Queen of the Kitchen

Queen of the Kitchen

an inside look at the Manitou

Twenty years ago and fresh from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in dietetics, Lisa MacHugh was a novice in the kitchen. Stepping into the role of co-owner (with husband Doug), kitchen manager and line cook at the Manitou Restaurant, her enthusiasm and determination made up for her lack of professional training.

Today, she is a culinary dynamo, baking dozens of blueberry-raspberry pies every week, making gallons of soup and salad dressings and spending long, hot summer evenings broiling fresh whitefish and steaks in the restaurant’s small kitchen. Elegant and slender, she runs her kitchen with calm efficiency, producing plate after plate of perfectly prepared food.

“Good food takes time, great food takes longer.”

Long-time cooking partner, Brian Barton has worked at the restaurant nearly as long as Lisa has. He is a genius with a sauté pan, producing tender and garlicky filets of walleye and perch. Their years of teamwork are reflected in the quality and consistency of the Manitou’s signature dishes.

Lisa has her share of cooking tales to tell. It’s not easy running a restaurant in the woods where you may startle a skunk, a raccoon or a white tailed deer in the parking lot and find chipmunks trying to sneak in the back door. Power failures are regular events, cell phones don’t work and poison ivy lurks at the base of the sign. Mechanical breakdowns exquisitely time themselves for the busiest nights and repair people are miles away.

Working in 110° heat and turning out several hundred meals seven nights a week is not for the faint of heart.

Loyal Manitou fans rave about the fresh broiled Lake Michigan whitefish, the pan-fried Great Lakes perch and Lisa’s blueberry raspberry pie. Lisa’s mother, Carol Biedler, originally made the unusual combination berry pie after she discovered several packages of frozen berries in grandmother Mary Alice’s freezer. She decided to use them up in a pie, which became a family and Manitou favorite.

Other customer favorites are Lisa’s soups, including the tasty Manitou Island Clam Chowder, Cream of Potato-Leek and Herbed Tomato Bisque, savory salad dressings and hazelnut and mustard crusted rack of lamb.

Tucked away in the woods near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the Manitou was originally a funky little hamburger joint called the M-22 Grill. Purchased by Doug MacHugh in the early eighties, the restaurant is now noted for great ‘up North’ food and atmosphere and draws diners from all over the region.

A seasonal business, the Manitou hosts hundreds of diners daily in June, July and August. The pace slows after Labor Day, but the restaurant remains open with reduced hours until New Year’s Day, re-opening in early May. 4349 N. Scenic Highway, Honor MI (231) 882-4761. Reservations recommended.

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Ellen MacDonald

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