Regional food specialties
-Fresh local produce and other local favorites in SW Michigan
Summer is winding down and will be over before you know it. So before you sit back and ask why didn't I get out and take advantage of what this great land of ours has to offer? Let me suggest a fun trip be it for the weekend or week. Chicago has some great beaches which fit their nickname "South Beach of the Midwest" well. However I rarely find myself there. When I really want to spoil myself with some spectacular scenic views and some of the best sunsets anywhere I head up the lake thru Indiana and into Michigan.
Michigan has more freshwater coastline than any other state
I get up there quite often and with places like New Buffalo and Warren Dunes being just a couple hours away there have been times I've gone just for the day. People that have never been tend to think I'm crazy when I tell them how nice the beaches in Michigan are, that is until they see for themselves. Today we ride up the lake.
Lets take a ride up it shall we?
Drier's Meat Market in Three Oaks, MI is our first stop in this trip up the lake from Chicago into South Haven. Drier's is a nationally historic landmark and has been a butcher shop since the time of it's opening in 1845. They have all sorts of stuff on display from past days. Its really great that places like this still survive today. If your making a trip near here and or passing thru I would recommend a stop.
Longtime locals favorite in Three Oaks, MI
I stopped in here maybe five years ago and decided to get some of their liverwurst or as it goes by here, liverbest. Described as more of a "country pate" they take their spreadable liver sausage serious at Drier's which is still all in the family. The smoker for the meats is over 100 years old. The people are really friendly and I've been stopping back here whenever I get the chance. My mom is a fan of their liverbest as am I. I'm not quite an old timer just yet and didn't grow up on the stuff and I didn't think I liked it until I tried some of the pate I brought back for my mom and then instantly became a super fan. I ate it all.
Liverbest...It's all in the family (family picture hanging on wall)
Spread on a cracker with a dash of their cheddar tub cheese was all of a sudden one of my favorite snacks. Well I stop by whenever I'm passing thru or staying in Harbor Country. This old school butcher shop is world famous for their liverwurst and also puts out other great items such as their hot dogs, tub cheese, jerky, smoked meats, mustard or whatever else might be in the meat case that day. Well worth the stop if your ever out that way, passing thru or spending the day/days at Warren Dunes. Bring a cooler and you'll be good to go.
When visiting around Harbor Country Michigan your going to be able to experience some great local eat and drink options as well as an abundance of locally grown produce. This makes the area somewhat of a hot spot for the farm to table movement which has now gone into the cocktail craft as well. It's been an area famous for it's local wineries for a while and now you'll see local breweries popping up as well as distillery's.
Two places that support this good food/drink movement are P&E Mullins Local in New Buffalo and the Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks. At Local you'll find fresh locally raised sustainable meats as well as housemade goodies like their pancetta (recipe with it HERE) and an assortment of sausages. I have heard good things about their bacon jam which is limit 1 per customer and only available on Sundays and will get back for some soon. At Journeyman they make some really good liquor. I'm a big fan of their gin and white whiskey. You can get some very refreshing hand crafted cocktails at their bar seven days a week with food on weekends as of now.
Warren Dunes State Park and Beach
Pack a cooler and bring sandwiches from your favorite Chicago deli or stop in at one of the spots along the Red Arrow Highway and pick up some stuff to bring into the park with you. Harbert Swedish Bakery is just down the road from the beach on Red Arrow. What a great little bakery to pick all sorts of goodies up to bring to the beach. The cherry cream cheese coffee cake is great. I also like to stop into Barney's Grocery Store in New Buffalo. I've been eating their broasted chicken since I was a kid. We got some fresh out the compression fryer and it was the best from there I have ever had. Nice place to shop at if your staying in the area. They have nice meats, lots of good beer selections and really good prepared foods like the chicken amongst other things.
Swedish Bakery in Harbert, MI
Bling! Bling! Broasted Chicken from Barney's Grocery in New Buffalo
There's also a pizza place called Capozio's. Must of been a couple years back when I stopped in. We passed it again on my last trip and I remembered the place. Looks great from outside, been around since 1945 but you wont get that signature Midwest, tavern thin, cut in squares we're used to. Not awful is best way I can describe it. Of course theres always Redamak's which has long been a locals and visitors alike favorite place to eat at. You can read more on them HERE. I learned last summer that the patty melt is the way to go at Redamak's.
Capozio's and their sausage pizza
One of the better patty melts I've encountered
Riding along up the highway we head into the St. Joe/Benton Harbor area. This is often overlooked maybe because Benton Harbor has fallen on harder times like other old time Midwest manufacturing cities but it's starting to come back to life and St. Joseph has a great beach and really fun town. With Whirlpool still around and putting money into the town it has a vibrant little downtown area where you can rent places or stay at the hotel which is within walking distance to the beach.
