Kalamazoo Appy Crawl
As the tee shirts say, “Yes, There Really IS a Kalamazoo!” It’s the kind of name that makes you want to stop and see what’s going on. Kalamazoo is an Algonquian Indian word meaning “boiling pot” and the city has gained fame through celery, taxi cab production, Gibson guitars, the Upjohn “friable pill” and the Kalamazoo stove. With all of this going for it, we had to drop by and try an appy crawl in this tidy little Michigan college town, proving that appy crawls can be done in anyone’s hometown.

All roads led downtown, which boasts the first pedestrian mall in the United States. Since 1959 it has hosted fun little retail stores, restaurants, theaters and, of course, now an indoor rock climbing wall. Somewhere along the line someone installed heated sidewalks, the Jetsons could live in Kalamazoo! Ice sculptures, a fountain and local artwork, all adorned by twinkling lights, gave a festive feel to the blustery evening. Kalamazoo has done an admirable job of keeping the huge retailers outside of downtown leaving a down home, albeit kitschy, feel.

An exploratory lap around the Mall revealed that the restaurants featuring the mechanical bull and dueling pianos were stuffed to the rafters (too bad -- that would have been right up our snarky alley), so we opted for a more “civilized” evening:

Olde Peninsula Brew Pub
We’ve never seen a more beer-centric menu! Some scary sounding fare indeed -- Cheddar Ale Soup (yup, cheese and beer) and Beer-B-Que Pizza. Beer bread was a choice for the sandwiches (with Beer Battered Fries, of course!) and the steaks were marinated in beer. From reading the menu, we were worried we’d end up smelling like a particularly rowdy frat party.
Fearing a hops overload, we opted to share the Seared Ahi Tuna with soy ginger glaze and black sesame seeds, nicely done. For the beer experience, we sampled the Brewhouse Salad with the “Italian Beer Vinaigrette.” And it was delicious. We washed the whole thing down with a glass of one of the house brews, Haymarket Light.

What’s a trip to a brew pub without giving the handcrafted root beer a try? The Olde Peninsula’s is an ooey-gooey syrupy wonder. A dessert in itself, but it is also available float style.

The Union Cabaret & Grill
We plopped down in comfy chairs at one of the tables that surround the showroom style stage to enjoy a jazz trio of local college students. The Union has agreed with nearby Western Michigan University’s music department to showcase students, alumni and faculty giving them a venue to strut their stuff before a live audience. The Union successfully pulls off its attempt at big city jazz club ambience.

Lobster Fondue
A lobster and cheese fondue with scallions and roasted red peppers. Grabbed big slices of French baguette, we dug in and dug it! Fought over the big ole lobster hunks. Good fun. Creamy, wonderfully fattening, delicious.

The competent wine list had Riesling so Veronica was happy. We were tempted to sample their “famous” Portabella Fries, but more crawlin’ had to be done.

The Wine Loft
The idea behind this establishment basically is an appy crawl without the crawling. We walked in to a large open room with snuggly little alcoves sporting love seats with sheer, billowy curtains as partitions. An upstairs loft, chucked with pseudo sophisticates from the local institutions of higher education, separated the boys from the men. Nice.


Choosing a cozy spot, we perused the menu and were intrigued. Did these people stalk us and then create a dining experience just for us? Looking around covertly, we saw no one standing in the shadows and relaxed into the pillows.

Our friend, Umberto from Italy, had schooled us on a prior trip about the Mediterranean thoughts on wine drinking. Rather than the chicken/white, beef/red tradition, he prefers white when it’s warm and red on the cold nights. Works for us! As a salute to Umberto, we ordered the Italian Red wine flight (though they were out of Chianti, strike one). Other wine flights included Michigan Favorites and Curious Whites.

The menu featured amusing “Small Plates.“ We choose:

Lamb Wellington with wild mushroom mousse, rosemary and truffle essence.

Smoked Salmon and Caviar Pizzetti with Apple Butter and Crème Fraiche.

The food came in perfect portions for an appy crawl, was reasonably priced, but was a bit overambitious. The ingredients just sat on the tongue separately. Not horrible by any means, just underwhelming. The Sardinian wine in the flight was authentic, but a little overpowering. LOVED the Veitti. For a wine bar, better choices could be made, but since this place had just opened we feel it will come into its own.

About the time we finished our food, the music suddenly turned from smoooooth jazz to annoying techno and the upstairs loft began unloading onto the main floor, the boys on the prowl for female companionship. Though the people watching got better, we felt it was time for us to bug out.

We’d need our rest if we were going to go hunting in the morning for the boiling pot… and some friable pills.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

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