Nov 20, 2012

One of a kind pizza

This place is new since 2010. It has won the "best new restaurant" award in Jackson this year. Laughlin's Slice of Spice in Spring Arbor is the only wood fired brick oven pizza place in Jackson county. Fresh ingredients on a hand tossed thin crust cooked in the wood fired oven makes this place special. They use local fresh produce and italian ingredients to insure a tasty pie. Nice atmosphere for the whole family with original photos on the walls and comfortable seating. Nice salads and appetizers along with some other non pizza offerings. Full bar with padded seats, offering mixed drinks as well as a nice selection of wines including local ones. The beer selection includes seasonal and locally brewed options. I had Arcadia Jaw Jacker on my visit. Others in our group had Angry Orchard Hard Cider. Nice place, give them a try! More details in the Guide.

Nov 13, 2012

Since 1992. This place is a landmark. Clara's on the River in Battle Creek is located in the former Michigan Central Depot train station which was built in 1888. It is worth a visit just to tour the building and read about its history. This place has the largest fireplace I have ever seen in a restaurant. Great atmosphere and a 17 page menu that will allow everyone in your party to find something they like. Known for Sunday brunch and for great drink selections in their bar(several ice cream drinks). They also have good food of all types from burgers and pizza to ribs. I went for lunch and had their chili which was very good along with a rueben which also was very good. Nice place for family outings or business lunches. Right on the river with a nice view and an outdoor patio looking over the river in nice weather.

Oct 29, 2012

Nice breakfast with homemade goods!

I especially like breakfast places that bake their own items. This is that kind of place. The Biscuit Cafe in Holland's Old Town area has an owner who has a culinary degree from Colorado, studied in Provence, France and Asti, Italy. Add to that she worked at both Bar Divani and Everyday People Cafe. All this background has led to a special restaurant where only the best ingredients are used and cooked properly. Try the fresh baked biscuits with a swiss scramble using real gruyere cheese. Maybe cover that biscuit with housemade onion jam. How about french toast made from their walnut cranberry focaccia bread or homemade brioche? They offer pancakes made from their housemade cherry almond granola or try the banana pecan pancakes made with housemade candied pecans. The meat comes from the local Montello's Meat Market with offerings like South African boerwors sausage. They have lots of omelets and scrambles to choose from and you can choose coffee, espresso or several loose leaf teas. For lunch try the pulled pork with tomato gravy or maybe braised beef. They also have tuna, greek, ham & cheese or a cubano sandwich. This place is worth a drive. Check out the guide for more details.

Oct 7, 2012

Great view of the lake with "low country" food

New in 2012. This place has a great view of the Lake with lots of windows making Fat Cam's at Garver Lake worth the drive to the Edwardsburg area. The facility is two floors with a nice open atmosphere. The food is very good with lots of "low country" influence. The sandwiches for lunch are not ordinary. How about a shrimp po'boy with remoulade sauce or bbq pulled turkey? They do have other sandwiches and burgers as well. Appetizers include crab fritters. Other "low country" cuisine starts after 4pm and you can try the one I had called Gumbo Ya-Ya which is their signature item. It is southern stew with shrimp, andouille sausage, turkey and veggies served over rice with some great hush puppies. Also, check out the blackened catfish or the bayou pasta tossed in a cajun alfredo. They do offer a ribeye steak and even have one offered on the kids menu. Chicken breast, salmon or a porterhouse pork chop round out the dinner menu. Full bar with mojitos and lots of micro-brew selections with local influence. For dessert do not miss their already famous bread pudding! Nice place with great view and very good food. Check out the guide for more details.

Sep 30, 2012

Upscale food in casual atmosphere

Since 2006. This place is sitting on the St. Joe River next to the famous retired camelback bridge in Mottville. Jaywalker Restaurant has great views of both along with some nice signature menu items like their prime rib served Thursday-Sunday or their fall off the bone ribs. Try the fried green beans instead of fries. They are also known for an appetizer of "pork wings". Full menu including many other appetizers, salads, sandwiches and burgers. Entree's also include fried chicken, steaks, fish and pasta. One more signature item is the Motherload burrito. Desserts include carrot cake and their homemade cookie sundae. Full bar with some microbrews. Bring the whole family. No need to dress up. Good food and good service. Check out the guide for more details.

