Kingsley's Judson Market & Restaurant
A Big Deal in a Small Town
By Janice Binkert | Jan. 18, 2020
It’s not always easy to be the new kid on the block, but Judson Market & Restaurant, which debuted in Kingsley on Nov. 4, has been welcomed into the community with open arms. The Northern Express talked with Mark Dunham, the Great Lakes Culinary Institute alumnus who helped owner, Chris Roehler (who also owns Rolling Farms Café in Traverse City), open the new venue and now serves as its general manager.
The Rolling Stones might claim that “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” but Judson Market & Restaurant sings a different tune, with a giant menu of food and beverages (9 pages!) that is designed to please any palate — seven days a week from morning till night. In his first position as the general manager of a restaurant in a career that had up to now unfolded in the kitchen, Mark Dunham could understandably be daunted by the substantial challenges that such scope and intensity brings. But instead, he is calm, confident and cheerful. He explained why: Thanks to the well-honed organizational skills of owner Chris Roehler, there are precise systems in place here that allow food preparation to be executed in the most efficient, streamlined manner. The same goes for front-of-the house service, both in the dining room and at the bar, which features a full line of beer, wine, cider and spirits. It also helps that the restaurant’s menu is the same one Roehler has long used at Rolling Farms Café, except for the addition of burgers and dinner entrées.
BY THE NUMBERS
To say that the menu at Judson Market & Restaurant is huge is hardly an overstatement. Case in point: at least 40 breakfast options, with 18 possible sides; nearly 50 hot and cold sandwich options, including 10 vegetarian, offered on 7 different kinds of bread; 16 salad options, most offered as whole or half portions, with a choice of 11 dressings; 15 ice cream (or frozen yogurt) options, including shakes, sundaes and even a banana split; 20 sodas, iced teas, lemonades and juices; 16 coffee and tea drinks, including hot and iced cappuccino, latte, espresso, chai and herbals – all made fresh – with a choice of regular or soy milk. In comparison, the lists of appetizers (6) burgers (4), and dinner entrées (8, not including specials) seem small. But this is not a case of quantity over quality. Cross-utilization – an essential theme in culinary school and a proven concept in the restaurant industry – and a well-trained staff are two key ingredients.
Three of the most-ordered breakfast items are the Good Harbor breakfast scramble (two eggs, two pancakes, two strips of bacon, two sausages, two pieces of toast, and roasted red potatoes, served with butter and local maple syrup); the Holland breakfast burrito (scrambled egg whites, turkey, spinach, roasted potatoes, Swiss cheese, jalapeño, sour cream and house-made salsa, all wrapped in a tortilla); and the Texas omelette (six eggs, cheddar and Swiss cheese, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, roasted jalapeños, garlic and onion with a choice of toast). French toast and pancakes are also available.
Both hot and cold sandwiches get rave reviews, among them the giant State, which is literally stacked with over a pound of meat and cheese (turkey, ham, roast beef, salami, pepperoni, Swiss and dofino Havarti cheeses, lettuce, tomato, mayo, hot honey mustard and red onion); the Michigan (hot turkey, melted dofino Havarti cheese, mushrooms, melted cheddar, red onion, mayo and hot honey mustard). Dunham also noted that any sandwiches that feature roast beef are popular. “All of our roast beef is cooked to rare and sliced fresh every morning,” he said. His own top pick: the Sicily (hot pepperoni, hot Genoa salami, melted fresh mozzarella, artichoke hearts, Roma tomato, red onion, romaine, mayo and balsamic vinaigrette).
CLASSIC SOUPS, SALADS, APPETIZERS & ENTRÉES
Soups are a big thing at Judson Market & Restaurant. “We make two different soups every day of the week on a rotating basis, so that people know when they can come in and get their favorites,” said Dunham. Selections include such classics as tomato-basil, New England clam chowder, beef chili, chicken chili, corn chowder, cream of potato, chicken noodle and beef barley, among others, and any soup can be served in a bread bowl for a slight upcharge.
Familiar choices pop out from the large salad section of the menu, too, such as the Chef salad (crisp greens — fresh romaine and leaf lettuce, cut fresh every morning — turkey, ham, Swiss and cheddar cheeses, tomato, cucumber, hard-boiled egg and seasoned croutons), the Cobb (crisp greens, chopped tomato, bacon, chicken, hard-boiled egg, red onion, bleu cheese crumbles and seasoned croutons), and the Caesar (crisp romaine tossed with seasoned croutons, parmesan cheese and house-made Caesar dressing).
