On sunny summer days, The Deck in Muskegon (thedeckmkg.com) makes you feel a million miles away. The restaurant near the Ovals on Pere Marquette Beach specializes in the three Bs: beer, barbecue and the beach. Enjoy cold beer, sunsets and sand, and no dress code other than what the law requires.
The Deck is a restaurant first with a quick turnover and has a large outdoor patio, picnic tables for groups and seating on three pontoons, plus an outdoor bar and indoor dining area for days when it rains. It’s a great place to watch the boats go in and out of the channel, relax after a game of beach volleyball and take in live music every weekend.
Tony Amato traded a career in fine dining for a dockside bar that sells canned beer and hot dogs and plays loud music. The proprietor of Douglas’ Red Dock Café has been at it for 22 years and wouldn’t have it any other way.
The outdoor bar and café are a hidden hot spot on Kalamazoo Lake where visitors walk down the dock and find a Key West vibe with picnic tables, quirky signs and freshly made food. Boaters pull up and enjoy a rum punch, its signature drink, or grab grub to take out on the water.
“You don’t even think you are in Michigan, you think you are somewhere else,” Amato said.
Red Dock Café keeps it simple and low key. There are no taps or fryers, the bar only accepts cash and the setting sun signals last call. All the food is made from scratch with a menu ranging from shrimp and curry rice and salads and wraps to authentic Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef. “It’s very reminiscent of being in Jamaica or Key West,” Amato said.
Mackinac Island is surrounded by water, but there are limited places to enjoy a drink and the scenery. Mission Point’s Bistro on the Greens (missionpoint.com/restaurants) pairs bistro fare and handcrafted cocktails with island views and vibes for a true vacation escape.
The outdoor bistro and bar overlook the resort’s executive 18-hole putting course, plus offers views of Round Island Lighthouse, Lake Huron and passing freighters. A neighboring lounge area allows guests to relax around fire pits.
Even better, you can take a cocktail or glass of wine and roam around the golf course, front lawn and gardens. It’s a picturesque place to enjoy family and friends, play a game of glow-in-the-dark golf or find an Adirondack chair and take it all in.
The Greens serves a tapas-style menu, plus a wide selection of wine, including the resort’s own private label, craft beer and handcrafted cocktails.
MISSION POINT’S WATERMELON ELDERFLOWER COOLER
1½ ounces vodka
½ ounce St. Germain
½ ounce agave nectar
½ ounce lemon juice
1 ounce puréed watermelon juice
Combine all ingredients in a shaker, shake and double strain into a snifter over ice.
Garnish with an edible flower and 2 cubes of fresh watermelon.
Recipe courtesy Mission Point
Come as a visitor, live like a local at Bikinis Beach Bar (bikinisbeachbar.com) behind Tawas Bay Beach Resort. This flip flop zone and tiki bar has a Caribbean feel, plus offers beverage service, water sports rentals, volleyball and other games on the beach.
On the shores of Tawas Bay and Lake Huron, Bikinis hosts live entertainment every Saturday and features a relaxing atmosphere with waterfront views. There is a complimentary boat dock in front of the beach bar for hotel and bar guests.
“It’s just a great place to go, it’s like Key West, but it’s in Michigan,” said Sheryl Firestone, sales and catering manager and Bikinis manager. The outdoor bar has its own kitchen and food menu, buckets of beer and signature drinks that rotate each month. It’s a place to kick back, relax and forget your worries.
Summer is even shorter on the Keweenaw Peninsula, but Fitzgerald’s Restaurant (fitzgeralds-mi.com) in Eagle River earned Thrillist’s honor for the best small-town bar in Michigan.
Fitzgerald’s specializes in sunsets over Lake Superior, real smokehouse barbecue, fine whiskey and craft beer. The Fitz sits mere steps from the beach and has an adjoining inn. The dining room offers lake views, plus there is an outdoor patio with picnic tables.
“Fitz serves up great BBQ to go along with the requisite whitefish, but despite its designation as a restaurant, it might also be the best place to drink with a view of a Great Lake, period,” Thrillist said.
Marla Miller is an award-winning journalist who lives in Norton Shores and enjoys the lakeshore lifestyle.