Grove Restaurant, Grand Rapids, 9/29/23

exterior – 919 Cherry St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Grove was a medium-sized place that offered a number of dining options.  A Tasting for 2 ($125) included bread, 5 courses of your choosing and dessert and is available on Fri. and Sat,  A Taste of Grove ($50) was 3 courses and available Tues thru Thursday, and the Grove Experience ($300) serves the table the entire menu.   The prices are per table on the first and last option and per person on the middle.  The portions are not scaled, though, so the last option is better if you have 4 or more people.  We chose the 5 course but were hard pressed to pick the courses, every server had a different opionion.  It was a comfortable, modern  looking place with larger natural wood tables nicely spaced on wood and tile flooring with a lowered ceiling and lighting.  Music was in the background but the designer had made a successful effort to keep the noise level amenable to conversations.  A full bar with counter seating took up a portion of the room and there were lots of plants on the walls and placed around.  It opened around Feb. 2022 after the Covid shutdown as a new concept with a rennovated interior.  Service was friendly and helpful, especially in directing the meal plan.  He brought each dish separately so we could enjoy it rather than filling the table with too much at once. It is recommended if you find yourself in GrandRapids. Continue reading

Schnitz Delicatessen, Grand Rapids, 9/29/23

exterior – 1315 Fulton St E, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Schnitz Deli  seemed to be a local favorite with good sized portions and moderate prices.  It’s an old-school deli where you line up along the meat, cheese counter to place your order.  They did a steady to go order business also.  Lots of sandwich combos are in a numbered format but you can also order it your own way or by the pound.  They say the Reuben is the most popular, estimating they go through 300-400 pounds of corned beef and 100 pounds of pastrami a week.  The bread is from Schnitz Bakery that is close by.  The sandwiches come in half or full size with half sandwiches the same size but with half the meat.  Most of the sandwiches charged an extra dollar to go to full – to me that was a no-brainer.  Inside are scattered tables with extra condiments at the order counter, as is the drink dispenser.  The interior room opens into the “Common Ground Coffee House” space,   There were some fun decorations on the walls along with windows that looked out to the street.  It wan’t the best deli sandwich I’ve ever had but certainly good enough for me to go again if I’m in the area and I hope you’ll visit too. Continue reading

Cafe Mamo, Grand Rapids, 9/28/23

exterior – 1601 Plainfield Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 

Cafe Mamo is a small place where the menu changes every week based on what they get from local farmers.  The couple that opened it in July 2021 are Chef Michael Goessman and Sommelier Summer Knoop.  On a corner lot, the building looks like a drive-through cleaners from the outside but inside is new and cozy.  Inside are seats for about 32 people at natural wood tables and chairs with a few seats at the kitchen counter and they added the patio that can house 16 more guests outside.  They named the cafe for Goessman’s garden-loving grandmother.   Windows look out to the street and patio while music plays indoors.  There was a full bar, nice wine selection and the Chef was in the house and managed to speak with all the guests at one time or another.  Service was helpful and enthusiastic which made for a delightful experience.  If you find yourself in this part of Michigan I would encourage you to try and have a meal here – the food is good and innovative and the menu changes regularly.


Frankie checked out the patio
wine storage / display
wine front
wine back



We ordered Rolls and butter to go with the Tomato Pumpkin Soup.  The rolls, two to an order, are a regular on the menu and served with good butter.  They are soft and doughy and presented with softened butter.  If you’re looking for crusty bread these won’t fill the bill but if you want a yeasty dough fix this is it.  The soup was thick and needed a touch of salt to clarify the flavor.  The pumpkin worked fairly well with the tomato but it needed a bit more seasoning to give it zest and depth.  It would rate okay.

Tomato pumpkin soup and rolls
inside rolls
closer soup


Spaghetti was dressed with midnight roma pomodoro and pecorino.  It was a flat cut spaghetti that was cooked nicely al dente in a good sauce.  Some browned breadcrumbs added a nice crunch and the sauce adhered well to the pasta.   A tasty pecorino cheese added flavor.  My objection to the plate was a price of $25 for what felt like a appetizer portion of food.  If I had ordered this as my entree I would have left hungry but as an appetizer it was good and tasty but seemed overpriced.



