Lakefront Dining in Saugatuck, MI
In July, Don and I spent a couple of nights in the sweet town, once named Kalamazoo Village.
We were traveling with Jennifer and Kate and the 4 of us were eager to enjoy our 2 evenings, looking out at the Kalamazoo River.
The first night, we ate on the roof of The BARge. The sign, with its bold emphasis on the first 3 letters, should have made me worry that we oldsters wouldn't fit the crowd.
But no one shooed us away!
Our group was happy with our table, looking down on the water. The sun only melted us for 5 minutes and then we had shade.
We watched a few party boats and a paddle boat, while we dined on salads and fish tacos. The food was yummy and the air was balmy. The water activity was both entertaining and relaxing.
Old Resort Waterfront Dining
On night #2, I was itching for a dining adventure, that could take us back in time. I had two places, on my radar.
I love an old resort, especially if it hasn't been remodeled and over glitzified. The Coral Gables and The Butler, both have a long history in Saugatuck. I was eager to learn more.
Don and I headed over late afternoon to check out Coral Gables. The 3-story structure definitely had a lot of gables! The long porch was inviting and I was curious about the glowing, Old Crow Bar sign.
The Leindecker Inn
There was a lot of history behind the sprawling complex, built by the Leindecker brothers in 1906. It was a hotel until the 1970's.
Tom Johnson purchased the hotel and Old Crow Bar, in 1958. He changed the name from Saugatuck Hotel to Coral Gables and his son owns it today.
Coral Gables no longer rents rooms, but the building holds about 3 restaurants and 4 bars. The decks in back could hold a lot of people.
Unfortunately, the Old Crow Bar was not open and the inside lower level lounge, was a little worn and noisy. The charm of the old building was totally lost, in the basement type space, but we gave it a try and ordered a drink. I hoped we'd get some scoop about the place, from some local men at the bar. But they'd been drinking a while and started talking politics. We didn't linger for that conversation.
Don and I headed over to find another place that we'd heard about. The Butler Restaurant had also been a hotel at one time.
The structure was built in 1892 and operated as a powered grist mill. The building was sold and opened as a resort in 1901. There were 30 rooms, a restaurant and a bar.
The building didn't look anything like the old photo. I assumed The Butler was in a new building.
Maybe the original structure had burned down. But the Whites, who purchased the building in 1961, removed the top two stories in 1972. The White's children own the business today.
A Quick Look
It was still too early for dinner, but Don and I stopped to have a look.
I loved seeing the arched glass doorway that I'd seen in the old photo. There was lots of knotty pine and many nautical accents. That always appeals to me.
The inside had two walls of windows, overlooking the marina. I was sold.
Back in the Evening
Jennifer and Kate were game. We returned in the evening and the crowds were mostly out on the deck, under green and white umbrellas.
But we opted to head inside and enjoy the view from the windows.
We were a little surprised to find the place nearly empty, but no complaints. We got a table overlooking the river AND the swimming pool. That was sort of amusing, since we knew they were no longer a hotel.
Patsy was our server. She said she'd been serving at The Butler for 29 years. She seemed a little weary, like maybe could use a break from the biz. But she couldn't have been nicer.
The food came fast and Jennifer and I were ready to dig in! Kate was a little bummed that they'd sold their last Prime Rib, but she didn't mope.
My chicken with mushrooms had tons of cheese. That plus a baked potato, was decadent. Don's Perch Basket with Butler Fries and Cole Slaw wasn't much healthier. All was decent and by the time we finished the sun had set and a carpet sweeper was making the rounds.
A People Encounter
As we headed towards the door, I noticed a woman straightening a few tables and checking on things behind the bar.
I had guessed right, she was one of the siblings who now own The Butler. Sadly I cannot remember her name, but she graciously showed us around and shared some history.
I'm even more disappointed with myself, that I didn't catch the story about this wonderful table. She told Don something about the people who once sat here. Those are some interesting names!
The Old Stuff
I was glad to hear that the old fireplace was original. The black and white photos on the wall, showed us how the place looked when the Whites bought the hotel, nearly 60 years ago.
It was fun hearing about how the kids in the family helped with the hotel, when they were short on staff. She said that she and her sibs would get a call at home and they'd hop on their bikes to come over and help out. She said she wished they had photos of the hotel rooms, which she remembered well, from cleaning. I wanted to go back in time and be her childhood friend... and swim in the pool!
Before we headed out, I took one more glance at a case full of memorabilia. There were hotel keys and old menus... photos of the fireplace and photos of the reconstruction.
Most dining guests probably don't spend too much time reading this stuff, but I was happy to absorb the hotel history and nostalgia.
Out of the 3 waterfront dining spots, The Butler took the prize for most memorable.
Colorado Road Trip
Lunch at the Saloon
This June, we were traveling through Glenwood Springs again. It was lunchtime and we were in luck. The saloon opened at 10 am.
The entrance to the saloon looked a little eerie with Doc's piercing eyes. But we headed inside anyway.
At noon on a Monday, the saloon was pretty tame. There were no whiskey drinking gamblers or beer guzzling bikers. The old place was about as calm as it probably was in the 1880's, when it was a mercantile store.
Don and I took a seat at Doc's bar... which of course was not Doc's bar. Doc died down the road, in 1887. He may have entered this space when it was a store, but he never got to see this beautiful bar, which was built in the east, in the 1870's.
Beer at the Bar
Don and I split a beer... since we were on the road. I offered up a toast to the famous gambler/gunfighter/dentist.
It was a little sad to picture Doc in 1887, dying from tuberculosis. I'm sure he would have preferred to have gone out in a dramatic gunfight, rather that a hospital bed, in Glenwood Springs.
Admiring the Bar
I allowed myself to look like a tourist, when I pulled out my cell phone to snap a few more photos. I loved the old cash register, tucked between the liquor bottles and beer taps. The arching backbar and mirrors glowed, with more neon.
Some history in the menu, said the antique bar traveled from the east to a bar in Leadville, Colorado. It didn't come to this location until the 1920's. Maybe Doc did have a drink or two at this bar. He lived in Leadville, before his final days in Glenwood!
Don and I chose this place for the iconic sign. Even though the bar caters to tourists, we did not assume we'd get good food. I always keep my expectations low.
But our grilled ham and cheese with waffle fries was actually pretty tasty... served on a china plate, for about $5. Our somewhat frazzled bartender/food server was also very sweet. She seemed to be the only one on duty to serve the bar and tables.
Before hitting the road, I gave myself a quick tour. The stone fireplace was a good reminder of the tavern's age.
I was glad to have daytime lighting, to help me explore with my camera.
Big Nose Kate
My trip to the restroom was interesting. The large photo near the door, showed a bloody face. (Glad I'd already eaten) The Ladies Room door was titled "Kate" with an image of her, on the door. The woman known as Big Nose Kate, evidently tended to Doc, in his ailing last days. The restroom itself was curious. The stall had swinging saloon doors.
We finished up, just as the lunch crowd was thinning out. I glanced at a few more displays behind the round booth, as we headed out.
I'm going to try to forget that grisly info and focus on that fine, neon pistol. I love a good sign and this one lured us in and gave us a nice road trip lunch break. I'll drink to that!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.