Will Travel for Food : Charlevoix, Michigan
We were fortunate enough to spend a week in lovely Charlevoix, Michigan (in fact, I’m writing this from the passenger seat as my husband drives us out of town and back to our very landlocked adobe in Indiana). Us landing in Charlevoix for our vacation was pure happenstance, a search on VacationRentals.com brought up this adorable one room cottage right by the waters of Lake Michigan. We mailed a check and were booked before we ever opened a single Firefox tab of research on Charlevoix. Our goal for this vacation was a lot of sun, a stack of books and some serious beach time, the culture of the town mattered very little. The pending weeks before we left brought a bit more research into Charlevoix; we were impressed with its beauty and small-town charm. But nothing prepared us for the pull we would feel to this town. Driving down the main thoroughfare, Bridge Street, for the first time, we were both silenced by how immediately at home we felt in our temporary town. We had found someplace special.
Below you’ll find the account of the various coffee house, pubs, restaurants and markets we visited durning our 6 days (and 7 nights) here. A few of them I’ve already spoken of in other entries, but quite a few of them are making their first appearance here on BTHR. A word of warning, we were so blissfully enchanted with Charlevoix that my reviews are not only going to be unbiased, they damn well may fall into the realm of propaganda. Take it as you will, but keep in mind, that this time last week, I barely knew (or cared) at all about Charlevoix, Michigan.
Whitney’s Oyster Bar
We stumbled into Whitney’s during our first night in Charlevoix, and again during our last. For our first experience, we’d been in the car for 8 hours, just unpacked and desperately needed something to fill our bellies. Downtown Charlevoix is not the most active of night spots and being after 6pm on a Sunday, most of the Downtown stores and cafes had locked the doors and shut off the lights. But Whitney’s was open, welcoming and had one hell of a beer selection.
The hostess was nice, the server was nice, the bartender was nice. Everyone was just so damn nice in this town! You’d think after an entire summer of tourists coming through their town, they’d be fatigued and just a little bit bitter, but no, everyone was warm and welcoming. It was almost like they actually enjoyed the tourists. What a concept!
Hubs and I have vowed to only drink locally this trip, and on tap were two beers from a brewery just down the road called Short’s Brewing Company. One was called the Locals Light and the other was a fruit rye called the Soft Parade.
Both of them were fantastic! On our second trip back to Whitney’s (this time just for cocktails) we both ordered a pint of the Soft Parade. We enjoyed beer from Short’s so much this week that it was a shame that we didn’t make it to the brewery itself. We will. We’ll be back.
Our second trip to Whitney’s also involved two of their specialty martinis. At $8 a piece, they were a bit pricey for what they were, but they were still fun and a great fun way to salute our last night on the lakes (Charlevoix is nestled between three lakes).
The one of the left was the Rocketpoptini, a salute to my favorite popsicle. And the one on the right was the Round Laketini, a salute to the smallest of the three lakes (and the one that Whitney’s overlooks). Both were good, but the Rocketpoptini was a bit too boozey for my tastes. I stuck with the Round Laketini, which tasted like raspberry lemonade.
We sat at the bar on our last night in town and were amazed by the “everybody knows your name” feeling of the pub, even in the more touristy downtown area. It was definitely a snapshot at the identity of the rest of the town. From grocery stores to gas stations, we were treated as locals. Everyone was friendly and always offering a smile. As a townie in a college town, I understand the annoyance with seasonal residents, but somehow the year-round residents of Charlevoix have gotten past any annoyance (or were just very skilled at hiding it).
Food at Whitney’s was good, with generous sized portions and not a bad price tag.
Whitefish pate, bar cheese and smoked salmon spread.
The bar cheese and whitefish pate were killer. The smoked salmon spread was too horseradishy to be satisfying. It didn’t taste at all like salmon. Although all three together were a great combo on a cracker.
Grilled swordfish with a basil and balsamic sauce with scalloped potatoes and asparagus.
Both of them were out of this world good! I had hoped for a little more veg in mine, but such is life. It was delicious and buttery and rich.Over
Overall, Whitney’s was an excellent place for us during the week (and I’m not just saying that because they had the IU game on two TVs last night). Maybe next time we visit (and again, there will be a next time), I’ll get the nerve to try their oysters.
Woolly Bugger Coffee
How could I not love a coffee shop named after the one (and only) fly I could ever remember the name of as a kid? My brother and father are both fly fisherman (or at least were in a past life) and I specifically remember giggling when they’d toss around the term “Woolly Bugger” like it was some serious phrase in a trade embargo.
I tried fly fishing once. It was an unfortunate incident involving a whole lot of tree and not a lot of fish. But regardless of that, I still feel a kinship to fly fishing. And the decor of this place immediately put me back into my parents’ cozy, cozy great room.
Plus, they had awesome chai tea lattes and amazingly nice baristas that give me free shots of cinnamon because I just “had to try it in the chai”.
And the Husband loved their smoothies.
And I loved that Woolly Bugger was right around the corner from the marina and East Park. An amazing place to enjoy some tea.
Kelsey B’s is decidedly not downtown, but we made the 2 mile trek out there (on foot) so we could enjoy what they called “lakeside dining”. We were sorely disappointed that “lakeside dining” in fact meant a small peak of Lake Charlevoix over a few parking lots and some warehouses. Oh well.
The walk was very entertaining as the trek took us through the Belvedere Club, which was remarkably eerie. All the wealthy had up-and-moved for the winter and there were blocks and blocks worth of huge mansions that were boarded up. We didn’t see a car in the neighborhood. It was like a rich people ghost town. I can only imagine how very, very different it would be in the height of summer.
We were rewarded for our trek through rich no man’s land with a nice beer selection at Kelsey B’s.