Half Chicken was served with garlic and baguette.  This plate was said to be a regular on their menu and it truly is a star.  It reminded me a lot of the Zuni Cafe’s chicken in San Francisco.    The skin was perfectly crisped and underneath the chicken was the baguette that had been soaked in the chicken juices.  It also absorbed some of the wonderful thicked jus that was plated with the chicken.  This was a plate of food to swoon over.  It had terrific flavors and textures and made you want to lick up every bit of it.

Half chicken


Porchetta Rosmarino came with a hearty salad and lemon, according to the menu.  It was thin slices of pork belly that were well seasoned with rosemary.  It was full of flavor and very tender with a tiny crispy layer on the edge.  The “hearty” salad was a mix of incredibly fresh greens that were dressed with oil.  The lemon on the side was great with them.  The plate was one with lots of flavors for the eater to savor.



Dessert was brown sugar Ice Cream with chocolate chunks topped with olive oil.  It came in 3 small scoops.  It was not a heavy creamy ice cream but still easy to eat and well flavored.  The olive oil topping was new to me and turned out to be a nice one.

brown sugar ice cream
Frankie posed with some wine

Choo Choo Grill, Grand Rapids, 9/28/23

exterior – 1209 Plainfield Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505

Choo Choo Grill is a family owned place that has been running for over 60 years and open 6 days a week for breakfast and lunch.  Inside is a step back in time with 8-10 seats at the wrap-around counter and 2 booth-like tables.   The cooking is on the griddle just in front of the bar and they’re known for their olive burger – a Grand Rapids tradition.  Rick Mack bought the place from his father in 1997 but now is tired of the 2 a.m. mornings and the daily grind.  So the place was listed for sale and no one knows if a buyer will keep it the same or what.  It’s obviously filled with regular customers where much of the talk centered on the possible sale and how that will change life.  The tiny place is actually next to the railroad tracks and it’s filled with train photos and replicas.  You’d hate to see a place like this change but profit and big rule our world.  Meantime you can still hurry in and enjoy a fresh made burger and malt.  They do a lot of take out and have parking so I encourage you to grab a stool while they’re still in business. Continue reading

Butcher’s Union, Grand Rapids, MI., 9/27/23

exterior – 438 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Butcher’s Union is a large gastropub that does not take reservations, it’s strictly first come, first served.  They do have an online waitlist that turns on when they are full.  When you can add your name to it they will give you an approximate wait time and then text when your table is ready.  They are open 7 days a week but close a little earlier on Sunday.  They offer a meat heavy menu and a large selection of alcoholic beverages.  They try and source their products locally.   There are plenty of seating options with the large and long bar, the first thing you see.  There was another dining room off to the side and patio tables somewhere outside but we were ushered to a roomy booth across from the bar.  The music was loud as was the packed crowd.  TVs were hung around the bar but their sound was muted.  Parking is as you can find it but there was a public lot across the street which was convenient.  Service was helpful and efficient and the food was fine but the noise level would make me not want to visit often. Continue reading

Fitzgerald’s, “The Fitz” (update), Eagle River, MI., 7/31/23

exterior – 5033 Front St, Eagle River, MI 49950

We were at the Fitzgerald about a year ago (as well as in 2019) but this time we stayed on the second level in the newly re-done large rooms.  The view and sounds of Lake Superior are fabulous and with so many hot places, the cool breeze here was refreshing.  The staff are super friendly and there’s plenty of parking out front.  The restaurant does get full, so reservations are a must.  Guests at the hotel have first grab at reservations and I found out they hold the window tables for guests.  This visit the fires in Canada were making a haze on the horizon but last time we were at the windows and the sun is so bright I believe I prefer the inner tables.  It’s a small place though, so there aren’t any tables without a great view.  Another thing I learned is to come early as they have limited quantities of some items and the later in the evening the more they’ve run out of.  Unfortunately, they were out of ribs again when we arrived and no ends were available.  They did look large and meaty from what I saw on earlier tables.  Service is friendly and helpful but their wine list is small, especially compared to the array of whisky that is available.  It’s a fun lovely place but the food is mixed.  Some of the desserts looked and sounded good but those were all gone by the time we finished. Continue reading

