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These are Michigan's 12 Most Iconic Restaurants (#2 LEGS INN)

BY AMY SHERMAN | asherma2@mlive.com and JOHN GONZALEZ | gonzo@mlive.com

The search for Michigan’s Most Iconic Restaurant revealed classic dining spots, hidden gems, and longtime favorites all over the state. The journey took us from hip, urban settings to rural abodes, from the streets of Detroit to the shores of Superior, and we are happy to reveal our Top 12 picks.

These are the restaurants that have a history, whether they’ve been open for 25 years or 100. The spots that honor not just their own story, but very often the history of the building in which they reside. We visited a mansion built by a lumber baron and a Northern Michigan log inn that were both constructed in 1894, a cafe located in the basement of a building that was erected in the 1920’s, and a restaurant in a renovated church.

We were looking for those incredible spots across Michigan that have been open for years, and yet remain a favorite to this day. Places that have become destinations for generations of diners. The restaurants where you go to celebrate something important.  Spots that serve up delicious dishes that you can only get there, or places that are just beloved by the locals and regulars for always serving up quality, well-made food.

We’ve come up with quite a list of iconic restaurants. They range from white-tablecloth, put-your-fancy-clothes-on spots, to a deli where anything goes, so feel free to wear your flip flops and yoga pants. All of our spots feature incredible homemade food, with great attention to detail and the use of quality ingredients. 

We loved hearing the personal stories and histories associated with these restaurants, told to us by enthusiastic and passionate owners and staff. It’s these hard workers who really make these spots so special, and we thank them for creating such iconic restaurants for all of Michigan to enjoy.

#2-Legs Inn

6425 N Lake Shore Drive

Harbor Springs, MI, 49740

231-526-2281

Established 1921

Legs Inn is located at the end of the famous Tunnel of Trees drive on M-119, on the shores of Lake Michigan, near Cross Village and is one of the most distinctive dining experiences in all of Michigan. Gaze upon the upturned stove legs along the roofline, those are the inspiration for the name. Enter the stone and wood structure and be amazed right from the get-go, as you absorb the crazy ambiance of this special spot. 

 

Everywhere you turn, there is something else to see, from amazing, carved wooden sculptures, to antler chandeliers, to stunning and varied taxidermy, and even a Zoltar machine to get your fortune from. "It really takes multiple visits to appreciate all the things that he (Stanley Smolak, the builder) built," Mark Smolak said. There is also a big outdoor seating area, which is the perfect spot to catch the sun setting over Lake Michigan.

 

Zoltar will be able to accurately predict that you are about to indulge in some pretty incredible Polish food here at Legs. The Taste of Poland gets you all your staples in one spot, with kielbasa, golabki, pierogis and some stand-out cabbage.  The kielbasa is smoked, meaty, and filling. We loved the golabki here, it comes coated with a bright tomato sauce. That cabbage is laced with bits of bacon, which makes everything better. All the whitefish is locally caught, and we were particularly taken with the Polanaise, a broiled filet that comes topped with sauteed mushrooms and onions, and liberally sprinkled with parmesan cheese. Babcia’s Potato Pancakes are crispy on the outside, filled with tender potato on the inside, and best with both the bright and fruity applesauce and the tangy sour cream.  

 

We have to give a special shout-out to the amazing whitefish dip they make in-house here. Fresh smoked fish gets lightly mixed into a creamy, not-too-smokey, and not-too-smooth dip.It’s one of the best we’ve ever had, and the perfect start to your meal. End your night at Legs with the Polish dessert Szarlotka, an apple filled crumb cake that is baked fresh every day, and comes topped with a mountain of whipped cream. It is yummy comfort food, dotted with big chunks of bright apple. Don't miss the over one hundred beers they have available here, as well as a big assortment of Polish wines, liquors and schnapps.

 

The Smolak family has been the proud owners of the Inn since they built it in 1921. Currently run by George and Kathy Smolak, and their two sons, Mark and Chris, they have three generations of family working here. There is a lot of history within these walls. You can sense the pride that the family has in both the building and the business they have created here.

“This place is dear to my heart. It was built by my blood, it’s recognized by families, and it is a most unique place. We’ve created a destination,” George Smolak said.

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Emanuel Discusses His Plan to Bicycle Around Lake Michigan After He Leaves Office

This morning at the ribbon-cutting for a streetscape project in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, Mayor Rahm Emanuel confirmed a tip I’d heard earlier this week, that after he leaves office on May 20 he will depart on a bicycle trip around the perimeter of Lake Michigan.

