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Lunch at the Grand Hotel Sept 11 09

I have to confess that having lunch at Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel is not something I’d have thought to do on my own. My mind just doesn’t naturally drift toward forty-dollar noontime meals, no matter how good the food may be and how elegant the setting. I’m good with a baloney sandwich.

But for her eighty-fourth birthday, my sweet mother gets what she wants, and what she wanted was to visit Mackinac Island and experience the Hotel’s famous luncheon buffet with my sister, Diane, brother Terry, and me.

If Mackinac Island is an experience, the Grand Hotel is the crown jewel of that experience. You first see it as you approach the island on the jet ferry, gleaming white on the wooded hillside, as imposing as a citadel and regal as a queen on her throne.

But it’s only when you round the final curve in the road in your horse-drawn taxi, and the Hotel looms into view, that you really begin to get a sense of the immensity, splendor, and pomp of the place. From its lush, flower-lined walks, to its lavish interior, to its broad, 660-foot-long front porch, everything about the Grand Hotel spells opulence.

Now, the purpose of this blog is not to promote commercial enterprises. It is to broaden people’s awareness of all that Michigan has to offer, with a focus on outdoors experiences. But there is some leeway within that framework, and the Grand Hotel fits simply because there’s nothing else like it in Michigan. If you never visit it yourself, you can at least get a whiff of its grandeur here. Yet the four photos on this page can only scratch the surface of the Hotel and its landscape—the lush gardens, the view of the Bridge across the Straits of Mackinac…I could go on, piling feature upon feature, and still not adequately convey the fantastic setting that is the Grand Hotel.

So let me focus on the luncheon. If you’re just visiting for the day rather than staying at the hotel, the cost of the celebrated buffet is, as I had mentioned, forty dollars, ten of which is an admittance fee to the hotel grounds, and the remainder of which covers your actual meal. It’s the kind of money most of us shell out only rarely, and I can assure you that the one-of-a-kind epicurean experience you get in return is worth it. The vast dining room is not so much a room as a landscape, a panorama of tables attended by nattily attired waiters and waitresses. In its center you’ll find three long buffet tables and two dessert tables, with offerings every bit as sumptuous as you’d expect.

Lunch at the Hotel is nothing to rush through. Take your time. Try the smoked fish—it’s fabulous. So is the shrimp-macaroni salad, and you can’t go wrong with the pork. If you still have room after sampling all the meal offerings—and that’s a big if—the dessert tables await you. I can recommend the rhubarb pie, washed down with a cup of rich, black coffee..

Afterwards, the broad stretch of the front porch beckons. You’ll find chairs and lounges a-plenty, scattered along the length of the porch. But chances are, you just want to stroll and enjoy breathtaking view. Did you bring your camera? Good. Because everywhere you turn you’ll find something you want to capture with your lens. A view of the Mackinac Bridge spanning the distant waters. The long facade of the hotel, with its golden awnings and bright flower beds. A road, framed through an archway, winding its way upslope toward a picturesque hillside community.

When you finally do leave—when you’ve seen enough of model ships, banquet halls, bright gardens walks, and magnificent, sweeping vistas—you’ll do so with the awareness that there is still plenty left to see. Maybe one day you’ll come back for seconds. Probably not anytime soon, considering the price of a meal, but when you’re looking for a special experience, the Grand Hotel will remain in your memory—and someday you’ll return.





Written by Dave.