Parkview Lodge and Grill, Toilvola, MI., 7/30/23

exterior – 32423 State Hwy M-26, Tiovola, MI, 49965

Parkview Lodge and Grilll is a large place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  The lodge has 16 rustic rooms ready to house those enjoying the snowmobile and ATV trails nearby.  Attached is a large bar and restaurant open 11 to 9, seven days a week.  It was opened in 2005 by two sisters and their husbands, but after 10 years they closed for 2.  In the middle of being closed, it was taken over by their brother, Scott Johnson who started doing renovations.  The bar and restaurant can hold up to 200 people and one new feature was the addition of some cutout trees dividing the bar and restaurant.  They are fabric covered to help with noise.  We didn’t have any noise issues as it was empty when we stopped but the middle of the afternoon would be prime time for the explorers to be outside.  The bartender took our order, helped with suggestions and was very friendly.  I don’t know about staying here but it’s definitely a place I’d recommend for a good burger. Continue reading

Milkweed Inn, Wetmore, Michigan, 8/5-7/22

lodge building – 15.5 Rd, Wetmore, MI 49895

Milkweed is a small bed and breakfast in the Hiawatha National Forest in the UP of Michigan.  Totally remote, they will pick you up at the nearest convenience store or you can bravely follow them on a 45-minute trek on unpaved roads through the woods.  Chef Iliana Regan, a Michelin-starred chef in Chicago, grew up on a farm and wanted to re-create that environment for small groups, in an off-the-grid culinary experience.  She is joined in this effort by her wife Anna Regan, who provides the sommelier portion of the fine dining experience.  Numerous friends and neighbors support the duo in providing a dreamy vacation during the summer months in a hunting lodge they purchased.  Reservations are in advance through the website (, where you also reserve lodging that is either glamping tents, a small AirStream or 3 bedrooms in the main house.  Your reservation starts Friday evening with dinner, then continues Sat. with snacks, breakfast, lunch and a huge tasting menu in the evening.  It concludes with breakfast Sunday morning before you start the trek back through the woods. Continue reading

Fitzgerald’s (update), Eagle River, MI, 7/22/22

exterior – 5033 Front Street, Eagle River, MI, 49950

We visited The Fitzgerald in 2018 and much has changed at the Eagle River Inn where it is located.  The dining room is the same but the menu seems smaller.  They still have the whiskey bar but the 12 rooms have now become 6 and they are (you guessed it) twice as big and have air conditioning.  The waves of Lake Superior are still right off the dining room or any room at the inn, so the scenery is excellent.  The dining room is wood-filled with lots of light from the windows.  The crowd is casual and they did have specials for the night.  Service was excellent, friendly and helpful.  They still specialize in barbecue and you can see evidence of adding-on to the kitchen in front of the building, so not sure what will be added.  Portions are generous and combined with the beautiful scenery, this is a lovely place to spend a meal and then retreat to your room to sleep with the sound of the waves.  It’s out of the way but go if you get the chance, especially if you’re a whiskey lover. Continue reading

The Pines Café, Ironwood, MI, 7/22/22

building – 120 S. Suffolk St., Ironwood, MI, 49938

The Pines Café had been running successfully for about 20 years and underwent a complete renovation in August 2019. Then the wife of the upstairs tenant poured lighter fluid on her husband’s bed and set the place on fire.  Fortunately, no one was hurt and she was sentenced to 11-50 years in prison.  The owners Susan Craumann and Janice Miskovich chose to not shutter the place and instead to rebuild.  A year later, in August 2020 it re-opened.  That’s why you feel the disconnect when the cute front of the place doesn’t match the clean, almost sterile interior.  On the main street of the old town, it is a good-sized place with booths along one wall opposite a long counter and tables in the middle.  They serve breakfast and lunch till 3 every day and have tried to decorate the place with woodsy bric-a-brac.  There are windows to the street and the lighting is turned up.  The only music is what bleeds into the room from the kitchen radio.  Service is friendly and efficient, portions are generous and the food is good.  They take no credit cards, have only a Facebook page, and no website.  It’s worth stopping by. Continue reading

