Intimate dining on Crystal Lake’s shore
By Danielle Horvath | June 1, 2019
Combine people who are passionate about making and serving good food with stunning views of Crystal Lake, and you’ve got the recipe for Rock’s Landing. Opened last summer after a complete renovation of what was once the snack bar for the Chimney Corners Resort, Steve and Kriisten Tebo, along with partners Julie Tebo and her husband, Paul Danes, offer their guests a memorable dining experience as the only Crystal Lake waterfront restaurant.
Steve Tebo is no stranger to the restaurant business, having owned and operated the Coho Café in downtown Frankfort for five years.
“When I sold it in 2006, I didn’t want to do it again. But when Jim and Mary Rogers, owners of Chimney Corners Resort, asked me to give them a hand in their main kitchen in the summer, I said I would do it for one year — and I stayed for seven. Through that work, and partnership with them, the hesitation went away. I also realized there were other ways to be successful in this business and not be in the middle of chaos all the time. I’m very proud of what we did at the Coho, but we had the opportunity to create Rock’s Landing how we wanted it.”
It was built in the 1950’s by Jim Rockwell “Rock” Rogers Sr., who was well known for his carpentry skills; Rogers built the internationally known Gwen Frostic studios, as well as many of the cottages at Chimney Corners Resort.
“The name is a nod to him, his spirit runs through this building, and his grandson works in the kitchen with us,” Steve Tebo said.
With small tables — they don’t accept parties larger than six — and a rustic charm that has been accented with urban touches, they are being welcomed back this summer by many familiar faces.
“We kept growing all last year, and now we are at about 100 guests per night, which is a healthy level of service for us,” said Tebo adding that at Rock’s “encourages lingering over the meal and taking in the views. We want it to be happy place, but to be who we want to be, we know it’s not going to be for everybody. We are not the place for a family reunion or gathering of golf buddies.”
With a simple, one-page menu that reflects a Mediterranean influence, Tebo explained they are not duplicating what other restaurants in the area are already doing better. “Our vision is to introduce new, flavorful dishes to a really good audience. We don’t offer whitefish because other places do it best, instead, we do a seared halibut with baby bok choy in a coconut curry sauce. We support locally sourced whenever we can — all our greens are grown locally from Lost Lake Farm, our bread is from Crescent Bakery, our cheese plate is all local cheese, we have a northern Michigan supplier for our fish that comes in fresh every two days.”
Executive Chef Joe Meyers brings his culinary experience from Portland, Oregon, to blend with Tebo's passion to create flavorful dishes with a myriad of ethnic influences. “Steve gave me my first kitchen job 14 years ago, and I was his chef for the last one-and-a-half years that he owned the Coho. The staff here is very familiar, five who worked for Steve at Coho are working here today,” Myers said. “We are really good at bouncing ideas off each other and brainstorming, and we are also good friends.”
Choices include shareable, smaller plates of seafood, fresh vegetables and “tapas” like entrees including crispy purple Brussel sprouts, with an anchovy-spiked Italian bagna cauda sauce to a real Italian Panzanell salad with house-roasted bread, a fire roasted vinaigrette, shaved baby radish, turnip, and sunchokes. Main courses range from a vegan plate with crispy falafel, baby cauliflower, curried basmati rice, beluga lentils and caramelized fennel, to the traditional Spanish pinchos morunos — seared pork on skewers with curried basmati rice, served with classic romesco sauce made from roasted tomatoes and red peppers. All can be paired with a varied wine list and several Michigan craft beers or a specialty cocktail.
Steve and Kriisten Tebo have formed friendships with other area restaurant owners and knew that they would have to be different to be successful. “We don’t want to compete with other north woods cooking because they are already doing it so well. We want to make out our own mark.” Kristiin Tebo said. “We love the business, but we are losing restaurants in the area, and there have to be enough of us to make the crowds happy, that it requires that there are choices.”
Find Rock’s Landing at Chimney Corners Resort, 1602 Crystal Lake Dr., in Frankfort. The restaurant is open mid-April through mid-November from 5pm to 9 pm, closed Wednesdays. (Wednesdays are reserved for the traditional Chimney Corners Resort picnic BBQ on the Rock’s Landing lawn, beginning June 19.) Reservations are recommended. (231) 399-0158, www.rocksoncrystal.com.