There is a place known as Mackinaw City in Michigan. No, I didn’t misspell the name. It’s just spelled the way it sounds, unlike Mackinac Island, the Mackinac Bridge or the Straits of Mackinac. Fact is, this curiously labeled village(yes it’s a village not a city) relies on tourist dollars, just like all the other slightly differently titled tourist locations that surround it.
While exploring the village of Mackinaw City, we sauntered through tons of shops, experienced a few historical attractions and dined at a few decent restaurants. Actually, as I mentioned restaurants last, one is probably seared in my memory banks due to its novel appeal, not to mention savory burgers, as its rustic atmosphere was absolutely cool.
Also, two ferry companies, dedicated to bringing people to the famed Mackinac Island, make their home in Mackinaw City. That is probably the numero uno reason the town is there at all. Believe me, as I searched the gift shops littered with Mackinac Island apparel and knick-knacks, I just feel these shop owners are saying “Thank you lord for the docks!”
It’s a rather cool and rainy day, and we’re making due with the inconvienient weather on our second full day of our vacation. We’ve decided to steer clear of the Island today and see what’s cooking on the mainland. First off, we do the Chris(that’s me) thing and see a historical attraction. It’s a Revolutionary War fort(actually it predates the Revolutionary War) and is inhabited by a group of scholarly individuals dressed in either French or British military attire- as they represent the two political powers that once possessed this installation. I recapped my visit to Colonial Michilimackinac along with our visit to Mackinac Point Lighthouse in my previous blog.
After that, we do the Heidi(that’s my girlfriend) thing and shop the town. Mackinaw city is very much like Mackinac Island’s town center, minus the Victorian ambiance. It’s main street is full of fudge shops, souvenir shops, restaurants and other gimmicks to get the tourist dollars flowing into the village. There’s even a brewery, which we don’t check out.
The focal part of Mackinac City is it’s large conglomeration of tourist lures know as Mackinaw Crossings. Here, everything from old-time photos to movie theatres are with in a seconds walk from each other.
Yet, we start out on the strip and low and behold, as I’m not one for purchasing souvenirs, we discover a raincoat for $20 at a souvenir apparel shop. It’s front and center, which is brilliant merchandising for such a soggy day. Guess what, this shop owner is rewarded for his retail skill. I had wanted one all spring but couldn’t find anything reasonable in Green Bay. This one even looks sharp!
We mosey through Mackinac Crossings and then check out a lighthouse. After that, since its raining and I really don’t feel like grilling in this muck, we decide to visit someplace called the Dixie Saloon.
I’m a tad apprehensive about Dixie because it seems like it was spurred from corporate thinking. Basically, its large imposing two story log structure sits in plain view of the ferry docks. I can just see the man who put this building here saying, “We’ll catch all the saps coming from the Island, who cares about the quality of the food, or the interior for that matter. People will just say ‘ooh look, a pretty building. let’s go eat there!'”
When I enter, I’m pretty much blown away. The chairs, bar and interior all say rustic log cabin. Seriously it looks like all the seating was crafted and bound from stained deadwood.
We’re greeted by a hostess and asked, “Where would you like to sit?” There’s a second story to this place which allows for a view of the ground floor. I ask, “Can we sit up top with a view of the Island.”
She replies with a “Sure” and we follow her up the stairs. It’s here that I notice, as I survey the wood staircase, that every portion, and I mean every inch of bare wood, bears signatures from sharpies. One could probably spend a year reading all of the names and messages scrawled on the walls, railing, window sills and anything else. Its pretty awesome and I want to let everyone know that Chris Karas once graced this establishment. No one will care, but hey, I can imagine they’ll be thrilled to read my name.
I try the Western BBQ Steak Burger and Heidi the Longhorn. The Longhorn is 1/2 pound burger topped with ham, swiss cheese, fresh sautéed mushrooms and onions on marble rye. While we wait for our burgers, we indulge in some local craft beverages. As always, they’re pretty darn good.
Our food arrives and we devour these monster burgers. Mine is totally savory and Heidi makes the strong statement, “This is the best burger I’ve ever had!” As I finish up, I gander around at this wonderful atmosphere. I sip a second beer and realize that my intuition served me wrong. This is a quality place, and it doesn’t only advertise burgers. Their steak and whitefish are boasted by the management of Dixie’s Saloon. This stop was a phenomenal Success. I scrawl karasexplore.com on the railing and leave with a very satisfied belly.
Tomorrow, we’ll return to the Island. The sights and events of the next day will be strongly reminisced, but today wasn’t so bad. I know Heidi absolutely loved it because she could shop. I loved it because I saw a fort that harkened back to the Revolutionary War. For such a small little place, Mackinaw City was the perfect setting for a rainy day.