By Ken DeLaat
I’d heard of the place.
Jim Jones a friend from the Cloud (to whom I owe a debt of gratitude as well as a pizza lunch) mentioned it once when we were up in the press box during a White Cloud football game.
Awhile later the name came up in a conversation with Jim Maike when he was describing a snowmobiling trek that took them to the location.
Each talked about the place with few words other than utter amazement that I had not been there. There was almost a degree of reverence in their reference. Admittedly intrigued it still took a few more months before a concerted effort was made to give it a try.
And now, I am unequivocally hooked. Spoiled by the experience to the point of forgoing any other barbeque options that have come my way.. I’m talking about a level of tantalizing taste capable of taking a homesick Tennessean transplant to tears.
Today in my mind (or rather in my stomach) there is only one place to savor this genial genre of creative cookery….
The Chase Creek Smoke House.
This is undoubtedly one of the premiere eateries in this part of the world.
For readers who might be geographically indifferent, Chase is located on U.S. 10 between Baldwin and Reed City. Though CCSH is not on the main drag, once you get to Chase its not hard to find. It’s not the kind of town that makes getting lost easy.
LSC Lil and I decided on a recent Saturday that a bit of a cruise was in order since it wasn’t snowing out and there was even a hint of sunshine about. There were some random possible destinations in mind and Lil wanted to check out one of her favorite shops in Baldwin. Besides I wanted to scout for any possible shoes along the road (7 already this spring! What can it mean?) and practice for our longer trips when I’ve promised to keep these discoveries to myself….. unless, of course, it’s a particularly puzzling find.
I also wanted to take Lil to Chase Creek. I had been there once with a pair of equally adventurous epicureans and found it to be sensational . A return trip was definitely in order and what better time than during a sortee to Baldwin.
We landed in Chase mid afternoon and ravenous from the road.
Our server was Shelby who was informative, ultra efficient, patient with my barrage of questions and generally in possession of what I would call a superior tableside manner. Thanks to her we found out the place opened in 1999 but in 2012 a fire took it to the ground. A year or so later when the place was rebuilt the long iron handles salvaged from the destruction of the original building were placed on the main doors an action we thought was a rather cool move on the part of owners Patrick and Linda Ringler.
A colossal 25 foot fully operational (we saw it in action) fan graces the ceiling of the dining room, a large expansive area with sturdy wooden tables giving it a cozy and comfortable atmosphere. There was one large group and a smattering of folks scattered about the airy room and we sat at a spot near a window.
Shelby popped up as soon as we were seated and we began with the questions about the menus items, each answered with nicely woven descriptions. We inquired about the place itself, her length of service (since the reopening), and the fan. As mentioned Shelby was patient and kind in her replies as well as revealing a genuine fondness for the place.
On to the food.
Lil generally eschews rather than chews meat so she ordered the Nacho Supreme made with beans.
I went for the brisket and gouda cheese sandwich with a side of slaw and sweet potato fries.
And of course their epic barbeque sauce primed for dipping.
Soon Shelby reappeared with our food, an array that presented a veritable feast for the eyes.
Lil’s Nachos seemed large enough to require their own zip code, good news for me since there was sure to be significant amount to be boxed and headed for the fridge and thus up for grabs later on. They were presented in an inviting manner and while some places struggle with maintaining the integrity of the dish when replacing a meat portion the kitchen staff here hit it on the nose according to Ms. Lil.
Mine was laid out before me with the required small tub of ‘Q’ sauce placed invitingly alongside it, just crying to be sampled and savored.
The edible part of the experience began with the slaw. In my opinion a nicely crafted coleslaw featuring a well thought out and daring blend of varying flavors remains a vastly underrated side. Generally one encounters a kind of generic type that pops up in many places and never fails to disappoint but this concoction, my friends, is the real deal. It delivers that just right combination of tastes to transform a mundane ‘cabbage salad’ into a slaw of distinction.
Then of course was the sandwich itself. A layer of some of the most exquisitely smoked and sliced brisket one could imagine accompanied in a proper manner by a worthy companion of gouda cheese. The two rested between ample slices of a multigrain bread toasted to that particular level of near perfection and providing a complimentary carrier for the cheese infused brisket.
It was a magnificent moment of munchery. Dipping the sandwich into the sauce seemed not only allowed and tolerated but encouraged and once I dove into the unique and pleasing taste of this seemingly magical mixture it became closer to mandatory.
To dine at the Chase Creek Smoke House is to capture the culinary culture peculiar to the region of our bipeninsular beauty lying north of our metropolitan areas. It’s big and wide open and yet there is a sense of intimacy in the layout as well. The venue supplies an ideal atmosphere for families friends and twosomes alike . Outside there is an expansive area for summertime fun including a stage and as an obvious shout out to bikers who likely frequent in ever-increasing numbers, a giant Harley Rocking Chair.
The service is impeccable. I noted Shelby’s enthusiasm for the place and she replied with a smile “I’m a big fan’.
I remember thinking ‘No, the rotating wings above us. That is a big fan.
What you are is a really, really good server’.
And the food, once again...
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