At first sight, the pale-yellow house located on a country road in Port Austin doesn’t appear to be much more than a well-kept, mid-size family home. However, if you pull up on a weekend evening, the rows of cars packed tightly on the dirt lot in front of the entrance tells you there’s something going on.
That something is The Farm Restaurant (thefarmrestaurant.com) which, since opening in 1994, has come to be known as a place where you can find the comforts of home prepared by a culinary dynamo. “I love making people feel comfortable,” said chef Pamela Gabriel-Roth, who purchased and renovated the restaurant that formerly had been a popular spot called The Homestead in 1993.
“We change things up quite a bit; sometimes you might fall in love with something and come back and it’s gone. We hope you’ll find something new to fall in love with.”
— Pamela Gabriel-Roth
Growing up, she often found herself in the middle of a good time. “I grew up in a family that loved to entertain,” she explained. She fondly remembers her mother’s dinner parties at their home in Plymouth, and it’s in that same spirit she’s created her own destination for good food and company.
Known for its emphasis on simple, creative fare that bridges the space between charming country dishes and fine dining, the Farm Restaurant draws in foodies and families alike. Its menu changes seasonally, featuring new, exciting dishes made from scratch using the freshest, local ingredients, many from the farms that neighbor the popular restaurant.
Every meal at the restaurant begins with fresh, homemade bread, and the menu offers a handful of options for each course, including dessert. “Farm-to-table practices are common now, but we’ve always done that,” said Gabriel-Roth, who got her start working in a French-inspired restaurant and then went on to attend culinary school and travel the world, honing her technique.
“As soon as they told me to put on a chef’s jacket, I knew I was in love,” she said. Preparing simple, yet delightful meals with minimal, flavorful ingredients is her staple, and The Farm’s menu is limited to a few options per course, all of which offer a creative take on comfort food.
During the fall and winter months, she creates entrées to feature the bounty of the season — lots of autumn produce and braised dishes. “We change things up quite a bit; sometimes you might fall in love with something and come back and it’s gone. We hope you’ll find something new to fall in love with,” she said, though there are a few menu staples she admits guests simply will not let her get rid of.
Port Austin is situated on a delightful piece of Lake Huron coastline, which draws tons of visitors from all over the Midwest, and Gabriel-Roth said she loves getting to know everyone who comes in.
The décor is equal parts rustic and country chic, filling the various rooms with a charm not often done well in restaurants. The bar, a popular place for diners to wait for an open table, faces out into the nearby fields, offering guests the chance to soak in a bit of the peace and quiet the open landscape presents.
Inside the dining rooms, each table is decorated with colorful, floral tablecloths and small floral arrangements, which create intimate spaces within the rooms that often echo with the sounds of celebration.
Glancing around each room, if the touches of home seem like they’ve been transported directly from someone’s living room or den, it’s because they have. “A lot of the stuff is (my parents’). A picture from my dad here, lots of items from my mom’s home, it really reflects them.”
Want to partake in The Farm’s charm? It’s open limited hours during the offseason, Friday and Saturdays from 5-9 p.m. and Sundays from 4-8 p.m. Reservations strongly recommended.
Alexandra Fluegel is a freelance writer living in Detroit. She enjoys writing about food, arts and culture.