savor a meal. Downstairs is a room that hosts parties and private dinners.
“It’s kind of like a 1950s or ‘60s cocktail lounge,” says server Debbie Buist, who’s been at Mode’s Bum Steer for 23 years. “It’s just really good food, good drinks and a comfortable place to be.”

And the menu offers choices to satisfy even the most discerning diners. “Our rack of lamb, prime rib and filet are probably our most popular entrees,” says Anita. “Our beef is among the top one percent available. It’s the same grade we’ve been serving since we opened. We’ve built our business on that consistent quality.”
Baked in a Grand Marnier sauce, the rack of lamb ($27.99) is for hearty appetites. The prime rib comes in two sizes, 16 oz. ($22.99) and 12 oz. ($18.99). The 8 oz. filet ($26.99) is a center cut portion that can be dressed up with grilled onions or fresh mushrooms for a small additional charge. All dinners come with a wedge lettuce salad, baked potato or rice pilaf, and Texas toast.
Chef Dennis Belfry has been preparing meals at Mode’s for 24 years.
Seafood lovers can choose from broiled Atlantic salmon ($19.99), Shrimp De’Jonghe ($20.99), broiled or fried walleye ($23.99), fried perch ($20.99), scallops ($20.99), blackened yellow fin tuna ($19.99) a half-pound of steamed or fried shrimp ($21.99) or twin lobster tails ($43.99).
“People really like our fresh walleye,” says Skylar. “As far as we know, we’re the only ones who do it fresh.”
Other dinners include twin charbroiled chicken breasts ($17.99), roast duck ($19.99), a full slab of BBQ ribs ($21.99), center cut pork chops ($17.99) and Mode’s Favorite – a combo of 6 oz. New York strip steak and a half-slab of ribs ($20.99).

If you stop in for lunch, there’s a full selection of sandwiches, including Polish sausage in a French roll, prime rib French dip, BBQ pork on a toasted roll, a steer burger, a longhorn steak sandwich and a McMode burger. Prices range from $5.99 to $8.99.
Located on Traverse City’s busy State Street, just east of Union Street, Mode’s Bum Steer resides in a building that’s more than 100 years old. Over the years it’s housed several tavern-restaurants including the Black Lantern, Ben’s Bar, Burley’s Bar and Houlihan’s.
“We have the oldest liquor license in Traverse City,” notes Anita. “Ours was issued in 1902.”
That kind of legacy has led to a number of other Mode’s traditions, including an annual Christmas party that raises money to buy toys for the area’s needy youngsters. The Mode’s staff works with Traverse City firefighters and Radio Shack on the fundraiser. As a result of the annual bash, thousands of children have had happier Christmas mornings.
“Last year the firefighters held a dinner for us,” says Skylar. “It was very nice of them.”
Mode’s Bum Steer at 125 State St. in Traverse City, open Monday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. For more information or takeout orders, call (231) 947-9832 or go to
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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