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South American Grille

Kristi Kates - September 27th, 2010
It’s Casual Elegance at the South American Grille
By Kristi Kates
“In spite of the hard times during the Great Depression, some people
vacationed by taking a cruise on the Great Lakes on the S.S. South
American,” explains Russell D. Miller III, Executive Chef for the
South American Grille at Bay Harbor. “The whole trip took one week,
and covered 2,200 miles,” he continues, “passengers had a few hours to
sightsee and shop at each of the port stops, which included Chicago,
Duluth, Mackinaw Island - which was nicknamed ‘The Bermuda of the
North,’ Niagara Falls, Saginaw, and Detroit.”
On shipboard, Miller says, people would meet people from all over the
country, eat good food, and even take a one-mile hike, “which was nine
times around the deck of the ship,” Miller says.
It was quite the escape from the dark days of the Depression;
musicians and dancers put on special shows, food and drink were
plentiful, and advertisements for the trip claimed that there were “no
automobiles or mosquitos” on Mackinaw Island, and that people did not
get hay fever there.
With such a grandiose and relaxing reputation, it’s no wonder that
Petoskey’s Bay Harbor chose to name their restaurant after the S.S.
South American itself.

“Memorabilia from both the S.S. South American and the S.S. North
American are under glass at the bar,” Miller explains, “a replica
model of the South American is on the mantle of the fireplace, and we
have postcards available for purchase in The Inn Cafe.”
Equal to the calm ambiance of the ship itself, the environment at the
South American Grille is also very relaxed, with the decor based off
of what the ship’s actual bar and lounge area looked like. Decked out
(pun intended) in leather and mahogany, guests can enjoy a meal, a
beverage and conversation, or even a leisurely game of chess.
The food, however, is another story entirely; far from being dated,
Chef Miller has put together a modern comfort-foods menu that shows
off both his studies and his experiences as a chef.
Chef Miller began his career after acquiring a degree in Culinary Arts
from the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute Le Cordon Bleu. Stints at
Pennsylvania’s Roxy Cafe and Michigan’s own Mountain Grand Lodge at
Boyne Resort in Boyne Falls were followed by joining the culinary team
at Bay Harbor’s Latitude; but his primary focus these days is
presiding over the South American Grille as well as sister restaurant
Sagamore’s, which is located directly across the hall at the Inn.
There were definitely a few challenges for the Grille’s beginnings;
but as the menu has evolved, Chef Miller has stepped up to meet all of

“The most difficult part about putting together a menu for the South
American Grille is that we have guests from all over the country that
stay with us, and it can be difficult to appeal to such broad needs
and wants,” Chef Miller explains, “so what I did was try to make a
nice, friendly menu creating comfort food while using as many local
products as possible, to give guests the opportunity to try Michigan
The Chermside Signature Vegetable Strudel is one of the menu’s
standout dishes, accompanied with a roasted red pepper couli and a
balsamic reduction; also on the menu, pan-seared crab cakes with
chipotle aioli are topped with corn salsa, and a chicken and ham pasta
features asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes in a light alfredo sauce.
More casual fare includes the South American Grille’s award-winning
Deuce/Deuce Chicken Wings, tossed in maple honey and Thai barbeque
sauces; the gourmet Inferno Burger, seared and Cajun-seasoned with
banana peppers and pepper jack cheese; and the Classic Calamari with
mango salsa.
“This fall and winter season, we will be offering a new menu starting
the second week of October,” Miller says. “In addition to the new
menu, we’ll have weekly features such as sushi on Wednesday nights
with live entertainment by Sean Bielby and Adam Engelman. Friday
nights we’ll have a Fish Fry, and Saturday night is our Carving Night,
with a different carving station featured each week, including Beef
Wellington and Honey-Baked Ham.”
Special events will be part of the focus of the off-season at the
South American Grille; Miller says that October 29 will be the date
for their Halloween Murder Mystery Dinner, Thanksgiving will feature a
spectacular buffet for both lodging guests and locals, and a New
Year’s Eve Dinner will feature even more of the cruise-worthy, elegant
cuisine that the Grille is becoming well-known for.

The South American Grille is located at the Inn at Bay Harbor, across
the hall from Sagamore’s; for more information, telephone
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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