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An afternoon in Three Oaks, MI

Dig the Dunes contributor, Jessica Campbell, headed over to Three Oaks, MI last weekend. You can read about her experience right here!

Walking into Mooney's Ice Cream Parlour

Walking into Mooney’s Ice Cream Parlour

Story and photos submitted by: Jessica Campbell.

It was a Saturday in Michigan. We, my mom and I, started the morning off running up and down the ski slope of the Cannonsburg Ski Resort in Belmont. 30 miles later, we were both done and cooked. We needed to get to food and fast.

From the race in Belmont, it took us a little over an hour to reach Three Oaks, a small town near Sawyer and New Buffalo. I had heard of the town due to the Journeyman Distillery and the vintage Acorn Theater. But I would soon learn, there’s so much more.

We drove into the town expecting crowds of people; I mean come on, it was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Michigan. Instead, we saw some locals and some visitors enjoying a lazy Saturday lunch-time.

With food on our mind, we walked around town passing little shops and restaurants. We passed Pleasant House, a family restaurant and microbrewery, offering their specialty, Royal Pies. These menu items are award-winning savory meat-filled pies, and paired with the selection of unique bar snacks and beer, you have yourself one fine meal.

The next restaurant we passed was Nelson’s Saloon, home to the “best burger you will ever taste!” With a fun, laidback environment, Nelson’s definitely seemed to be the place to chill with a beer, and listen to some music or watch the sports game for the night.

Both tempting places right? My mom and I looked at each other, our stomachs grumbling from the lack of any real food today. We continued up the street and found the perfect place.

What we were really craving was something light, not the heavy meat or burger. And, when a smoked turkey sandwich on sourdough bread is on the menu, I’m in heaven.

Lunch at Froehlichs

We went inside Froehlich’s a restaurant/shop, and requested our lunch desires to one of the teenagers working inside. As my mom paid, I wandered around looking at all of the dishes, books, random knick-knacks available for purchase. Then, wandering to the other side of the store, the freezer was being stocked full of fresh food for customers to take home with them. Everything from loaves of bread to huge containers of asparagus soup could be ordered and taken home for the next night’s meal. Along the wall also shelved Froehlich’s homemade jams, jellies, sauces, and nut butters, all beckoning you to come over and try to make a decision on which one to take.

The shelf of homemade preserves at Froehlichs

The shelf of homemade preserves at Froehlichs

Colleen Froehlich purchased the shop space in 1992 and took two years of restoration to make it into the shop it is today. Colleen and her crew can all her homemade preserves at the store’s kitchen and bakes all bread from scratch.

As we sat outside the store and waited for our food, we watched the town. The family next to us finished their Froehlich’s lunch and went to the antique store next door. Another family rode their bikes into town and also had their midday meal at the little shop.

With a large iced tea on the side, we dug into our sandwiches: me with a delicious cold turkey and cheese sandwich and Mom with her steaming hot turkey Panini.

Hopefully no one timed the un-lady like gulping down of our food, but hey, it was too good not to!

After lunch, we continued across the street where people were walking into Mooney’s Blue Moon ice cream shop. I walked in and talked with the girl behind the counter, while glimpsing at the long, long counter of ice cream flavors. I was full and decided against the treat, but had to tear my eyes away from “Peanut Butter Pretzel” and walk briskly to the door.

When coming to the town we had the plan of going to Journeyman Distillery for lunch, but since we chose Froehlichs, we decided to walk into the alcohol dreamland just for a drink and see what is was about.

It was a lively Saturday there, filled with people trying out flights of sample drinks and a small crowd talking to the women bartenders. And one of the tours that the distillery holds was in the middle of learning about how each drink was crafted there in Three Oaks.

Looking through the window at inner workings of Journeyman Distillery

Looking through the window at inner workings of Journeyman Distillery

Too much of a wimp and still dehydrated from racing all morning, Mom and I split a small drink and walked back to main street in town.

We walked into more places, both with a very distinct and different smell. The Vickers Theatre is one of the two theaters the small town offers. The other is Acorn Theater located near Journeyman. This past weekend, the town was welcomed to a double showing of the movies, The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables. If I was not covered in dirt and limping from the soreness creeping into my legs, I would have settled down for the night inside.

I walked inside Vickers to see what the shows were and was met with the powerful, salty smell of popping popcorn. Vickers, located on the main street, Elm, has been opened for 104 years and hosts showings of films all year long, in addition to QandA’s with actors and producers, and premiers of local films. In its long history, the theater has had five names.

The next showing displayed outside Vickers Theater

The next showing displayed outside Vickers Theater

When I told people I was stopping at Three Oaks they said we had to go into the Drier’s Meat Market. Now, as someone who has been vegan in the past and with my mom who (hopefully she doesn’t see this) does not cook unless it takes under 20 minutes, we were a little hesitant to see the place. Stepping inside was like stepping inside a room in the Western days. Wood carved animals and signs envelope the walls, shavings litter the floor, and the meat smell was strong enough to recognize with your eyes closed.  The counter separated the backroom and store front, where the most people we saw all day were waiting for their various cuts and slices of meat products. I looked in the case of fresh pork and veal, listened to what the woman next to me was ordering, and politely stepped out. Not my scene, but if you like your pig I would suggest ordering some from there. The market has been open since 1875 when it was converted into the butcher shop. Ed Drier began working at the store when he was age 10 and in 1913 he bought the store. Now, the store is famous for its ring bologna and has been featured by papers throughout the area, including The Chicago Tribune.

Inside Drier’s Meat Market

Inside Drier’s Meat Market

It was a long day and I think the idea of a hot shower and bed was calling us more than we would have liked. So, mom and I enjoyed the few hours at Three Oaks and hopped back into the car headed for Chesterton. However, I know I will be back to spend the day and night taking in more of the quiet, Michigan town.

When I go to Michigan it is usually up to New Buffalo for food and the beach, the town’s main attraction. My trip to Three Oaks made me see things a little differently. You don’t need the beach all of the time to enjoy a summer day in Michigan. You need friendly people and place to say, “Yeah, this is nice.”

Go visit this charming town soon, before the cold weather and snow covers all of the outdoor dining!


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