The most-attended public art event on the planet, ArtPrize, takes place only two hours north of South Bend. More than 170 venues – including museums, parks, restaurants, hotels, parking lots and bars – located within three square miles in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, open up their doors to the public to display nearly 1,500 pieces of artwork. Artwork can take the form of a simple photograph to a huge art installation spanning a bridge across the river. This is the last week of ArtPrize Eight. It began on September 14 and will end this weekend, October 9.

Why do so many artists want to participate in ArtPrize? Two winners,  which are chosen by public vote and a jury of experts, win grand prizes of $200,000 each. Eight other winners will receive smaller awards. Prizes total $500,000.

ArtPrize is a great way to explore the city of Grand Rapids on foot, while viewing some amazing pieces of artwork. So how do you tackle an event like this? Before you go, I’d suggest doing your research. What are some of the most popular exhibitions? What do you want to see? What venues are hosting the most artwork? You can do the majority of this planning on the ArtPrize website. Since it’s the last week of the event, the first round of voting has already occurred and the top twenty pieces have already been announced, which makes it a bit easier to plan what to see. Once you arrive in Grand Rapids, grab a map at one of ArtPrize’s eight neighborhood HUBs or the main headquarters/HUB, located at 41 Sheldon Boulevard.

As you may know, Grand Rapids has been voted best craft beer city in the United States multiple times, so while you’re there, stop by one of the many delicious breweries or restaurants featuring great beers, such as Founders Brewery, Brewery VivantThe Green Well or Hop Cat.

Here’s a video of last year’s event so you can get a sense of the fun:

ArtPrize Seven from ArtPrize on Vimeo.

Here are a few of my photos from a few years back:

In my opinion, ArtPrize is one of the greatest public art events in the country, which is probably why The New York Times included it in its list of 52 Places to Go in 2016. Take advantage of living so close and head up there this weekend!



A Long Weekend in Northern Michigan


View from Old Mission Lighthouse

As the Pure Michigan radio ads remind us on a regular basis, Northern Michigan is home to miles and miles of pristine coastline, clear turquoise waters, beautiful forests, tall sand dunes, craft beer, wineries and quaint boutiques and main streets. Tim Allen is definitely not lying to us in those ads – Michigan has many beautiful areas and great vacation destinations.

My family regularly vacationed on the Leelanau Peninsula as well as in Southwest Michigan when I was a kid, and I still have fond memories of those trips. So when my friend Jesse told me he was coming for a visit over the Fourth of July weekend, my husband, Bob, Jesse and I decided to go to Northern Michigan, camping along the way. Northern Michigan was still as beautiful as I remembered it.

Day 1 – Thursday – South Bend to Traverse City

Jesse arrived in South Bend on a Thursday afternoon and we left for our trip to Northern Michigan around 4:30 p.m. We knew it would be a long drive at night to Traverse City, but we wanted to wake up on Friday with a whole day ahead of us to explore and drive even further north. We took the fastest route through central Michigan to Traverse City – up 196 and 131, about a four hour drive (see map below).

The route takes you through Grand Rapids, which, lucky for us, has been voted best craft beer city in the U.S. multiple times. We stopped at Founder’s Brewery, which was just a quick detour off the highway. We each sampled a bit of beer and enjoyed one of their ginormous sandwiches, which were delicious. It was a great way to break  up the drive as well as a chance to experience a new brewery and restaurant.

After dinner, we continued our drive to Traverse City State Park, where we camped that evening. The State Park is located just across the street from the east arm of Grand Traverse Bay and within a couple miles of downtown. We set up camp, went to sleep and survived a torrential rain storm.

Note: Northern Michigan is a popular summer vacation destination and campgrounds fill up very early. We booked our sites more than two months in advance for the holiday weekend, and many campgrounds were already booked solid. Book early, especially if you’re interested in staying in the more popular campgrounds.

Day 2 – Traverse City to Wilderness State Park (near Mackinaw City)


Chateau Chantal

We woke up early on Friday morning, took down our tents, and drove a couple of miles west to downtown Traverse City for breakfast. We went to Towne Plaza, a really great breakfast place. The Fried Chicken Benedict and regular Benedict were awesome (the fontina cream sauce in place of béchamel was so good). The fruit plate with a thick slice of banana bread was also delicious.

