Wildwood Cafe

There are many exciting places to visit accross the country-side. Sometimes the adventure is right out the door, other times it is not even necessary to leave these 4 walls.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Northern Michigan Restaurant Ratings

October 15, 2005: Goody’s Juice and Java
I really enjoyed this restaurant; it fits beautifully with Manistee’s Victorian Streetscape. It is not a restaurant per se but it is the closest thing to Panara’s that I know of in northern Michigan. The building itself is over a hundred years old. The lighting is very appropriate to match the era, and the ornately detailed tall ceiling is quite beautiful.

The selection of foods and drinks was very appropriate for a Café like setting. I had a Turkey with Asparagus Panini along with a cup of New England clam chowder, and my drink was a Hot Apple Cider. This meal really took the chill off the crisp breezy day.

The food was very well done; there were other food combinations that I would be quite tempted to sample.

I briefly described the atmosphere of the building. There was quite a strong patronage within this building. Several people were doing school work on laptop computers. Several other people obviously met to talk over their day. The only downside that I could see in regards to my visit was that the restaurant was pretty much at its seating capacity. My parent’s and I had a little bit of difficulty in finding adequate seating.

I would give this restaurant a rating of 9.5 out of 10.

December 28, 2005: Mode’s Bum Steer.
For being out of the main traffic on a Wednesday night the Bum Steer was quite busy. It wasn’t real easy picking out the correct building but Mode’s is easily accessible on State Street. The restaurant was fairly noisy; at times it was difficult to hear my friend Kristin speak. I discovered that I should have had made reservations as a wait was in order. The style of the restaurant was enjoyable, what I recall is that it was darkened somewhat by black colored recessed ceiling. I liked the large steak knifes on the table. In the backdrop bar stools surrounded a bar.

The best part of this experience was the food itself. I had the special of Blackened Mahi-Mahi. The fish was cooked very well. The blackened seasoning may have been slightly too hot for my taste, but the fish was delicious. The baked potato that accompanied this dish was not very large, but it was cooked to perfection. A thick piece of toast topped off the meal. I usually don’t get too excited about toast but I found this to be quite good.

The average price for a dinner at Mode’s is in the $20 range, it is less than half of that price for their sandwiches.

Kristin had a Prime Rib sandwich. She was very pleased with the taste of this sandwich and said that the beef itself was excellent.

I would give this restaurant a rating of 8.5 out of 10. (I would score this slightly higher if I enjoyed a crowded noisy atmosphere for evening dining.)

January 12, 2006: Timbers of Cadillac
This is actually the 2nd visit to Timbers in a couple months. Mom and Dad treated me to a birthday dinner. I like Timbers rustic antique and logging type décor. The last time I ate at Timbers I had an excellent Seared Walleye dinner. This time around I tried Timbers Prime Rib dinner with sautéed mushrooms. The Prime Rib tasted excellent. It was served in it’s own gravy, and the beef was very tender. The Prime Rib was accompanied by a baked potato. In my last visit I considered this to be excellent; this time around I considered it average.

We all enjoyed the warm loaf of bread that preceded our meal. For Mom’s meal she had a fish dinner. This dinner was quite large, the fish had a light coating, and Mom liked it quite a bit. She could only finish half of her large meal. Dad had a “Brawny Mac”??? It is a huge hamburger coated with mushrooms and onions. It appeared to be 4 times the size of a typical burger. He of course enjoyed this burger but could not eat it all.

The price range of Timber’s meals runs between 10 and 20 dollars. Their sandwiches run about half that price.

On the way back home Amber really enjoyed the leftover Prime Rib fat and hamburger. She licked the Doggy Box clean, poked her head up in the front seat sniffing out Mom’s leftover fish, which she did not share. Amber gave Timber’s a 4 paws up rating.

I personally gave Timber’s a combined 9 out of 10 rating. It is a very relaxed place to eat.

August 19, 2006: Shays Station Coffee Company
Shays Station has a visually attractive presence in downtown Cadillac.
Shays Station has a lot going for it, but in my opinion the train just hasn't arrived yet.

Shays can be entered directly from business 131 or from the back where there is a lot more parking. The name is very appropriate as Shays overlooks a park in Cadillac which has a historic Shay train on display.

The atmosphere in this restaurant is quite enjoyable, it blends a mixture of old and new. The building is long and narrow. Along the length of the one wall there is a mural of train station, as well as curved beams incorporating this theme. On the other wall there is an aesthetically pleasing food service area.

In the back of the resturant there is a large table which is very condusive to conversation, and I imagine this overlooks the Shay steam engine.

There are numerous tables along the long wall; they are rustic with themes written on them and accompanied with tall chairs.

The menu items include soups, sandwiches and coffee drinks which are prominently displayed on the wall. When you place an order you are given a decorative name tag which displays the name of a major city.

When the order is finished the individual who made the sandwich or soup announces the name of the arrival city and brings this to your table. When the coffee drink is finished the station name once again is announced and you pick up the coffee in an area that roughly symbolises a ticket station.

I will begin my criticism with the logistical food service problems. Even though I love much of the train station concept there are things that in my opinion don't work very well. There were 10 people taking orders or preparing the food. At any given time half of the people were loitering and talking amongst themselves. I personally think that things would work better if the coffee drinks were served at the table, or a tray was given to hold the entire order to be picked up at the "ticket station". My mocha was served in a large cup with a saucer, the mocha looked great, but it was difficult to navigate a very full cup accross the resturant without spilling.