Sleder’s Family Tavern, Traverse City, 10/2/21


Sleder’s Family Tavern, in Slabtown, is Michigan’s oldest continuously-operated restaurant. It began when a Bohemian immigrant named Vencil Sleder wanted to build a tavern where men could relax after work.  Louie Sleder (1909-1993) and his mother turned the place into a ‘good will’ business.  Prior to 1930 women weren’t allowed in the barroom with its 21 foot solid mahogany sided and cherry wood bar and 12 foot ornate stamped tin ceiling, so they entered through a special back room door.  After 1930 they opened up both rooms to all.  It was sold in 1975 to the Classens who re-finished the woodwork and added a Victorian-styled side porch that is popular for private parties.  It was sold again in 1992 to the Cairns who held their own wedding there and now their son and daugther- in-law own it.  Numerous hunting trophies line the wall, in particular the moose named Randolph that you kiss for good luck.  The history in the place is amazing but the food is good too. Continue reading

Slabtown Burgers, Traverse City, 10/2/21


Slabtown Cafe and Burgers offered indoor and outdoor seating with a variety of burgers and sides.  Slabtown was a part of Traverse City where lumber mill workers built their houses from leftover slabs of lumber from the mills.  This place is known for their grease factor, which the owners swear by, and the evidence can still be seen on your bag of food.  They serve homemade, hand pattied burgers and fresh cut fries and were rated at number 5 on TripAdvisor’s Top Ten Burger restaurants in America.  According to that report they serve 800 pounds of burger meat a day. There are several indoor tables but also a patio that runs around the house with tables.  The inside is decorated with photos of Slabtown residents and their homes and other historical things.   Music is in the background and the place is very popular.  I was not sold on their burger nor the fries. Continue reading

Rose and Fern, Traverse City, 10/2/21


Rose and Fern is a small cafe where all food is pre-ordered on their website <> and then you can either pick it up or have it delivered.  There are a couple outdoor tables and chairs but most seemed to take their food elsewhere.  It’s definitely a neighborhood cafe with families gathered outside eating and chatting.  Unfortunately after 3 years they have lost their lease and are hunting for a new location, as they must move by year’s end.  They offer a range of breakfast sandwiches made with quality ingredients and they are good.  They also have coffee, whose beans are roasted in house.  It would be worth tracking down if you’re in the area.   They are super friendly and our sandwich was a great way to start the day. Continue reading

The Riverside Inn, Leland, 10/1/21


The Riverside Inn is on the Leland River, about 40 minutes from Traverse City.  It is a 114 year-old historic inn and restaurant in the heart of Leelanau County.  It sits on the waterfront offering lovely views for the diners and has a dock for those that wish to arrive by boat. It was built in 1901 but mostly burned in 1924 and began business as both restaurant and inn again in 1925.  The Vilter family bought it in 1997 and did major renovations in 2017 but have recently sold the property.  Downstairs is the bar, as well as the restaurant and upstairs are the 4 guestrooms.  They have a large wine list and focus on locally sourced ingredients.  The large tables are set with white tablecloths and black napkins and music is in the background.  Some bench seating is along the wall matched with black upholstered chairs and the tables are set with wooden black chairs.  Lots of wood is on the ceiling and walls, some of which have mirrored inserts, with painted brick making up some of the walls.  Lighting was lowered except for the sun pouring in the windows. Continue reading

S2S Sugar 2 Salt, Traverse City, 10/1/21


S 2 S or now Sugar 2 Salt started out as Sunrise to Sunset but when the owners came together they realized it was more sugar to salt as they wanted to serve breakfast.  The menu changes with the seasons and availability.  It is located in the complex that long ago housed a mental health hospital.  They have indoor as well as a large outdoor dining area.  Inside much of the room is taken up by a bar, the front of which is a case for pastries.   A large window to the kitchen serves as a pass through also, where you can see the single chef making and assembling the plates.   It is casual and laid back with lots of signs on the walls and herbs hanging overhead.  The white walls reflect all the sun that comes in the front windows to make it quite well lit.  With a concrete floor it looked like it could get noisy if it was full.  The staff was friendly and helpful. Continue reading

