(Saint Joseph, MI) — It’s almost cliche to talk about the weather, but this year’s transition from an overlong Michigan winter went directly to summer. Spring simply did not happen. One day it’s highs in the 30’s and then it’s 80’s. And, like many Michiganders, when the weather turns warm we begin to think of the lakeshore. Our travels took us southward to the small, picturesque town of Saint Joseph right around lunchtime. Luckily, Schu’s Grill & Bar is only a quick walk from downtown parking...
I’ve not spent much time in Saint Joseph, so I’m not really sure what to expect from Schu’s. A meal at nearby Pump House Grille a while back was fine, but not memorable. Somehow, though, the downtown area seems more thriving than I remember. Schu’s Grill & Bar is prime location with a great view of the Lake Michigan and Silver Beach County Park. We head inside.
There’s a clash of rustic styles inside, some tables and chairs chosen for a lodge feel but others more traditional wood and non-descript. A few booths line the walls, boardwalk or pier style lamps illuminating well-worn tabletops. A large fireplace dominates the dining room while a generous bar area overlooks all. Nautical decorations are sprinkled here and there, but the overall effect is either half-hearted or hodge-podge. I get the distinct impression the restaurant isn’t quite sure what it wants to be yet or wants to cater to everyone without offending anyone.
Our waitress is pleasant, though slightly distracted, even though there aren’t many patrons yet for lunch. Perhaps she’s contemplating (or dreading) the imminent rush. I start with a Round Barn Kolsch. It’s my first taste of Round Barn’s beer and I like it, light and refreshing. Very happy Schu’s serves local brew!
Rather than do our usual appetizer sampling, we both decide to try soup instead. I’m a sucker for anything spicy so it’s the Louisiana Gumbo for me. There are chunks of well-spiced chicken and sausage floating in a thick stock mixed with okra and topped with crumbled cornbread. Yep, you heard that right: cornbread sprinkled on top. It makes so much sense, though I don’t think I’ve encountered it before. The gumbo hits the spot, and has clearly been given time for the flavors to meld. I’m a little disappointed there are no shrimp, but I misread the menu...only chicken and sausage. Still, I’d order it again in a heartbeat.
Although I’m eyeballing the reuben, Juliet seems more interested in it so I withdraw my claim and instead order the Cajun Clubhouse. It’s a blackened chicken breast sandwiched between a croissant, topped with bacon, thin-sliced ham, provolone cheese, and a spicy southwestern ranch sauce. The croissant is a lovely touch, but the chicken is unevenly seasoned and cooked to death. I know some restaurants are afraid of undercooked poultry but, man, marinate that chicken breast or inject it or something! It’s no fun to chew chew chew a dry piece of chicken, even if all the other ingredients are perfectly fresh and delicious. Luckily, I ordered a side of BBQ sauce for my fries (which are very good) so I use that to help the last bite of sandwich slide down to its final resting place.
When we next find ourselves in Saint Joseph, I’ll gladly stop in to Schu’s for a cold brew and more of that soup. I’ll skip the club, though, and check out the short rib sliders.
We’ve got time to grab some lunch in downtown St. Joe. With the sun peeking out from the clouds, I decide a view of Lake Michigan is in order, so we head to Schu’s Grill & Bar.
Despite a fair amount of downtown foot traffic, the restaurant only has a few luncheon patrons. We get a table by the window where we can catch glimpses of the whitecaps on the water. Once we’re seated, I spy the outdoor dining area with a front and center view of the lake. While it’s too breezy for dining al fresco today, I can only imagine how fabulous a cocktail with some small plates and friends would be after work one night. Great summer sunset watching, for sure.
I’ve been to Schu’s for lunch before and recall them having a pretty decent gyro. There’s something about red onions and yogurt with warm pita bread that gets me everytime. Unfortunately, after a quick perusal of the menu, I realize the gyro is no longer offered. Blurgh! They do however still have their "famous" Baked Potato Soup. I order a cup, knowing it will warm me to the bones. For a main, I know I should have a salad, but nothing’s grabbing me. Don’t get me wrong; Schu’s has a broad choice of entree salads—Michigan Cherry, Grilled Salmon, Ahi Tuna, and Sesame Chicken, to name a few. None sound like what I want on a cold windy day. I end up ordering the reuben, a far cry from a salad.
The soups are presented immediately and both are piping hot. The cups are so full it’s impossible to dunk your spoon in without overflowing the cup. My Baked Potato Soup is topped with bacon crumbles, shredded cheddar, and green onion slices. Once I get my spoon into it to stir it up and let it cool for a few, I can take my first slurp. It’s exactly as I remembered, lush and comforting with big chunks of potato and lots of fresh ground pepper. The bacon and cheddar give it even more opulence. I make a mental note to just order a bowl of this soup next time for lunch; it’s incredibly filling and satisfying.
As we’re finishing up, the sandwiches arrive. My reuben isn’t jam-packed with meat, which is a good thing after the creamy, rich soup. It’s a darn good reuben with the rye toasted perfectly, the corned beef and Swiss cheese melted together, and the sauerkraut drained and warmed. The fries are average with that extra bit of coating on them like they’ve been double fried or came from a bag out of the deep freeze. I should have opted for the housemade potato chips.
Our service has been top-notch throughout the lunch and by the time we’re paying our check, the place is close to full. My glass of Schu’s “Private Label” Chardonnay from California’s North Coast is a heavy pour that’s served ice cold. I’ve never had a drink here before but think, while the patio might be the perfect place for a summer cocktail, a table by the fireplace with generous wine pours might be a nice winter retreat!