did you know theres a little midwest napa tucked in southwest michigan? i did not!
matthew surprised me for the weekend with a whirlwind trip of breweries, wineries, and bed-and-breakfasting. it’s a great weekend trip from chicago (about 2-3 hour drive pending traffic).
here’s the recap of what we did, where we went, ate, and drank. let me know if you have any questions and if you’re interested in trying it out yourself!
first stop: bells eccentric cafe, kalamazoo, michigan ★★★★
now i love bells. and i’m so glad i got to finally go to the eccentric cafe!
i love the concept of hands-off, no waiter service. just head up to the bar and order your beer and food. since we live in chicago and can find a lot of bells on tap at our local bars, we tried the specialty ones. i liked them all – and even the sangria, which was different (and purpleeee!) but tasty.
tons of events and things going on – we were there the day of bells prom which sounded awesome. stopped by the general store on the way home to bring home some big ol bottles.
i love the tap cam on their website, so you can see whats actually on tap before you go.
fyi, it’s pretty busy and has limited seating…and parking can kind of suck. but, great patio – id love to drink out there!
we then headed to check-in to our b&b, the dove nest, in st. joseph, michigan. ★★★★★
we were both wowed by the amazing place, service, and experience we had here.
john & jitka have built a beautiful home with impeccable landscaping. the house was immaculate, the beds were ridiculously comfortable, and it was the right mix of cozy and luxury. we had the royal oak room with a spacious bathroom and a private dining space, and they did everything to make us feel welcome (tulips – my favorite! – in the bedroom) and help us with our getaway (maps, restaurant menus and recommendations).
the food was spectacular – fresh, delicious, and truly homemade with cute little touches (we had lovebirds as salt and pepper shakers) and thoughtful recipes. jitka even made afternoon treats that were incredible.
john and jitka are great hosts, fun, friendly, and just adorable. we enjoyed getting to know them as well. the location is great – close to many wineries and not far from ‘town’. a great alternative to hotels – and a fantastic little bed & breakfast.
saturday night dinner: tosi’s ★★
okay call me a food snob, but hey. i do have a food blog and live in chicago – so there.
i knew our food options would be limited on this weekend, but people were raving about tosi’s so we decided to check it out. we called ahead but when we checked in we had to wait (proms, and apparently this is THE spot on saturday nights). we bellyed up to the bar amongst the locals and had a bottle of the tabor hill tosi special wine.
an HOUR (?! last time we waited this long was tango sur!?!!) later, we finally got sat. feeling boozy, we ordered the toasted ravioli to start, the famed malfatti, and pollo cordon bleu. and i can’t even say that this stuff was mediocre…we were hungry and drunk so we ate. the ravioli was bland, the malfatti was sloppy, and the fettucini served with the chicken was extremely undercooked.
service was nice enough, but the poor girl ended up charging us the wrong thing…so we had to deal with that. she was nice about it, but for how much we were paying for this dinner not one person asked us how it was. maybe they knew we weren’t locals and we would be judgy.
this is a glorified olive garden. end of story. don’t waste your money or time and go get a burger somewhere or something easy. i had low expectations, and they were not even met!
winery 1: lemon creek ★★★★
this was our first top on our SW Mich wine tour. we popped in early before it got crowded, and the staff was fantastic. it’s such a cute little spot, with gifts, an outdoor area, gazebo, fruit picking, etc.
the wine itself is not too bad. some were very drinkable, others not…but hey – thats why you taste. cheap tasting fees and a free glass. the staff let us mix and match, volunteered to take our photos, gave us dinner recommendations…truly put this place above others in that regard. they didn’t put down other local wineries, but told us the perks and differences between them all. and of course, the wine was very affordable.
also – they have wine dogs! a black lab & golden retriever who are just adorable and friendly. (if you haven’t seen the book, i highly recommend you do so. basically dogs + vineyards around the country)
winery 2: domaine berrien ★★★
conveniently across from lemon creek, we stopped in here. we’d heard great things so i was quite excited. it didn’t meet expectations (aka i didn’t buy wine here), but i did have a good time.
a little homier and a bit smaller than a few of the others. the wines were okay, but nothing stood out to me…which brought it down a star. they have a great patio area to enjoy on a nice day which i loved. the grounds were very pretty, and the staff was super friendly.
winery 3: tabor hill ★★★★
i really enjoyed this place! great wines, great staff, great vibes.
the place is very clean and cozy. there’s a little chocolate counter and gift spot too, as well as a bar and patio near the dining area.
luke helped us out with our tastings, he was so knowledgeable and a fun guy to chat with – he also gave us a tip for our drive home to chicago, to check out greenbush brewing!
the wines were tasty, we bought a few bottles to bring home. very impressive menu, they’ve won a lot of awards, even internationally.
we tried to eat here as well, but they were closed for an event 😦
winery 4: round barn ★★★★
this one’s a three but i’m bumping it for ambiance. (or i was just drunk at this point.)
tons of outdoor seating, dogs, beer, wine, spirits…all great things. laid back and just a lot of drinking on patios. my favorite.
the staff is fine, not overwhelming and very hands-off which was a bit refreshing after all of the other wineries.
i liked the unique round barn idea, but none of the wines stood out to me at all. they give out poker-type chips for tasting (which is good when you’ve been tasting all day and lose track) and you can keep your little wine glasses.
i enjoyed their vodka and bourbon more than the wine. we ventured to the beer barn, and i can’t tell if their beer was good or if i was sick of mediocre wine (bratty? sorry.)…regardless, it was fun to try both – as there is something for everyone here.
sunday night dinner: ryebelle’s ★★★
cute little spot in town and not a bad place to eat.
the staff was great, and everything was fine for the price. typical midwestern fare. we had some fish, fries, veggies, artichoke-spinach dip and watched some nba finals.
i think it’s great given the few options the town has to eat, but nothing special. i’m sure it’s fun when the weather is nicer and you can go out on the patio or rooftop!
on the way home: greenbush brewing, sawyer, michigan. ★★★★★
if you love craft brews, please check this place out! it’s only an hour and a half outside of chicago 🙂
the staff here is friendly, the bar is cozy and new, the beer is affordable and so tasty. you can tell this place is up-and-coming, and as you try a flight or a few pints, you’ll see ALL of their beers are delicious!
they have a mug club for locals which seems like a great deal (half off pints on mondays…and pints are already dirt cheap!)
we had a flight and some pretzels while we chatted with the staff at the bar. bought a growler of anger, the black IPA, to take home to enjoy as well.
quick bite: fitzgeralds ★★★
we stopped in after drinking at greenbush, and i think that may be the only reason people come here. but i guess that means i would be back too!
food is okay, great beer on tap, atmosphere is cute (a little patio if it’s nice out!), and staff is nice and friendly. i had the mac and cheese which came out cold and lacked flavor…and the other dishes did not look too tasty either. it’s great for the area and price, but nothing to write home about.
highly recommended weekend trip and itinerary for you folks.
and of course, obligatory couple shot.