Sep 24, 2012

Good fish at a bar and grill

In 1894 a beekeeper was waiting for his fishing buddy and carved a piece of wood to look like a frog which he threw in a pond. When a large bass attacked it he decided to make more from a broomstick handle. Such was the beginning of Heddon & Sons Fishing Lures. Heddon became the largest in the world and the old ones are highly collectible. To honor that history this local bar in Dowagiac calls itself The Wounded Minnow Saloon. Lots of fishing lures are displayed here. Even though the Dowagiac factory closed in 1984 the Heddon lures are still made in Ft. Smith AR. This place obviously is known for fish! Nightly specials offer fish and a friday fish fry is very popular. They are also known for pizza. They do have good burgers, appetizers, sandwiches and even Chicago or coney dogs. Some desserts are offered. Neat atmosphere with high tin ceilings and exposed brick walls in this downtown spot. Lots of bar stuff as well like large TVs where we watched Notre Dame beat Michigan. A couple of pool tables out of the way and you have a small town bar and grill with good food and good drinks. Even a nice selection of specialty beers. I really like this kind of place and look forward to going back for some more fish. Check the guide for more details.

Sep 17, 2012

Nice lunch and cupcakes!

New in downtown Kalamazoo in 2012, however the Garden Gate Cafe had its beginnings in Shipshewana in 2007, Nancy Knoblock sold that location in 2011 and has opened this place. She knows how to run a lunch spot and how to make great food. Try the beet salad or mango ginger. Maybe have it with their signature homemade chicken salad on a grilled pretzel bun. Soups can be served in a sourdough bread bowl. They have other deli sandwiches, wraps and panninis. However you can go in just for some water street coffee and one of their amazing cupcakes or muffins. I had the key lime cupcake which was so good, I can't wait to get back and try all the rest. Oh, and don't forget the quiche. Catering and special cupcake club events are worth looking into. Nice people and a great addition to downtown. More info in the guide.

Sep 6, 2012

New breakfast place added

This Portage breakfast joint is worth a visit. The Daily Grind Cafe just north of West Lake is very cozy with very good food and great service. You can sense the owners pride in all areas. The omlets are excellent and filled to the max with quality ingredients. The sausage is ground fresh daily. The bacon is thick sliced and the steaks are tender. My toast and potatoes were done just right. On an earlier visit I had the crunchy french toast with corn flakes cooked into the batter. They also make homemade biscuits and gravy. With that they won the "best breakfast" in Kalamazoo county award from the gazette. I have not tried the burgers for lunch which are also fresh ground, however they won 2nd place for their burgers in the gazette as well. Cozy place with good food and local owners working everyday in the place! What more do you want? Check out the guide for more details.

Aug 26, 2012

West Lake Drive In has reopened!!

Since 1962. This place has been a landmark in Portage and even opened one year before Portage was a city. Now with only its second owner in its history, the Neeb family has reopened one of my favorite spots. Many people love the West Lake Drive In and the good news is the Neebs are going to keep it open until the end of October. Gravel parking lot and beautiful view of West Lake make this setting one of a kind. The food is the other draw. I really like the burgers including the olive burger. The fries are good and so are the onion rings. I also really like the perch sandwich while my wife loves the grilled cheese. I always get a milk shake although they do have very good root beer. I hope this place stays unchanged including the carhop service. Since the Neebs grew up on the lake they know what makes this place special. Good luck to them and thanks.

Aug 9, 2012

New to Portage!

New location of a Kalamazoo campus area landmark. Portage welcomes The Big Burrito to the Moorsbridge shopping center. A little different atmosphere with no alcohol, however the food is just as good! I like the chorizo and egg burrito with their hottest sauce served in a squeeze bottle. My wife likes the veggie with rice, cheese and guacamole. The salsa is fresh made and all burritos are made to order, including the three foot long "don't even think about it" classic. Order at the counter then they will bring everything to you. Nice atmosphere with good service. Check out the guide for more details.

Jul 31, 2012

Nice fish place on US 12

New in 2011. This older place(formerly Lakeside)has been completely redone with a nautical theme and gives tiny Jerome a flagship dining spot. Get it? The Deck Down Under has roots from the Gulf and brings us some nice seafood offerings. Raw oysters, peel and eat shrimp, crab cakes, conch fritters, boom boom shrimp and fried calamari just to start. I had the fish tacos made with grouper which you can order pan seared, blackened or deep fried. The fish and chips can be ordered in similar fashion using either grouper or catfish. They have good sides as well, we tried the onion rings and the hand cut fries. Both were excellent as was the New England clam chowder! The hush puppies looked good also. Desserts are made in house and include key lime pie and creme brulee. I had the creme brulee and was very happy with it. They have other stuff like pizza and burgers along with a kids menu, so bring the whole family. They have live music on Friday-Saturday evenings. It is so loud you will not be able to converse. Good music, just too loud for conversation. It becomes more of a night spot then. Good food, nice atmosphere and good service. My recommendation is to call first and eat before the music starts.

Jul 21, 2012

Full Service sit down Mexican

New in 2012. This roomy place features an indoor fountain and a full menu. All your favorites with a menu that reminds you of Los Amigos in Portage and Kalamazoo. The reason being the Casa Real Mexican Restaurant owner is the niece of the Los Amigos owners. The food is very good and they will have a liquor license soon. Take the whole family to this sit down place. I liked the chili poblanos and my friend liked the seafood chimichanga. I am sure this will be a very popular place! Check out the guide for more details.

