Harbor Country Michigan
By Bob Glaze
Just an hour and a half from Chicago is Southwest Michigan’s Harbor Country with charming towns, fun casual restaurants, lovely inns and B&Bs, plus a growing number of wineries, micro-breweries and distilleries that are not to be missed. You can make it a day trip or go for a long weekend. My recommended destinations include Union Pier, Lakeside, Three Oaks, Harbert, Baroda, Sawyer and New Buffalo.
First stop is New Buffalo, just under a 90-minute drive east of Chicago along Lake Michigan. It is predominantly a resort community of just under 2,000 people and known for its large harbor. Here you will find a good number of restaurants, bars, shops and lodging. Don’t miss:
Jackie’s Café, 501 W. Buffalo St., is owned by Jackie Shen, who had one of the most successful restaurants in Chicago in the 1980s and ’90s specializing in Asian/Fusion. In 1996, she became executive chef at Red Light in the West Loop and went on to Marché and Chicago Cut. She recently opened this cafe in New Buffalo, featuring breakfast and lunch. The menu items include quiches, frittatas, waffles and crepes, as well as soups, salads, sandwiches and Asian specialties. The small but attractive restaurant has both indoor seating and outdoor patio seating. There is also a take-out area in the back. You might also check out her farm-to-table dinners.
In downtown New Buffalo you will find Rosie’s Restaurant for great breakfasts at 128 N. Whittaker St. There also is Casey’s Bar and Grill and The Stray Dog Bar & Grill near the water with rooftop dining. David’s Delicatessen & Coffee is a good spot for coffee at 30 N. Whittaker. Redamak’s at 616 E. Buffalo St. is an institution for burgers just outside of town. I also like Oinks Ice Cream and Yogurt for a treat at 227 W. Buffalo St.
My favorite town in the area is by far Three Oaks, a small village in Berrien County, located in the middle of farmland. The charming N. Elm Street is perfect for exploring. Don’t miss:
Drier’s Meat Market.
Drier’s Meat Market, 14 S. Elm St., offers smoked meats, sausages and quality cheeses. It has been in business since 1875 and is a National Historic Site. Stop in for the atmosphere!
I always try to eat at Froelich’s, 26 N. Elm St., for lunch and to pick up some of their wonderful jams, jellies, spreads and sauces. They have a large selection of soups, salads and sandwiches plus their homemade breads. I am excited to see their newly renovated store/restaurant.
Journeyman Distillery, located in the historic Featherbone Factory, is a wonderful distillery located in downtown Three Oaks and one of my favorite places to visit in town. They offer tastings as well as a large assortment of craft cocktails, sandwiches, appetizers and desserts. I tried the tasting flight of five of their brown spirits which included the W.R. Whiskey, a white whiskey, the Ravenswood Rye, the Buggy Whip Wheat, The Silver Crest, made of four different grains, and the Featherbone Bourbon. All were excellent as was the recently released brandy. You can also do a flight of clear spirits including rum, vodka and gin. The atmosphere is outstanding, so make this top on your list of things to do.
Viola Cafe at 102 N. Elm St. and Elm Street Bistro at 8 S. Elm St. are other dining options.
There are a number of good quality stores and galleries in town. I always enjoy exploring Studio b. Gallery for art and home accessories at 114 N. Elm St., Judy Ferrara Gallery at 16 S. Elm St. for quality art, Trilogy Antiques & Design at 19 S. Elm St. and Gallery H at 15 S. Elm St. for quality art.
My local friend loves French Twist, for women’s clothing sourced from Europe, at 15 S. Elm St. There is also Blais Rustic Chic at 1 Oak St., featuring home décor and antiques, and reFIND at 22 N. Elm St. for re-purposed home furnishings, antiques and vintage pieces.
The Acorn Theater at 107 Generations Dr. is a great venue for a music or theater performance. You can also catch a movie at the Vickers Theatre, which has been at 6 N. Elm St. since 1939.
Lavender Hill Farm of Niles is further west from Three Oaks and located between Niles and Buchanan at 1219 Morris Dr. This is a lavender farm offering a line of lotions, soaps, oils and other lavender products including lavender honey.
The Fernwood Botanical Garden is a great spot to visit. It is located in Niles, Michigan, at 13988 Range Line Rd. and has beautiful gardens and wooded trails. There is also a cafe, gallery and gift shop.
Three Oaks Inn, 204 Oak St., has four rooms and is a short walk from all the downtown attractions, restaurants, galleries and shops.
Lakeside and Harbert
Lakeside and Harbert are primarily residential and beach communities just north of Union Pier.
Frecklefarm Home has some fun home furnishings at 14913 Lakeside Rd. Here you will find furniture, art, gifts, decorative accessories, linens, pillows, candles and lamps. Nearby is Lovell & Whyte for furniture, home accessories and accents at 14950 Lakeside Rd. It’s A Breeze, at 15300 Red Arrow Highway, has furniture and home accessories.
Harbert Swedish Bakery is popular for breakfast Friday through Monday. It has been at 13698 Red Arrow Highway for over 80 years. Next door is Luisa’s Cafe, which is owned by the same family.
Lakeside Inn is a 31-room rustic inn on the beach in Lakeside. It is a National and State of Michigan Historic Site, known for its 100-foot porch complete with rockers. The Cafe is a popular local restaurant. If you want rustic, and not a fancy place to stay, this could be a fun experience.
For more information, visit http://globalphile.com.
Next Week in Classic Chicago: Bob Says. . . More Weekend Road Trips through Harbor Country Michigan