After breakfast we walked around downtown, stopping at a few boutiques and the Grand Traverse Distillery to try cherry whisky. We also grabbed a coffee at the Brew Coffehouse and Cafe, which was the most hipster coffee shop I’ve ever seen (ex. nitro iced coffee), but the coffee was really good. It looked like it would also be a good place to grab a sandwich.

After caffeinating ourselves, we hopped in the car and drove up the Old Mission Peninsula, which is situated in the middle of Grand Traverse Bay. The peninsula offers many beautiful views of the bay. I would recommending taking the residential roads along the water on the east side of the peninsula for views of the bay on the way north, and the main road (37) down the center for views of cherry farms and vineyards when you come back south. At the very tip, you can stop at the Old Mission Lighthouse for some great photos. For a few dollars, you can also climb to the top of the tower.

On our way south on 37, we stopped at the winery and hotel Chateau Chantal, which was a very pleasant surprise. It’s located at a high point in the middle of the peninsula, so you have incredible views of both arms of Grand Traverse Bay from the tasting room. We grabbed a flight of all of their cherry wines and took them to the outdoor patio to enjoy the stunning views of the vineyards and bay. The wines were all very good, but the hard cider was definitely the highlight for us. We ended up buying a bottle to enjoy by the campfire later that night. This was one of the most beautiful and enjoyable stops of the weekend and shouldn’t be missed.


Rustic site at Wilderness State Park

After we departed the peninsula, we began our two hour drive north to Wilderness State Park, driving through Charlevoix and Petosky, both cute towns. Wilderness State Park is located at the northern tip of the mitten, about 20 minutes west of Mackinaw City, which is the closest town. It was a beautiful place to camp and we were lucky to get one of the new rustic campsites due to a cancellation, which offered more privacy. Although the main campground is located on the beach, it was very crowded.

Just down the road, you can watch the sunset and see a magnificent view of the stars at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, one of the world’s few official dark sky parks. As you probably guessed, there are no lights, and you do have to walk about a mile on a paved road in the woods to the beach, but the trek is worth it for the views. Be sure to bring a flashlight, blankets (it gets chilly) and closed-toed shoes. The stars are so bright you can actually see pretty well after dark, but there were a few iffy spots on our walk back. We made the mistake of arriving really early – around 8:30 p.m. because we wanted to see the sunset. However, the good views of the stars didn’t occur until around midnight due to the light on the horizon, so it was a long wait. Most people arrived around 11 p.m.

We also had a wonderful view of the stars back at the campground. By the time we crawled into our tents, every inch of the sky was filled with stars and we had a clear view of the Milky Way and several planets. It was stunning. Jesse commented that it was the most stars he’s ever seen.

Day 3 – Wilderness State Park to Mackinac Island and Charlevoix


Mackinac Island Grand Hotel

We woke up around 6 am on Saturday morning to try to beat the crowds to Mackinac Island. Mackinac is only accessible by ferry from Mackinaw City in the Lower Peninsula or St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula. Cars are prohibited on Mackinac Island, so people get around by walking, biking, or riding in a horse-drawn carriage. We opted to take our bikes with us in order to see as much of the island as we could.

We took the 8:30 a.m. Shepler’s Ferry from Mackinaw City to Mackinac Island. Tickets for the ferry were $24 per person if purchased online in advance, plus an additional $10 per bike. It’s only about a 20 minute boat trip with great views of the Mackinac Bridge, one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. You feel like you’ve stepped back in time 100 years when you reach the island. When we disembarked the boat, the first thing I noticed was the architecture. The buildings in the downtown date from the 1800s and there’s a fort that the British built during the Revolutionary War. I learned that Mackinac Island was actually deemed the second National Park in America after Yellowstone; however it was changed to the first Michigan State Park in the late 1800s after the fort was decommissioned.


View from the bike trail

We started the morning by taking a self-guided bike tour of Mackinac Island’s major attractions, including the Grand Hotel (it’s worth the $10 to get in just to see the old furnishings), Fort Holmes, Fort Mackinac, exteriors of historic homes, the old cemeteries and Arch Rock, which took about two hours at a very leisurely pace with stops. A good portion of the ride is uphill. We then enjoyed a lunch of white fish and pasties at Millie’s on Main. The food was good.

