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Holy Smoke BBQ

May 30, 2023
  • 1876 W. Michigan Avenue
  • Battle Creek, MI 49037
  • (269) 964-2343
  • Website
  • Menu

You ever have those days where you’re pretty set that you’re not going to eat out. You need to save some money so no matter how easy or tasty it is, you’re not going to eat out.

I was having one of those days last Friday ahead of the Memorial Day weekend. I wasn’t going to grab lunch…then I realized where I was.

I was in Battle Creek and fairly close to a BBQ place I’ve been wanting to get to since they opened. I told my co-worker if we passed it on the way home, I was going to stop.

My GPS took us home Michigan Avenue to Augusta…so yeah, we passed it.

Holy Smoke BBQ is on West Michigan Avenue Bansill Drive just barely inside the Battle Creek city limits in the Urbandale neighborhood. The restaurant used to be one of two Speedy Chick locations that closed in spring of 2022. Holy smoke remodeled the space and moved in not long after.

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Kitchen Tribes

May 30, 2023
  • 555 Phoenix Street
  • South Haven, MI 49090
  • (269) 767-7492
  • Website
  • Menu

I don’t get to go to South Haven by myself anymore. I usually have a co-worker with me.

Last Wednesday was a little different. I was meeting two co-workers from Grand Rapids in South Haven for two different projects.

There were two projects but they were pretty quick. I met them both in the 1:00 hour and I was ready to get on the road again by a little after 2:00. I didn’t really have any pressing responsibilities back in Kalamazoo so I decided to grab lunch.

There are a couple of places I’ve been wanting to stop at in South Haven. There are at least two food trucks and there’s the old Dairy Queen which has turned in to something unique.

Kitchen Tribes is on Phoenix Street near Broadway in downtown South Haven. The restaurant is the old Dairy Queen building next to City Hall. There’s a lot of construction in the area right now and some plans to turn the old parking lot in to an outdoor seating area (since the City Council wouldn’t approve a food truck park similar to The Little Fleet in Traverse City). Parking is kind of up for grabs on the streets around the City Hall. There’s always parking at the Farmer’s Market across the street too if you’re there during the busy times.

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Casey’s (Chebanse)

May 29, 2023
  • 160 E. First Street
  • Chebanse, IL 60922
  • (815) 655-8406
  • Website
  • Menu

I hate that we don’t get back to my parents house as much as we should.  It’s the same old story.  We’re busy.  And the weekends we’re not busy, we just want to relax.  I hate it..and my dad reminds me quite a bit we only get home about once a year anymore.  It’s not that far…about 3 hours.  

Two of the last three years, the only time we’ve gotten home was for funerals.  My uncle passed away a couple of weeks ago and the service was on a Monday morning.  L had skating in Ann Arbor then we made the trip from Ann Arbor to Kankakee, IL.  

Once we got checked in to our hotel in Kankakee, we headed to my brother’s house in Clifton for dinner and to hang out with the cousins.  That’s part of the reason we don’t get home.  There’s not enough room at my parents house anymore and the closest hotel is about 25 minutes away.  Again, it’s a bad excuse.  

Monday morning, we got up and headed back to Clifton for the funeral.  We still had to get back to Kalamazoo by 5:30 and it’s a four hour trip with the switch back to Eastern time.  The service was at noon then we got in the car and headed back to get L back for a banquet that night.  

We didn’t really have time to stop for lunch anywhere but on our first trip to Clifton on Sunday, I noticed the new Casey’s was open in Chebanse (the exit we get off of I-57 on).  We needed to get drinks and use the bathroom before getting on the road and I I figured we could grab something to eat there.  

Casey’s in Chebanse is right off the I-57 exit on First Street.  This location was a gas station when I lived in the area there close to 25 years ago.  It closed right around the time I was moving away due to the tanks leaking.  The gas station was torn down and it stayed an empty lot until just recently when Casey’s put a gas station in the small village of Chebanse for the first time in over two decades.  

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Taystee’s Burgers (Ann Arbor)

May 29, 2023
  • 2689 Ann Arbor-Saline Road
  • Ann Arbor, MI 48103
  • (734) 263-2208
  • Website
  • Menu

There are always so many places I want to eat when I go to Ann Arbor. I love Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger. I haven’t eaten at Zingerman’s Deli in years. Plus, there’s all sorts of other new and unique places in this quintessential college town.

That’s not usually how meals work at skating competitions though…and I get it. L likes to go to lunch with her friends and everyone is one different schedules so sometimes, fast or fast casual food is the only way to go.

We were in Ann Arbor a few weeks ago for the Margaret Faulkner Springtime Invitational at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube. L was skating on Thursday and Sunday. J, L, and I went over for her Thursday skates leaving B with Nana and Grandpa.

She skated at 10 AM, Noon, and 6:00 PM….so we had a really big gap and some time to kill.

L and the girls she skates with at 6:00 wanted to go to lunch together. The other girl’s mom was up for pretty much anything. She threw out the Potbelly Sandwich we just ate at not too long ago on Ann Arbor-Saline Road but the girls decided Moe’s Southwest Grill on their own.

