Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Short Time Away

Hello! Our daughter wasn't able to join us on vacation earlier this month due to a busy schedule of summer classes and a research job at MSU. She's currently home for a visit between summer and fall semesters, so my husband thought she'd like an out-of-town trip during that time. 

Since she mainly wanted to veg out at home, we only went away for one night. This meant, of course, that we had to go someplace close by. Not a problem, as the northwest part of Michigan's Lower Peninsula fits that criteria. 

It's so close, in fact, that it was a bit of a shock to realize that we hadn't been up north since 2008. Since that time we'd either traveled west or east for summer vacations.

So it was with pleasure that we headed up north Sunday morning. I was happy when I began seeing birch trees in quantity along the roadside - they always seem to signal "you're up north" to me. 

Traverse City was where we spent most of Sunday. Unfortunately, I was too busy walking around checking out shops in the downtown area to take any photos. But take it from me, it was an absolutely gorgeous day, with brilliant sunshine making the colors of the surroundings pop. The blue, blue waters of Grand Traverse Bay, just beyond the downtown, added to the visual splendor.

I wanted one of everything I saw, but primarily limited to myself to window shopping. Was sorely tempted to spend some money at Cherry Republic, in part because they had samples of some of their goodies out. Chocolate-coated dried cherries, cherry salsa, Hiker's Mix with dried fruits, nuts and chunks of chocolate - all yummy. The store was crowded with shoppers happily shelling out money for some cherry treats. 

Also liked the products at Roth Shirt Company; a lot of cute designs on t-shirts like local lakes and various hobbies. I overheard a customer ask if a particular t-shirt came in another color and the clerk said they could make him one in about 20 minutes. How's that for customer service? Judging from their website, the designs are in-house. I know, there are other t-shirt companies in other tourist towns that do the same thing, but I did like their designs. 

Besides these two businesses, downtown Traverse City has bookstores, numerous gift shops, other clothing stores and several eateries. There's also a very cool food co-op near the downtown, where our daughter and myself were sorely tempted to buy some handmade soaps (sourced locally). But I'd made myself a pledge not to buy more toiletries until I used up the stuff I already have, so I reluctantly passed. 

The subject of where to eat dinner Sunday evening had already come up before we left home. My husband is a big fan of microbreweries, so I wasn't surprised when he had two picked out at possible dinner stops. One of these was North Peak Brewing in Traverse City and the other was Short's in another town, Bellaire. I checked out both menus online and liked the menu at Short's better. That was fine with my husband since he said he really likes Short's beer. Another bonus is that neither of us had ever been to Bellaire before, so it'd be a chance to visit a new area. 

Bellaire turned out to be a village; the downtown was only a few blocks long. But even though it was a Sunday night and Bellaire seems small and out of the way to get to, things were hopping at Short's. I can only imagine how congested it must get on Friday and Saturday nights!

The menu is, well, short, with nothing on it that would appear to be dinner-type entrees - instead, there are few selections each of appetizers, salads, pizzas and sandwiches. As for the beers, my husband tried the  Loyalty Ale and also sampled a "experimental" beer flavored with - I kid you not - cucumber, lemon, and lilac. What don't they put in beer anymore? (after tasting it, he ordered another Loyalty Ale).

I ordered from the daily specials menu, joking with our waitress that I'm really hard on restaurants, especially sandwiches. I've had a lot of mediocre restaurant sandwiches that I've had to pay gourmet-level prices for. That's always a bummer when that happens. 

Not so at Short's, I'm happy to report! I had the Chipotle BBQ Beef Brisket sandwich and every part of it was awesome. Sometimes the ingredients in a restaurant sandwich can be fine but are marred by the use of blah breads. (I suppose I'm picky about sandwich bread since I make my own; had a BLT on homemade sourdough for lunch earlier today). The hoagie bun used for my sandwich was excellent, no complaints there. I was happy to tell our waitress that the sandwich had passed my test with flying colors. 

Since dinnertime was one of the few times I'd had a chance to sit down in several hours, I took a couple of pictures inside Short's:

Artwork from Short's beer labels turned into canvas prints.

And if you'd rather wear your allegiance to Short's than hang it on a wall:

Part of a row of Short's t-shirts. 

Walked down the block after leaving Short's to check out a gift shop. On the way we noted that Short's is expanding into the storefront next to it. Judging by how popular it appears to be, I'd bet they could take over the whole block with no problem filling up the space with customers!

If you'd like more info on Short's, go here.

We spent the night in Cadillac, which meant that we had a bit of the drive the next morning to get up to Petoskey. It's almost all two-lane once you get a bit north of Cadillac, but fortunately there are several passing lanes along the way. Arrived in time for lunch, and we stopped at a place we'd been to several years ago, Julienne Tomatoes. It was still fairly new the last time we were there, but we were happy to find out that very little had changed since that  visit. It's cute inside and has a good sandwich menu. 

As was true the day before, mealtime was the only chance I had to take pics, so here are a few from inside Julienne Tomatoes:

It's a small restaurant but is bright and cheery. As befitting the name of the place, much of the decor has a tomato motif. Not shown is the pair of tomato-shaped salt and pepper shakers on our table. 

Mismatched vintage tables and chairs. Our table was white enamel, but others were wooden. Chairs were wooden; some painted, some not. I love this look for restaurants!

The above sign, hanging on the wall near the entrance, traces the building's history going back to feed store usage in 1899. We remember when Graintrain, the local food co-op, was in the space, but it moved to a newer, bigger location near one end of downtown. 

We were all happy with our sandwiches, by the way. While mine wasn't quite as good as the one the night before at Short's, it was still plenty tasty and I can recommend Julienne Tomatoes. If you'd like to check it out for yourself, you can find their website here.

After lunch, our threesome split up to explore the area on our own. My husband walked along the nearby waterfront of Little Traverse Bay, our daughter checked out shops of interest to her, and I did the same for me. I visited a thrift store, The Gold Mine, as well as the used book sale section of the public library, but didn't buy anything at either place. 

As in Traverse City, there are plenty of places to purchase brand-new goods. I was tempted by the creativity on display at Northern Michigan Artists Market. I also liked the indie bookseller McLean & Eakin, although I was amused when the young store clerk asked me if I'd just been in there a couple of hours ago to buy a bunch of comic books. Evidently I have a double out there somewhere (actually, more than a double, since I've been told before that I look just like someone else, even someone over in England. I must have a very common-looking face). 

Loads of other nice shops too, especially on Lake Street and on the side streets between it and Mitchell Street. 

You'd really need more than one afternoon apiece to explore Traverse City, Petoskey and the surrounding area, but that's all the time we had. Since there is so much to see and do, I'm hoping that we won't wait another six years to return! 


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