Jul 18, 2012

Good Mexican fast food

New location in 2012, original opened in 1967. Because I really liked the first two locations of this Mexican fast food place, I was very happy to see Taco Boy open in Plainwell. In 1985 while doing contract work in Mt. Pleasant, a former CMU student introduced me to this family owned place. Later we discovered the "original" location on Plainfield Avenue in Grand Rapids. I have been stopping by there for years on our way "up north". I like the green meat and bean burrito(super). They now have 7 locations still run by the family. Their claim to fame is the fresh homemade quality ingredients. Refried beans are hand sorted and made fresh from scratch everyday at each location. The beef has chunks of beef in it and the spicy pork is chunked as well. Great hot sauce and generous portions. They are good hearted people that treat their employees well and do not waver on quality ingredients. This new location has some grand opening jitters, but give it a chance and I am sure it will be up to par soon. Check the guide for more details.

Jul 15, 2012

Classic Drive In since 1962

I don't know what took me so long to stop at this place. I absolutely love drive-in restaurants and Lutz's Drive In between Decatur and Dowagiac is a classic. Carhops wait on you or you can go inside to their 60 seat restaurant. Mr. Lutz opened this place 50 years ago in 1962 and still goes to work there. The neon sign is a classic "route 66" style landmark. They serve the traditional drive-in fare like burgers, dogs, rootbeer and baskets. However, their most popular item is their pizza! They start making pizza when they open at 11am. They also offer Alaskan pollock for Friday night fish fry or a seafood dinner including crabcakes! I almost forgot to tell you they do have prime rib! A full offering of ice cream options and some great homemade pies like the peach we had or try the lemon meringue or german chocolate. This place is a classic summertime must visit. Check the guide for details.

Jun 29, 2012

I know they are a chain!

I don't usually blog about chain restaurants, but I really like this one. I have been waiting for the new Five Guys Burgers and Fries to open in Portage. My daughter introduced us to them in the D.C. area a few years ago. Excellent burger and the fries are just as good. Not much else to say since this is basically all they do. This may be the best burger chain in the U.S. This one is not going into the guide because it is a large national chain, however I did want to tell you it is now open and they are very good!

Jun 18, 2012

Wood fired flatbread pizza!

How about a new place in South Haven with outdoor seating? Run by the same people who already bring you great places like Julia's Cafe' and The Phoenix Cafe'. Brix Corner Oven is in an old filling station using the front part of the Sea Glass store. Using just the outdoors they have a full bar under the old filling station canopy along with patio tables(some with umbrellas) so you can sit outside and people watch while enjoying a canned beverage(no glass) and the smell of wood fired ovens that are preparing your flatbread pizza. Lots of fresh topping choices and only good ingredients which is the hallmark of these owners. Some salads and sandwiches, however the best comes from the oven! Neat seasonal place. Nice addition to South Haven. Check out the guide for more details.

Jun 7, 2012

Great new BBQ joint

This place is new in 2012. Redline BBQ Smokehouse & Catering in Battle Creek is worth driving to. Nice atmosphere and indoor seating area. This is the real deal BBQ place. Great pulled pork and brisket. Nice housemade sausages in several styles. Huge portions of ribs. Nice chicken and smoked pork chops. They offer four types of BBQ sauce. I added southern style greens to my sampler platter which were excellent. How about pulled pork nachos or stuffed smoked potato skins? Maybe a boudin link on redline rice? Bread pudding and cobbler for dessert. No alchohol. Very nice place with excellent food. You don't want to miss this one! Check out the guide for more details.

May 14, 2012

Nice deli with great corned beef!

This place is on a side street in downtown Chelsea, but well worth looking for. Mike's Deli has a neat atmosphere and offers over 65 sandwiches not counting "create your own" options. They have 17 cheeses and 9 types of Zingerman's bread to serve them on. Did I mention 14 salad dressings to put on your cobb, bing or strawberry salads? Mostly boars head meats and some very nice sides like soup, chili, baked beans and potato salad. The corned beef is just like in the big cities! This is a real deli with a neat atmosphere and great food. Check out the guide for more details.

Apr 28, 2012

Wood Fire Oven used for half the menu!