After lunch, we took the eight-mile bike ride around the island, which was absolutely beautiful. The downside is it was treacherous due to the insane number of tourists on the trail who couldn’t bike in a straight line. After about four miles, the crowds luckily died down. We stopped to enjoy the stunningly beautiful clear turquoise waters, build a cairn (rock tower), and enjoy the views. With many stops to enjoy the views and riding at a very leisurely pace, the trip also took about two hours.

When we arrived back in town, our final goal was to try fudge and eat Mackinac Island fudge ice cream. This goal was easily accomplished with the many fudge shops in town. We sampled fudge at five shops and bought ice cream at one of the oldest fudge shops, Ryba’s.


Ice cream stop

We departed Mackinac Island in the late afternoon and drove two hours south along the coast to our next camping destination – Fisherman’s Island State Park in Charlevoix.  We stopped in Petosky to each eat a pasty at That Pasty Place for dinner. Pasties are puff pastries filled with ground meat and vegetables and are popular in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Personally, I find pasties rather bland, but I felt obligated to eat one since I was in Michigan.

Fisherman’s Island had big semi-private campsites in the woods. The beach was about a mile down the road. We spent the evening laying on the beach enjoying the sun.

Day 4 – Charlevoix to Manistee, MI

Our fourth day consisted of a lot of driving. We had hoped to stay in Leelanau State Park on our fourth night; however, it was booked solid. So we opted to stay at Orchard Beach State Park, which was further south.


Tandem Cider

I really wanted to see the Leelanau Peninsula, since I hadn’t been there since I was a kid. We woke up early and started our drive from Charlevoix, back through Traverse City, to the Leelanau Peninsula. We first stopped at the Leelanau Cheese Company near Sutton’s Bay, famous for its Swiss Raclette cheese. It was delicious. We then stopped at Black Star Farm, a horse farm, hotel and winery, which was beautiful. I highly recommend sampling the wines. We bought a bottle of the Arcturus Riesling.

Our next stop was perhaps my favorite of the day, Tandem Cider. Tandem Cider is a beautiful cidery located in an old barn surrounding by wild flowers in the middle of an orchard. The location was super picturesque and it was fun to sample a variety of different types of ciders made with different apples.

Next, we stopped at Leelanau State Park to see the lighthouse, and then continued down the peninsula to Leland, a small town famous for Fish town, several fisherman’s huts converted to boutiques. We had lunch on the river at The Cove – the Parmesan Garlic White Fish was awesome and so were the Fried White Fish and Fried Lake Perch.


Cherry Republic

After leaving Leland, we took a quick stop at the original Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor, which specializes in all things cherry and we took home a bottle of their cherry salsa. Next, we stopped at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and took the seven-mile scenic Pierce Stocking Drive to see the giant sand dunes. There are many lookout points throughout the scenic drive, including a lookout perched 450 feet above the lake on top of the tallest dune, which is just a short walk from one of the parking lots.

Orchard Beach State Park was about an hour and fifteen minutes south of Sleeping Bear Dunes in Manistee. It’s a crowded campground with little privacy, but it offers many amenities, such as great bathroom facilities and beach access. You can also watch beautiful sunsets from the lake lookout in the campground (see cover photo for an example).

Day 5 – Manistee, MI to South Bend


New Holland

We woke up on Monday to start our final 3.5 hour drive back to South Bend. After having breakfast at the campsite, we packed up our gear and headed south. We took a quick stop in Holland, MI, to sample a flight of beer at New Holland Brewery. I really like New Holland’s Beer, but I’m not a huge fan of their food, so we opted to drive further south to Saugatuck for lunch, where we at at Phil’s Bar and Grille. Phil’s is famous for their Broasted Chicken, but I usually opt for their Portabello Mushroom Sandwich with watercress pesto, sweet and sour onions, goat cheese, avocado and spinach. I also love the Tenderloin Salad, with goat cheese and jalepeno vinaigrette.

Saugatuck is one of my favorite beach towns in Michigan. I love walking around the downtown and visiting the shops, taking the chain ferry across to climb the dune, and heading to the beach. Plus, it’s only an hour and twenty minutes from South Bend so it’s an easy place to go for a day trip.