“The next morning after not being mayor, I’m starting at Montrose,” Emanuel said, referring to a beach next to the Lakefront Trail, not far from his home in the Ravenswood community. He said he’ll be riding about 70 miles a day with an old friend who was his roommate when Emanuel went to go to work for President Bill Clinton in Little Rock, Arkansas.

“I want you to know I love you all, but when I’m up in the [Upper Peninsula of Michigan] I won’t be thinking about you,” Emanuel told the crowd. “I’ve really have always wanted to bike the entire lake, but I was shocked, I should have researched this before I came up with it. It’s a thousand miles. I should have found something that’s about 500.”

Emanuel and his friend bike regularly on city streets, the mayor said. “We both had this dream. I’ve never found the time [to do the trip] with all the other things that are my responsibilities, so that’s what I’m going to do. So I look forward to it.”

After the presser, Emanuel told me he plans to ride his lightweight Parlee road bike. “I bought it as my midlife crisis bike when I turned 50,” he said.

Will he be staying in B and B’s or camping? “I’m 59 man. I need a shower the next morning.”

I’ve ridden the entire perimeter of Lake Michigan myself, over the course of a few different bike-and-transit excursions. I recommended to Emanuel that he stop at Legs Inn, a cliffside Polish restaurant in a remote location 25 miles north of Petoskey, Michigan, near the top of the Lower Peninsula. The eatery is known for being decorated with bizarre folk art carvings, and it has a mind-blowing view of the sunset over the lake.

Emanuel accomplished quite a bit for Chicago bicycling during his eight years in office, so here’s wishing him a safe and enjoyable journey, free of flat tires.

JOHN GREENFIELD MAY 10, 2019 STREETSBLOG CHICAGO FULL ARTICLE HERE

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THRILLIST FOOD & DRINK: THE BEST SMALL-TOWN RESTAURANT IN EVERY STATE

Along with providing enough fodder for three full Springsteen/Mellencamp collaboration albums (make it happen, boys!), America’s small towns are home to some serious culinary action. Like a championship track team from the ‘70s or a native who went on to become a featured actor on a now-canceled sitcom, they are often the pride of the town for generations, and often exist as the very thing that puts a village on a map. 

The restaurants on this list represent the absolute best small-town restaurants in the country, ranging from fine dining experiences in historic farmhouses to roadside diners, BBQ pits, and seaside shacks. Some are part of vibrant small communities far from cities (no, we’re not talking suburbs). Others are outposts doing business seemingly at the end of the world, stretching the concept of “town” all the way down to one resident. They’re all destination-worthy. And who knows -- maybe you’ll fall in love with the towns themselves over a gigantic plate of something unforgettable. 

MICHIGAN: Legs Inn

Cross Village
Population: 294

Look, it's unlikely that you've ever sat down and dreamed of hanging out in a Polish hobbit house whose owners are weirdly obsessed with stove legs. But that very, very specific fantasy scenario is what you get in this little upper-lower Michigan oddity, a stone/log building overlooking the glorious Lake Michigan whose roof is lined with stove legs like some sort of folk-art rampart. Inside, you'll find the best Polish food north of Hamtramck, with massive platters of sausages and pierogies served in the indoor beer hall or on the garden veranda, and hunter's stew bringing warmth on cold nights (the massive array of Polish vodka helps there, too). And since you'll never want to leave, the place has cabins near the beach, meaning you have no excuse to not eat and drink to your heart's content. Weird, yes. But once you enter, you'll never look at the legs of your appliances again. -- AK (Published On 02/16/2018)

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LEGS INN named one of "Michigan's 31 Most Iconic & Classic Restaurants" by Thrillist.com

LEGS INN named one of "Michigan's 31 Most Iconic & Classic Restaurants" by Thrillist.com

"Nestled along an absolutely stunning piece of Lake Michigan shoreline, this restaurant was built in 1921 by its original owner, a retired Polish auto worker who fell in love with the forests and quiet of Northern Michigan and its Ottawa and Chippewa cultures. The building is pieced together, and includes a curio shop, living quarters, tavern, balcony, dining room, and four great stone fireplaces. All this ambience stuff is fine and dandy, but what we really go here for is the kielbasa and pierogi. On the damn lake."

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