This place in downtown Dowagiac has great atmosphere. With high tin ceilings, exposed brick walls, curved large front windows, wood floor, open kitchen and art on the walls all giving the Wood Fire Italian Tratorria a great setting. None of that would matter if they couldn't follow it up with food to match. Well, they do. Starting with the bread plate offering three kinds of breads with dipping oil including the usual herbs to which they add balsamic vinaigrette. The wine selection is nice with a page dedicated to Italian whites and reds. We had the quattro formaggio(four cheese) pizza made in their open wood fire oven and we also split a pasta marinara. I added a homemade italian sausage link on the side. Both meals were fantastic. Just bursting with flavor and cooked perfectly. We had some very nice wine by the glass and would both drive the hour to get there anytime! They do offer desserts which we had no room for on this trip. Lots of salads, soups and antipasti. Several other pizzas are offered. They make handmade ravioli which I will try on my next visit. Over half of their offerings are cooked in the wood fire oven. Some other entrees include chicken cacciatore, pork tenderloin, oven roasted salmon or walleye and Italian pot roast. Oh, they also roast ribs in their wood fire oven. This place is fairly pricey but has such a variety and quality I think it is still a good value. Don't miss live music two or three nights a week. Check their website for details. Check the guide for more details and enjoy!

Apr 22, 2012

Italian food with an American flair

This downtown Hastings place is housed in a 100 year old building that used to house the local newspaper. High tin ceilings, brick walls and wood floors give this restaurant an impressive location and atmosphere. The Seasonal Grille is mostly Italian with an American flair. Opened in 2010 with lots of housemade dishes featuring local, seasonal ingredients. Justin Straube likes to change the menu 4-5 times a year. Nightly specials like the pork loin with mango sauce I had or the grilled chicken with citrus sauce my wife had are common. Justin's dad makes an appetizer with homemade andouille, italian sausage and meatballs. Full bar, pizza, sandwiches and seafood make this space complete. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the slice of "mile high" housemade chocolate cake we finished with while listening to live music. This is a very nice, casual place with great atmosphere and food. Check out the guide for more details.

Apr 17, 2012

History and TexMex

This place has a great atmosphere with artifacts from the Alamo. Engravings of Davy Crocket and Jim Bowie are displayed along with a cannon and a bowie knife. Neat pictures and historical decorations throughout make this New Buffalo TexMex place a neat experience. El Rancho Grande also has excellent food. The chips were some of the best I have had. The hot salsa was in my top three and the carne asada was so tender I would compare it to a new york strip steak instead of the skirt steak used. My meal also had very good rice and beans, guacamole, tortillas, roasted mexican onions and cheese quesadillas. Everything was great. My wife really liked her nachos as well. They also have all your usual favorites along with desserts, kids menu and a full bar featuring margaritas and a full line of Mexican beers. I can't wait to return and try the ribs, chili, mole or the bowie garlic chicken. Yes, they have menudo and another less familar soup called pozole which is pork and hominy. Check the guide for more details.

Mar 8, 2012

New sit down Pizza joint

Nice to have the former "Cruisers" place in Portage reopen with a sit down pizza joint. This old and new place is called Jac's Cekola's Pizza which is using the old pizza recipe from Star World for those who remember. It is thin crust with a great sweet pizza sauce and I like the homemade italian sausage with visible fennel seeds. They have a full bar with a great beer selection. They even have my favorite Dragon's Milk on draft! Large menu (which may change) currently has lots of other pizza toppings, garlic breads, pastas, soups, salads, burgers, sandwiches and entrees. They also have lots of appetizers like nachos and wings along with desserts. The space has been completely redone and has its own atmosphere. Lots of large flat screens and a game area so bring the whole family or come watch the game. But, whatever you do, get the pizza!

Feb 27, 2012

Second location deserves second writeup

New in 2011. This "Yooper" joint will bring back memories of the North country. The new second location of U.P. North Sandwich & Pasty Co. in Richland brings U.P. homemade food to us in the lower part of Michigan. This place has the same offerings found in the first place in Allegan like a great homemade pasty and the Cudighi italian sausage patty sandwich. If you don't like rudabagas, they have lots of hot and cold sandwiches including their dirty reuben, pecan chicken salad croissant along with italian or roast beef subs. Hot ones like torpedo, chipotle chicken or chicken cordon bleu. Fresh homemade soups everyday and a nice salad selection including southwest chicken, italian and greek. Don't miss the homemade desserts like cheesecake, cream puffs and homemade fudge. They also sell a famous "yooper" candy brand called Saykllys. Look in the guide for more details.

Jan 3, 2012

This place is in a building built in 1860!

This place is located on the main downtown shopping strip in St. Joseph. You can find excellent pulled pork and brisket at Pump House Grille which has great tin ceilings and a nice roomy atmosphere. The barbecue sauce has Dr. Pepper in it and is their own recipe. Very good! We also really enjoyed the giant onion rings that look like donuts. Full bar and full menu. Steaks, seafood, pasta, salads and sandwiches. Something for the whole family. I really want to try the ribs next visit, if I can resist going for the pulled pork again! This place has location, atmosphere and very good food. Check out the guide for more details.