Michigan Waterways and Cafes

We just returned from a fabulous visit to Michigan!  It was great to spend time visiting family and friends, enjoying cooler temps, and embracing our favorite summer activities like cycling and beaching.  However, since I live 1,000 miles away from my family when I return for a visit, I literally have NO TIME TO MYSELF (not even 20 minutes to write a short blog post).  Which explains the lack of posts this last month, but I’m back and have a few articles coming from our trip-starting with this one:)  We enjoyed many food adventures which mostly consisted of diners, cafes, coffee shops, and ice cream parlors (it’s shocking I returned to Charleston without having gained any weight-because this wasn’t a “low cal trip.”) When it came to our food there were definitely some high and low points. While these types of food joints aren’t normally what I go for, we luckily found a few fun treats.

There is something nostalgic and comforting about returning to the town you grew up in and visiting all your old favorite spots. For me,  Michigan is one of the most beautiful summer states this country has to offer. If you’re ever lucky enough to make it to Michigan here are a few spots I would definitely recommend checking out and some others you should pass on-they’re not worth your time or money!  I am outlining the remainder of this post according to 1.) Name of Place, 2.) Type of Establishment 3.) Food Description and 4.) Rating 1-5 (1 being horrific and 5 being amazing)

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1.) Sandy Sue’s Silver Diner (somewhere in Ohio off the interstate…ok I googled and it’s in Rockbridge OH): Burger, hotdog, fries, strawberry milkshake and coffee. The thing about a good diner is that you walk in and instantly feel comfortable, you can order just about anything from the menu and you have a good idea of what to expect.  For us, after driving 12 hours across 5 states, I was ready for comfort.  (Rated 4, great diner food, fast, tasty and inexpensive…and that was one hell of strawberry shake!)

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2.) The Voyager Restaurant (St. Clair, Michigan) I ordered chocolate ice cream and a large margarita!  My first night in my home town was everything I could ask for-great quality time with the family and lovely high 70’s temps.  We went for a long evening bike ride after having dinner at my mom’s house and I was craving sitting on the water and having dessert.  So there was only 1 place I even contemplated going…The Voyager, located right on the edge of our beautiful river that runs between the US and Canada.  They have great service and good food.  If you ever find yourself in this area of Michigan (we refer to it as “the thumb” and its a beautiful day, then you must catch a meal sitting outside on the edge of the river and watch the freighters go by…its mesmerizing and reliefs any stress or worry.  Our order was minimal but I couldn’t have been happier.  Perfect dessert! (Rated 4…the ice cream was tasty and my drink was strong…and after being on a 2 day road trip with a toddler, thats exactly what I needed!)

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3.) The Raven Coffee Shop (Port Huron, Michigan)  I spent many afternoons, evenings and ALOT of money at this establishment in my teenage years and early twenties.  I always loved it there, the vibe is welcoming and inspiring (in a dark, Edgar Allan Poe-kind of way) and the coffees are fabulous.  Since I moved out of state, 12 years ago and headed south I have never gone home for a visit without returning to this favorite hot spot!  Not only does it make me truly feel “at home” by visiting here, but the coffee and chai tea lattes are the best! (Rated 5!)

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4.)  The Atrium Cafe (Port Huron, Michigan)  I had never been to this cafe before, but some friends that lived in the area wanted me to try it out and join them for dinner.  Its a funky spot for sure, I’m not really sure how to describe it…it has a personality all of its own.  It really is like nowhere else I have ever been before.  Honestly, the food wasn’t anything extraordinary or exceptional (it was tasty, but not really anything I’d be craving to revisit before leaving the area or returning back for) but the personality of this place was huge.  The decor, the wait staff, the memorabilia of past days was neat.  I enjoyed being there and sitting in the theater style seats, surrounded by cooky dressed up bird statues, old post cards, christmas lights and stained glass windows.  Weird? Yes.  Odd? Yes.  Did I like it? Yeah, I really did.  Sometimes you want to eat exciting food and then there are other times, its just nice to visit a fun place…thats probably the best way for me to describe it.  But people in the area are CRAZY about that place…I can see why.  It makes you smile, I liked that-however I did not like the iceberg lettuce salad. (Rated 3…it was cute and they were really nice).

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5.)  Thumb Coast Brewery (Port Huron, Michigan) I love sitting outside on the water, it could be just about anywhere and I’d be happy, but having a good beer and view…thats the perfect recipe! This place was the perfect spot to do just that.  I ordered the portobello sandwich on ciabatta bread and the Apricot Wheat by Thumb Coast Brewery (which recently won a award at a competition in Chicago).  Everything was delicious and I enjoyed every bit of being there and every bite and sip I consumed…I could’ve been perfectly happy sitting there all afternoon watching the sail boats enter the harbor for the upcoming regatta and enjoying a few more amazing brews.  (Rated 5…great brewery and good lunch spot!)