Our whirlwind tour of Northern Michigan was a success. If you’d like to cut down on the amount of driving, you could also spend a few days just in Traverse City, Mackinac Island, the Leelanau Peninsula or around Wilderness State Park – there’s plenty to do.


The Lakeside Inn

VacancyIt’s the time of year when weekend getaways are important to maintain sanity. The weather is getting colder, the holiday craziness is just around the corner, and we have about four months of permacloud to look forward to. Where’s the best place in the region to go for an inexpensive winter weekend getaway? Why, the Lakeside Inn, of course.

The Lakeside Inn in Lakeside, Michigan, is my favorite place in the area to spend a weekend. I may be a bit biased, since it’s where I got married, but there’s a reason we chose it as our wedding venue – it’s the perfect place to get family and friends together for a weekend.

Room 14

Room 14

Walking up to the Lakeside Inn is like walking back in time 100 years. In fact, the Inn was built in the 1880s. The Inn is nestled in a grove of trees and is perched on top of a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. There’s an expansive front porch, where you can spend a long afternoon or evening rocking in a rocking chair while watching the waves crash on the beach or the sun set over the lake. Besides regular maintenance and adding bathrooms to all of the rooms, very little has been done to change the interior of the Inn over the last century. There are two huge stone fireplaces in the lobby and ballroom that are always lit in the winter and are surrounded by wicker couches, tables and rocking chairs. There are no TVs in the rooms – forcing you to socialize with those you came with in the common spaces.

You may wonder why I’d suggest going to an inn on Lake Michigan in the winter; There are several reasons. First, it’s super cozy, and the stone fireplaces make it an ideal place to relax on a snowy night. Secondly, the Lakeside Inn is super inexpensive during the off season. From November 1 through May 20, you buy one night and get the second night free. The rooms range in price from $90 to $175, but considering that’s the price for the ENTIRE weekend, it’s a steal. Third of all, there’s a ton of stuff to do in the area, even in the winter.

The stairs to the beach

The stairs to the beach

There are only 30 rooms in the inn and every single one is different, which is why the price varies so much. Don’t expect  anything fancy – some of the rooms are small and the furniture is rather old (although well maintained); However, the character and history of the Inn and its rooms are what make it so special, not to mention that staying in the Inn makes you feel like you’re in a simpler time where relationships with others take priority over the TV and smartphone.

If you decide to spend the weekend at the Lakeside Inn, here are some suggestions of nearby places to visit (stay-tuned for more posts on many of these places):

The Blue Plate Cafe (within walking distance – my favorite breakfast place)
Luisa’s at The Harbert Swedish Bakery
Dave’s at the Lakeside Inn

Greenbush Brewing Company
The Stray Dog
Pleasant House
Cafe Gulistan (super delicious Kurdish food!)

– Explore the Sawyer Garden Center (seriously, it’s cool and they have tons of Christmas gift ideas)
– Check out the treetop viewing platform at Galien River County Park (it’s closed for part of the winter – check the schedule before visiting)
– Visit the antique stores on the Red Arrow Highway
– Explore the local wineries
– See a movie at the Vicker’s Theatre


Photo credit for the wedding pics goes to the awesome Allison Christians Photography.

A Weekend in Brown County, IN

This past weekend, my husband, Bob, and I went camping in Brown County, IN. We had heard that Brown County State Park was beautiful and often referred to as the “little Smokies” for the hilly terrain. Neither of us had been there before and we were pleasantly surprised by how awesome it was.


The fish counter at Caplinger’s

We took off after work on Friday and started driving south. Brown County is a little over an hour south of Indianapolis, so from South Bend, the total drive is about 3.5 hours. We decided to take a quick pit stop in Indianapolis for dinner. Yelp took us to an excellent place on the east side of the city – Caplinger’s Fresh Catch – which is just off the highway and is currently rated number one in the city for best restaurant. About 45 minutes before we arrived in Indy, we placed a carry-out order on their website since our initial plan was just to pick it up and eat in the car. When we arrived around 8:30 p.m., the place was packed with people waiting for their food – in fact, it was so busy many people had been waiting for over an hour (it’s a walk-up counter). Luckily, our order was ready and we snagged an open table to chow down. As the name suggests, Caplinger’s Fresh Catch is a fish restaurant and, damn, was it good. It was also cheap. We each got the Caplinger’s Special, which is a dinner of breaded or grilled swai, hush puppies, and two sides. I had cajun coleslaw and fries and Bob had collard greens and fried okra. The dinners were only $9.49 and the portions were huge – we actually nearly had a whole dinner left over. We also got a side of fried shrimp and a piece of coconut cream pie – yum! The have tons of different varieties of fish, all of which can either be grilled or fried.


