There is a place tucked away under the sweet smell of cedar and hidden well in a remote spot in Michigan’s north woods. I found it some years ago, exploring back roads around the stately pine and birch of Glen Lake.
We were hunting ruffled grouse deep in the Platte River plain. It was a particularly cold October morning. We were hiking through crisp ground cover of teaberry mixed in clover, the Aspen saplings, birch and maple, were ripe with color of crimson and yellow. Being out the full day was pure pleasure. At day’s end we met back at the [Station] Wagon, where I wiped down my Western Field 16 gauge and put it away. There was some talk about the hunt, but little interest in the evening shoot, which meant clean up, then find a place for dinner.
When I saw the quaint, wooden, structure, with a sign reading Glen Lake Inn, we pulled into the gravel lot. It was German fare, and we dined with a little red wine. It was sort of warm and cozy, but I remember the Inn more than the dinner. Over the next years I went back a few times with family and friends. It closed a short while later, then re-opened with new owners and a new name.
That was over ten years ago.
Sometime later, only now in late spring, we were again driving back roads when we came upon the little Inn’s sign. It read Trattoria Funistrada. We went in, sat near a window, so I might look out at the cedar, and had dinner. Since then, I have returned dozens and dozens of times.
The proprietors of Trattoria Funistrada are Tom and Holly Reay, who run both the kitchen and the front of the house with managed harmony. They are innovative, have energy, and are solid, well-respected, generous people who treat their long time staff like family.
The kitchen offers a New York Strip with a pepper balsamic reduction sauce, veal or chicken saltimbocca, salmon piccata, a veal chop, several pastas, and other seasonal items on a changing menu. Standard entrees come with a small antipasto, with hard salami and cheese, and a side of pasta.
And, Trattoria Funistrada has a good stock of great wine.
What is most impressive, however, is the consistent quality of food and service, even when jammed, or S.R.O., due to the professional attitude in both the back and front of the house; specifically staff members Angie, Sarah, and Suzie, who are top professionals in a demanding business. The team is intelligent, sophisticated, and assist discerning clientele without airs but with simple sincerity – the sign of a great restaurant. On occasion, my party has been privileged to sit with each of them in the late hours of the night to debate the world of politics. We sip wine. We laugh. We sometimes agree.
There is a vibrancy and spirit of excitement in this little Inn, which brings us back time and again, where I may sit alongside my favorite cedar and think of time passing, wanting it all to stop moving for even just a little while.
Our family and dearest friends feel like Funistrada is their own private club. But, it is public. I guess that is a good thing. Even so, I am hesitant to tell anyone of this place, for fear of no longer having a seat at my favorite table. When it comes to this place tucked away in Michigan woods I’d rather be selfish. But, out of respect for the owners, I will tell you where it is …
Go north to Traverse City, then turn left.
Tom Brank is an independent film producer and writer living and hiking in the Leelanau Peninsula, Mi.