Okay, I admit. I’ve been holding out on you all. In June, while in Traverse City, Chris and I ate lunch at this little restaurant on the edge of downtown. We’d driven by it coming in to town on Saturday morning then passed it at least a few more times going to and from the ceremony and our wine tasting adventure.
The little striped awning had caught my eye. And the words ‘Cooks’ and ‘House.’ From the street, you couldn’t tell if it was a restaurant or a retail store. Eventually, on Sunday we stopped to at least look at the door. They were closed but I noted the times for Monday- open at 11 for lunch.
Monday, it required dilly-dallying in the hotel until they opened. And it also required repeatedly turning down offers of a little bite of this or that when we met the rest of the family in the hotel restaurant. They were eating breakfast and we’d missed the cut-off. Deliberately but no one seemed to get that. Finally, we could say our good-byes and head over to The Cook’s House, just the two of us. I was very excited based on my quick glance at the menu posted by the door.
It was a little breezy but we opted to sit outside at one of three or four tables scattered across a little greenspace alongside the restaurant. The interior is quite small but we were there so close to 11 that they were not busy yet. I just wanted to enjoy the sunshine.
Our servers (2) were very attentive although sometimes it was a little awkward- the busser didn’t seem to have a strong grasp of English so asking for a new knife took a few tries.
Despite wanting to try everything on the menu, we limited ourselves to one dish each. Chris went for the chicken salad sandwich and I chose Walker’s Pesto Passion. I’m not sure who Walker is but I think I’d like him (her?)! The sandwich is fresh mozzarella, roasted tomatoes and pesto on the lightest bread. It was like a pastry bread. It kind of looked like foccacia but it didn’t taste like it. It had just a hint of sweetness. Maybe like challah but not overly sweet and not heavy. Seriously, good stuff. And the perfect outside to an amazing inside. This mozzarella was chewy and moist without being gummy or too salty. The oil in the pesto wrapped the tomatoes its velvety glove while spreading hints of basil through every bite.
Chris’s chicken salad sandwich was served on whole grain bread that had been grilled. The chicken salad was not like any salad I’d ever seen- it was chunks of chicken with dried cherries and a not-mayo dressing. He kept handing over bits of it so I could try to figure out what was in there. I couldn’t although I’m still guessing some kind of grainy-mustard. EDIT 10/10/08: Chris sandwich was accessorized with pea sprouts. I forgot about that before. They were slightly sweet and definitely a nice change from plain ole lettuce. End Edit I did give up one bite of my sandwich but I was very reluctant to share. And I probably would have stolen half his sandwich if I thought I could have.
Each our sandwiches came with a side salad of mixed greens dressed with a light vinaigrette. The salads had exactly the right amount of dressing. Every piece of lettuce had been touched but not much more than that.
Prior to our sandwiches, we also go a basket of freshly baked breads and butter. Guess what- it was wonderful!
While we waited for our meal, I started looking around the garden. I noticed herbs in one area, some future squash in another and down the stairs at the back of the restaurant, hanging over the river were baskets filled with heirloom tomatoes. As if this food wasn’t delicious enough- most of it was local. In fact, they pride themselves on sourcing locally as much as possible. On their website, you can see a list of suppliers. It seems that Traverse City would be a very good place to live while doing the 100-mile challenge!
I’m writing about this place now because the secret is out. All this time, despite not reviewing the place, I’d had a link to the blog from the chef at The Cooks’ House in my blogroll. I also recommended the place to a fellow blogger and he wrote about his visit (this weekend), here. In light of that also great review, I thought I’d go ahead and share my experience too. It was hard. I really was reluctant to talk about this place because I didn’t want to share. I didn’t want someone to go there, hate it and complain. Because I’d have to smack them. I have eaten in some pretty pricey restaurants in my life. I’ve eaten in places with national reputations. This was just lunch but it was one of the best meals of my life. You could taste the care and respect for food coming from the kitchen. I can’t put this lunch above my dinner at Charlie Trotter’s because that might be sacrilege but until I get my dinner at The French Laundry (in California, not the one in Fenton), lunch at the Cooks’ House will sit at #2.
Websitethe cooks’ house with menus
Address: 439 E. Front Street Traverse City, MI 49686
Hours: Monday through Saturday – Lunch 11:00am-4:30, Dinner 4:30-9:00