Everyday People Cafe

(Douglas, MI) — Early October is too early to declare an “Indian Summer” but the weather is too nice to spend time indoors. Low 80’s, full sunshine, and blue sky all cry out for one thing: Lakeshore! So, we pack up the Prius and drive to Douglas, where we’ve been meaning to dine at Everyday People Cafe for quite some time (spurred on by recommendations from friends and good reviews elsewhere). By the time we arrive for late lunch, other like-minded foodies throng on the front patio...

He Fed:

I like Douglas. It’s got a small-town feel and although some storefronts have folded, there are enough restaurants and specialty shops to give it a sleepy seaside resort vibe. Everyday People Cafe is much like a French bistro. Inside is dark wood and white tablecloths. They have a fantastic back patio but is “only open during summer,” we’re told. If we lived here, I would probably be found at the back bar most nights.

We wait at the host stand for couple minutes, dodging people who are through with their meals, until a server greets us. She tries to seat us indoors but we have already spied a nice four-top outside and ask to be seated there. No problem! We head out and get comfortable...well, try, anyway. The metallic patio chairs are too laid-back for my tastes. I have to perch on the front edge in order to eat my food. But it feels good to be out in the fresh air.

At first, I am a little disappointed when I read the menu. They offer a limited lunch from 11a-3p on weekends. One of the reasons we have come is the “Bubbles and Bites” special. For $20, you get unlimited sparkling wine or bloody mary (within reason), and a specially marked dish. Only problem is, all of the dishes are seafood: oysters, shrimp, ceviche, tuna, and mussels. Briefly I consider just getting something else—a sesame oat burger, for instance—but when I’m told the daily ceviche is done “Peruvian style”, my interest piques. Shrimp, scallops, carrot, red onion, and plantain? Sign me up! I’ve never ordered ceviche as a main before (had it plenty of times as an amuse bouche, in tiny quantities) so I’m excited and nervous.

The sparkling wine we choose is Francois Montand Blanc de Blancs. It is too sweet for me, even with the dry finish. I don’t like it. Luckily, our server allows me to switch to their other selection, Francois Montand sparkling Rose, and that is much better. I stick with that through the remainder of our meal.

We begin with a cup of the soup du jour, a tomato boursin. It does not disappoint. Creamy, with some stray lumps of tomato, and bright sweet cheese intermingled. The seasoning is done with a light touch and I have difficulty identifying what few flecks I see. Maybe fennel? Regardless, it is a nice soup and a perfect way to start the meal.

My ceviche arrives in an oversized oyster shell, piled high with what I think are pea shoots but turn out to be asparagus bits, cut on the diagonal. The shrimp have been split in halves, presumably to better “cook” them in the lime juice. The scallops are tender and flake apart easily. I take a few tentative bites... I love it! The lime gives it a brightness, while the pickled red onion and asparagus reflect a playful preparation. Slices of red apple and avocado seem crazy at first, but the taste is amazing. It’s a dish that’s just plain fun to eat.

Only one problem: there are no plantains. Instead, I am given crackers. Which is fine, but I ordered the dish primarily because of the plantain component. I inform our server, who offers to bring me something else, but I let her know that, although I’m unhappy with the missing plantains, I’m over the moon with the dish as a whole.

Lastly, we order the local organic cheese plate. When it arrives, our server plops it on the table and says, “This is goat cheese, this is cheddar...” She makes to leave and I ask her where each of the cheeses is sourced. She rattles off a couple local farms, without indicating which is which, then leaves. For shame! If you serve a local organic cheese, you better be prepared to explain it sufficiently.

Despite some gaps in service, my meal at Everyday People Cafe is memorable. I found something new to love and you just can’t beat the “Bubble and Bites” deal. Next time I’m in the area, I look forward to seeing what else they cook up for dinner.
She Fed:

I've been wanting to try Everyday People Cafe for years, especially for a weekend lunch featuring "Bubbles and Bites," select small seafood plates with endless pours of sparkling wine. Now that Jeremy's trying more fish and seafood, it seems like a good venue to hit today, which happens to be a spectacularly gorgeous day with sunshine and fall leaves ablaze. After a light breakfast and errands, we're both hungrily anticipating lunch during the drive to Douglas and nearly race to our sidewalk table.

Our waitress takes a long, long (did I say long?) time to get to our table. I'm guessing today's unseasonably warm weather brought more tourists to town than expected and the place is slightly overwhelmed. In this economy I'm thrilled to see restaurants swarming and can't get too worked up about the long wait. When she does arrive we have a few questions about the menu which she handles efficiently though not warmly. I assume she's just rushed trying to take care of so many tables.

We both order a cup of the tomato bisque with boursin and then a small plate. The Peruvian ceviche for Jeremy and the peel and eat shrimp for me. I love a good shrimp cocktail and the idea of sitting on the patio on this agreeable autumn day with an bottomless glass of sparkling wine and a half-pound's worth of shrimp sounds incredible.

Our soup arrives and it's perfectly heated; I hate when soup is too hot to eat, especially when I'm this darn hungry. The bisque is rich and creamy, very comforting. It isn't served with any bread or crackers which seems odd to me, but I'm too busy slurping it up to really care.

I'm enjoying my flute of L. Mawby Blanc de Blancs. Jeremy says it's too much like an apple cider and switches to the French sparkling rose, but I'm not finding the Mawby to be overly sweet or cloying. In fact, it seems like a great patio sipping wine to me so why not support the Michigan winery? As promised on the menu, the glasses are refilled when emptied, but in a reasonable and responsible manner. However, at one point, she accidentaly splashes the table and my sleeve with a gurgle of wine, declares "champagne shower!" and walks away. I was thinking a light apology and a napkin might be more in order, but she is completely unphased and doesn't return to clean it up.

My shrimp arrive in a cute metal bucket, layered with pickled onions, capers, spices, and thinly sliced lemons. It's a lovely presentation and I shell my first shrimp, eager for that clean, sweet brininess to pop in my mouth. Unfortunately, the bitterness from the lemon's pith has seeped into the shrimp and all I get is a mouthful of acrid astringent. I dunk my second shrimp in the "Creole" cocktail sauce on the side which tastes like standard cocktail sauce; there's no Creole flavor as promised. The sugary sweetness of the ketchup in the sauce masks some of the bitterness on the shrimp, but overall the dish is pretty unpleasant and I leave several shrimp behind, munching on Jeremy's cracker bread instead.

I'm still hungry so we finish with the local organic cheese plate, which our server silently delivers. Jeremy calls her back to the table and asks her for some information on the cheeses and she replies "They're organic." After further pressing, she points to each "That's sliced cheddar, that's goat and that's...ummmm, that's caraway cheese I think." She mentions two local farms and nearly runs from the table. Good grief. We dig in with the accompanying cracker bread drizzled with honey. The caraway cheese has no caraway seed in it, but it's tasty...maybe a gouda?

I've heard nothing but marvelous things about Everyday People Cafe and I really want to like the place, but based on today's experience, I just can't. The food and service is below average and it doesn't seem worth the trek. The dinner menu looks delicious and maybe in a few months, if we're feeling brave, we'll give them another try.

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