Casey’s Bar & Grill
J and I have been in Michigan for almost nine years now. That’s still crazy to us. It seems like we just left Peoria, IL with all of our possessions in a U-Haul van trailed by our families who would meet for the first time as we moved in to our new apartment in Lansing.
As our family has grown, Christmas with our extended families has gotten more important. Christmas was always a big deal in my family. Heck, my parents (mostly my mom) still demand that I give them a list of things I want every year.
The trick now is coordinating a weekend where everyone can get together and exchange presents. My brother has in-laws that live in Mattawan and they work on an every other year schedule. One year the Michigan family goes to Illinois and the next, the Illinois families go to Michigan. On years they go to Michigan, my parents also make the trip and my brother’s family splits time between the two Christmases.
On years his family goes to Illinois, we usually do as well. This year, we had a little bit of a different plan. My parents had tickets to see Donnie & Marie at Four Winds New Buffalo. The show was pretty late at night, so they asked if we all wanted to meet in New Buffalo at their hotel before the show and celebrate our Christmas.
My parents and my brother’s family got on the road around noon Eastern time, so we were looking at everyone getting to New Buffalo around 1:30-2:00. Like usual, I was charged with finding a place to eat. We typically go to the Stray Dog, but I thought we should try something new and I found a place that looked good and had something for everyone.
Casey’s Bar & Grill is right in downtown New Buffalo on Whittaker Street two blocks north of US-12. Casey’s has a history dating back to the mid-1950’s. The restaurant was run by a man named Casey Jones. When he died in 1993, the business went with him. The present owners bought the business in 1995, renovated the building and chose to keep the Casey’s name. The history page on Casey’s website doesn’t give a good description of how old the building itself is, but it implies it’s at least 100 years old.
Parking for Casey’s Bar & Grill is in the public spaces in downtown New Buffalo. We were downtown in the winter during an off time, so angled street parking wasn’t hard to come by. The rest of my family actually beat us to the restaurant and they had been seated in the back of the space at a large table. Everyone else already had their drinks when J and I sat down, so once we got settled, were were able to get the lunch moving which means we could soon get to opening presents.
Casey’s is a pretty classic turn of the century bar with gorgeous hardwood floors and a long, antique looking bar that takes up a lot of the front dining room.
It was decorated for Christmas on our visit so the twinkling Christmas lights and stockings and ornaments hung behind the bar added to the cozy ambiance of the place.
In addition to the two dining areas in what is probably the original space, there is another dining room that is connected to what clearly used to be it’s own space via a small gift shop near the entrance. There’s also a great patio out back for those cool summer nights along Lake Michigan. I overheard our server tell another table that the building in the patio is a recently constructed bar area so you won’t even need to come in for drinks.
Once J and I got the kids settled with Grandma and Aunt V, we were handed the drink lists. J initially looked at wine and cocktails, but saw Starcut Ciders was on the bottled beer menu. She ordered a Pulsar which was served in the bottle with a chilled mug. Pulsar is a semi-dry cider and we typically like sweeter ones. I wasn’t a huge fan…but I don’t like dry wines either. J enjoyed it though which, really, is all that matters.
I had attempted to order a special for Casey’s made by Tapistry Brewing, but they had just blew that keg. There wasn’t anything else on that draft list that I couldn’t find anywhere else, so I stuck with something I know and love. I ordered an Oatsmobile by Bells Brewery. I haven’t drank a lot of this one, but I enjoy it every time I do, so I thought it would be a good pairing with lunch.
There were 10 of us eating lunch (and a baby who would pick off everyone’s plate) so as soon as we got our drinks, we skipped appetizers and went straight for the food. Casey’s is one of those places that have different lunch and dinner menus and we all agreed the lunch menu was more for us. It consists of the usual pub fare of sandwiches, wraps, soups, salads, and appetizers, but they also throw in a couple of Irish specialties as well.
I skipped the burger. I was close, but there was something else that caught my attention. I ordered the Cuban Mojito Pork. If I don’t get a burger it’s usually because I ordered a Cuban. It’s a weird sandwich to fall in love with, but it’s one I really enjoy and I love all the different takes on it.