Silver Beach in St. Joe
They have a wonderful public art project here on the streets each summer that switches up the theme with each year. Last year they had all sorts of animal sculptures for all to see and snap with pics with around the downtown Main street area. This is it's the invasion of the pirates and they have some great work made by locals from around Southwest Michigan. It makes for a really pleasant atmosphere along with all the locally owned shops which offer everything from fudge to clothes. There's a great place on Main Street called Sweet Season Orchards which is dedicated to providing you with the best freshest available locally grown goods and they do some really good cookies and pies as well. Not far from there Vitale's is a great little Italian sub shop with a deli and homemade sausage to throw on the grill.
Your friendly neighborhood orchard store
Vitale's Famous Subs
The St. Joseph Public Art Project
Next door over in Benton Harbor there are some places bringing new life to this city across the river from St. Joe. It's fallen on harder times but I think it can be a great place to set up shop for anyone out there looking to open the place of their dreams. Whether its a coffee shop or a restaurant or art gallery theres room for all those in this area. St. Joe might be much nice right now but with all the old brick buildings and some new places popping up in Benton Harbor my gut feeling tells me its going to get better.
Old Benton Harbor
One of these places that makes me thinks that Benton Harbor will get a little boom is The Livery seen in the picture up above. Describes as a place making their own hand forged micro brews I really liked my visit here last month. It was a Friday evening and the place seemed to have a few regulars as well as some families and such who were vacationing somewhere nearby. Along with the Livery there was also another restaurant that took up space not to far from it that many people seemed to be coming in and out of. So it was nice to see some life downtown there.
I went with a sampler platter on my visit and basically let the bartender whom was very helpful pick what I should try. They have a selection of mainstay beers as well as an ever changing list and although I didn't eat some of the food smelled pretty good as they also have a cafe and pizza parlor. This place is a fantastic stop for those of us who appreciate the art of the micro-brewed beer. All of the ones I sampled were actually pretty pleasing with a couple of them that could easily fall into my regular rotation if I had everyday access to them. It might not get the love that out neighbors to the north do when it comes to beer but Michigan has big things brewing there.
Beer Flight from The Livery
More inland from the downtown area near where the river meets the lake is a mysterious place. The House of David was a community founded by a religious sect in 1903. Does that mean it was a cult? I'm not sure. But its said to have had over 1000 members in its heyday and along with that its own baseball teams and bands. Celibacy was required and they believed that ultimately they would go to Palestine where the Kingdom of God was to be established.
House of David
They built their own world here and went thru some controversy in the 1920's that split members apart. Nowadays it's pretty much abandoned that I know of but one day last year I drove thru it and definitely felt weird doing so. Its just empty but I bet the place could tell some crazy stories if had the ability to speak. I guess some old historians are rebuilding it. For more on its history and whats known and whats thought to be known see HERE.
Sunset in St. Joseph
On the way to Fricano's (read on) we'll stop in at Ray's Drive In which was a cool looking spot so we have no choice but to stop. When I saw the best burger mentioned in the old neon along the road and then lake perch painted on the building I made that quick turn into the lot that I make all too often. We can only hope one day I can do something with all these photos from the places Americans need to be stopping in at when they need some food fast. Not the other way around.
Ray's Drive In located in Grand Haven
Ray's has been around for a while. There's no room to eat inside so it's in your car or at a table outside after you place your order. Ray's claims best burgers in Grand Haven and has won that honor from local publications a few times thru the years. According to FB reviews it was sold in or around 2000 and hasn't been the same since. Burgers were cheap with a triple being around $3 so I went with a double cheeseburger and a dinner order of their lake perch to share.
Double cheeseburger from Ray's Drive In
The burger was ok, I guess that's all you can expect when the price was around $2. It reminded me of the burgers at Dairy Queen on Lake ave in Wilmette which I also happen to like if for anything nostalgia. I ate them almost daily after summer school at Loyola for a couple years back in the day. They arent the same burgers as a DQ off a major interstate somewhere. They taste old fashioned, cooked in steam, or left in there until ordered. The perch wasn't much better. I doubt that its still lake perch like the outside of the building proclaims, I guarantee its not fresh. But at $7.50 for the dinner it was alright. If I was a local I would stop in now and then for a burger and or perch sandwich when I needed a quick and cheap eat.
Ray's Perch dinner
Michigan has some great farms with excellent local produce. I cant say I've been everywhere but from what I've tasted over the years, Michigan has the best berries and a fantastic blueberry fest seen HERE. So with it being blueberry season last time I was around a stop into Earl's Berry Farm in Fennville, located along the Blue Star Highway was a must. Earl's is a fourth generation family owned farm. The family that runs it has been around the area for sometime.
