The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Isle, MI

19 August 2014

There are many things to see on Mackinac Island, but two of the standouts are Fort Macinac and The Grand Hotel. Today’s post is about the Grand Hotel.

Mackinac has always been a popular place for summer vacations. From what they can tell even the native Indians came here in what would be the 1500′s. In the early days, there were smaller buildings that would hold a dozen or so guests.

Construction of a grand hotel started in 1886. There was a lot of limestone to clear and building construction didn’t start until 1887. There was a problem, they had booked rooms for the summer in a building that didn’t exist yet. The offered a huge construction bonus if the hotel could be completed in 90 days when the season started. The construction company brought lots of labor in, some of it was skilled. Sadly they missed their bonus, construction took 93 days.

You can read all of it here:

We walked up to see the hotel and to have lunch at their lunch buffet. There is a $10 charge to see the hotel and walk around the grounds, but you can apply the money to the $45 lunch. (And it turns out that taxes and tips are included in the price, so it wasn’t that bad)

We got to the grounds about 11:30 and paid our fee to get in. We strolled along the “Great Front Porch” (it’s official name) and went into the Parlor. Acres of red carpet and tons of plush stuffed chairs. We found the elevator and creaked to the 4th floor. Up a flight of stairs gets you to the entrance of the Cupola Bar.

It is a very plush room with a wooden bar at one end a panoramic view of the Straits of Mackinac from the other three sides. There is a huge chandelier in the ceiling that comes from the floor above, made from what looks like carnival glass. So we climb another set of stairs (we are now on the “6th floor” and at the top of the Cupola. We get a table where we can see out and admire the view. By this point in the day the rain had ended and there were wisps of fog across the strait. Very pretty.

We ordered Bloody Mary’s. They arrived in large goblet garnished with a pickled asparagus spear and two olives balanced on top of the glass on a bamboo skewer. Tres fancy! We had asked for spicy and the drinks were accompanied with two tiny bottles of Tabasco sauce with the “The Grand Hotel” logo.

We sipped and Susan let out a contented sigh. Her quest for a good Bloody Mary on the trip had ended. After disastrous and disappointing ones across Canada, where the best one came out of a can, she was happy.

Along with the drinks came a cruet filled with a spicy snack mix. It was wonderful. Lots of crackers, nuts, and seeds coated with a spicy, salty coating. We asked the bartender about the mix, she gets it preloaded from the kitchen, so she couldn’t help me get more. (And I spazzed about asking in the gift shop if they had any for sale).

We took pictures and enjoyed the views in the cupola as we sipped our drinks. Very nice.

It was time for lunch, so we got our bill ($16 each, tip included) and headed down to the main dining room. It runs along the front third of the hotel and can easily seat over 1,000 diners. Because we arrived early we were able to snag one of the last window seats.
The buffet is described as over 100 feet long and I believe it.

The first table contains the salad course. Three kinds of lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, cucumber, carrots, and croutons to make a tossed salad. Coleslaw, potato salad, cantelope wedges with jello points and a macaroni salad round out the table. Of course Foster skipped this table.

The appetizer table had oysters on the half shell, peeled cold shrimp, smoked salmon, smoked trout, 4 kinds of cheese, rolled sliced ham and turkey, quiche, pate, finger sandwiches, marinated artichoke hearts, little bread balls that had been hollowed out and filled with salmon mousse or avocado mousse and finally, lamb lollipops. We both thought this table was our favorite. Susan said the oysters were stale, and when we talked to another looper she said they were “dirty”. I’m going to guess that getting oysters ready for 1000 people would be a daunting task. But everything else was wonderful.

There was a table with about a dozen different kinds of breads, rolls and butter.

For hot food they had a mixed vegetable medley with green beans, Brussel sprouts, red pepper and onions; Asian flavored beef with white rice, pasta with an Alfredo sauce, chicken breasts in gravy and a carving station with pork loin, and lots of sauces, jellies, and chutneys for the various meats and seafood.

Dessert was pecan, cherry or apple pie, cheese cake, lots of different tiny pastries, cookies and bread pudding.

Something for everyone!! Being old hands at buffets we knew to look first to see what was there and to take small portions so we could try as much as possible. But even with skipping the salad table it was three passes through the others.

By the time Foster got to the desserts, the cherry pie was gone. There was a young man putting more pecan pie out when Foster lamented “I waited too long!” The server said not to worry, he would go back to the kitchen and get a slice!! True to his word he was back in a few moments with pie. It was great, with very flaky top and bottom crusts and a great cherry filling. Great service and great pie!

After stuffing ourselves like Thanksgiving turkeys, we waddled to the front porch and sat in a pair of rockers to marvel in the gardens and the front porch. Once revived we toured the rest of the hotel and set off to see Fort Mackinac (covered in another post)