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Most of us have an image of Pleasantville tucked away somewhere in our minds.

Remember Pleasantville from your first grade reader—that idyllic community of gracious lawns, a sunlit body of water, and a perennially happy neighborhood where John and Jean romped with Spot, their dog? Your introductory reader may have used different names, but you know the town, you know the kids, and surely you remember good old Spot. (See Spot run. Funny, funny Spot!)

There are views in Portland, Michigan, that I’d swear come right from Pleasantville. Not, mind you, that the entire town is the stuff of my old elementary school reader, but parts of it catch at something inside me and sweep me back to that long-ago, mythical setting on Pleasant Street. A view from across the river at a picture- book yard…the chatter of softball players and spectators of every age (Portland is the ball-playingest community I’ve ever seen!)…a beautifully conceived system of paved trails, complete with a couple of renovated railroad bridges, that hug the banks of two rivers…

Walk those trails, and, trust me, you’ll find yourself in Pleasantville.

Until you get to Duke’s Cafe.

Duke’s Cafe is not Pleasantville—the food has too much attitude. But Duke’s is most definitely Portland.

Situated at the confluence of the Looking Glass and Grand Rivers, Duke’s is a destination place if you love Cajun cooking. We are talking here of unapologetic bayou food—of rip-your-lips-off gumbo, unrepentant andouille sausage, and eye-popping jambalaya that takes no prisoners and feels no remorse. This is stuff you have to kill twice and then drown with a Killian’s or a frosty glass of ice tea.

Of course, if you prefer less drama in your meal, Duke’s offers plenty of milder, more traditional fare. Whatever your taste, the porch is the place to kick back and enjoy your dinner on a clear, mellow evening in June, with the Grand River flowing by on one side and the Looking Glass on the other.

Afterwards, take a stroll down the river walk, stop and watch a few innings of one of the ball games, and then top off your expedition with a trip to the ice cream shop just across the bridge from Duke’s. Grab a cone or a tin roof sundae, sit in the shade on the porch, watch the river glide past you, and listen to the chatter of voices drifting across the water. You can’t find a more pleasant way to conclude a lazy summer evening.

But then, what would you expect? You’re in Pleasantville.

 

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Written by Dave.