I have such memories of this old train station, from when I lived in Ann Arbor.
I took this photo for my high school photography class, in 1974. I loved the castle-like stonework. I remember eating inside with my family. The Gandy Dancer Restaurant had only been open a few years.
The grand building didn't look much different last July, when Don and I visited Ann Arbor.
The Michigan Central Railroad station was completed in 1886. Historic figures from Winston Churchill to John F. Kennedy, stepped off trains at this station. The building was converted to a restaurant, in 1970.
July 4, 2019
Last summer, Don and I spent a couple of nights in Ann Arbor and dropped by for lunch.
We crossed over the bricks of old Depot Street and killed a few minutes admiring flowers and flags along the brick sidewalk. At 11:30 the doors opened!
The rounded entrance was just how I remembered it. The inside entry seemed much more dramatic, with soaring ceiling and stained glass.
I was glad we'd arrived before other diners, so I could snap some photos. In the past, I never had a chance to study the red oak ceilings or the glowing lamps.
(click image to enlarge)
My memories all involve family celebrations. There are no photos of my family dining, when I was in high school. I wish I had pics from 1990, when we celebrated my brother's law school graduation. The waiters were patient and delightful, with my squirmy 1 and 3 year olds. Both fell asleep and the adults happily relaxed finished up our wine.
In 2005, Don and I ate Easter brunch at Gandy Dancer, with our kids. Heidi and Scott didn't fidget and toss food, this time.
We were visiting the U of M campus that weekend. It was the spring before Heidi started college there. It was fun to watch the kids enjoying a little Gandy Dancer experience. I had been between their ages, when I first stepped inside that building.
Our Table, 2019
I was a little disappointed that we weren't seated in the space that had once been a grand waiting room.
The area in the old waiting room, seemed cozy and historic. Some of the seating looked like original station benches. But we were taken into the glassed in dining room, where we dined with the kids, 15 years ago.
Our table looked to be pretty close to the same spot, where we sat for brunch! It turned out to be the best table for train viewing. When Amtrak went by, the staff and diners clapped.
Power Lunch Special!
Don and I were pretty delighted to order off the "Fast & Fresh" lunch menu, for $16.50. As we chowed down on our 4th of July feast, I looked out over the tracks. I remember taking Amtrak, back when Amtrak was a new thing. I remember heading off on those very tracks, to Detroit and St. Louis.
Our meal started with toasty breads and salads. My Caesar was the real thing, with fat anchovies! Don's Martha's Vineyard Salad, was actually the best. Bibb lettuce, pine nuts, blue cheese and maple raspberry vinaigrette!
My shrimp and artichoke linguine, was heavenly. Provencale tomato sauce! Don's IPA battered fish came with coleslaw and fries. All mighty tasty. Hard to believe these were lunch sizes!
After we finished up, we had a wonderful chat with the general manager, Charlene. She had seen me snapping a photo of the first floor bar and invited me to look upstairs where the origanl had been.
I looked up and I could see the balcony connected to the room above. And a wonderful train model! Love that!
Charlene pointed me towards the stairs and I wandered up for a look. I could see across the dining room, to the rounded terra cotta fireplace.
Charlene pointed out the sign hanging above the curious fireplace. Funny, I didn't know Detroit was only 38 miles from Ann Arbor.
Charlene said the sign was originally on the outside of the building. It had been damaged in a train accident.
Charlene pointed out a photograph, on the wall. She said she had found the old black and white print, in the attic and had it framed. "This is why we clap when trains go by!" That's pretty funny. I love traditions like that. Show gratitude for the train not crashing!
The image looks even older, but I believe the accident happened in the 1960's. Some kids had caused the derailment, when they vandalized the tracks, by pulling up nails. Charlene showed me where the train hit the building (and sign). Luckily no one was killed.
The Baggage Room
Charlene also gave us a peek into what had been the old baggage room, which wasn't always connected as it is today. It was amazing to picture horses coming into this space, with luggage and cargo.
Charlene pointed out the scale that was used. She also reminded me that the name Gandy Dancer, refers to the "section hands" who once laid and maintained the railroad tracks.
Before we took off, I had a quick look at a few dining spots that I would love to enjoy in the future.
I'm so glad we were able to squeeze in a lunch on a holiday, but I would really love to come back for a drawn out dinner at night. There are so many cozy spots.