Trattoria Stella, Traverse City, 9/30/21


Trattoria Stella opened in 2004 in the basement of a refurbished and re-purposed mental hospital.  An upscale restaurant, it offers a farm to table concept with Italian overtones through a changing menu supplemented with daily specials offered.  The kitchen makes pasta, bread and cheese and a full bar is available.  The large place has lots of brick arches and cozy spots with lowered lighting throughout.  The white cloth covered tables are nicely sized and set with black napkins with music in the background.  They have a large wine list with lots of local wines.  We ordered some of their nightly specials for our meal. Continue reading

Moomers Homemade Ice Cream, Traverse City, 9/30/21


Moomers Homemade Ice Cream is a family owned business with that overlooks the family dairy farm.  They make more than 160 flavors of ice cream, with 20 available daily and also serve ice cream treats.  The milk from the cows next door is put into making the cones.  The ice cream has won numerous award and most recently was a part of President Joe Biden’s trip to get support of his infrastructure package in July 2021.  A tour bus pulled up as we were exiting, so there can be a wait, but it’s worth it.  The ice cream is thick, really smooth and the freezer containers store it at the perfect eating temperature/consistency.  We tried 2 double scoop cups and both were very good.  Not intensely flavored but the texture easily wins you over. Continue reading

Farm Club, Traverse City, 9/30/21


Farm Club is a collaboration of several people to offer a restaurant, bakery, brewery and general store in one place on the Leelanau Peninsula.  The sales area and restaurant are in a modern barn with tons of windows that look out at the additional outside seating areas.  The brewery is on one end of the building and we didn’t go there but you can order their beer with lunch.  At the entrance are shelves of products and produce you can buy as well as breads, cookies, etc.  Light wood is on the tables, cabinets and bench seats, concrete is on the floor and music is in the background.  There is lots of outdoor seating and some tables have umbrellas.  Inside there is table service but for outside you make you order and come get it when your buzzer goes off. Staff were efficient and helpful, but the food was souless – good but not great.  Given its freshness things should have been more flavorful and some of the preparation was lacking. Continue reading

Bubbie’s Bagels, Traverse City, 9/30/21


Bubbie’s Bagels opened in Feb. 2020  by Sam Brickman who named it for his grandmother who got him interested in cooking even though she never made bagels.  They use an old school technique making the bagels with a sourdough base and fermenting for 2 days before boiling them.  This allows them to a wonderful texture and chew. They have several kinds of bagels and cream cheese to make your sandwich or there are optional fillings of egg, tuna or lox.  You can buy one or quantities.  Masks are required and the number of people in the shop is limited, but it is one of a kind.  The bagels do have a marvelous texture and taste but there was too much cream cheese for me.  If I ever go again I’d have it plain. Continue reading

The Cooks’ House, Traverse City, 9/29/21


The Cooks’ House was opened 13 years ago by Eric Patterson and Jennifer Blakeslee who  worked together in Las Vegas and wanted to open a small restaurant focused on locally grown and foraged foods.  There are about 8 marble topped tables inside on a wooden floor in a room decorated with art and cookbooks.  A small bar is in the corner but it is only for making drinks not sitting at.  They offer tasting menus of 3, 5 or 7 courses with the smaller ones having some choices and wine pairings available for each.   Menus are only online and change with ingredient availability.  Music is in the background, the place is well lit, benchs are along the walls for seating and street parking supplements the small attached lot.  It is casual with flatware in a box on the table as well as a bottle of chilled water and very friendly service.  We chose the 7 course tasting and got the wine pairings. Continue reading

Suomi Restaurant, Houghton, MI, 8/19/19


Suomi is a large place with counter seating as well as tables in two rooms.  They are a Finnish place that sells meals as well as baked goods to go.  The restaurant building dates back to 1869, but was first used as a furniture store.  Since then it has changed hands a number of times with the most recent owners taking over in 2015.  It now serves daily breakfast and lunch but closes at 2 -3:00 pm.  They are famous for their thin pancakes that fill the plate but the table had a special add for their Raspberry Pannukakku which is a baked pastry.  A peek in the kitchen spied several dishes of stuff ready to bake.  Service was friendly and efficient and the place was packed with people. Continue reading

