314 North Nicolet
Mackinaw City, Michigan
We opted for dinner at this local family-style place at the recommendation of our hotelier. The ambience is middle-class-comfortable, clean and well-maintained, not the least bit pretentious or trendy. Solid and reliable, I suppose, are the adjectives they're going for, and they succeed.
They have a full bar, and my driving obligations for the near term consisted only of the three-block trek along near-deserted streets, so my friend Kirby went for a vodka martini (yes, yes, I know: if it's not gin it's not a martini. Pace, fellow curmudgeons), while I did the beer thing. Since they actually carry my favourite brand (Killian's Irish Red, in case anybody's looking to supply my wants), it put me in a rare good mood.
The menu carries all the usual stuff for this type of restaurant, although the heavy presence of smelt and whitefish is a local thing. Those breeds of fish are, along with midges, the main foodstuffs produced locally. Kirby chose chicken primavera, one of the day's specials, while I picked lasagna after being assured that it was made in-house.
The house salad I got as a first course didn't bode well for the evening's experience. Not that anything was wrong with it; it was just ordinary salad mix pulled by the handful from a big plastic bag, then decorated with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese and a couple of rings of red onion so it would look, you know, like they really made the effort back in the kitchen. The honey mustard dressing on the side was thick and tangy, and the salad ingredients were reasonably fresh, so it gets a passing grade. (Kirby got a trip to the salad bar with his meal, and fussed about having to do the work himself while I got mine delivered. He has been learning to grouse from me for several years now.) The rolls served with the salads barely pass, being the kind that come in a big pan, are heated in the kitchen, and dry out as quickly as they cool.
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The chicken primavera was a little heavy on the alfredo sauce, but otherwise somewhere between good and superior. Lots of vegetables -- asparagus, cauliflower, mushrooms, squash and green beans -- mixed with rotini underlay a nicely grilled chicken breast. It was served with a heavily buttered slice of garlic bread, and nearly proved to be too much for one person to eat.
But the star attraction (in addition to excellent service overall) was the lasagna. I would not have expected to find a lasagna in an out-of-the-way burg like Mackinaw City, Michigan, that could rival my grandmother's excellent, excellent version, but there it is. A large bowl of noodles still al dente despite who knows how long warming in the kitchen, interspersed with layers of cheese and meat and topped with a tomato-based sauce that was seasoned to shocking perfection. Magnifico! And it was such a large portion that I have enough for a second meal, although the lack of a refrigerator in my motel room probably will defeat that plan, and it will go to waste with my fullest regrets. Unless I eat it now....
The prices were pretty good, even by my miserly South-Texas standards: entrées are ten bucks or less, and drinks prices are moderate. All in all, a solid three and a half chili peppers out of five.