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El Ranchero

July 10, 2020
  • 4315 Portage Street
  • Kalamazoo, MI 4900 1
  • (269) 381-4841
  • Website
  • Menu

So…ya’ll know I like tacos right.  I think I’ve made that pretty clear.

Co-worker and I needed to make a trip to Vicksburg from downtown Kalamazoo late last week.  The quickest way was to just drive down Portage Road.  I really wasn’t hungry on the way down there but we pass El Ranchero on the way there and I really needed a particular spice I can only seem to find at Mexican grocery stores.  We had a little bit of time to spare on the way back so I told co-worker I needed something and whipped in to the lot.

El Ranchero sits on the corner of Portage Road and Kilgore right near the I-94 interchange in Kalamazoo’s Milwood neighborhood.  The store is quite large because it was Vermulen’s furniture store for many many years.  The grocery store came in late last year after moving from a spot further down Portage Road.  This location tripled the size of their business.

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Kelvin & Co. Urban BBQ (Portage)

July 3, 2020
  • 7083 S. Westnedge Avenue
  • Portage, MI 49002
  • (833) 535-8467
  • Website
  • Menu

I’ve mentioned how much I love BBQ…right?  Yeah..I’m sure I’ve mentioned it once or twice.

There always seems to only be a couple good options for BBQ at any one time in Kalamazoo.  I’m not complaining about that.  When I moved here ten years ago, I don’t think there were any good options.  Between food trucks and a couple fabulous brick and mortar restaurants, there’s always good BBQ somewhere in town.

One of the constants when it has come to BBQ the last few years has been Kelvin & Company.  Yeah, they’ve had issues with locations in downtown Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids’ Eastown but it’s never been a product issue.  It was building issues in both of those locations.

Not long before the original Downtown Kalamazoo location was shut down, they opened  restaurant not too far from my house in Oshtemo.  It’s worked out great during the pandemic as we have ordered either for carry-out or UberEats delivery from them several times.

In the Before Times, Kelvin & Company opened another location.  This time in Portage on South Westnedge.  The restaurant is a little hard to find if you’re not looking for it.  It’s near the intersection with Romence Road behind the Texas Roadhouse.  You have to turn in to the Sam’s Club access drive from Westnedge to find it in a small strip shopping center facing the Sam’s parking lot.

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Small Town Sandwich Shop

June 27, 2020
  • 909 W. Savidge Street
  • Spring Lake, MI 49456
  • (616) 414-7900
  • Website
  • Menu

I had no idea my colleague was going to be off this past Friday.  I went in to work expecting a normal day when I got a call from the home office in Grand Rapids.  The guy I usually work with in Kalamazoo had taken a vacation day and I was needed to work with a colleague out of the GR office.

The day started simple enough, I met him in Dorr for our first task.  I thought we’d just head in to Grand Rapids after that but we got rerouted to the lakeshore for task number two.

We ended up in Grand Haven around 1:30.  I was really tempted to take the long way home and pick up BBQ from American Char in Drenthe, but I figured I shouldn’t go out of my way so I went the normal way back to Grand Rapids using M-104 back to I-96.

I had originally planned to just stop at the Wesco and get popcorn for lunch because, honestly, who doesn’t love Wesco popcorn?  That was the plan at least until I crossed the bridge in to Spring Lake and something else caught my attention.

Small Town Sandwich Shop is just that. It’s a small town sandwich shop right on the western edge of Spring Lake just before you hit US-31.  The address is actually on Savidge Street which actually is kind of a weird street in that area.  Somehow, Savidge Street runs on both sides of the small building and is connected to each other with Savidge Court.  Whatever the weird map logistics are, it’s easy to see from M-104.

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The Big Dipper

June 27, 2020
  • 104 E. Eliza Street
  • Schoolcraft, MI 49087
  • (269) 679-4525
  • Website
  • Menu

Leaving Nana and Grandpa’s house is hard.

