Whether you're pining for a burger or you want to nosh nachos, there's a restaurant in the Bluewater area with a menu to match your craving. But what if you're just not in the mood to get gussied up for your dinner out? That's when you'll want to try one of these hole in the wall restaurants, a small come-as-you-are diner with a relaxed atmosphere and no neckties required.
Where to go: Gar's Lounge at 142 S. Water Street in Marine City
What to Order: Gar Burger and deep fried pickle spears
If you're in the mood for a burger and boomba, newcomers and old-time Marine City residents alike will point you to Gar's, and if it's summer, they'll recommend sitting on the deck. If outdoor dining isn't your thing, Gar's also offers indoor dining with a bar area. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks, Gar's is one of Marine City's (somewhat) hidden gems.
Kara Whitely, who's been a fan of Gar's since she moved to Marine City a decade ago, recommends the deep-fried pickles, which are spears, not slices. "The deep-fried pickles are my favorite!" Whitely says.
Matt Austerberry, who lives just south of Marine City, suggests the half-pound Gar Burger, which he says is "the best burger in town." Austerberry was raised nearby, then moved out of state, and when he returned, he couldn't wait to nosh at Gar's again. "Every month since I've been home, I've gone to Gar's for the Gar Burger," Austerberry says. "It's nice to be home, and to come back at eat someplace that never left my heart."
Where to go: LaCroix's Riverside Pub at 314 Clinton Avenue in St. Clair
What to Order: 14-ounce rib-eye, coconut shrimp, nachos
Though some may argue the Riverside Pub is too nice to be considered a hole in the wall, they do offer a comfortable, casual atmosphere, earning them a spot on this list.
Family-owned for 22 years, and currently managed by twin sisters Sheila and Shelly LaCroix, the newly-renovated restaurant features a bar area, Club Keno, a jukebox offering four songs for a dollar, free wifi, and a kid's menu. Their large windows face the marina, and they welcome boaters with cold drinks and tasty eats.
If you've not been to the Riverside yet, the sisters recommend the reuben sandwich, the nachos (featuring home-made chips), the coconut shrimp or perch dinners, or the 14-ounce ribeye dinner, which is literally tender enough to be cut with a butter knife. "You don't even have to be hungry to want that ribeye," Shelly says. "It comes out of the kitchen and suddenly you're starving."
Pam Malane, of St. Clair, a regular at Riverside, also recommends the ribeye (she says it's "mouthwatering"), but she loves the spot for more than its food. "The LaCroix girls and their staff are like family. They're always helping the community with food drives, by hosting benefit events, and donating their time, efforts and love."
Jody Pecor, also from St. Clair, has been a Riverside diner for decades, and she recommends the burgers, especially her favorite, the bacon cheeseburger. Not in the mood for a burger? Jody agrees with the LaCroix sisters in suggesting the reuben, too.
Where to go: Adair Bar at 8033 St. Clair Hwy in Casco
What to Order: A burger (daily) or the perch dinner (served Friday - Sunday)
No list of the best-loved hole in the wall restaurants in the Bluewater area would be complete without Adair Bar, famous for its weekend-only perch dinners, Sunday-only chicken dinners, and available-whenever-you're-craving-them burgers.
A fixture for nearly 80 years, Adair Bar is currently owned by Kurt Slota, a 37-year-old dynamo who, along with a small staff, manages the restaurant and the annual Adair Suckerfest, a summer festival/fundraising event for the Salvation Army. A special secret-recipe shot known as "Sucker Juice" is available during the festival (and actually year-round), and it pairs nicely with a burger.
Adair Bar's burgers are local legends, recommended by nearly everyone who knows the place. Slota credits the burgers' popularity with the freshness of the ground beef, which is never frozen.
"All of our meat comes from Week's in Richmond or Lixie's in Port Huron," Slota says. Lixie's provides the fish for the perch dinners, which Slota hand-scales himself and then carefully freezes so he can serve it all winter long, when it's just not available anywhere else.
Sara Radatz of Wales has been enjoying the perch and chicken dinners at Adair Bar for about six years, and she also recommends the soup.
"Their clam chowder is delicious!" she says.
Linda Salamone of St. Clair is also a fan of the chicken dinners, and she after being a devoted diner for years, she now has an up-close view of the care that goes into the meal prep-work as an employee.
"The chicken dinners on Sunday are awesome," says Salamone, "I know how much time and energy is put into the prep of the food, and the outcome is always a great meal!"
A note to Adair Bar loyalists who haven't been there yet this summer: there's now an outdoor dining space with a firepit, as well as an area for horseshoes (there's a league) and a very cool display of parade floats from Suckerfests past.
Where to go: Lynwood Bar at 596 Busha Hwy in Marysville
What to Order: burgers or nachos
The Lynwood is the place to go if you're craving a burger, especially if you're craving that burger on a Monday, when they're only $1.50. Also on special on Mondays? A tasty chili dog for only 75 cents.
Lynwood also offers all-you-can eat fish dinners on Friday and Saturday, and all-you-can-eat chicken dinners on Sunday, which makes a weekend trip a bargain. Lynwood's nachos are also a fan favorite, and you can order them almost any way you'd like, for dining in or to go.
Something truly unique to Lynwood is the chicken gizzard dinner, something Patricia and Kevin Raica, of Marine City, have sampled on occasion. Raica also recommends the burgers, and The Viking, which is the Lynwood version of a classic reuben sandwich.
Where to go: Cavis Grill at 401 Quay Street in Port Huron
What to Order: lamb tacos, eggs Benedict, whatever is on special
Since 1960, Cavis Grill's been serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner to hungry Port Huroners. The kitchen closes at 3 p.m., but the food is worth planning ahead and dining out a little early. The menu is classic American with Greek additions, like lamb tacos and Mediterranean artichoke pasta. Cavis also offers unique daily specials, like Michigan cherry chicken salad, which can be found on their Facebook page.
Marine City native Louise Gibbs recommends a breakfast item no matter what time of day, because they're that good: eggs Benedict.
"They have the best eggs Benedict ever!" Gibbs says.
In fact, says Renee Bishop of Emmett, the entire breakfast menu is a treat. She'd never been to Cavis Grill until a friend recommended it, and she's glad they did. No matter what you're craving, including something sweet and carb-loaded (like the banana nut bread French toast) or something more savory (like the salmon and spinach omelette), there's something for you on the breakfast menu.
With so many hole in the wall restaurants scattered across the Bluewater area, the only question is which one to visit first … and what to order. Which other delicious diners do we need to add to our list, and what on their menu is a must-try?