Friday, January 27, 2006

Good Eats

Now, I know that out of all the people (all dozen of you?) who visit this blog with any regularity, almost none of you are from Michigan, and the ones who are live waaaaay down at the other end of the state. But...should any of you ever be traveling through the unpopulated hinterlands of The Water-Winter Wonderland, and find yourself nearing Clare -- "The Gateway to the North" sign's right there on US-127 -- take the exit and find the East Fifth Street Diner, just east of the main drag. (5th Street becomes old US-10.)

This newish bistro, which has limited breakfast and lunch hours, is my new favorite place to eat out. It occupies a building formerly home to a series of short-lived culinary and hygienic horrors; now it's spiffed up inside and out. It's run by an ex-executive chef from the UK with quite a colorful career culminating in his retirement to this most unlikely of places. All the food is made from scratch, from local products when possible.

Because of the diner's popularity, whenever I've tried to eat lunch there on my occasional jaunts through this city there have been absolutely no parking places anywhere near. Today, however, I was in town before the big lunch crush and -- whoo-hoo! -- got the second-to-last space in the lot.

The menu features lots of comfort food, all made from scratch -- pot pies, macaroni and cheese and such -- as well as interesting sandwiches and salads like turkey/cannelini, and daily specials. Craving iron, I chose a hot home-roasted beef sandwich topped with what looked like Stilton cheese and spicy pickled onions. It came with a most unusual homemade potato salad that included shreds of boiled ham, what looked like Swedish brown beans and a creamy, pleasantly understated herbed dressing. Mmmmm...mmmmm.... And decent coffee. Pleasant waitstaff. A cozy, cheery atmosphere that I wished I could have lingered in a bit more.

All of which goes to show that you can do things a quality way or a crappy way, so you may as well do things the quality way; and that even people in the ruralest of rural areas will appreciate it.


P. Softly said...

I envy you this good restaurant. I guess that means I'm breaking a commandment, right?

Anyway, I tried to locate that place on a map and I concluded that you live really far SOUTH and in a quite POPULATED area. That is, in comparison to me. Everything is relative, isn't it?

bls said...

I just adore from-scratch, inexpensive comfort food made with fresh and tasty ingredients, and especially at an independent place like you describe. I'll go miles out of my way for it - who would bother with Applebee's, if there were more places around like this? - and I've often thought of opening up my own little roadside place. Wouldn't that be nice?

LutheranChik said...

Pounding: Are you in, like, the Keewenau Peninsula? Thunder Bay? I'm right in the palm of the mitt.

bls: That would be fun, no? Sort of a Whistle-Stop Cafe. And the food needn't be fancy. The food at this diner isn't fancy; it's just good. One of the things that impressed me was the cross-section of citizenry who were showing up to eat. Sometimes ventures like this are a little too "niche," and wind up intimidating a lot of potential customers; this place not.

And...this is funny...walking into the place, taking a knew the food would be good, because it smelled like someone's kitchen, and not like a restaurant. It reminded me of once, when I was a kid, going with my parents into this tiny little restaurant built into the side of a private residence up at Houghton Lake...the dining area was a couple of 50's-mod kitchen tables covered in oilcloth, and for all we knew maybe this was the proprietor's kitchen. We had pancakes (mmmm...pancakes!) -- the huge, sweet cakey kind. Those are the kind of restaurants I love. My coworker was telling me about a farm store up north that serves lunch out of a crock pot, on a table made from a cable walk in, and whatever is in the crockpot is the meal du jour. Why would I want to go to a chain restaurant instead of a place like this?;-)

P. Softly said...

N.E. Mn. that's where. Why go to a chain restaurant such as McDonalds? Three reasons, NO SMOKING, they really do throw out the food after only a very short amount of time, and the managers have to go to food safety classes.

Now a restaurant that is clean, smoke free, and has original food, well, that would be a rare treat.