Appetizers like the Shrimp Orleans (cooked and served in a sauce of beer, butter and Cajun spices) and house chicken wings (with a choice of house-made buffalo or BBQ sauce and ranch or blue cheese dip) are often ordered as main courses, but fried zucchini and sautéed mushrooms are popular too. And the entrées have more than earned their place on the menu, according to Dunham. “Our steaks (a 14-ounce New York strip and an 8-ounce filet mignon) are 28-day, dry-aged cuts of certified Angus beef, cooked to order, and everyone who tries them raves about how amazing they are,” he said. “The rainbow trout (sautéed, with a sauce of butter, shallots and lemon juice) is delivered fresh from a trout farm in Utah. Our shrimp (with white wine garlic, button and lemon, served over vermicelli pasta) is U.S. wild-caught from the Gulf of Mexico. And our slow-roasted pot roast (cooked in its own juices), like many of our entrées, comes from Chris Roehler’s wife’s recipe collection. It’s home cooking in a restaurant.” All entrées are served with seasonal vegetables (currently maple-glazed tricolored carrots) and a side salad.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Now, about that logo: Judson Market & Restaurant, Est. 1876 … Who is Judson? Where’s the market? And what’s with that “established” date? “The founder of this town was Judson Kingsley, and the town was established in 1876, so we just played with that,” said Dunham. “Obviously, the place isn’t quite that old, but when we were cleaning up the basement here, we found an old coal chute, so there must have been a coal-fired furnace at some point, indicating that this place has been around in some form for a long time. As for the market part, we do plan on adding a market — hopefully in the spring — that will sell deli sandwiches and basic groceries like milk and bread, among other things, and we wanted to incorporate that in our logo from the beginning. “
The people of Kingsley have stood behind Judson Market & Restaurant from the beginning, “They want us to stay around,” said Dunham. “A lot of them who hadn’t been in the building for many years have come in to eat and said, ‘Wow, this place has changed — we’ll be coming back.’ We also have an outdoor patio, and we plan on doing live music out there next summer. Everything on the menu is available to go, too — that part of our business has definitely been picking up lately. And right now we do karaoke in here on Saturday nights. It starts around 9pm, so it doesn’t interfere with the main dinner hour, but the kitchen doesn’t close until 10pm, so you can still get a bite to eat. You can basically have anything on the menu all day, including breakfast — except for the dinner entrées, which we don’t start serving until 5pm.”
Judson Market & Restaurant has eight big-screen TVs, usually two with Club Keno, and offers specials on game days — including Super Bowl LIV, coming up on Feb. 2 (see Facebook for details). “During the mornings, I like to run news and weather — a lot of people just like to come in and sit and have breakfast and watch it,” said Dunham. “The Kingsley school bus drivers sometimes show up after they drop off all the students. And families who come into town from other schools when their kids are playing football or basketball against the Kingsley teams will often have dinner here before the game.” He’s also hoping to see some snowmobilers stopping in this winter, since there is a trail that runs along the road right out in front of the restaurant.
A MAN(AGER) FOR ALL SEASONS
Dunham grew up in Midland and San Diego, and began his restaurant career washing dishes and later cooking at a country club in his early teens. He took some culinary classes in high school, and after graduating, he applied and got accepted into the Culinary Institute of America in New York. “But then I found out how expensive it was, and I decided to join the military,” he said. After 14 years in the Coast Guard, he enrolled in the Great Lakes Culinary Institute in Traverse City (GLCI), graduating in 2016. Before becoming general manager at Judson Market & Restaurant, he had worked as sous chef at the Hagerty Center in Traverse City and as chef de cuisine at Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire, and helped former GLCI colleagues Jonathan Dayton and Stephanie Wiitala open S2S/Sugar2Salt in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons in Traverse City.
Most recently, Dunham was chef de cuisine at Chateau Chantal on Old Mission Peninsula. “I’ve always had a passion for food and wine, so being able to work at a winery restaurant was a great experience,” he said. “But when I got the opportunity to join Chris in this venture and do something completely different, I couldn’t resist. It’s nice to have a management role and not just be in the kitchen for once — to be able do a little bit of everything. Besides my regular management duties, I can go back and cook if needed, I can bartend, I can wait tables — it’s very diverse. I’m here six days a week, but it’s exciting and so interesting – I’m really in my element. I look forward to coming to work every day. The people I work with are great, too — we’re creating a restaurant ‘family’ here.”
As much as he would like to see the restaurant become a destination for people outside Kingsley, Dunham is also realistic. “I understand why people wouldn’t necessarily drive here to eat from places like, say, Traverse City or Cadillac – they have enough dining choices where they are. But if they do happen to come this way for another reason, we hope they will stop and check us out. The place that was formerly here was a bar with food, but Judson Market & Restaurant is a restaurant with a bar, and that’s a very important distinction. With our large menu, we offer something for almost everybody, and we give great service. You can come in any time of day and bring your work colleagues, your friends, your family, the kids – everyone is welcome. Relax and have a nice conversation (there’s no loud music in the background), watch TV or play some Club Keno, enjoy some good food and drink, and just have a good time.”
Judson Market & Restaurant is located at 211 E. Main St. in Kingsley. Look for the big red wooden building on the south side of the road, just east of the intersection of Main St. and N. Brownson Ave./Garfield Rd. Open for breakfast lunch and dinner seven days a week: 8am to 9pm Mondays–Wednesdays, 8am to 10pm Thursdays, 8am to 2am Friday–Saturdays, and 9am to 9pm Sundays. Dinner served after 5pm. Happy hour daily from 4pm to 6pm. For more information, call (231) 263-8120 or visit them on Facebook.