On our way home from Michigan a few weeks ago, I declared that we HAD to stop at a produce stand before leaving the state. After making said declaration, I promptly fell asleep, and woke up closer to the Indiana border. Panicking that we'd passed all of the fruit stands, I began searching the Garmin, and found one just 5 miles off the road. I
Heck. We turned around and got back on the interstate, where I once again began searching the Garmin, and convinced Clint to give it one more chance, pulling off in Bridgman, MI. We drove into town, arrived at our final destination on another small downtown street: An abandoned building.
Well, hell. I called off the wild fruitstand chase, but asked Clint to slow down on the way back out of town; there was a cute little butcher's window that looked intriguing. If nothing else, I might take a photo. He did, and we ended up stopping to check out the place.
Look how cute! As we approached, we noticed the proprietor carrying a huge smoker around the back of the building, and gave him a wave, knowing he would likely meet us inside in a few minutes.
Lawdamercy! We knew we'd hit the jackpot the second we stepped in that front door. I wish I could describe the delicious aroma that knocks you over when you walk into this place. It's smoke and garlic and smoke and spice, and...mmmmmmmeat, beautiful, beautiful meat. Applewood smoked chickens and sausages, and—ohmigod—bacon burger. Yes! Bacon ground right into the beef. Sheer delicious genius!
Roasts and steaks, and how would you like that cut, and would you like a taste of this, just out of the smoker? Yes, by then the owner/butcher himself, Mr. Alfred Ottusch, had stepped in and struck up a conversation with us, showing us what was on the menu for the day, and giving us bites of meat. Smoked kielbasa, homemade salami, and meat sticks.
There's our bacon burger. And we helped ourselves to 1.5 lbs of this pork. He offered to cut it into a roast, or chops, or butterfly it, anything we wanted! We opted for a simple roast.
We ended up ordering the burger, the roast, 4 just-now-smoked kielbasa, and a pound of the meat sticks to send to my soldier babies. They were all beef. It's against the rules to send any pork product to Iraq, you see, so they were all beef.* All of that and a bag of ice, and our grand total was $24 and some change.
As were about to take our leave, a horrendous storm blew through, so we decided to wait it out and chat with the Alfred and his wife. They invited us to stay as long as we needed to, use the restrooms, have a beverage, take our time.
We did. We learned that he is a volunteer fireman, and Mrs. Ottusch was just helping out for the day. They have a son heading to Afghanistan in January, and another currently in Navy SEAL bootcamp. (Ahem, yes, I did get their card!) When his butcher knives or boning knives get dull, he sends them out to have them sharpened, then sells them, used, for $5. They're involved in the community, working hard to put on a BBQ & beer street dance to raise money to fund the fire department.
Further browsing revealed that they sell everything you'd need to set a 5-star meal on your table. There's wine and beer. Baking potatoes and all of the fixin's. A freezer full of homemade raviolis and other pasta. And of course, any BBQ sauce you could imagine.
By the way, if you just wanted to pull over for a pulled-pork sandwich and a side of cole slaw, or other homemade salad, the total cost is less than $5. Quite simply, they were lovely people with a lovely little store reminiscent from a past that, at my age, I can almost remember.[Any local townies remember Norm's Shopping Bag?]
What I loved most about our visit here was that we had, all along, been looking for a fruit stand. It was a nice reminder that sometimes when we can't find what we're looking for, opening our eyes and our minds may be all we need to do uncover a real treasure of a consolation prize.
If you're ever in the Bridgman, Michigan area, do yourself a favor and pull over. You won't be sorry!
Bridgman Premier Meat Market
4352 Lake St.
Bridgman, MI 49106
(After) The pork roast from above: YUM!
*That's my story and I'm sticking to it.