J has been working from home since March and since working from home could really be done from anywhere, she took the kids down to her parents in St. Joseph County for a long weekend.  It was  hot so the kids could swim in Nana and Grandpa during the day while J hung out in the basement doing what she needed to do for work.

I, of course, still had to go in to my job everyday so they went without me.  J decided to stay until Saturday night and told me to just come down when I got off work on Friday.  Her dad had something he needed to do on Sunday without the kids around so we swam all day Saturday then headed home around dinner time.

We weren’t really hungry for dinner and the kids were sad about leaving the lake.  J suggested ice cream and wouldn’t ya know it?  There’s an ice cream place on our way home.

The Bigger Dipper is on the corner of Eliza and Grand Streets in downtown Schoolcraft.  It’s easy to spot at the last light out of town if you’re heading south on US-131 towards the state line.  It’s a small white building with very little signage but one of those big tow behind message boards sits out front letting you know it’s open.

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Grub ‘N Stuff

June 27, 2020
  • 701 Riverview Drive
  • Kalamazoo, MI 49048
  • (269) 775-12557
  • Website
  • Menu

It used to be you couldn’t tell me much about a restaurant because chances are, I had already been there before you.  That was in the before times.  In COVID times, a fantastic Facebook group popped up to help people find new food and places that were open for take out during the shutdown.

The Kalamazoo Menu Facebook group has really opened us up to places we either hadn’t been or hadn’t been to in a while.

One of the places I started seeing a lot about was Grub ‘N Stuff.  I had seen this place open up on Riverview Drive before the shutdown but hadn’t gotten there yet.  They stayed open and did carry-out and the pictures people were posting were pretty fantastic looking.

Grub ‘N Stuff is the newest business on the corner of Riverview Drive and Hotop Avenue.  This small, well used building has been a number of business over the years but they always seem to have one thing in common.  It’s typically a soul food or BBQ joint.  This newest iteration keeps that tradition alive serving smoked BBQ, fried fish, chicken, and a handful of sandwiches.  Read more…

Load A Spud Potato Bar (Kalamazoo)

June 22, 2020
  • 2624 W. Michigan Avenue
  • Kalamazoo, MI 49006
  • (269) 459-1162
  • Website
  • Menu

We’re slowly venturing out…but still….not really.  We still want to try new places…but only if they offer take-out.

We met my family near Three Oaks for a hike at Warren Woods State Park a few weeks ago.  We did pizza for lunch and let the kids hang out with their cousins for the first time since February.  By the time we got home, it was getting close to dinner time and neither of us really wanted to put much effort into getting everyone fed.

We had both heard about Load A Spud Potato Bar in the Campus Pointe Shopping Mall.  They had just done a soft opening but word spread pretty quickly about this new baked potato bar.

Load A Spud is on the south side of the Campus Pointe Mall on the Michigan Avenue side.  They didn’t have a sign up yet so it was a little tough to find but it’s in the space that used to be USA Nails.  Read more…

Mario’s Pizza

June 17, 2020
  • 16170 Red Arrow Highway
  • Union Pier, MI 49129
  • (269) 469-4633
  • Website
  • Menu

Yeah…the Safer At Home order has been lifted.  Yeah…restaurants are open for dine-in service.  No…we’re not ready to do a lot of the things we enjoyed in the before time yet.

My brother called me about a week ago asking if we’d like to meet somewhere for a hike with his family and my parents.  We’re always up for hikes now so I started looking for something in Berrien County that would be easy for my family to find.

I found Warren Woods State Park somewhere between Three Oaks and Union Pier.  We hiked for a little under an hour and a half then found our way back to the parking lot.  I had planned on ordering pizza then just eating in the parking lot at Warren Woods but there were a lot of mosquitos hanging around the parking area so we all loaded up and went in to Union Pier to find a place to sit and eat.

I stuck with the pizza plan and put in an order to Mario’s Pizza back in Union Pier.  I assumed we could find a park or someplace to sit and eat in town but that was a pretty bad assumption.

