Boat to Dinner
Cruise the blue highway to a memorable summer meal
By Janice Binkert | July 7, 2018
So you’ve been out frolicking on the water in your boat all day, and you’ve worked up an appetite! You’re ready to feel solid ground under your feet again and enjoy some yummy food in a casual atmosphere. We’ve got you covered, with seven unique Northern Michigan restaurants (on six spectacular bodies of water) where you can moor your watercraft free of charge right out front or at one of the courtesy slips of an adjacent marina. Wherever you end up, you’ll have your choice of indoor or alfresco dining and quite possibly can also enjoy some musical entertainment while you dine. Remember that it’s high summer, though, and some places don’t take reservations or call-ahead seating, so there may be the occasional wait time. But let’s face it, there’s no reason to hurry in pleasant surroundings like this, so in the meantime, unwind with a signature cocktail (all of these establishments have a full bar), and then settle in for an enjoyable meal, with no side dish of wave action! P.S. It goes without saying that guests arriving by car, motorcycle, bike or on foot will enjoy these places, too!
THE PIER, HARBOR SPRINGS
Of course it’s not a boat, but you could rightly request “permission to come aboard” when you cross the threshold into the polished wood-clad, nautically themed Pointer Room of this Harbor Springs landmark, since it is literally on the water, having been built on pilings driven into the town’s yacht basin on Little Traverse Bay when the restaurant expanded in 1970. The creatively prepared and presented menu of seafood, premium steaks and classic Northern Michigan fare like morel bisque, flash-fried perch and roasted chicken is also served in the Wheelhouse Lounge bar and outside on Dudley’s Deck. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Courtesy slips and gas dock at Harbor Springs Marina next door (call or radio ahead for availability @ (231) 526-5355 or on VHF Channel 16.
Sip: The Pier’s famous Bloody Mary (vodka, housemade Bloody Mary mix, vegetable garnishes, pepperoni straw)
Sup: Piedmontese 12-ounce New York Strip with bacon, cheddar and scallion mashed potatoes, balsamic cipollini onions, green beans and garlic herb butter.
102 East Bay St. Harbor Springs, (231) 526-6201, staffords.com/pier-restaurant
BARREL BACK, WALLON LAKE
A modern, hip, industrial vibe runs through this bright and spacious eatery on the second floor of a warehouse-like building that houses Tommy’s (a water sports shop) on the main level. Start off with appetizers and small plates like Brie flatbread, jambalaya or pesto-smoked chicken dip, and if you’re still hungry, move on to soup or salad, burger, sandwich or pasta dish, a wood-fired pizza, or grilled or smoked meats and fish while you take in the fantastic 180-degree panorama of Walloon Lake through floor-to-ceiling “garage door” windows that are rolled up to let in the fresh air on sunny, warm days. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Courtesy slips available by calling Tommy’s @ 231.535.6039.
Sip: Lavender martini (lavender-infused simple syrup from Lavender Hill Farms in Boyne City, Absolut Citron, lemon juice)
Sup: Scottish salmon and summer vegetables from the grill with fingerling potatoes, goat cheese and Romesco sauce.
4069 North M-75, Walloon Lake, (231) 535-6000, barrel-back.com
CAFE SANTÉ, BOYNE CITY
Set your sails for Cafe Santé, and you can satisfy your craving for an Old World culinary experience without ever leaving Northern Michigan. Dine on European classics like escargots a la Bourguignonne, pappardelle Bolognese, Turkish lamb kebabs and Neapolitan pizzas at American prices – either in the cozy, bistro-like dining room or on the wind-protected patio overlooking beautiful Lake Charlevoix. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. Courtesy slips available at Boyne City Municipal Marina (call or radio ahead for availability @ (231) 582-7361 or on VHF Channel 16.)
Sip: Treat yourself to the “Three @ 3” happy hour daily from 3-6 pm with $3 classic cocktails (think Manhattans, Old Fashioneds…) and $3 snacks (six picks, from shrimp cocktail to deviled eggs)
Sup: Moules & Frites (PEI mussels with Belgian fries or pasta) in four variations: French (garlic, white wine, shallots, herbs and butter), Italian (white wine, garlic, basil, tomato and olive oil), German (whole grain mustard, sweet cream, leeks and German lager) or Spanish (saffron butter broth, smoked paprika and fennel).