I was fine with that. I like Moe’s and we lost the one that was near our home on Stadium Drive.

On our drive over there, I remembered I saw a burger place that looked really good. I wasn’t going to try to change anyone’s mind but I asked J if I could drop them off at Moe’s and go get myself a burger. No one really wants to have lunch with Dad anyway. The girls could still get what they wanted and I could grab something I wanted.

I dropped J and L off at Moe’s then headed back towards the highway to the Shell gas station on the corner of Ann Arbor-Saline Road and Eisenhower Parkway on the Southwest side of Ann Arbor. In that building is a quick service burger joint called Taystee’s Burgers. It’s it’s own space. It’s not part of the Shell station, but it’s in the same parking lot. They have four locations in the Detroit area but I had never heard of them before. I did a quick Google search to see what they were doing and the burgers looked liked something I needed to try.

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Ann Arbor Ice Cube

May 28, 2023
  • 2121 Oak Valley Drive
  • Ann Arbor, MI 48103
  • (734) 213-1600
  • Website
  • Menu

I have to guess by now you’ve figured out my kids are figure skaters.  L is in her second full year of individual competitions and B will be starting to compete at the end of July.  

Like a lot of parents, we spend a lot of our free time and weekends at our kids’ sporting events.  

Unlike a lot of parents, we’re not at soccer fields or baseball/softball diamonds.  

We’re at ice rinks.  

Since March, J and L have already been to East Lansing and Flossmor, IL to compete.  She has at least six competitions this year before the end of July…maybe 7…and hopefully a spot at a national competition in Chicago is September.  

I don’t spend as much time at the rink as J does.  Her job is a little more flexible and I’m not trusted to get hair, make up and costume right after a….mishap last year in Traverse City when J couldn’t go.  Wasn’t a big deal.  I got the hair right.  L just put one of her dresses on backwards and neither I, L, or her coaches could figure it out.  

I got thinking when we were in Ann Arbor.  Why don’t I ever blog about the ice rinks we go to for competitions….especially when they have food. I blog about sports venues a lot..whether I eat at said venues or not.  So, I decided I’ll start including the ice rinks we spend many of our weekends at as part of the blog.  

First up, the Ann Arbor Ice Cube.  

The Ann Arbor Ice Cube is on Oak Valley Road near Scio Church Road on the southwest side of Ann Arbor.  It’s near the I-94 exit at Ann Arbor-Saline Road but you have to back track a little bit to get there.  The ice arena is actully located in Pittsfield Charter Township just outside of the Ann Arbor city limits. 

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Nonla Burger (Grand Rapids)

May 26, 2023
  • 449 Bridge Street NW, Suite 102
  • Grand Rapids, MI 49504
  • (616) 719-2351
  • Website
  • Menu

I didn’t expect to work in Grand Rapids last week, but I did.

My Kalamazoo colleague called in sick. There was more of a need for me in Grand Rapids than there was to send someone to Kalamazoo. I had a fairly spread out day that afforded me a lunch break where I could actually lead the office.

I used to work in Grand Rapids every night but that’s not the case anymore. I still see a lot of new places opening and I have a hard time filing away all the restaurants I want to get to.

I was hanging out on the Southeast Side of Grand Rapids racking my brain trying to think of something. Then I remembered one of my favorite Kalamazoo restaurants opened a Grand Rapids location a while back.

Nonla Burger’s Grand Rapids location is on Bridge Street on the Northwest side of the City. The restaurant is part of a mixed use commercial building near the corner of Bridge and Broadway. The restaurant is on the main floor next to a Condado Taco. There is some street parking in the area which is going to be your best bet if you’re just popping in for a sandwich.

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Los Amigos Restaurant (Portage North)

May 24, 2023
  • 5036 S. Westnedge Avenue
  • Portage, MI 49002
  • (269) 382-6901
  • Website
  • Menu

I just wanted tacos.

Co-worker and I were in Bronson last week for an assignment. I know there’s a great pizza place in Bronson but I was in the mood for tacos. When I was looking around to see what was in the small village, I saw a Mexican place….and they had online ordering!

I put the order in, paid for it, then went to pick it up….and it was closed. Not a big deal. I got my money back…but I still wanted tacos.

Co-worker and I needed to go to Coldwater before heading back to Kalamazoo. I passed a taco truck but I was getting worried about time. We had to get back.

I finished my shift then had to go to Wings West. B had Learn to Skate and I wanted to get there to watch him.

I still wanted tacos though.

I knew I was going to pass a Los Amigos….and they have online ordering…so I thought there was a way.

Los Amigos has four restaurants in the Kalamazoo area including two in Portage. I was heading to I-94 so I picked the northernmost one on Westnedge close to Kilgore Road. The restaurant used to be Riviera Maya. J and I ate there way back in 2013. That restaurant closed a while ago and Los Amigos moved in.