This sandwich featured slow roasted, mojito pork with ham, Swiss, cheese, mustard, and pickles on a pressed brioche hoagie roll. Given the choice, I will also take smoked over roasted pork, but this pork was full of flavor. It was juicy and, for the most part, tender. I had a couple of tough pieces like it came off the end or something, but most of the pork was actually really delicious. The brioche roll was nice and crunchy and added that little bit of grill flavor from the press. The ham was a nice addition as well adding a little more salty to the flavor profile of the sandwich. The sandwich came with skin on fries out of a bag. They were crispy and delicious. The one-year-old actually really liked them and he was eating some off everyone’s plate as we sort of passed him around from lap to lap during lunch.
J ordered the Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich. The menu calls this a traditional grilled cheese with four kinds of cheeses (doesn’t specify which ones), bacon, and tomato. She left the tomato off leaving the four unidentified cheese and bacon. She said the sandwich was really good. The bread was good and toasty and the four cheeses created an gooey mess coming off each bite. She opted for the homemade chips instead of the fries for her meal. Typically, the chips are better than fries, but she said these didn’t really have a distinct flavor. Some of them were a little over cooked which didn’t help either. They really needed some kind of seasoning or something on them and they would have been fantastic. As they were, they were better than bagged chips, but they just needed a little something.
I’m gonna hold off on L’s meal for a second here and talk about a couple of others. My aunt order Casey’s Burger which is what I would have ordered had I not ordered the Cuban. The burger is a half pound char-grilled juicy piece of meat. No complaints from her on that and she ended up sharing the most fries with the baby.
My brother and mom both ordered the Casey’s Club. This sandwich is sliced ham, turkey, lettuce, tomato, bacon, American and Swiss cheese. Both ordered fries and both enjoyed their sandwiches.
My sister-in-law ordered the BBQ Chicken Flatbread off the appetizer menu. Everyone sorta of gasped when this came to the table served on a wood plank. The flatbread is topped with chicken, BBQ sauce, red onion, provolone, mozzarella, and smoked gouda. The flatbread was very crispy and held up well to the weight of the toppings. SIL didn’t really want to share with her husband so I didn’t even ask. They only have two options for flatbreads with bruschetta being the other. This was a definite hit and SIL went home with a little extra for breakfast the next morning.
My dad surprised absolutely no one by ordering the Paddy Melt. There’s an inside joke there that is basically just, my dad always orders the paddy melt. This is one of the Irish specialties. It’s served on marble rye bread with 1/2 lb burger, grilled onions, and Merkts sharp cheddar cheese. The server actually talked him in to ordering extra cheese and onions. I never expect my dad to say anything good about what we eat when we eat out and he gave me kind of a mixed signal here. On one hand, I heard “If that’s extra onions and cheese and I’d hate to see what it comes with.” On the other, I heard “that was actually really good.” So he really liked it, he just thought he got scammed on the extra ingredients. His sandwich also came with fries and those he didn’t like at all. He thought they were too cold and he just couldn’t do that. I’m not arguing with him on the cold part. All of us were not exactly warm. I don’t have an issue with that though as long as they’re not really cold. Oh well, just meant more fries for me as I took them off his plate before it was cleared.
On to the kids. My brother actually called a few days in advance to make sure they have a kids menu. It’s not listed on their website, but they do and they have special place mats and crayons for the kids.
L ordered herself mac ‘n cheese and applesauce. Fortunately for us, it was Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese so L didn’t fight us on eating it. If she’s not really hungry, she will argue on home made mac ‘n cheese. She was really hungry this time so it may not have mattered. She finished her bowl and her bowl of applesauce surprising us both.
My nieces ordered the hot dog and chicken tender meals which they both got with fries. The hot dog is a simple hot dog on a white bread. Nothing fancy, but Niece #1 ate it up. Niece #2 did the same with the chicken strips. Again, nothing fancy, but good kid food and something they all would eat.
The bill for our large party was just under $150 and my mom grabbed the check before my brother or I could make a grab at it.
Casey’s Bar & Grill is a great little pub in a cute little downtown that sees a lot of Chicago tourists in the summer. They actually have the feel of an old Chicago pub in the heart of the city with the old building and modern menu which includes a little more traditional dinner that doesn’t just include sandwiches and pizza. We had a pretty large group and no one really walked away from the table hungry or unsatisfied. There were small things, as I’ve talked about, but nothing significant that would stop us from eating here again. Our server was great and kept the meal moving and before you knew it, we were back at my parents hotel opening presents.