As is the case with any tourist laden area, the dining experiences within one’s reach can make or break the whole trip. Some are too pricey, at least for me, I guess that really depends on your budget. My outlook on dining, simply stated, is that there’s so much to see and do, I don’t want to get bogged down by a hefty check for a sub-par meal.
On our excursion to Mackinac Island, we had bought a cooler worth of food. We purchased our supplies at a nearby Wal-Mart before arriving at our destination, planning on cooking over an open flame at our campsite. Yet, as I envisioned the prices to be astronomical at any establishment on the Island, I was glad to discover that not every eatery and bar was out of my range. So we had some great dining episodes to accompany our sightseeing and shopping.
With that, I’ll start with chapter one.
Chapter 1 The Ice Cream Shop at the Grand Hotel.
We’re at the end of our biking trek and, as we deviated from Highway M-185 and explored an old 1812 battlefield and military cemetery, we find ourselves encroaching upon the largest summer hotel in the world. Here, although checking out the hotel comes with a $10 price tag, we have access to the Ice Cream shop for free.
We find a place to park our bikes and make it into this fun little Victorian shop. I purchase Mackinac Island Fudge flavored ice cream scooped into a waffle cone for $4. That’s not a bad deal.
We mosey towards the exterior and enjoy the marvelous view that this perch allows. We spectate the carriages that roll their way to town, and bikers that climb the hill towards the Grand Hotel. Down below lies water fountains and flower beds along with a pristine, emerald lawn.
The ice cream is delicious and today, while we’re not under a blistering sun, is the warmest day the Island has been granted this early season.
Chapter 2 Smokey Jose’s
It’s nearing the end of our first incredible day on Mackinac Island. We saw historical attractions, biked a ton and marveled at Arch Rock. Really, we didn’t spend a ton of money and, as we near one of the Star Line ferry docks, I decide to check the prices of a barbecue place.
This restaurant caught my eye immediately while we first embarked on this historical chunk of land. The name doesn’t jive with the motif of the Island. With everything here bolstering Victorian appeal, some Mexican’s barbecue joint just seems out of place. But alas, I do like a good barbecue spot.
The prices aren’t horrible and we can sit on a patio overlooking the marina. I’m totally all about this! We sit down and enjoy the very comfortable evening temps.
Our super friendly waitress knows all about the menu items and the local craft beers available. I try a Horny Monk, yes a Horny Monk. The Poor guy must have done something to really anger the man upstairs. His beer is pretty tasty though.
When our food arrives, as I ordered the brisket, I’m handed three types of barbeque sauce. There’s the Memphis, Texas and Carolina sauces to choose from. I go with the spicier of the three, the Texas.
Our food is absolutely savory! I love the atmosphere, the excellent staff and delicious food. There was little wait time and our meals were cooked to perfection. We leave the island the first day with good food and a tad bit of alcohol in our bellies.
Chapter 3 The Mustang Lounge
We’ve returned to the island on our third day of vacation and are strolling along Main Street. As we do, Heidi notices the Mustang Lounge which, by way of their sign, boasts to be ‘Michigan’s most historic bar’. We decide to investigate said building.
As we enter, I sense a local tavern type vibe. The interior is bare wood that appears to be pretty old. As of right now, I’m oblivious to just how old. We peruse the beer list and I inquire about the history and what exactly makes this ‘Michigan’s most historic bar’.
The waitress, who isn’t quite as friendly as I had hoped, tosses a laminated piece of paper on the bar, “The building’s old as dirt. Read this.”
I chuckle at her bluntness and read the sheet. What I find is pretty compelling stuff. It seems this building was built by a fur trader in the 17th century. From what I gather, it was moved into town and was used for a hangout for the African American staff at the Grand Hotel. This was during the 30’s, I imagine that segregation was a way of life in such an old tourist haven. Of course, I don’t know that part of the island’s history, merely a speculation. This old tavern has changed monikers and hands over its long history.
I like the super relaxed feel here. Although Heidi, who’s treating me, is a little astounded at the check when we leave. It seems they charge by ABV (alcohol by volume) at this establishment. Heidi’s 10 ABV costs $9. I’m glad it wasn’t my beer with the high tag. We leave and I feel enlightened as we head into the buzzing atmosphere of the town.
Chapter 4 Horn’s Gaslight Bar and Restaurant
It’s evening time once again and we’ve enjoyed our last day on the island. And since Smokey Jose’s was a hit, I decide that I’ll try my luck with another choice. Horn’s building has stood since the 19th century and has been in the same family since then.
We cross the threshold to a large open expanse which is accented with detailed woodwork and ceilings, much of what is typical in the upscale homes of the Victorian age. The Establishment’s long bar definitely harkens back to an earlier time. It’s that classic old time wood with an arched mirror look, with a plethora of liquor bottles to assure any customer that they’re in a serious establishment.
There’s a lively buzz here and we are seated by a hostess. She guides us towards an ancient looking booth in the corner, which is perfect. I have a view of almost the entire place.
While Horn’s is ornate, not too ornate, it’s still a fashionable little eatery, We try some craft beers and order the crab and spinach quesadillas. I know, its kind of an interesting sounding dish.
When the quesadillas arrive, we’re ecstatic about our choice and the beers are just as delectable. Along with all the old fashioned allure, TV screens allow us to view some competitive sports. I love this place because it says old fashioned but incorporates the luxuries of this century’s technology.
Chapter 5 Mary’s Draught House
While the beers at Horn’s were satisfying, we long for a Refreshment in a place that just said Tavern. We find one in a rectangular bar connected to a decent Restaurant. Here, there are tons of beers on tap. And if you like folk songs, a man who can sing James Taylor to a T is performing.
This place is rustically styled in a modern way. The stools appear as if they’ve been assembled with tree branches. The bar is wood, with a cool 21st century allure. Yet, large LED screens are mounted to the walls above the countless tap handles.
I check out the LED screens that scroll through a choice beer list. It includes vital info like ABV, brewery and the location in which the brew hails from. I choose some brews from Michigan and enjoy the music, which fits perfectly with the laid back Mackinac Island atmosphere. As we leave, I’m pretty buzzed for the ferry ride home. It promises to be a fun voyage.
In closing, there are many places to dine on the Island. Some establishments are geared towards family dining, like pizza buffets for an excellent price. We didn’t go that route, but I bet its another winner. You can choose as you wish of course.
I just thought I’d put in my two cents in on these places. None that we tried disappointed. Actually, I was quite surprised at the quality of service, food and value most of the aforementioned places offered. Go where you want, but maybe I’ve helped just a tad.