Hot Dogs and Root Beer!
How can anyone resist a food adventure, that involves a barrel-shaped building?
If Don and I had spotted this beauty while driving, we would have screeched on the brakes and raced towards it. But we learned about The Barrel, before we laid eyes on it.
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!
The museum shared much of the community's history, through old family snapshots. I spotted this one, with two kids and the shiny barrel.
When I read the words below the photo, I got excited! The roadside favorite that was built in 1952, had recently reopened!
It stilled served hot dogs and root beer! Yay! 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.
I read the info sheet near the window and wondered about the last two sentences. Who were the rude, impatient people who made them have to address abuse and respect? Everyone working in the barrel seemed top notch to me!
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.
So our morning adventures led us to a delightful treat! Eating at The Barrel was like taking a trip back into someone else's childhood. I don't have memories of coming to this place as a kid, but I'm guessing there was at least one adult sitting at one of those tables, who had that memory!
It's hard to believe, this iconic place was nearly demolished, after it closed down in the seventies.
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!
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.