I looked through some windows and found two romantic tables. I believe these tables might have been part of the old ticket booth. I wish I could click a button and see the interior space, just as it was in the late 1800's.
Gandy Dancer in 2020
The article was from a while back, so I'm hoping they might be at least partially opened by now. I hope someday I'll get that chance to dine again at one of those extra cozy tables!
Dining in Holland
Last July, Don and I squeezed in a little Dutch Dining Adventure on our Michigan trip.
I remember going to some kind of Dutch Village when I was a kid. So of course, I told Don we needed to play tourist, before lunch.
Actually the village I remember was costly and more for kids. We opted to spend time at Windmill Island, instead.
We got to go up in the DeZwaan Windmill, which is an actual working mill, brought over from Holland over 50 years ago. I saw a lot of wooden shoes and missed the ones I remember buying years ago.
Then it was time to catch lunch in downtown Holland.
It was nearly 2:00 and luckily they were still open. We headed in.
There were lots of stools available at the counter.
We could have had some chat time with the staff, if we'd gone for counter dining.
There were lots of cozy booths and most of them were full.
I sort of liked this odd one at the very back of the room. It had a framed print of the Big Red Lighthouse, that we also saw in the morning.
We were given a nice booth in the front. Don took a seat and I snapped a few pics.
If I'd had more time, I could have counted tulips or windmills or cute kissing figures. I'm not sure what the history is with the kissing Dutch kids.
Our messy sandwiches were delicious. Don's French Dip was as good as the reviews we'd read before arrival.
I got my turn to attack my overstuffed sandwich!
I allowed Don to take a photo of me and my egg salad sandwich. I was pretending to be Elaine May in "A New Leaf". Don played Walter Matthau, politely telling me when I had egg on my face.
Our server was quite young and couldn't tell us much about the history of our restaurant.
I read later that the cozy place had been a restaurant since the 1940's. It didn't take on the Windmill theme until 1964.
Our young server did know a little bit about the annual Tulip Festival.
I asked her if she had ever seen the 1942 movie, "Seven Sweethearts" and of course she hadn't. I told her she must!
"It's about this very town and the tulip festival!" I practically shouted. She actually seemed curious about the old movie. This photo reminded me of a scene in the old film.
I was excited to hear that the town still participates in a street scrubbing activity, before the festivities begin.
We finished up and got ready to head off. I took one last look at a shelf of Dutch decor.
Sigh... I laid eyes on the sweet wooden shoes and remembered the pair that I I once owned. I wore those things daily for quite a while, even after my dog chewed off the points!
Fun stop with good food and good memories!
Lunch Stop on Highway 31
When in Michigan, you have to embrace the cherries! Don and I did last July, when we stopped for lunch at The Cherry Hut!
Welcome to The Hut
The exterior was pretty welcoming with red house, green lawn and white picket fence. But the smiling Cherry Jerry face on the sign, was even more so!
When we headed inside, we spotted lots of smiling Jerry's on the jar labels, behind the counter. There were shelves of cherry jams and sauces, cherry candy and popcorn and even cherry dog treats!
Don and I were actually meeting up with my sister and sister-in-law. They had arrived before and grabbed a cute corner table. Jennifer and Kate humored me with some playful, menu posing.
None of us had eaten at Cherry Hut, before, but we were already fans. For a number of years, gifts with smiling Jerry labels have come our way... thanks to my brother and sister-in-law. That very morning, we had come from their home on Lake Michigan. A sibling reunion... with lots of cherries!
Homey and Red
I quickly took in my surroundings and decided I was in diner heaven.
I loved my cup and saucer and coffee carafe. Even the paper placemat with cardinal, had a vintage style to it. The placemat told me that the Cherry Hut had been around nearly 100 years!
I almost expected to get crayons with my smiling menu, but then I remembered where I was. You don't have to be a kid to smile about cherries!
Cherry Hut History
There was a large booklet on the table that gave us lots of history about the Kraker Family and their sweet business. The "hut" began as a way to sell pies and other products from their orchards. They moved to the current location in 1937.
The book was packed with history, but mostly I enjoyed the photos. Everything about this one, was retro fun. The hut, with awning and window... the smiling jam selling gals in their aprons...
Our Apron-wearing Server
I was tempted to ask if our server would mind posing with some jam, in a photo. I decided that would just sound weird.
