Indulge & Escape

Rekindle romance at these cottagesque destinations.

Whether you’re looking for a cozy setting to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your sweetie, are in need of a romantic weekend, or are longing for an early spring retreat, here are three quaint dining destinations with delectable food, fine wine and an intimate ambience.

Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest days of the year for dining out. Since it falls on Sunday, why not do it up right and stay overnight?

The English Inn, Eaton Rapids

The English Inn
The English Inn. Photography Courtesy Brett Maxwell Photography

Reminiscent of an English estate, with well-manicured gardens and a tournament croquet course to enjoy during the warmer months, The English Inn near Lansing offers a romantic and picturesque setting along the Grand River in every season.

In spring, the inn comes alive with daffodils and trillium in bloom throughout the 16-acre property. Nestled in the peaceful countryside, the elegant Eaton Rapids bed-and-breakfast earns rave reviews from diners and overnight guests. It features fine dining and lodging, with 18 guest rooms between the main Tudor revival style home and independent cottages.

The Croquet Cottages opened in January 2014 and overlook the grounds, croquet court and Grand River. Modern amenities include Jacuzzi tubs, gas fireplaces and king-size beds — perfect for a romantic getaway.

The inn’s restaurant and authentic English Pub have earned numerous awards, including being named a DiRoNA Distinguished Restaurant of North America and one of OpenTable’s 100 most romantic restaurants in the nation. It has received Lansing’s Best of the Best Award for its fine dining and acclaimed wine list.

The restaurant has four dining rooms and will serve a special four-course dinner menu on Valentine’s Day, including signature dishes such as lobster-stuffed walleye and filet mignon with truffle salt and red wine demi-glace.

“The biggest element of the business is our restaurant,” says Erik Nelson, managing partner of The English Inn. “But especially in the winter, our inn is a wonderful spot to cozy up and really enjoy a little sanctuary.”

Information: (517) 663-2500 or

The Kirby Hotel and J. Paul’s, Douglas

Formerly a hospital and a registered Michigan Historic Site, The Kirby Hotel and J. Paul’s is a boutique hotel, restaurant and wine bar restored to its former glory in downtown Douglas.

The Kirby has five modern guest rooms, each named after a favorite wine, a wraparound porch, a small pond and gardens, and a backyard deck with outdoor dining during warmer months. It also offers an intimate lounge and food and wine pairings. Enjoy off-season savings on overnight stays through May 31.

Grey Gables Restaurant and Inn
Grey Gables Restaurant and Inn at Grey Gables. Photography courtesy Michael Murphy IV Photography

J. Paul’s merges traditional and modern style with new and Old World wines and global cuisine using local ingredients. Besides wine flights and interactive wine and cheese tastings, the bar also serves artisanal spirits, craft cocktails and local beers and ciders.

The restaurant will offer a three-course dinner for Valentine’s Day with a special menu and live music. On the regular menu, you’ll find small plates, fish, locally sourced pork, rack of lamb, grass-fed burgers, pasta, and, if you’re lucky, risotto that will have you raving to your friends.

“The menu and the wine list are very interesting. Hopefully, it will turn people on to wines they’ve never had before,” says Mindy Trafman, general manager, sommelier and chef. “J. Paul’s is a warm, cozy and intimate space. Our menu changes often to reflect seasonality as well as passion for what we want to share.”

Information: (269) 857-5472 or

Grey Gables Restaurant and Inn at Grey Gables, Charlevoix

Whether you live year-round in northern Michigan or head there for recreation, Grey Gables Restaurant & Catering is a quaint spot for uniquely prepared American fare.

“We always feature a special menu that’s couple themed and with cocktails.” — Katie Colvin

The restaurant, in a historic Victorian home on Belvedere Avenue, is a popular dining destination for Charlevoix locals and visitors. Savor a fine meal in a sweet atmosphere on Valentine’s Day, when Grey Gables is planning a menu with romance in mind.

“We always feature a special menu that’s couple themed and with cocktails,” says Katie Colvin, catering manager.

The Kirby Hotel and J. Paul’s
The Kirby Hotel and J. Paul’s. Photography by Johnny Quirin

A favorite destination for nearly 75 years, owners and chefs Kelly and Darren have operated the restaurant since 1994. The menu ranges from locally raised pork and artisan cheese plates to homemade soups and pizzas, fresh oysters, sushi, seafood and classic entrées.

If you want to make it a getaway, The Inn at Grey Gables next door is a mix of country, cottage and Victorian charm. The B&B, also in a Victorian-style home but not affiliated with the restaurant, is popular for its proximity to downtown boutiques, galleries and dining. Built in 1887, it was one of the original “cottages” in the century-old Belvedere Club, a summer colony on the south side of Round Lake and steps from Lake Charlevoix.

Information: (231) 547-9261 or (restaurant); or (231) 547-2251 (B&B).

Marla R. Miller is an award-winning journalist and managing editor of Michigan BLUE.

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