Very, very good! The husband ordered the Widow Maker Black Ale from Keweenaw Brewery. It was good, but the Bellaire Brown definitely took the prize. After finishing his Widow Maker, the Husband ordered one of the Bellaire Browns. Love a beer with good lacing.
Food wise, Kelsey B’s was just okay. We ordered a goat cheese bruscetta appetizer, which was delicious, but I tend to think anything with goat cheese and fresh basil is going to be yum.
For entrees, we both ordered fish. I ordered the local whitefish, which was good, although a bit too salty and bit overcooked.
I devoured the fish (after scraping off a bit of the seasoning) and the green beans, but barely made a dent in the mashed potatoes. I’m in awe of the amount of food restaurants give you. This, plus a bread basket and a salad.
We rarely eat out during our day-to-day lives, so seeing the portion sizes in restaurants is crazy to me!
Husband had a maple-glazed parmesan salmon, which looks disgusting, but was actually very good. Restaurants so frequently overcook salmon, but this was perfect.
See my rant about portion-sizes up there? Well, to be perfectly hypocritical, we then got dessert. What am I supposed to do when something called “Death by Chocolate” is on special?
Again, it was good, but really, can you go wrong with plumping three different kinds of chocolate into a piece of cake? No.
Overall, Kelsey B’s was fine. But not worth the trek out of the heart of town. Which was ironic, because our long walk was actually the best part of the evening. Gave the husband and I a nice chance to talk over some future business plans. And of course, dream about owning one of the summer mansions in the Belvedere Club.
Our only trip out for breakfast landed us downtown, on the Pine River Canal, at the Edgewater Bistro.
I never order or drink fruit juices at restaurants, but for some reason, orange juice sounded so good to me this morning. And good thing it did, because it was fresh squeezed, baby! What, orange juice that actually tastes like an orange? Crazy talk.
There were so many fun concoctions on the menu that I had a very difficult time deciding, but I finally landed on the smoked salmon eggs benedict. And I was SO glad I did.
Oh my these were good! And such a great portion size with the fruit. A really nice pairing of rich and decadent with light. Loved this breakfast!
Now remember what I said about light? Uh, let’s smash that with what my dear Husband ordered.
WHAT IS THAT?
That is french toast, topped with roasted turkey, topped with poached eggs, topped with bacon and smothered in cheese and gravy.
I had a bite, and it was definitely delicious, but phew, I don’t know how he did it. He ate the whole thing, and managed to walk afterward.
The Edgewater Bistro was an awesome breakfast place, and they had a HUGE selection of offerings. My only regret is that I didn’t order a mimosa, after all it was fresh squeezed orange juice and I was on vacation. Next time (have I mentioned that we’ll be returning to Charlevoix?).
Weathervane by Stafford’s
One of the few restaurants we had heard of prior to visiting Charlevoix was the Weathervane. We’d read it was a bit pricey, but worth the money for the beautiful views, excellent service and great food. We were not disappointed.
We chose to end our trip with dinner at the Weathervane, which was a Saturday. Reservations are highly recommended and can be done through their website. We made a 7pm reservation and a beautiful waterfront table was waiting for us when we walked in at 6:45pm.
Drinks included a pinto grigo from Bowers Harbor winery in Traverse City. I am much more of a red wine drinker, but this was amazing! Crisp and not too dry. Sweet without being overpowering. Mmm! Husband ordered our final Short’s Brewing beer of the trip, The Magician. It was good, and the Husband loved it, but I just wasn’t in the mood for something so heavy and chocolatey. My crisp, light wine was perfect for watching boats go out to Lake Michigan.
We contemplated ordering escargot for an appetizer, because I do love snails (seriously). But decided against it (actually, we forgot, once the awesome bread basket came with croissant buns and whole grain rolls).
My dinner was pesto salmon on top of a bed of buttery garlic spaetzle and fresh broccoli.
Yeah, it was as good as it sounds. And the piece of salmon was HUGE.
Husband got the ribs and perch platter.
And I stole a rib. There is nothing like sucking meat off bones in a fancy restaurant.
Dessert was had. I have no idea what this was called or what all was involved in it, but I know I was sold when I saw it had hot fudge and sugared peanuts.
Oh Mama this was good! Especially when paired with the dark, rich chocolate truffle that came with it. A perfect, perfect way to end a perfect vacation.
Other Odds and Ends
We did have a kitchen at our disposal and frequented two different grocery stores in Charlevoix, Glen’s and Oleson’s. Both had a decent selection of local wines, but a pretty mediocre selection of local beers. Their availability of local and organic foods pleasantly surprised me! Oleson’s was just outside of downtown, and frequently we made the 20 minute walk down to it to pick up the groceries for our next meal. We also stopped at a larger Glen’s in Petoskey and were giddy with the choices at their meat and seafood counter. We walked out with fresh, local pickerel, Traverse City-made cherry bratwurst and local whitefish sausage. The focus on local foods is strong in this region and it seems to have even spread to the big chain grocery stores.
As far as fudge goes, we tried just about each and every place in Charlevoix (and one on Mackinaw Island) and couldn’t really tell a difference.
They were all incredible. My suggestion, find a place that has flavors that are interesting and excite you. I’m sure they’ll be delicious. Our’s was Joann’s Fudge on Mackinaw Island, which had awesomely us flavors like Kaluha, German chocolate, Butterfinger and double dark pecan.
If it is farm markets and stand you look for, just head south on U.S. 31 and you’ll run into about a zillion of them. We stopped at Friske’s (which is, at most, 5 minutes outside of town) and came back with a decent amount of loot.
And that’s our week in Charlevoix through food. Just as I ended my Traverse City WTFF entry, I’ll end this one with some shots of the Charlevoix Lighthouse (and other things around the town). I promise we do things other than eat and look at lighthouses, but not much.