I did snap a photo, to show that the uniforms haven't changed much. These photos also share a blurry glimpse of the booths and cherry wallpaper. The dining area was packed, just a while later.
I ordered the Cherry Chicken Salad, which came with fruit and a cherry muffin. It was all so yummy, I felt like I was having dessert for lunch! My only complaint (which I kept to myself) was about my plate.
I wanted a retro china plate, like the one that held Kate's muffin. Don didn't have a Cherry Jerry face on his plate, but he did have a Maraschino cherry garnish, with his chicken tenders! I think the sauce was cherry flavored, as well.
A Cheery, Cherry-filled Restroom
I do appreciate a little restroom surprise with my dining adventures, now and then! I was pretty delighted by the cherry framed mirror and the fresh, red & white flowers. Best of all, the restroom smelled of sweet cherry lotions and soaps... displayed on a delicious little plate!
Before heading out, I made sure to look above the window, to admire the painted wall mural. What a sweet image of what I'm guessing was the Kraker's original roadside Cherry Hut stand. The image with cherry orchards, Lake Michigan, barn and farmhouse, reminded me of so many scenes we'd seen during our Michigan visit. We'd even seen a few roadside stands, selling cherries and other goodies.
Off We Go
Then and Now
As we headed to the car, I noticed a flat building, that stood behind the house-shaped restaurant. I know the 97-year-old business has moved and expanded over the years. Maybe the boxy building was from 1937, before inside dining was added. I left wondering.
Hot Dogs and Root Beer!
The Adventure... That Led Us to The Barrel
Last July, Don and I were in Saugatuck, Michigan. We were off on a morning adventure with my sister and sister-in-law. First we crossed the Kalamazoo River in a hand-cranked, chain ferry.
Then we climbed 300 steps up to the top of Mount Baldhead. That name refers to the 600-foot sand dune, that is now covered in vegetation. The round bald-headed tower that we found on top, was actually a radar tower, constructed in 1956. The overgrown image was an eerie reminder of the days, when schools did Duck and Cover drills, to prepare for Nuclear invasion... yikes.
A more refreshing view was looking down towards the town of Saugatuck.
Through the trees, we could see where the Kalamazoo River widens, into Kalamazoo Lake, before it flows into Lake Michigan. I chatted with a local, who was doing his daily step-climbing hike. He described the scene in the winter! Snow!
Cool Off Time
After enjoying the view, we headed down and decided to cool off inside a lakeside museum, located inside the old Pump House. (Shown in the vintage photo) It was in this marvelous little museum that we became more and more intrigued with the history of this wonderful waterside community!
I asked the young woman at the counter about the place and she thought it might be too far to walk. She suggested we call for the 2-dollar shuttle service. Yay!
A Barrel on the Lawn!
It took a while for our shuttle, but it was worth it. The van dropped us right off at the corner of Center and Ferry, in Douglas.
What a scene! There were shady trees and kids playing badminton and corn hole. A young woman performed on guitar and summer food smells wafted out of the barrel windows.
The picnic tables were almost full, but there was no line for ordering. After taking a peek at the menu, we stepped right up to the window.
Pick Up Window
Waiting for our orders took a little longer, but that's because food was made to order. This was not a concession stand at the ball park.
It was actually entertaining watching the buzz of activity inside the round space. Three men worked swiftly under the whirling fans. I recognized one as Michael White, from a photo I'd seen. The incredibly polite and hardworking man, is main force behind the business.
Sharing the Table
We were able to grab the end of a picnic table, just as our orders finished up. It seemed more authentic, sharing our retro, Root-Beer-Barrel-Dining-Adventure, with a family we didn't even know.
The cold, root beer was straight from the keg. It was refreshing, even if it wasn't served in a frosted mug. I'm now wishing I'd had the root beer float!
Our gourmet treats were definitely a modern twist on the Barrel's original dogs. I had "The Donna", which was smothered in mac-n-cheese, with bacon! Don went a little more traditional with the Kraut dog, served with stone-ground mustard. Both, pretty fun and yummy!
This photo better shows the size of my crazy dog! It was yummy, but I am a hot dog fan and a macaroni fan. Maybe I would have them side by side, next time.
Thanks to Michael White and "Friends of the Barrel" who volunteered years of time and lots of money, to refurbish and reopen this fun place!
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.
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.
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.