Ten Things to Eat Right Now
Illustration by Katie Eberts
1 Luisa’s Café
Chef Vivian May uses thoughtfully sourced ingredients, many of them local, in dishes that hit the sweet spot between originality and simplicity. Try the delicately seasoned French lentils served with poached eggs and curried yogurt. Or the carrot cake waffle, one of many gluten-free options. From baked quinoa to crab cakes, you can be as virtuous or indulgent as you like—it’s all freshly prepared and it all tastes like comfort food. The adjoining Harbert Swedish Bakery, run by May’s mother, Luisa, provides breads and pastries. The cheery decor throughout creates a feeling of endless summer, with bright patchwork napkins, beachy artwork and a sunroom dining niche.
13698 Red Arrow Hwy., Harbert, MI
2 Pierre Anne Crêperie
This haven of old-world gentility, perfectly suited to its Victorian structure, is complete with a fireplace, a spacious patio for al fresco dining and an art gallery. Polish-born chef Anna Donde brings her European savoir faire to crêpes both traditional—ham and Gruyère; mushroom, fresh spinach and leek—and unexpected, such as the beef Stroganoff option. The light-as-a-feather crêpes, filled with hand-selected ingredients, are served with a large salad popping with color and flavor. Don’t leave without taking a look at the menu of dessert crepes, each beautifully plated with its own fruit salad: vanilla cream cheese, Nutella, caramelized bananas in rum sauce and more.
9 S. Barton St., New Buffalo, MI
3 Crooked Ewe Brewery and Ale House
For those of us who consider brunch to be an afternoon sport, Crooked Ewe serves its decadent gastropub creations from noon to 10pm on Sundays, accompanied by mimosas in a teacup and coffee from Zen Café. Don’t come expecting ordinary breakfast fare. Chef Alain Helfrich’s experiments result in some whiz-bang surprises. Korean pork belly tacos, anyone? In the chicken and waffle dish, plump, spicy wings were smartly paired with a “doughffle,” an old-fashioned doughnut passed through a waffle iron. That said, the pervasive scent of smoked meat makes it hard to order anything but the brisket Benedict, served with BBQ hollandaise sauce and the world’s creamiest “one-hour egg.” Although the menu is meat forward, all of the dishes are offered in vegan versions that still pack a wallop of flavor.
1047 Lincoln Way E., South Bend, IN
4 Rachel’s Bread
The bakery aromas swirling around this place, along with its cozily rustic decor, created a sense of contentment before I even took my first bite. Not that I would have skipped the spectacular all-butter pastries, which attain a perfect balance of rich, sweet and bready. Devour them on their own or have an egg croissant sandwich with a tender, herbed mini-omelet in the middle. The daily offering of a few types of bread and pastries and a small breakfast menu is expanded on Saturdays to include 10 breads, 20 pastries and a multitude of frittatas, quiches and both sweet and savory French toasts. Most of the ingredients are sourced directly from the Goshen Farmers Market, attached to the bakery. Arrive early—crowds line up around the corner and the baked goods sell out fast!
212 W. Washington St. # 2, Goshen, IN
5 Farmhouse Bakery and Restaurant
Surrounded by fields and heavy on country charm, this Mennonite-run restaurant serves the ultimate farm-fresh breakfast. Portions seem to range by the role played on said farm, as in the Hungry Farmer—a baked egg casserole with a choice of biscuits and gravy, French toast or pancakes, with meat and a pastry—or the Farmer’s Wife, a half-size serving of the same meal. The pillowy apple fritters, a specialty, are lovely on their own but can also be refashioned as Fritter French Toast. The shelves in the bakery up front are filled with local jams and preserves as well as fresh baked goods, but if you have time, stop by the related Bullseye Marketplace down the road for other specialty, local and organic products.
59573 White Temple Rd., Vandalia, MI
6 Memo’s House of Pancakes
This unassuming spot, tucked into a strip mall and complete with a candy counter and paper placemats advertising local businesses, serves the diner food you’ve always wished for. Perfectly cooked hash browns, a benchmark for a great breakfast, are crisp and tender in the right places, light on grease and browned to a deep rust color. The omelets, surprisingly football-shaped, are expertly cooked and silky throughout. The menu is expansive and the portions are generous. And bonus! there are plenty of authentic Mexican dishes, including huevos rancheros, chilaquiles and burritos, most served with rice and refried beans. Kudos as well to the waitstaff, some of the best around.
1714 US 20, Michigan City, IN
7 Viola Café
The pressed-tin ceiling, vintage china and handmade quilts make this homey restaurant a natural in Three Oaks, MI, which is practically a movie set of a charming small town. Locals gather here for breakfast, choosing from a classic menu that hits all the high notes, from Western omelets and steak and eggs to pecan pancakes and malted Belgian waffles. Specialties include Swedish pancakes with lingonberries, nicely tart and just sweet enough, and the biscuits and gravy, generously studded with sausage, that are available Fridays through Sundays. For further temptation, a pastry case is stocked with muffins and desserts, freshly baked on-site.
102 N. Elm St., Three Oaks, MI
8 Hilltop Restaurant
In continuous operation since 1977, this restaurant, chockablock with quirky thrift store art and vintage collectibles, has earned its outsized personality. A chalkboard at the entrance—“Real food served in real time. Expect to wait for greatness.”—accurately sets the scene. The standout here is the High Octane Pancakes, filled with oatmeal, flax and sunflower seeds to power you through the morning. But it’s hard to choose from a menu of so many favorites, old and new. There is crispy fried mush, sausage gravy over biscuits or potatoes, meats including both steak and pork chops, a multitude of omelets—including a cheeky “Obamalet”—and French toast stuffed with cream cheese and a winning medley of pineapple, blueberries and orange sauce. Mercifully, they offer a Hilltop Sampler for the decision-challenged.
303 S. Michigan St., Lakeville, IN
9 Uptown Kitchen
Eclectic, high-end ingredients come together in uptown versions of the breakfast hit list at this sister restaurant of The Mark Dine and Tap. Try the lemon ricotta pancakes, complemented by raspberry crème fraîche. Or the turkey, avocado and Brie omelet—creamy-on-creamy works beautifully here—served with sage-dusted home fries. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are salmon eggs Benedict and shrimp and andouille sausage hash. Seasonal specials transform vegetables into craveable delights, and healthy options abound on a menu that includes gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options. Weekend brunch specials include Bloody Marys and mimosas and draw a lively crowd, turning this high-ceilinged space into a bustling hive of happy eaters.
7225 Heritage Square Dr. #208
Granger, IN 574.968.3030
10 The Mason Jar Café
In a short amount of time, this welcoming little café has become so popular that its tables spill over into the adjoining arts collective. I wish I could eat all my meals in such an airy, light-filled space, surrounded by artwork. The goat cheese and grit cakes fly out of the kitchen, marvels of creamy-crunchiness, and unique touches add pizzazz throughout the menu. The jalapeño cheddar sausage is a kick, and Maple Leaf Farms’ duck bacon allows you to fulfill your dream of eating delicious jerky for breakfast. The care taken in selecting ingredients is everywhere present, from the pink Himalayan salt on the table, to the gluten-free zucchini bread waffle and banana oat pancakes, to the seasonal drinks menu that runs the gamut of hot chocolates and lattes.
210 Water St., Benton Harbor, MI