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6.)  St.Clair Coney Island (St. Clair, Michigan)  If you go to our little town and don’t visit the Coney Island, they may just throw you out of the town.  Its a staple for the area and everyone eats there on a regular basis.  I ordered the classic: Coney Dog Special (a steamed dog with chili and onions minus the mustard for me and a regular fry)  A bizzilion calories later…I walked away and felt like I couldn’t do it again for another year but-it was mind blowingly good. (Rated 4…if I gave any less than that rating-they might not let me return and I need my yearly fix.)

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7.) Chartreuse Kitchen and Cockails (Detroit, Michigan)  This was the restaurant recommended to me by my chef friend, Jeremy Kalmus.  It was SUPER cool and had delicious food.  The decor was really interesting with several living art installations which utilized flowers and plants.  I loved that this is a farm to table restaurant and that the menu had a lot of options of protein, veggies and some dishes with a twist.  My brother joined me on this culinary excursion and promised that he would go along with whatever I wanted to order.  We ate at the bar and enjoyed watching the kitchen staff do their thing.  I asked the chef to send out 4 dishes that he thought well represented the restaurant and their point of view.  That was fun!  We met some super nice people and had delicious food, it was a lovely evening.  (Rated 5…this place rocked!  Ironically 3 people from Charleston that follow me on Instagram, commented on my pics I posted the night I ate there and mentioned that while in Detroit recently they had eaten there too and loved it! How fun.)

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8.)  Wright and Co. (Detroit, Michigan)  This was another recommendation by Jeremy Kalmus.  After our lovely dinner at Chartreuse my brother and I ventured here to grab an after dinner cocktail and dessert.  Well to be honest I hated it.  Which is really too bad because the location is right in the heart of the city and has beautiful large windows that overlook the city streets.  The decor is neat, I loved the large painting behind the bar of the storm and the ship at sea.  It should’ve worked, our dessert was delicious (chocolate mousse and pineapple panna cotta) my drink was, ok (not great, even though the ingredients should have mixed to make something tasty-it just wasn’t. I ordered the: “Sambal Sling”; Blanco Tequila, Byrrh, grapefruit, birds eye chili, Peychauds).  Worst of all, the attitude of the wait staff and bar staff was crappy. They acted like their place was just way too cool for me.  I’m not sure what it was, maybe I’m not hipster enough (actually I’m not hipster at all) or maybe because I was with my younger brother who is in his mid twenties or maybe because I wasn’t wearing a tight miniskirt that night (ok, on-no-night-ever, do I wear a miniskirt) lol.  It just wasn’t there for me.  I really disliked it and I didn’t even finish my drink-which never happens. (Rated 1.5…I wish I could’ve liked it, I just didn’t.)

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9.)  Sue’s Coffee House (St.Clair, Michigan)  This quant coffee house/wine bar/cigar place is super cute and located right downtown in our sweet little town across the street from the boardwalk.  They have the most comfortable chairs and great large windows that look out to the water, which is lovely.  They offer the most tasty and delightful food and drinks.  I ordered the breakfast casserole (which of course was good, it was made of hash browns and eggs) and a vanilla latte. Love, Love, Love THIS PLACE!!  (Rated 5, always tasty, friendly and comforting.)

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10.)  Gar’s Resturaunt and Lounge (Marine City, Michigan)  It was awful.  Menus should offer more than just grease and for crying out loud if you offer a salad with chicken, please do not serve dried out, bland chicken on a bed of iceberg lettuce with a handful of croutons and call it a salad.  I ordered the onion rings out of desperation because the salad was so horrible I just couldn’t eat it.  The onion rings were great.  Thats all I can say.  (Rated 1)

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11.)  Londons Ice Cream Parlor (St.Clair, Michigan).  This is my childhood ice cream shop that I have visited a million times and will return to a million more times.  They have the most tasty, interesting and diverse flavors.  I love walking in there and struggling to decide between ordering the sugar or waffle cone?!?!?  My childhood fav was the superman ice cream in a sugar cone…and being nostalgic, thats exactly what I ordered.  (Rated 4)

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12.)  Southwest Virginia Farmers Market (Not exactly sure where, but somewhere off of interstate 77 in West Virginia).  While on our drive up north we needed to make one of our 30 restroom breaks and I saw a sign on the interstate indicating a local farmers market.  Well, being a market lover I can not pass up an opportunity to visit one.  We enjoyed looking at all the local goodies, fresh meat, honey, amish butter and eggs, vegetables (beautiful tomatoes!) flowers and of course my 3 year old tried to tell me that we needed to get some of the handmade candy because after all: “we are on vacation and don’t need vegetables.  LETS GET CANDY INSTEAD!!!” (Rated 4)

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13.)  Marine City Farmers Market (Marine City, Michigan)  This was the first market of the season and they had a very low turnout of vendors and buyers.  Most of the vendors were crafters or hobbyists.  There was 1 food vendor and they had great blueberries and cucumbers and we did buy some really delicious lemon, blueberry and walnut bread from another vendor. (Rated 1.5, I hope they get a better turnout for the rest of the season.)

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It is always nice to go home for a visit, but I have to honestly say…I couldn’t wait to return to my little slice of culinary paradise in Charleston, South Carolina!!!

(A few pics of Detroit…because it is, beautiful!)

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