Mario’s Pizza is on Red Arrow Highway in the main business area of the small unincorporated community of Union Pier.  The restaurant is in a small strip mall a few other business south of the intersection with Townline Road and that is VERY important information right now.   Red Arrow Highway and Townline Road are both tore up with construction right now and moving from I-94 to the beach is impossible.  The detour is very poorly marked and there are really no local roads nearby that that can get you from one side of the construction to the other.  The data on my phone wasn’t working so I was having a hard time with maps so I parked on the west side of downtown figuring it was in the business area but that’s not the case.  It’s a little further south of what I guess you could call “downtown” so we had to get in the car and drive out of Union Pier to find a road that would get us back to Red Arrow Highway..;.all the while dodging people who were literally walking in the middle of the road with no regard for the traffic back up behind them.

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Scott’s Pig Roast

June 16, 2020
  • Food Truck
  • Marcellus, MI 49067
  • (269) 646-3301
  • Website
  • Menu

Oh man.  Lunchtime Live is back in downtown Kalamazoo.  I hadn’t seen anything advertising that it was coming back but I came in to work a little bit later on Friday morning and the food trucks were lined up on the north side of South Street.

I dropped my stuff off at the office then walked over to the park to see what new trucks joined the party this year.  At first glance, it appeared there were more new ones than returning ones so I’m going to have a lot to try this year.

I picked Scott’s Pig Roast for my lunch on this particular Friday.

Scott’s Pig Roast is a bright yellow truck based out of Marcellus.  It’s not too hard to figure out what kind of food they’re cooking up in this truck.  There’s a pig in a smoker right in the logo.

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Scooter’s Malt Shoppe

June 14, 2020
  • 8399 36th Street
  • Scotts, MI 49088
  • (269) 626-8860
  • Website
  • Menu

Ice cream and hikes.  If you could sum up our “quarantine” it’s been ice cream and hikes.

I put in a lot of hours a couple of weeks ago and desperately needed a few days off.  On top of the long hours, I had been on my feet a lot.  Both of my heels were blistered and bloody from the long hours.

J has been doing  hikes with the kids almost every day.  I sat out Saturday’s walk but started feeling guilty about sitting out another one.  I started looking for some place easy and some place short.  Bonus points if was near an ice cream spot.

I picked Scotts Mill County Park.  I had never been there and had no idea what the actual trails were like.  It didn’t look very big and most importantly, there was ice cream nearby.

The Village of Scotts is only couple miles from the park and even though it’s pretty tiny, they have an ice cream shop….but not just a regular boring ice cream shop.  They have a throwback soda fountain in Scooters Malt Shop.  Read more…

Moo Moo’s Ice Cream Joint

June 9, 2020
  • 57810 Murray Street #8807
  • Mattawan, MI 49071
  • (269) 668-7803
  • Website
  • Menu

Things are slowly getting back to normal.  I hate the phrase “new normal” so I won’t use it but slowly, cautiously, we’re starting to do more things again.

A couple of weeks ago, my mom asked if we could meet somewhere in southwest Michigan for a hike.   J and the kids have been doing hikes almost everyday around Kalamazoo and my parents thought that looked kind of fun.  We hadn’t seen each other since the middle of February and my parents really wanted to see the kids.

We met at Galien River County Park just outside of New Buffalo.  We hiked the trails there then ran in to town to pick up carry-out from The Stray Dog.  We found a place to eat at the Township Hall across the street from the park then went back to the park and hiked some more.

My parents were really happy they finally got to see the kids again and the kids were just as happy to see Grandma and Papa.

It was a pretty exhausting day so I promised the kids we’d stop for ice cream on the way home.  B fell asleep for a little while in his car seat so I took my promise all the way back to Mattawan before waking him up for a treat.

We picked Moo Moo’s Ice Cream Joint in downtown Mattawan.  The small ice cream shop is in kind of a weird commercial building right next to the Mattawan Memorial Park. The red facade and black awning among the dull tan siding surround it makes this place super easy to spot

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