Polish Dining & Lodging in Cross Village, MI
Don and I heard about the iconic Legs Inn Restaurant, before heading to Michigan in July. We had planned to celebrate Don's Polish heritage with a feast. But when I heard they had cottages, I called to inquire... so we could feast and sleep.
I reached the owner and asked if any cottages were available. "Have you been here before?" She asked in a somewhat worried tone. I answered no and she continued, "We don't have TVs, you know." I assured her that was fine. She said she wouldn't charge us until we arrived. I had the feeling she hoped we wouldn't show up.
Since the 1920's
We arrived in the afternoon and parked in front of the curious stone and timber restaurant. We looked above the windows and saw the white, inverted cast iron stove legs, that gave the place its name. The wooden door with all its odd growths, was just a hint of what was inside.
Gnarly Roots, Stumps & Limbs
When we walked through the door, I felt like I had walked right into one of my childhood fairytale books. The gift shop, tavern and restaurant were all created by Stanely Smolak, a Polish immigrant who came to the US in 1921.
I found a young woman in the restaurant and told her we had cottage reservations. She seemed surprised, then said she would get the owner. "This is family run and they need to be consulted." She said with a smile. The woman I'd spoken with on the phone, rose from a table covered in paperwork. It took her a while to find our reservation in a notebook. Once again, she wanted to know if we understood there was no TV. It sounded like this was code, for something much worse.
But that's okay, I'd seen photos on the internet. We just needed a place to sleep..
After all the warnings, we opened the door cautiously and found two cot-like beds to the left and a dirty kitchen to the right. The bathroom had a pile of dirty towels on the floor and the bedroom had an unmade bed. "This just makes me mad!" I grumbled. We marched back up the hill to tell the woman what we'd found.
"Our Waiting Room"
The woman acted surprised when we told her the room hadn't been cleaned. I was surprised that she was surprised. Or was she surprised?
We already knew there were no other hotels available, so we took deep breaths and headed out to the garden area to wait an hour for the cleaning.
Michigan Adirondack Chairs
It actually wasn't too torturous. We sat in two chairs shaped like Michigan, with a view of Lake Michigan. It was pretty outstanding. As we sat, we brainstormed strategies for enjoying our stay, since we knew we wanted to spend as little time as possible in the cottage, even if they got it clean.
A Different Cabin
The woman gave us the key to a different cottage this time. There was a picnic table and a huge willow tree, which was nice. But I didn't get my hopes up about the interior.
$149. is cheap for a cottage near Lake Michigan. But for that amount we could have had a spotless room at Holiday Inn Express, with two bedside tables. But probably no awesome teepee curtains.
At least the place was clean. We had no need for the kitchen, but we made use of the kitchen chairs...
We still had a long time to kill before dinner, so we took the chairs outside. Don played his ukulele.
We made friends with a little chipmunk and shared some Garrett's popcorn.
We sat under the huge tree, enjoying the bug-less, Michigan summer air. It was peaceful, except for our cottage neighbors a couple doors down.
We had a good laugh when an apple core dropped from the branches above. I thought our neighbors might be playing a joke or making a statement about ukuleles. But after I studied the core and saw the tiny nibble marks, I realized a critter had taken it to the tree. Do squirrels eat apples? Do chipmunks climb trees?
I had been sort of determined to have a bad time at our cabin, but before long we were having fun. We can't help it. I brought out the wonderful rocks we'd collected at my brother and sis-in-law's beach, just days before. Don played his uke and I played with rocks.
Summer evenings are long in this part of Michigan, so we had lots more time to enjoy the lawn area behind the restaurant. We grabbed a wine and beer and one of the few picnic tables.
The view, high on the bluff was lovely. We looked out as the sun lowered over the lake and we watched the tourists eating Sunday dinner on the patio. Some of the guests, waiting on tables looked impatient, but we were in no hurry.
The Prized Michigan Chairs
We grabbed the mitten-shaped chairs when they became empty. I told the young girl taking names in the restaurant, that we would wait as long as it took for a window table.
Our Funny Table
There was still some sunlight and a view by the time we were seated at the funny wooden table. Night finally fell as we ate our amazing Polish feast, served by our young Polish server, Ulga. Polish sour soup, potato pancakes, pierogis, goulash, rye bread... we were happy. On the way out we chatted with the owner's son Mark. His parents took over ownership in 1987, the very business Mark's Great Uncle Stanley started nearly 100 years ago.
I would never recommend the cottages and I have little desire to stay again... unless the price was much lower. But I'm glad we stayed. The meal, lovely weather, garden with view and the crazy and curious old building, made our stay mighty memorable. Yes, we could have enjoyed it all without an overnight. But it was awfully nice lingering and absorbing all afternoon, then heading down on foot to our cottage at bedtime.
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!