There are few things that I love more than a sleepy Michigan beach town that comes alive in the summertime. Its a common phrase, “Up North”, an all encompassing term for any destination in Northern Michigan. US-131 starts to back up around 3:30 on Friday’s from Grand Rapids, everyone headed to lake houses, cottages, and campsites. “Up North” includes unique, one of a kind, irreplaceable locations like Traverse City, Charlevoix, Petoskey, Leelanau, Glen Arbor, Frankfort, and many, many more.
The water Up North on Lake Michigan is often clear, majestic in its shades of blues, shipwrecks visible from Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Manitou Islands. June-August, the colors of the water rival that of the Caribbean, a sight you have to be present to believe.
I love the beach town feel: the sound of seagulls, the smell of bonfires at night, clear skies illuminated by billions of twinkling stars. I love sitting around the fire in a cozy sweatshirt, surrounded by friends and family, telling riddles and roasting smores. I love the feel of the warm sand under my feet at the beach and the way a shower feels after a long, sunkissed day outside. I love the boutiques, small town shops, and quaint restaurants serving up impressive happy hour’s. I love watching the boats glide effortlessly through the lake and harbors, the grandiose ones beckoning the drawbridge to raise and let them pass.
More than anything else, I love specialty shops and delis. I love sampling the jams, jellies, cherry salsa’s, and cheeses. I could stand in front of a fromagerie or charcuterie case for hours, reading every label, pouring over every description.
One of my all time favorites is the Village Cheese Shanty in Leland, MI. Affectionately known as “Fishtown,” Leland is the ferry passage to the Manitou Islands, and home to cottages, beachgoers, wineries, and more. The small village has shops lining the water, and the best is the small, unassuming Village Cheese Shanty, easily dismissed if you don’t know what you’re looking for. (A favorite of Mario Batali’s as well!) My friends Ross and Kari introduced me to the Village Cheese Shanty last summer, a suggestion for boxed lunches to take along on our wine tour through the Leelanau Peninsula.
The sandwiches are made with the best ingredients: creative toppings, local, fresh, topped on homemade pretzel bread. With names like the Shipwreck, Fishtown, Lake Effect, and Manitou, the only thing better is the price: boxed lunches are only $8.95 and include a sandwich, chips or cole slaw, a pickle, and a drink.
I’ve gone several times now, always ordering The Orchard (on pretzel bread!) and crave it CONSTANTLY, to the point that I recreate it with a few substitutions at home for lunch on a weekly basis. I rarely have pretzel bread on hand, so I will bake a small ciabatta for 5-7 minutes at 400 degrees, lay down the brie (so it starts to melt a bit) and top with either chicken breast or prosciutto, and top with spinach, tomato, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and sprouts.
If you go (and you should!)
Village Cheese Shanty
Call ahead for pickup! 231.256.9141
Have you been to the Village Cheese Shanty? I’d love to hear what you order!
What are your favorite Northern Michigan businesses? I’d love to hear your must stop’s, see’s, and do’s!