Brenda Horton was a long time Mackinac Island summer resident who recently sold her home to spend all of her time in Florida near her grandchildren. We were so glad to have Brenda and her husband Ted visit us this summer during their vacation and experience Grand Hotel and Woods Restaurant.
Woods Restaurant – A Dining Adventure on Mackinac Island
Written by guest blogger Brenda Horton
For six summers my husband Ted and I were blessed to have a home on Mackinac Island. We would make the drive up from south Georgia each year on Mother’s Day weekend and come home after the Grand Hotel closed at the end of October. Being summer residents, we had many opportunities to eat at island restaurants over the years, and we had many favorites. Some we chose for the casual atmosphere, some for the proximity to the water, and, of course, we always returned over and over again to those with better-than-average food and service. Like most people though, there were one or two restaurants we saved for very special occasions – when we had visitors or family coming, or when Ted and I had an anniversary or birthday to celebrate.After a couple of years of showing visitors our magical island, we began to get repeat guests. And when we’d ask where they’d like to have dinner, the overwhelming answer would be, “Oh, we have to go back to the Woods one night!” And so we would.It would be an understatement to say the Woods Restaurant provides an excellent dining experience. With menus choices like Parmesan-Citrus Crusted Pacific Salmon and Lobster Bucatini Carbonara (and desserts like the Grand Pecan Ball and the Vanilla Bean Doughnut), it’s easy to see why just reading the menu can get your mouth watering and your tummy rumbling.
But . . . . make no mistake . . . the Woods is much more than a dining experience. It’s a dining ADVENTURE!I was thinking about all this as Ted and I prepared to meet our taxi in front of the Grand Hotel recently. As I dressed (you may dine in casual attire at the Woods, but Ted and I decided to “dress up” for this dinner), my mind flowed back several years to our first Woods adventure. We were going out with a couple from our condo group, and when the taxi pulled up the sky was threatening rain. Our twenty-minute ride through the woods was filled with chatter and a little nervous laughter about what we’d do if it started to rain really hard. Our luck held though, and we arrived dry and hungry.I remember having an excellent glass of wine, an awesome meal, and service second to none. The weather was chilly that night (it was fall), and both huge restaurant fireplaces were ablaze, with logs crackling and sparks dancing upward into the chimneys. Laughing groups and couples young and old arrived while we ate – always talking excitedly about the trip out from town – what they’d seen, what the taxi driver told them, and what the horses did (this last part was especially exciting to any children on board).It had been raining for nearly an hour when we boarded the taxi for the return trip home. It was nearly 9:30 and very dark. We slid between the clear plastic drapes the taxis use to keep riders dry and wrapped our legs in the woolen blankets they keep on board for cold nights. Within five minutes we were riding through pitch-black woods with rain pounding against the plastic. Our driver was huddled on his seat, expertly handling two horses as he told us stories about life as a Mackinac Island taxi driver. From that he deftly transitioned into island ghost stories. Instead of worrying about being cold and whether we’d get wet, we laughed and sang and told stories of our own. In short, we had the time of our lives . . . and it all started with the decision to make a reservation at the Woods!
- Ok. I’m going to ask you to flash forward a moment right here because as soon as we were seated that evening, I realized it would be nearly impossible to give you a real sense of the Woods – at least its dramatic interior – while it was filled with diners. Before we’d even ordered our salads I’d decided I would need to ride back up to the Woods a few days later and take some photographs before customers arrived. So that’s what I did.
- Our first stop is usually the bar for a before dinner beverage, but . . .
OK. Back we go to our evening at the Woods.
As usual, our entire meal was fabulous – everything cooked to perfection and served by staff trained to anticipate our every need.
- Throughout the evening Darryl Dybka – a former Grammy winner who has played, arranged, produced, and composed for Frank Zappa and Chet Atkins, among many others – had been entertaining at the piano. As we were leaving, Darryl was playing a beautifully arranged rendition of Irving Gordon’s Unforgettable, and I thought “how appropriate.” Our evening at the Woods was another unforgettable dining adventure to add to our memory book of special occasions. Whether your night at the Woods begins from downtown, from the Grand, or from anywhere else on the island, once you’ve experienced your own Woods adventure, you will find yourself returning again and again.