Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fish Fry

A week out, I'm still wishing we were back in Michigan. Michigan, I think to myself, where life is easy. I know it's the rose-colored glasses of vacation talking, of course, because vacation has a funny way of making you want to up and leave your real life. But I stand by it: Michigan is nice.

Should you find yourself in Ludington, Michigan, sometime between Memorial and Labor Day, you owe it to yourself to make a pit stop at Bortell's Fishery. We were lucky to be traveling with our friend Chad, who grew up just down the road from this place and who wisely steered our car there in time for a late lunch. Here at Bortell's you can get fish to go (fresh or smoked), but you can also order fish by the pound and wait while the owner, Kris Bortell, fries it up for you right then and there, just as the four generations of men before him have done. Take a minute to check out the black-and-white photos on the wall and it's almost as though time has stood still--the Bortell men all look remarkably similar, with blond hair, broad faces and strong shoulders.
We ordered a smorgasbord of smelt, perch and whitefish, all caught in Lake Michigan, took the whole fried lot of it out to a picnic table and then chowed down. My favorites were the smelt, which are headless but otherwise whole. Even though (in this case) it was a misnomer, I couldn't resist calling them by a name I saw on a San Francisco menu: Fries with eyes.

Was it sunnier in Michigan? Does Kris Bortell possess some kind of frying expertise no other cook has mastered? I doubt it. But somehow, that afternoon, everything seemed pretty close to perfect. Vacation will do that to you.

1 comment:

Terry K. said...

Our family and friends have vacationed in nearby Pentwater since (earliest) 1968 and make it back just about every year since.
One of the first things we do after unpacking is make a pilgrimage to nearby Bortell's for fried fish dinners, smoked fish, and a great conversation (must be quick about it - they are BUSY folks) with the Bortell family working behind the counter.
This hidden secret is off the beaten path just up the beach/hill from Lake Michigan itself ! (Maps are available online.) Don't miss this - we try to visit almost every other day over our two week vacation.
I've never written a review or comment before - IT DOESN'T GET BETTER THAN THIS !
The Koral's & Friends