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Smokey‘s Grill

Kristi Kates - July 5th, 2010
Flight Plan: All Headings Point to Smokey’s Grill
By Kristi Kates
Flying and food aren’t really two things that go together any more, at least not since the airlines traded proper beverage service for half-sized cans of Coke and full meals for miniature bags of pretzel sticks.
But if you’re traveling through Pellston Airport in Pellston, you can at least fortify yourself before you get on the plane (or, of course, after you disembark) at the new Smokey’s Grill, run by Boyne City Sammich N’ Sudz proprietors Jay and Lora Higdon.
“We took a few of our favorite sandwiches from Sammich N’ Sudz, put them on the (Smokey’s Grill) menu, and expanded to a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu to suit the needs of a full restaurant,” Jay Higdon says.

Opened in the Pellston Airport terminal to replace the airport’s previous restaurant, The Village Inn, the Higdons wanted to aim the restaurant at locals as well as those just passing through.
“The impetus to open Smokey’s Grill was a combination of wanting to meet the needs of customers traveling and residing in Emmet County, and the desire to share a wide variety of our favorite food creations,” Jay Higdon explains, “because of the location of Pellston, we have designed our menu to appeal to travelers, locals out for a quick lunch, and those from surrounding areas willing to travel to a destination dinner,” he continues, “so our customers are some of both - travelers and locals.”
And in case you’re wondering if running a restaurant in an airport is different than running a “regular” restaurant, the answer is a definite “yes.”
“Meeting travelers from around the world ensures that there is never a dull moment at Smokey’s Grill,” Higdon says, “it is exciting to talk to traveling passengers daily, and have a glimpse into the lives of others. Pilots with personal jets have wonderful stories, too; and it is a pleasure to know that some of the recent visits to Smokey’s Grill have been posted online at a website called”

Those who have commented at that very website have so far given Smokey’s Grill 4 out of 5 “props” (the website’s airline-themed restaurant rating system), and point out both the good food and the fact that the restaurant is conveniently located next to the airport’s observation deck. What most are observing at Smokey’s Grill, though, is simply the food, which expands on the restaurant’s name.
“The current temporary menu at the airport has grilled and smoked items on it,” Lora Higdon says, “the new menu is being finalized and will be available soon, flaming desserts included. Grilled Salmon, Sauteed Walleye, Smoked Ham and Turkey sandwiches, Smoked Ribs, and Hand-Carved Beef Tenderloin are just some of the items available.”
The Higdons point out that “just about everything on the menu” has some family heritage associated with it, including their “to die for” Grandma’s Potato Salad that is offered as an occasional special.
“Our Sauteed Walleye is also a personal favorite, as Jay has been cooking it riverside for most of his life this way,” Lora Higdon explains.
“And the Fajita Chicken Sandwich, along with other sandwiches, are creative twists on home-cooked family meals that Lora enjoyed growing up on,” Jay Higdon says.

Soups and sauces are made daily at Smokey’s Grill, and their new menu will also include a Cuban sandwich as well as some seafood additions and the “Crabby Sammy.”
Their plans for summer are expanding, too, with wine dinners planned (“from our favorite Michigan winery, Bowers Harbor Vineyards,” Jay Higdon says) and even entertainment in the works.
“We’re booking weekly entertainment throughout the summer,” Jay Higdon explains, “with Michelle Chenard and other local talent.”
If you don’t find yourself at Smokey’s while waiting for a flight to depart, it’s easy to find them just by following US-131 North, where the restaurant so far is planning hours of 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 pm Sunday through Wednesday, and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Smokey’s Grill will also soon be able to travel to you, as the Higdons are planning to implement catering services soon.
“Emmet County and the surrounding areas are so lucky to have such a beautiful facility to fly in and out of,” Lora Higdon says.
And as for Pellston Airport travelers? Well, they’ll probably consider themselves fortunate to find a place like Smokey’s Grill.

Smokey’s Grill is located in the Pellston Airport at 1395 U.S. 31 in Pellston, telephone 231-539-7200. Visit their website at for menus and additional info.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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