Thursday, November 1, 2012

TJ Charlie's Restaurant

TJ Charlie's awning remains one of Elk Rapids' iconic downtown features to this day.

The hometown. The first job. The epitome of Northern Michigan comfort food. That is all included in this one blog. Aren't you lucky?

The atmosphere is simple, the food is comforting and the view is downtown Elk Rapids.

Situated on Elk Rapids' main drag (that would be the "hometown" part, my hometown - where I grew up) is one of ER's most recognizable eateries - TJ Charlie's (that would be the "first job" part - my first job). If you're wandering around Northern Michigan's amazing terrain and you happen upon one of the North's most outstanding port towns...AND you're in the mood for some grand, simple Northern Michigan comfort food, then this is the place for you!

Whether it's breakfast or lunch, you're sure to see some loyal locals at TJ Charlie's tables.

Want to know what sort of folk venture through the doors at TJ Charlie's? The local folk! Hit this place up between 12:00 and 2:00 and you'll see the town doctors, pharmacists, lawyers, realtors, other varied business folk and their staff. Yeah, local ER people have given this joint their collective thumbs up for years, dating waaaaaaaaaaaaaay back to the days that I bussed tables as a starry eyed 16 year old kid, just dreaming about the day that I'd be that hotshot cook, flippin' cakes, stabbin' steaks and hittin' on the waitresses.

Alas, it was not to be, I ended up in Guatemala, loving every second of life. That love continues to this day, as my utterly amazing wife tortures me with The Voice as I try to write this blog. I say "torture" because we always discuss every little thing on this show, makes it hard to write.

But, despite that moving on aspect of my life, I find myself, every now and again, returning to the comfort of TJ Charlie's. Let us discuss why, shall we?

Walking into TJ Charlie's is walking into some true old school Elk Rapids.

We'll begin with the salads at this breakfast and lunch establishment. Salads range from $3.75 to $8.25. If you need a suggestion, try out the Ginger Salmon Salad, a 4oz filet of salmon seared in ginger infused olive oil, served on mixed greens with house made Asian vinaigrette.

Moving on to the sandwiches, these guys range in price from $5.25 to $6.95. I'd go with The Cuban, which is roast pork tenderloin, ham, swiss, sliced pickle, dijon mayo served on ciabatta roll, grilled panini style. Yum!

In the wraps section, you'll find prices ranging from $6.25 to $6.95. Try the California Turkey Wrap, it's turkey, roasted red pepper, avocado and lettuce with dijon cream cheese spread. Fun!

Again, old school Elk Rapids!

Burgers take up the mid section of this menu and the locals love them. Visitors too. The prices are just right, ranging from $4.75 to $6.25. I'd snag the Southwest Turkey Burger. This one is a grilled turkey patty topped with pepperjack, avocado and salsa, served on a warm pretzel bun. I adore pretzel buns. Damn.

Sliders can be had for $5.50, old favorites, like grilled cheese and Mediterranean Tuna, are available as well, along with some awesome side dishes. There are no alcoholic drinks served at TJ Charlie's, fyi.

Now, is TJ Charlie's the fanciest joint in town? The finest? The best food? The best atmosphere? No. What TJ Charlie's is to Elk Rapids is tradition, comfort, good eats and that old school downtown ER vibe that has disappeared from some of the establishments of the ER of today. Despite that half disappearance, the beaches remain perfect, the bridge to the library still provides the best vista for wandering and thinking it all over, the streets are still ideal for an afternoon run and TJ Charlie's still serves up some tasty fare, full of Elk Rapids pride and wholesome goodness.

If you find yourself in my ER, wander under the awning and grab a bite.

(All photos by Brooks Vanderbush)

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