Earl's Farm in Fennville
Berries are the specialty here and the blueberries were blooming during my visit. Available in U-Pick form as well as ready to go in their open air retail shop. Fresh veggies from other local farmers as well as jams, fresh baked breads and pastries and everything else you would find at a place like this are available. The blueberry crumbcake I bought to take home was amazing. Next door inside is an ice cream shop where they also make all the baked goods including some great looking pies. Both the blueberry milkshake which I had outside on the hot day we were there and the blueberry donuts, which I enjoyed the next morning after some other blueberry fun ;) were phenomenal.
Blueberry daze in Michigan
I've been to the Kalico Kitchen a couple times now with this one being in the afternoon. They do breakfast and have an expansice menu to choose from. This time around I went with a burger which I got with a side of cheesy hash browns with onions mixed in. Excellent hand patted patty, fresh as could be chuck burger cooked to a perfect medium rare. Top notch bun, excellent toppings with juice dripping down the arms. Add in some of the best hash browns I've had and we got a winner. It takes a great burger to get me to stop in for one again while on the roads, I'll most def be back for this diner like burger.
Kalico's signature bacon, mushroom, Swiss burger
Kalico has a butcher shop about 20 feet down from the restaurant where you can cut fresh curs of meat. The best part of the burger was that extra kick of fresh tasting beef. Which you gotta guess comes from their butcher shop. There's quite a few mentions of Fricano's Pizza Tavern in Grand Haven found in the bowels of the WWW and it's a place that's always been on my to-get-to list. The two times I had a chance to stop in were Sunday's, they're closed, so it never happened until now.
Longtime locals favorite in Grand Haven, MI
As is discussed and mentioned on the internet Fricano's claims to be Michigan's first pizzeria. Started in 1949 they now have multiple locations but as is always the case you gotta go to the original (Grand Haven) if you wanna get the best picture and taste of an old time place. It's without a doubt got the 'feel' down right. As you can see it's an old house and a pretty big one at that. There's a few rooms with tons of tables in each as well as the bar and pizza ovens which are centrally located.
I loved the old school pizza tavern feel as it brought back memories of a long gone place in Lincoln Park I loved in my early youth. Red and white squared table cloths and paper placemats with your options as far as food. Fricano's entire menu is pizza, available with six different toppings. So if your not a big fan of pizza you wont like Fricano's. But if you are a fan I think you'll find this Sicilian style of pie quite interesting like I did.
Everything here seems to be done the same original way which was cool. We took a spot in the middle of the place near the bar and ovens where the pizzas are made. I knew it was still really old school when I saw how the old ladies still cut the pie with scissors. We went with a "EBA" which is their most popular pizza ordered. It's everything but anchovies. I also got a sausage to go since this is the pie I use to judge all pizza places. Pizza's come in one size which is what a small normally is elsewhere so unless your going hans solo there nothing wrong with trying two.
Edward was said to have had a job here during his teen years...
I liked Fricano's but didn't love it. I thought the 'EBA' was too much toppings and the peppers were still pretty raw tasting like they were put on after and thus dominating the taste of the rest of the pie. The best bites were the crust which was crispy but their pie just doesn't get crispy in the middle even though they are all smaller sized which is shame since that is how I like it.
Fricano's "everything but anchovies" pizza pie
I thought the sausage was just ok on the EBA but then liked it alot more when I tried it with just that as a topping. The "bird seed" as they call the seasoning really stood out without all the other stuff. Although the night we visited was quiet I guess the place is packed most summer nights. Next time I'll order one with just anchovies as well like someone from Sicily would. The pizza did pass the "next day cold taste test" and made for a great eat at the beach.
Fresh Anchovies ready to go, Fricano's pizza at the beach next day. See you next time on S'C'&C!
Your trip begins at michigan. org (South Haven Sunset)
Drier's Old Fashioned Meat Market
14 South Elm Street
Three Oaks, MI 49128-1122
Harbert Swedish Bakery
13698 Red Arrow Highway
Harbert, MI 49115-5126
10 North Thompson Street
New Buffalo, MI 49117-1853
13982 Red Arrow Highway
Three Oaks, MI 49128
Vitale's Famous Subs
315 State Street
St. Joseph, MI 49085
The Livery Brewery
190 5th Street
Benton Harbor, MI 49022
20 North Beacon Boulevard
Grand Haven, MI 49417
Earl's Farm Market
1630 Blue Star Highway
Fennville, MI 49408
312 Ferry Street
Douglas, MI 49406
Fricano's Pizza Tavern
1400 Fulton St
Grand Haven, MI 49417