A decade with Jodi at the crossroads
By Jordan Bates
The stalwart stuffed fox sits in a well-lit corner of the otherwise dim restaurant. Sunglasses shade his glassy, dilated eyes from the neon Labatt’s sign that sits adjacent to his perch. Foxxy presides over the talent of open mic night and the cacophonic melodies of karaoke night with equality, never uttering a yelp or a growl, instead only offering stoic ambivalence.
The restaurant is Jodi’s Tangled Antler on the tangled intersection of US-31 and 669 (Maple City Highway to the south and Thompsonville Highway to the north). Tourists and newbies park in front, everyone else parks in the back.
It is more than a bar, if that is what you are looking for; if not, it is just a bar. The walls are adorned with tangled antlers, of course, but also vintage beer signs, sports posters, mood-inducing lamps with shades, hand-written signs, Keno, liquor, and all sorts of odds and ends. Only the moose antlers at the entrance and the ram’s horns above the pool table belong to Jodi’s—the rest of the antlers and mounts, including Foxxy, belong to the customers.
Soft, camo-covered chairs sit at the bar, not far from tables and booths, but between are two opposing—and/or complementary—forces: the ATM and the cigarette machine.
Bell’s Oberon and Two Hearted IPA on draft, as well as Perrin’s Grapefruit IPA, the ever-growing-in-popularity Rainmaker Ale from Stormcloud, and the obligatory Horny Monk from Petoskey Brewing Company. (Oh, the thrill of ordering a Horny Monk!) Also, Miller Lite. The draft selection changes with the season. (In the winter, you are likely to find CEO Stout by Right Brain, for instance.)
The menu is American. Michigan. Multipurpose, perhaps. Steak. Variety of appetizers. Burgers. Entrees. Fish fry Fridays. Mexican fare. Pizza.
I went with the ribeye. Medium rare. Side of fries. Side salad. I was on assignment, so I also had two Oberons. No sprig of parsley for garnish, nor half-ripe strawberry, nor slice of orange. (That was saved for my Oberons.) No; for garnish, the steak was topped with two perfectly fried beer-battered onion rings. I am not sure if they were trying to butter me up, but when a side of buttered carrot slices showed up, I did not complain.
Jodi’s has Alfredo on open mic nights, usually. Not the dish. The band: Alfredo Improvisational Quartet. The product of singer/percussionist Al Pityo and guitarist Frederik Stig-Nielsen’s improvisational dreams, the band has grown slowly over time to include bass player Chris Kuykendahl and drummer/vocalist extraordinaire Bill Frary. They play frequently in the area at St. Ambrose Cellars and the Cabbage Shed, as well. If they feel so inclined—the members of Alfredo have decided, whether tacitly or not, never to take themselves too seriously. You shouldn’t either.
More Than A Bar
Jodi Dilts bought Danny’s Bar 10 years ago this past May, and she has worked hard to turn it into a bar and a restaurant—not just a bar.
“I was a bartender for 25 years at different places, but I always wanted to make my own place,” she says. “It was time to do it for myself, or find something else to do.”
The former bar was at a busy crossroad, but also kind of in the middle of nowhere. It did not always attract the kind of customers who wanted good food, though that is changing. The ambiance was not always so kid friendly, though that has also changed. And Jodi, as she may tell you, does not put up with a lot of crap.
“I really call us the mature crowd here,” she says. “In the past few years, my food numbers have started to exceed my beer and liquor sales. I’ve worked really hard on the menu. It’s a great atmosphere, and everyone is happy and having a great time. I want people to enjoy themselves. People work hard for their money, and I want them to come to Jodi’s to eat, relax, and enjoy themselves.”
What does working hard on a menu mean? Glad I asked.
“All my meat comes from Honor Family Market,” Jodi explains. “Pat [Schneider] does an amazing job and has a great meat department. The Black Angus is top of the line. They make my burger buns and sub buns, too, and those are the only buns that I use—all made fresh, baked in the store. I truly believe in buying as much local as I possibly can.”
In the long term, Jodi sees the bigger picture: more seating and a bigger venue for music.
“I have a patio license and the property to do it. I really want to make a nice area with a band-stand.”
Foxxy would like that, as long as he still gets to hold court.
Jodi’s Tangled Antler is open Mondays through Saturdays beginning at 11 a.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m. In the summer, Jodi’s is open late late, usually. In the winter, not so late. Daily lunch and dinner specials. Thursdays are open mic night and Fridays are karaoke night. Both start at 9 p.m. and go until whenever. Find Jodi’s on Facebook.