The Fitz, Eagle River, MI, 8/18/19

wind surfers outside

Fitzgerald’s is most commonly known as ‘The Fitz’ and is the restaurant in the hotel of the same name.  It is located on the shore of Lake Superior where you can watch boats in the distance or wind surfers right out the windows of the restaurant.  The hotel only has about a dozen rooms but it’s the way to go where the sound of the waves will lull you to sleep after a heavy meal and a trip to the bar that offers a huge selection of Scotch and other whiskeys.    The bar is on a slightly raised level from most of the small dining room and there are tables outside.  A lower ceiling, lots of wood, a few photos and some music in the background make up this casual dining room.  The bare tables were set with paper napkins and based on the food, the server should have brought extras to the table.  The check in counter for the restaurant and hotel are at the entrance to the room.  The menu is a la carte and while it has some sandwiches it is all about the barbecue.  One special note is that they do not accept American Express, so have cash or another type of credit card.  The plates are served with fresh vegetables but a side salad or soup will cost you an extra $5.   Continue reading

Mikes Restaurant, Ironwood MI, 8/19/19


Mikes is a small restaurant of about 9 tables and some counter stools.  It bills itself as an Italian style place but they do serve breakfast all day.   It has been in business for 30+ years with the current owner having it for 20 of those.  Her name isn’t Mike but the name stuck with the place cause it was so well known in town.  The large menu offers lots of choices and portions are generous.  Service was super friendly and efficient.  It was a casual place and felt like it had a lot of regular customers.  The food was mixed but it was satisfying. Continue reading

Grey Ghost, Detroit, 7/19/17


Grey Ghost is a good sized place with a large bar area,  small patio and dining room.  The long bar has stool seating at the counter and additional counter seating that seemed available for walk-in diners.  The partition this area backs up to forms the main dining room and a long seating bench is on the other side.  Next to the streetside windows are better spaced tables. The restaurant has not been open quite a year but the weekday evening we were there the place was packed with a multi-aged casual crowd that wound down by around 10:00 pm.  Fairly loud music plays in the background and coupled with the crowd size, noise level is an issue.   Continue reading

Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails, Detroit, 7/19/17


Chartreuse is a fairly large place with a predominantly green theme.  Green walls work nicely with the bare wood tables and natural wall decorations which include live and dried plants.  Ceilings are high with exposed ductwork but noise level was not a problem since the place was not that full at lunch.  A table of lovely fresh produce is next to the entrance to greet you and bottles of Chartreuse fill the shelves over the bar to set the tone. Tables are nicely spaced and modern music is in the background.  There are a number of high back booth like seating areas with low tables adjacent to the bar.  The bar is ‘L’ shaped with the short part being in front of the actual liquor and the long part set for diners.  Service is friendly, efficient and helpful.   Continue reading

Mabel Gray, Detroit, 7/18/17


Mabel Gray is a medium-sized place.  It is long rectangular restaurant with bench seating running the length of one side that is opposite the kitchen and bar areas.  Tables are small and set fairly close but with enough room to be able to get out between them.  It was packed with people the evening we were there and with rock music playing in the background there was a fair amount of noise to deal with.  They offer an a la carte menu as well as a surprise tasting menu.   Beverage pairings are available to go with the tasting.  We had the tasting and pairings and the friendly servers were able to keep a nice pace to the meal despite the number of people.   Portions on the tasting menu are fairly generous  and table water is served in old Lillet bottles.   Continue reading

Selden Standard, Detroit, 7/18/17


Selden Standard is a large place offering seating at regular tables, high-top tables, on the patio and counter seating at the bar or kitchen area. We chose the kitchen area and had a wonderful time talking food with the two hard working chefs manning the wood oven and wood grill and also got to see a number of the items on the menu prepared.  The restaurant focuses on sourcing ingredients from their community and have been named the #1 restaurant in Detroit by various local press publications for the last two years.  Floors are of concrete and the ceiling is planked wood with a variety of lights hanging down.  Soft, subtle music plays in the background.  It was not noisy at lunch but then it was not full.  Service started with a little hiccup but they were kind enough to comp dessert for us because of it.   Continue reading