The campsite at the Last Resort

After dinner, we drove in a food coma down to Brown County. Unfortunately, Brown County State Park’s campground was full (October is evidently the most busy month in Brown County due to the insane number of leaf-peepers in town), so we made a reservation at the Last Resort, an RV park and campground that was conveniently located just across the street from the state park and about about 5 minutes east of downtown Nashville, IN. While the sites were close together, the facilities were great. All of the sites had water pumps and electrical outlets (which allowed me to charge my iPhone when the battery died so I could take more photos for this post). The bathrooms were clean and had flush toilets and the showers were hot – which I appreciated, since the overnight temperature, much to my dismay, was a freezing 25 degrees. If it was warm, the pool would also be a great amenity.

Delilah getting ready to steal a cinnamon roll

Delilah getting ready to steal a cinnamon roll

As Bob can tell you, I have lukewarm feelings about camping. I actually never went tent camping  until I met Bob in college (Bob was a Boy Scout growing up and camping is his happy place). The first time I went camping, I was convinced I would be abducted by aliens (no joke). But, over the years, camping has grown on me. It’s an inexpensive way to see a new place, waking up in beautiful scenery is quite enjoyable, and if you have the right gear (a sleeping pad for under your sleeping bag is essential), you can be pretty comfortable. Besides the frigid overnight low, it wasn’t so bad. However, I think our spoiled dog, who doesn’t seem to be into sleeping anywhere besides the couch or a bed, thought otherwise. (Don’t worry, she had her own sub-zero sleeping bag.)

Anyway, when we arrived at the campground late Friday night, we pretty much just set up the tent in the dark and went to bed. On Saturday morning, we woke up to light streaming through the beautiful autumn leaves and saw that we were on a ridge line. The terrain was incredibly hilly. After eating some cinnamon rolls that Bob made in his dutch oven over the fire pit, we jumped in the car and drove across the street to Brown County State Park.

Brown County

A lookout point at Brown County State Park

Brown County State Park was impressive. We started by driving around the park to get our bearings and check out the different lookout points. We also took two short hikes – a quick 1.5 mile hike around Ogle Lake and a mile hike from the Nature Center to Strahl Lake and back. The park has a large stable on site, and horseback rides seemed to be a super popular way to see the park. There are also copious quantities of mountain bike trails for the bike enthusiast. The campgrounds looked to be in great shape.

Nashville garden shop

A garden shop in Nashville, IN

In the afternoon, we drove down the street to Nashville, Indiana, the largest town in Brown County. I did not expect Brown County to have such a cute town. While I had heard of the state park, I had never heard of Nashville, so it was a pleasant surprise. Bob and I compared it to a southern-themed version of Saugatuck, MI, with Indiana prices. Nashville is a large art community, with tons of galleries, shops, and restaurants. Despite the throngs of tourists (October may not be the best month to go if you don’t like crowds), we had a great time walking around town and checking out the shops. We had an excellent cup of hot chocolate at the Daily Grind Coffeehouse and Cafe, saw a short marionette pupped show demo outside the “Slightly Haunted” Melchior Marionette Theatre, considered getting a pedicure (and passed) at the Hillbilly Foot Wash, watched a man carve a dragon out of a tree stump with a chainsaw, ate some awesome fudge and toffee at the Nashville Fudge Kitchen, and bought a really cool fused glass piece of art for our kitchen. If you have a dog with you, be prepared to be stopped by every fifth or so person who wants to tell you about their dog at home or pet your dog.

Farmhouse Cafe

The Farmhouse Cafe

On our walk, we stopped at the Brown County Visitors Center, where we got a map of the Backgrounds of Brown County Studio Tour. In October, artists around Brown County open up their home studios to the public. We decided to take a short drive into the scenic countryside, stopping at the Farmhouse Cafe and Tea Room at the Flower and Herb Barn to check out the gardens and greenhouse. The restaurant has excellent reviews, and I’ve added it to my bucket list for next time.