1 Water Street, Boyne City, (231) 582-8800, cafesante-bc.com
THE LANDING, IRONTON/CHARLEVOIX
Diners here have the unique opportunity of watching the quaint Ironton Ferry make its way across the narrows on the south arm of Lake Charlevoix, as it has since 1876. But don’t blink – the 610-foot journey takes less than five minutes! Enjoy the carefree Caribbean groove of this upbeat, attractive destination, which brings the outdoors in and the indoors out all summer long in the dining room and on the deck, both swathed in a cheerful palette of happy colors. The huge rum selection at the wraparound bar adds to the tropical island feel. Serving lunch and dinner with shareables like beach fries and crab cakes, along with greens and grains, sandwiches and burgers, and fresh fish and seafood (lobster flown in fresh from Maine twice a week, along with Maine-style buns). Boat mooring and gas dock for visitors on site.
Sip: Heck Yeah! (Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum, Meyer’s Dark Rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, tropical syrup, garnished with a slice of orange)
Sup: Traditional New England lobster roll, with chilled and hand-picked lobster, lemon-herb mayo and Bibb lettuce on a buttered and grilled brioche bun
10231 Ferry Road, Charlevoix (just off M-66 at Ironton Cove on the south arm of Lake Charlevoix), (231) 547-9036, thelandingcharlevoix.com
DOCKSIDE, TORCH LAKE
One word: Sunsets! And even if you don’t have a boat, you can still boat to dinner here. The restaurant offers pontoon rentals right from the pier out front. So just get here by any other conveyance, organize your pontoon, take a boat ride around the lake, and boat back to dinner! The Dockside’s ambience is laid-back, Jimmy Buffet-style informal, and the food is just what you’re craving on a sunny summer day, like Brew City waffle fries, jalapeño poppers, a Southwestern chicken wrap, a “super burrito” or an olive burger on a pretzel bun. Join the 1000 or so patrons who come here daily during the high season and catch some well-earned shade at a table inside, or take in the boating activity on Clam River or Torch Lake from the large outdoor deck. Interesting note: The young seasonal staff members here have a 3.5 grade point average or above – their well-compensated employment is a reward for their hard work in school. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Boat mooring onsite.
Sip: Torch Lake Lemonade (Stoli Razberi with frozen pink lemonade)
Sup: Sunset Salad with fresh greens, Michigan dried cherries, Asiago cheese, pecans, grilled chicken and raspberry pecan dressing.
6340 Old Torch Lake Drive, Bellaire, (231) 377-7777, docksidetorchlake.com
APACHE TROUT GRILL, TRAVERSE CITY
Wet your whistle and whet your appetite (there’s a grammar lesson in that phrase, by the way) around one of the high tops or picnic tables outside at the popular – and beautifully landscaped – waterfront Tiki Bar for cocktails, prime views of Old Mission Peninsula, and close-up sailboat race watching on West Bay (the Grand Traverse Yacht Club is right next door). Linger awhile in these mellow surroundings, and then make your way inside to the spacious, yet cozy atmosphere of the lodge-style dining room for tasty and satisfying fare like western BBQ shrimp, smoked whitefish dip, baked French onion soup, wedge salad and Apache’s famous BBQ ribs. On balmy days, the lake-facing accordion windows fold back to afford open-air dining in comfort. Serving lunch and dinner seven days a week, plus a Sunday buffet brunch. Boat mooring on site.
Sip: Martini (of any kind) from the Tiki Bar
Sup: King crab and prime rib special on Friday and Saturday nights
13671 S. West Bayshore Dr., Traverse City, (231) 947-7079, apachetroutgrill.com
RIVERSIDE INN, LELAND
Nestled in an idyllic, park-like setting on the banks of the lazily flowing Leland River, this beautifully restored historic inn and restaurant offers a tranquil atmosphere just steps from the main shopping district, Fishtown and Lake Michigan. In the summer months, locally sourced fruits, vegetables and greens take center stage on the menu along with housemade charcuterie, artisanal local and global cheeses, premium fish, seafood and meats – all prepared with an innovative flair. Make yourself at home in the main dining room and enclosed porch, or request the outdoor deck on a balmy summer’s eve. Open Wednesday through Monday, closed Tuesdays. Serving dinner and Sunday brunch. Boat mooring on site.
Sip: Smoked Ginger Rye (High West Rye, bourbon barrel-aged orange bitters, and ginger-turmeric simple syrup served over a smoked ice rock and finished with a pinch of smoked paprika)
Sup: Fresh pan-seared sea bass with heirloom tomato-barley orzotto, lemon beurre blanc and salsa verde
302 East River St, Leland, (231) 256-9971, theriverside-inn.com