Cook's House, Traverse City
YES! And it was quite possibly the best lunch I have ever had! I wrote the following on my blog http://midmichigandining.com/2008/09/...
7:30 AM is early. Not for most people, but for J and me, anything before about 11 AM might as well be pre-dawn. Why were we up so early, you ask? Our goal was to be on the road by 9:00 AM and in Traverse City by lunch. Guess what? We made it! Out the door by 8:30 and in the Cherry Capitol by noon. Our first stop was going to be lunch. I had been scouting this one out for a while. I noticed a blog on Good Food Hunting called From Behind the Stove. The writer is a chef at a tiny restaurant near downtown Traverse City. I knew if we ever made it north, The Cooks House would definitely be a stop.
So, we pull into downtown Traverse City just after noon. I was a little worried because I kept reading about how great this place was and how it was starting to catch on with foodies. Reservations are strongly recommended for dinner. I was really hoping that wouldn’t be the case with lunch. The Cooks House is located just a few blocks from the main downtown business district on Front Street. It’s a very inconspicuous building. We actually drove by it without realizing it. We found a parking garage two blocks up then headed back the way we came on foot to seek out the shop.
When we walked in, we were both shocked by the size. It is tiny. There are only five tables in the very small space. There was only one other party enjoying lunch when we walked in, but by the time we left, all four tables were full and one was reserved. A waitress noticed us and told us to take the table by the door. We took our seats and she brought over the paper menus. While we were looking over the choices, we took in the atmosphere. There weren’t a whole lot of decorations, but there were a lot of unique items. The furniture was a hodgepodge of wrought iron or wood tables and chairs. There was a book case near the door with dozens of cookbooks. The tables themselves were covered in butcher paper for easy clean up and each table had a dish of sea salt for the bread that would be brought out before the meals arrived.
When it came time to order, we both had a hard time deciding. The menu is not very big, but even for a couple of picky eaters, there were multiple options and many things that sounded good. J ended up going with a salad of mixed greens, dried Michigan fruits, nuts and goat cheese. The dressing was a creamy cider dressing. The waitress gave her the choice between a small and large salad with the large being an entree portion. She took the bigger one since that was all she was going to be ordering. Her salad came up first and she dug in with wide eyes. The salad was delicious. It wasn’t on the menu, but she said there were tiny bits of apples in the salad. She loved that part of it. Normally when you get apples on a salad, they come in big chunks and you eat them separately. These worked with the salad. She was really happy with the meal and cleaned her plate.
I ordered the pulled pork sandwich which came with grilled Tokyo Bekana and sharp white cheddar cheese. I have never had a pulled pork sandwich like this and I probably will never again. I wasn’t aware that you could make BBQ gourmet but the chefs at the Cooks House did that and more. The waitress brought our plates out one at a time. I was looking at J’s salad when the server making her way back to our table. I’m pretty sure I let out a “Oh my god!” that the entire restaurant heard. This sandwich was incredible. It was real pulled pork. Not some crappy out the can stuff. This was slow cooked, hand pulled pork. It was covered in a sweet BBQ sauce, topped with the cheese and put on a crusty artisan roll. I’m kind of a BBQ snob and don’t usually like pulled pork unless it’s prepared, cooked, and served a certain way. This sandwich blew all of my preconceived notions out of the water. The cheese added a great salty contrast to the sweet sauce. The Tokyo Bekana was served on the side. It just tasted like mixed greens to me, but it was a nice compliment to the sandwich. Best sandwich ever!
Our bill was under $25 with two pops. The Coke’s were served out of the can so there were no refills, but the waitresses were good at keeping our water glasses filled. Genie28 commented on an earlier post that she didn’t blog about The Cooks House herself because she wanted to keep it her little secret. Unfortunately, the secret is about the get out. The Cooks House is fantastic. One of the best restaurants I’ve ever eaten at. It’s a great cozy atmosphere where the chefs can actually watch you eat and time the courses. The food is fantastic. There’s not much on the menu that didn’t look good. They’re not a place that try to do a lot. They do just a few things, but they do them so well, it’s hard to believe that there’s not a line down the street waiting to get into this hidden gem in Traverse City
I was there in June, 2013. Small place. Tasting menu. Expensive. Many small plates. Innovative. Emphasis on local products. Do not expect to be able to order a steak or a steamed lobster or a rack of lamb; it is not that sort of place. Do anticipate many small nibbles. Poor value, but entertaining. Chefs have their own cookbook.