2005-05-20 / News

Island Eateries Cater to Special Diets

Restaurants Offer Diverse Menus to Meet Guests
By Leslie Rott

Stephan Kerschbaumer, a Woods chef for three years, prepares the vegetarian dish of the evening, grilled portobello mushrooms with marinated red peppers, mushroom strudel, and grilled polenta. 
Stephan Kerschbaumer, a Woods chef for three years, prepares the vegetarian dish of the evening, grilled portobello mushrooms with marinated red peppers, mushroom strudel, and grilled polenta.

Some visitors to Mackinac Island bring with them special dietary needs, and restaurants find creative ways to cater to vegetarian tastes, food allergies, and even fad diets, such as those requiring low carbohydrates.

Peter Dewey, general manager of the Village Inn Restaurant, said a selling point at his restaurant is a menu that is in tune with what his customers want.

At one point, he said, the restaurant labeled dishes that were appropriate for the Atkin’s diet, but found they sold better when they were not marked.

He believes that customers like to find foods that fit their tastes or their diets, but do not like to be stigmatized by those choices.

“The success of the Village Inn restaurant,” said Mr. Dewey, “is due in large part to the diversity of our menu.”

At Grand Hotel, the staff prides itself in catering to guests and their food needs. Resident Manager Heather Cusick said she is called upon to accommodate people with food allergies three or four times a week and works with the guest to make a special menu to fit their special situation.

In addition, at least one vegetarian dish is on the dinner menu each evening. A typical vegetarian entree could be asparagus and Wisconsin cheese strata, truffled risotto with roasted vegetables, or vegetarian lasagna.

She said she sees few vegetarians and rarely sees people with “low carb” needs, but said the hotel will make every effort to accommodate the guest.

“We don’t want them to walk away unhappy and not eat,” she said.

Becki Barnwell, food and beverage director for the Carriage House restaurant at the Iroquois Hotel, also insists that the special dietary needs of her guests will be met.

“Freshness and quality are our number one concern,” she said.

She receives special requests on a daily basis, she said, and the hotel prepares special meals on a case by case basis.

“We really do cater to the customer,” she said.

“We are more than willing to accommodate people,” agreed John Senger, the chef at Yankee Rebel Tavern.

He offers a couple of vegetarian dishes, such as a portobello sandwich and portobello ravioli, and said he tries to cater to all requests, although he worries that some people will try to write their own menu.

Some restaurants encourage patrons to explore new foods.

Mary Callewaert at Mary’s Bistro said that her menu is based on French cuisine. She offers a few vegetarian dishes, but nothing “low carb.” She added that when people are on vacation, they should be enjoying themselves and food is a large part of that experience.

Brian Bailey, general manager of the Chippewa Hotel, agrees. He said that although they have the health conscious in mind when planning the menus for the Pink Pony Restaurant and Harbor View Room, he feels that people tend to splurge and not worry as much about their diets when they come to the Island.

Jill Horn, the day bar manager at Patrick Sinclair’s Irish Pub, summarizes what most restaurants will do to accommodate visitors. As long as the restaurant carries the products, its staff will be able to accommodate special requests, such as making customers wraps or submarine sandwiches not already on the menu.

Ms. Horn mentioned several vegetarian options for customers, including a garden patch rueben, salads, and a variety of seafood dishes.

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