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Charlotte Brewing Company

May 24, 2023
  • 214 S. Cochran Avenue
  • Charlotte, MI 48813
  • (517) 543-8882
  • Website
  • Menu

I’ve mentioned before, my kids are in to musical theater. J and I always have been and we’ve gotten both kids in to it as well.

We started L with seeing Hamilton a few years ago at DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids. We got B in to it by seeing Six at DeVos as well. Six is more of a concert than traditional musical theater though…but we did take him to see Beetlejuice The Musical at the Detroit Opera House.

There are a number of musical’s L wants to see and we’re starting to line them up between East Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo. The next available one was Wicked at the Wharton Center in East Lansing.

J and I saw Wicked on one of our first dates close to 16 years ago in Chicago. I only vaguely remember what happened so I thought it’d be good to see it again. The kids got their first taste of The Wizard of Oz last summer at the Kindleberger Arts Festival in Parchment so it was time to see the “real” story of the witches.

It was going to be a long day. We needed to go on this particular Saturday night due to schedules and the only way to get decently priced tickets was to go to the 8:00 PM show. J and I both had to get up well before dawn to work at different races.

I got home from Grand Rapids around noon. I had some things I really needed to do so I didn’t take a nap. I was getting hungry and knew trying to go out to eat on a Saturday night in East Lansing at dinner time probably wasn’t going to work to well.

The last few times I’ve driven home from Lansing I’ve seen a billboard on I-69 for a brewery in Charlotte. I like breweries and the menu looked good. I asked J if she wanted to grab something eat before going to the show.

We stopped at Charlotte Brewing Company in downtown Charlotte. At least I think that’s the name of the restaurant. The billboard, the website, and the menu all say Charlotte Brewing Company but the restaurant still says Eaton Pub & Grille…and Google lists it as Eaton Pub & Grille and Charlottte Brewing Company. Their Facebook page just calls it Eaton Pub & Grille but the branding is all Charlotte Brewing Company…and there’s no story anywhere about why that is. My assumption is Charlotte Brewing operates of of a restaurant called Eaton Pub & Grille (which has been there for a long time) and just kind of took over. Anyway, the restaurant, whatever you want to call it, is on Cochran Avenue just south of Lovette Avenue. The restaurant takes up the bottom floors of two probably turn of the century two story brick buildings on the busy Cochran Avenue that serves as the small town’s main street. The buildings are tied together with an entry way that was clearly added long after the buildings were built.

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Water Street Coffee Joint (Downtown)

May 20, 2023
  • 315 E. Water Street
  • Kalamazoo, MI 49007
  • (269) 373-2840
  • Website
  • Menu

It’s kind of crazy I’ve worked in downtown Kalamazoo and never been to Water Street Coffee Joint downtown, right?

I’m not a coffee drinker so there’s actually a few places downtown I’ve never been to. I drive by Water Street almost daily but I do just that. Drive by it.

My co-worker needed to pick up some gift cards for his mom last week. He was trying to do it online but they don’t have digital gift cards. They only do order online then they send physical gift cards which wasn’t going to work. I suggested we just drive over there when we had time.

The downtown Water Street Coffee Joint location is the original. The really small, odd shaped building sits on a triangle piece of land on the corner of Water Street (hence the name) and Kalamazoo Avenue right next to the railroad tracks and across the street from Bell’s Eccentric Cafe. The parking lot is really small and really tight. There’s additional parking on Water Street if you can’t get in to the lot.

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Big Time Burgers + Brew

May 15, 2023
  • >2454 Promenade Way
  • Portage, IN 46368
  • (219) 841-9984
  • Website
  • Menu

Living so far away from where I grew up, we don’t get to see my nieces very often. The kids, of course, want to see their cousins but it’s hard to get together. We’re only about three hours away (before the time change) but life gets in the way. My kids are really in to ice skating. My brother’s girls are really in to travel softball.

I went to a White Sox game with my brother a couple of weeks ago. At one point he said his youngest daughter was playing a tournament that weekend in Portage, IN. We didn’t have plans on Saturday so I asked J if she wanted to go. I have never gotten to watch that niece play softball so I was excited that J said it was a good idea.

The trip to Portage, IN is only about an hour and a half. The team played at the Portage Jr. Miss Softball fields. They won their first game which meant they got to play a second a little later that day.

We stuck around for both games. The second game was done around 4:30 CT. We hung out in the parking lot and said our goodbyes. The niece we were there to watch was shocked we showed up. No one told her it was a possibility so when she looked over and saw us, it was a nice surprise.

We left the softball fields and started heading home. We had gotten snacks at the concession stand but hadn’t really eaten. I asked if anyone was hungry. J said yes. The kids grumbled…but that’s what they do when we eat out.

I found a place not too far away that was right up our alley.

Big Time Burgers + Brew is on Founders Square near Central Avenue in Portage, IN. The restaurant is part of a newer looking mixed used residential building with businesses on the ground floor. Founders Square is a park in Portage, IN (yes, I’m going to write “,IN” every time I write Portage (,IN) so there’s no confusion) with a large playground, a splash pad and a lot of open space. We found a spot right in front of the building to park which is across the street from the park.

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