When I think of Northern Michigan I think of nights like this one. A few weeks back, The Riverside Inn offered to host us for dinner and we were so excited to experience this amazing establishment in our precious Leelanau County. The Riverside Inn is one of the top places to enjoy not just incredible service and food, but views and the culture of Leelanau. Sitting right on the Leland River just blocks from Lake Michigan and historic Fishtown, this Inn and Restaurant are quintessentially Leelanau and we couldn’t wait to share the evening we made of enjoying one of the best restaurants in the area.
We headed out that evening with our friends in our 1970’s Scout and took the long way from our house to Leland together. The top was down. The night was perfect. Our hair was flying through the wind while we drove through orchards heavy with cherries still. The breeze off the lake reminding us of the cool water we hoped to enjoy after our meal.
We parked and wandered some of Leland before our reservation. Just up from Fishtown you will find the heart of Leland on M22. A small quaint coastal town reminiscent of the North East Coast this town offers some of the best of small-town beauty. Playing host to many of the most beautiful cars and boats you may find on the peninsula.
Outside you will find boats docked up to the restaurant of others enjoying meals for the evening. A truly summer sight here in Leland.
Inside you will find a recently updated dining and bar space that is bustling with waitstaff and guests for the evening. The white linens crisp and ready for the night and glassware shined to perfection.
The menu is full of classic fare with high-end touches. Indications in the menu let you know just where the food is coming from and what local farms they have worked with. That night we had a hard time choosing so we allowed our waitress (who was a serious treat!) choose our menu for the night.
We all chose to experience one of their house cocktails and were blown away by the Ginger-Turmeric Margarita and the Garden Martini.
The waitress brought us her favorite appetizers to start off the night. From Octopus Carpaccio to Rabbit Ravioli to a Charcuterie Plate, we simply sat there in silence enjoying it all. The presentation and the flavors were pure, beautiful, and simple. A rustic elegance to the approach was the best way to describe it all.
Before dinner, we shared two of their salads full of summery flavor and beautiful color! A watermelon. cucumber, feta, and olive salad was the tables favorite!
Before dinner arrived, we headed out to enjoy a view of the river and watch the sun linger. Being right on the river is such a special view since there are only a handful of restaurants in the area that are actually on the water here. So we love to make the most of the nights we get at places like The Riverside Inn.
When dinner arrived we took in the beauty of the dishes. From Porkchop to Sea Bass to Salmon to Beef Tenderloin, we tried a little bit of everything that offered. None of which disappointed! My favorite was the Farro Risotto under the Sea Bass.
Of course, we couldn’t leave without a little dessert. Our waitress brought us some of her favorite desserts from chocolate cake to Banana Foster Cremé Brulee to a collection of italian ices. We all couldn’t stop raving about the Banana Foster and the Pumpkin Italian Ice. It was all so amazing though!
Closing up the night we felt so lucky to enjoy a night here in this amazing place in our home. Just miles up the road to live near such perfect place to enjoy the night. Before we left we thanked our waitress and she told us just how much she loved working here and how amazing the staff was and how many have worked here for years and now their kids were starting to as well. She called them a family here and I felt it so fitting for this town and this place.
As we headed out the lights still glowing inside as diners enjoyed the ends of their meals for the night and others came in for a nightcap at the bar. We headed for the Scout and decided the only way to end this perfect night was for a dip in the lake.
We headed to Van’s Beach just around the corner on Lake Michigan and stripped amongst the bushes into our suits and ran into the water as the sun lingered over the horizon still. We could see the outlines of North and South Manitou Island still and the lighthouses blinked in the distance. Summer felt alive and well in the warmth of the air and the cool of the water. I felt 21 again and I said to myself that that is how I wanted to always feel. How in every season of my life I wanted to feel like I did in that moment changing in my bathing suit in the fading sun, careless, and then running into the water next to friends. That feeling of washing away the day covered fully in the lake may be the best way to end any day.
Before heading home, we joined the fire of others enjoying the evening. We warmed up there by the fire still in our suits. We changed quickly before jumping into the Scout and watching the stars fly above us as we drove home on M22 back towards home.
I think the beauty of this area is that we can make an evening feel like vacation. Even after a long work day we could escape and feel life so beautifully and purely. We could eat some of the most amazing food of our lives just miles away from our doorstep.
So if you are headed north at all or live around the area, make a night like this. Make a reservation at The Riverside Inn. Make a night of it all. Taste all the flavors and finish the night with a dip in the big lake. Know that a great meal deserves a great night so make it happen.
Thank you again to The Riverside Inn for hosting us and having us for the night. It was the greatest treat and we cannot wait to come back and enjoy it all over again. Check out their Instagram for even more gorgeousness and to keep up on what they are offering each season.