After a quick nap back at the campsite, we headed back into town to have dinner at the Big Woods Brewing Company. Big Woods has two locations in Nashville – the Brewing Company and Big Woods Pizza – which are located next to each other. The Brewing Company is much smaller than the pizzeria and serves sandwiches, salads, tacos, flatbreads and a few entrees. Big Woods Pizza, as the name suggests, specializes in pizza, but has a few other items on the menu such as sandwiches and salads. Oddly enough, the much smaller Brewing Company had a shorter wait, which was great, since we weren’t in the mood for pizza. We started with the pulled pork nacho appetizer. I had the Triple B burger, which won a national competition for its tastiness. Bob had the steak pasta in a blue cheese cream sauce, which was also delicious. We also tried the seasonal pumpkin ale, the red ale, the stout, and the pale ale – all of which were great.

Brugges Brasserie

The food at Brugge Brasserie

On Sunday morning, we woke up early and drove to Indianapolis. Despite living in Indiana for the past five years, we haven’t spent much time in Indy, so we wanted to see some of the places our friends had told us about in the city. We stopped in Broad Ripple, one of the historic neighborhoods, for lunch, and took a walk along the Monon Trail, a 10.4 mile bike and walking trail, with the dog. For lunch, we ate at Brugge Brasserie, a Belgian restaurant. I had the roasted pork tenderloin, leek and goat cheese crepe with fries (you can choose from 12 dipping sauces for the fries) and Bob had the beer and tomato braised meatball sandwich, both of which were delicious. After lunch, I ran into a great store, The Bungalow, which is both an art gallery and home goods store.

Overall, our trip to Brown County, with a couple of short pit stops in Indy, was a great success. I would highly recommend to Brown County to anyone who is looking for a beautiful and fun weekend getaway.


Antiques and Fun in Lakeside and Sawyer Michigan


by Jane

One of the very best things about living in South Bend is the ability to run away to Lake Michigan on the weekend. With relatively simple planning and a quick drive, you’re suddenly dancing in a windstorm on the beach with your sister, or trying to get your husband to buy you a NO POOPING sign for your front yard at an awesome antique shop. It doesn’t get better than that! (By the way, the NO POOPING sign isn’t for sale. That was the saddest part of my whole day.)

I recently spent a weekend at the Lakeside Inn with my husband Sam, my sister Julia, and her husband, Antonio. The Inn is nestled in the woods, right on the shore of Lake Michigan. If you leave your windows open at night, you can hear the waves crashing onto the beach. I’m going to leave the real details about it to McK, because she has a special connection to the Lakeside Inn…so look for that post in the future!

Now for all the fun we had at this place!


Lakeside Antiques is just down Red Arrow Highway from the Inn. It’s a fantastic place to spend a morning. There is a main building (shown above), and a large secondary barn building, so you can explore here for hours.


They have amazing quality antiques from all over the world. This is the kind of place where you can find everything from elaborately crafted stag-horn chandeliers to fine art and fabrics.



Julia and I tried to get our husbands to chip in and buy us this floor length white fur coat, so that we could play Narnia when we got back to the Inn. They said no, because they’re terrible husbands, and don’t understand the value of priceless antiques.


They do, however, think that it’s important to scare small children with giant evil-eye paperweights. I tell you, the priorities of these two men are totally screwy!


We stopped at Fitzgerald’s (also known as Fitz’s Bar & Grill) in Sawyer, Michigan for lunch. This restaurant and lounge has a beautiful old bar in their quirky cute dining room, and a darling patio area. They have amazing food, and their appetizers are big enough to share.


Julia got an amazing beer, and I tried a really interesting pear cider. Sam and Antonio ordered the ever-reliably delicious Zombie Dust by 3 Floyds Brewing Company.
IMG_3907 IMG_3905
Crab cakes and calamari!
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The crab cakes were giant, and amazing. The fries were so good, we promised to share them with Antonio, but then we forgot. Sorry, Antonio!
Lakeside Antiques
14876 Red Arrow Hwy
Lakeside, MI 49116
Fitzgerald’s OR Fitz’s Bar & Grill
5875 Sawyer Rd
Sawyer, MI 49126