Fine dining, much like good art, is enjoyable because it creates an experience for the guest. Diners expect good food, but exceptional service and extra amenities, like a breath-taking view, sets restaurants apart. Located where downtown Petoskey and Little Traverse Bay meet, the staff of Palette Bistro has taken the idea of creating an experience and made it their operating philosophy.
“Food is the beginning. We have fantastic views and outdoor seating. We want to create an experience for everyone who sits down, and we want to wow people,” said Mike Zagaroli, Palette Bistro’s general manager.
Chef Jeremy Pomeroy designed palette Bistro’s menu. It offers a north Michigan twist on Mediterranean fare. Offering lunch and dinner every day, the menu is made up of small plates like specialty salads or their famed forest floor soup; large plates like braised beef or their John Cross salmon; and wood-fired pizzas. They’ve also added brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.
“Brunch has become extremely popular. We’re sort of known for our benedicts, and you’ll find a lot of them on our brunch menus.” said Pomeroy, noting the smoked salmon benedict is currently his favorite dish on the menu.
While the menu changes seasonally, items like the seafood paella have become Palette Bistro staples that are always on the menu, due to popular demand.
“We source as much locally as we can,” Zagaroli noted. “We don’t cut corners when it comes to produce.”
With two dining rooms and two outdoor areas, the restaurant is a popular venue for private events like rehearsal dinners and wine dinners. The bistro also doubles as an art gallery.
“Palette Bistro is a play on words,” Zagaroli said, “palette of an artist but also the palate on the tongue. We always have five or six local artists that we change quarterly.”
Palette Bistro’s community focus, showcasing local art and taking part in local events, is encouraged by its owner, the Wineguys Restaurant Group. The downtown Petoskey company has been in business since 1996 and has cultivated two other successful dining destinations in the lakeshore town.
“One of my favorite things about being the chef here is the creative freedom I have. They pretty much let me have at it,” Pomeroy said. “I get to work with a lot of local farmers and good people. The guests are really the best part; they really appreciate the food, and that’s why I do it.”
Although Palette is a fine dining restaurant, one of its best features is its affordability. The bistro offers a three-course tasting menu, which includes a small plate, a large plate and a dessert for a flat fee of $32.
Palette’s wine list reflects the diversity of their clientele as well, offering wines that are interesting and unique while also being affordable.
“My favorite thing to do is find a fantastic glass of wine,” said Zagaroli, who purchases Palette’s wine selections from all over the world. “We have some that are a bit expensive, but that mid-level range is where I’m looking. We want to get everyone out here.”
Megan Westers is a mid-Michigan freelance writer and editor who enjoys writing about politics, lifestyle and travel.
Palette Bistro’s Seafood Paella (Serves 6)
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1½ cups chorizo (we use homemade recipe, diced Spanish chorizo optional)
3 cups Arborio rice
1 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
8 cups vegetable/chicken stock
2 cups sherry
¾ pound bay scallops
¾ pound mussels
1 pound shrimp
¾ cups peas
1 tablespoon paprika
3 tablespoons kosher salt
½ cup parsley, minced
Place a large, high-walled sauté pan or cast iron on medium heat. Add oil, onion, peppers, garlic and chorizo. Stir five minutes until chorizo renders its fat and vegetables are soft. Add rice and stir often, another five minutes. Once rice starts to turn translucent, add wine, stock and saffron. Let simmer until majority of liquid is absorbed. Add seafood, peas, paprika, salt and parsley. Bake in an oven (we use an open flame brick oven) until mussels open, shrimp starts to curl, and a nice “crust” forms on the top.
— Jeremy Pomeroy, CEC