I will continue my criticism with the food. The smokehouse turkey sandwich (name???)was actually decent, but I personally did not care for the walnuts and cranberries in the sandwich. The mocha drink looked great, but tasted awful. I guess taste is all subjective, but I really don't care for a very bitter mocha. The caffeine high is very noticeable. I am wondering whether each of the 10 workers put a shot of espresso in my drink.

I give this resturant a 7 out of 10 rating. To be called a "coffee station" I think that the coffee should have a high prominence. I will have to make another visit to see whether the mocha drinks are typically that bad.

October 7, 2006: Freshwater Lodge
This was my 2nd visit to the Freshwater Lodge which is a restaurant that overlooks Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City.

I enjoyed parts of my 1st visit to this restaurant in 2004. What I would consider the most enjoyable part of Freshwater Lodge is the building itself. The walls have many head mounts of trophy animals; there are deer, elk, boars, a few bass and even a moose. Additionally a couple canoes and a boat are mounted on the wall. There is one chandalier that is built from deer antlers that hangs from the ceiling. On either side of the eating room there are large stone fireplaces. I also found the apparel that the waitresses wore were interesting because they looked a lot like forestry type outfits.

In this visit I came with my parents, we spent the day on a color tour. This review may have a slight bias in that we came to the resturant hungry as we pretty much skipped lunch and ate a big meal at 4PM.

When we arrived at the restaurant we stood by the Please Wait to be Seated sign. There was no one near the entry area. A minute later a lady came towards the sign in area. My Mom said "Hello", to which she did not reply. She told us that she would be back shortly. A minute later another gentleman came by and told us that the seating lady would seat us shortly. A minute later and the lady was back again, once again she told us she'd be back shortly. When she returned she seated us towards the window, which gave us a nice view of the bay.

Our waitress arrived, she told us what the days specials were, and she said that she would be back to take our drink orders. A little bit later she arrived and even though we were ready to order our meal she just took our drink order. After a little wait our waitress arrived with our drinks. Even though she carried a large tray she did not have Mom's water with a lemon, instead she had extra water for the tea which had a lemon on top. She returned with Mom's water and finally we got to the order. The menu mentioned that our meals could either have rice or a potato. Since our waitress didn't mention anything about this Dad asked. She told him that the fish would be served with french fries, and asked Dad whether this was a problem. He replied that it wouldn't be, even though we all really wanted a baked potato instead.

She told us that she would be back shortly with our salads, which seemed like an awful long short. She told us that she would be back with some bisquits. Another long wait and she arrived with our bisquits. The bisquits were good, but it was dissapointing that there was only one small bisquit a piece.

The long wait for dinner started. Our waitress gave me a couple more Pepsi's, appoligised for the wait, and she said the meal would be ready shortly. Mom used the restroom and came back, she mentioned that she thought the meal would arrived before she got back. Dad was getting very frustrated. He said "We've been here an hour and we still haven't got our food".

Another dissapointment came with the meal. I saw that the edges of my Parmessan Whitefish were black. I was also suprised to see rice and squash for a side dish instead of the french fries that Mom and Dad got with their Beer Battered Perch.

My whitefish actually tasted pretty decent although I could tell it was overdone. I just didn't eat the black edges. My squash was luke cold, but the rice dish was good. Dad complained that his fish was greasy, but Mom thought it was pretty good.

I made sure to ask for the check when the waitress came by, because I was afraid of another long wait.

When you go to a more expensive restaurant you anticipate with service and food quality that you will get what you pay for. I did not find this to be the case as the food preparation and service showed a lack of organization and quality. The restaurant was not even busy, I'd hate to eat there when it got busy. I give Freshwater Lodge a 3 out of 10.

February 17, 2007: Blue Heron Bakery and Restaurant
This is the 2nd time that I've visited the Blue Heron this year, I will comment on each visit. The Blue Heron is located in downtown Cadillac. If parking is not available on business 131 there is a public parking lot close to the Book Nook which will require a little walk. The restaurant has an attractive exterior, and the interior is also done very well. The old style tall ceiling is ornately detailed and painted an attractive silver. Since this is a bakery as well as a restaurant it was a little confusing whether the sit down food would be ordered from up front or you should just sit down. I asked to clarify that I should just find a seat. There was a somewhat long wait before getting a menu to order from. I would describe the atmosphere within the restaurant as being relaxing, but that possibly could be different if it was at capacity. From the menus I could see that there was a breakfast selection (which includes breakfast sandwiches) and another lunch selection menu (which includes salads and sandwiches). I opted to get a Pesto Chicken sandwich. The waitress was very pleasant, but the wait once again seemed to be a little long. I found the sandwich to be quite good. The grilled bread was excellent. The sandwich included spinach, pesto, feta cheese, tomato and chicken. My only complaint was that the chicken itself was a little bit average tasting. The sandwich included a side of tortilla chips and a pleasant surprise of small slices of honeydew and cantelope melons. The price was what could be expected for the food that was served. My coke and sandwich cost very close to $10. I will briefly describe that in my prior visit I ordered a mocha. The mocha was decent, but a little bit on the bitter side. Overall I would say that this is a restaurant that I would definately visit again. The sandwich was both pleasing and healthy, it's also a big plus to be able to order a mocha. I will give Blue Heron a rating of 8 out of 10.


At 6:43 AM, Blogger Jeremy Stockwell said...

For a second, I thought that said "Brownie Mac." I didn't know what that was, but figured it would be something your Dad would enjoy! It wouldn't have been the first time he had dessert instead of dinner. :)

At 1:17 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Your restaurant rating is interesting. I enjoyed reading them. We are going to the Big Buck Brewery & Steakhouse tonight for our annual Post Office Christmas dinner. I'm going to do some rating of my own.


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