Archived Story

A home away from home

Published 11:53am Friday, September 3, 2010

Denny Grosse, co-owner of Featherbone Restaurant and Lounge, says a successful eatery should be one that "feels like home." Photo by Katie Johnson

By KATIE JOHNSON

katie@offthewater.com

Venturing off the beaten path — or in this case, the Lake Michigan shore — can take you to some impressive places you may not have known existed.

The village of Three Oaks and the Featherbone Restaurant and Lounge are no exception.

A tiny town known for its historic Acorn and Vicker’s theaters, music and art community, Three Oaks became a boomtown in the 1880s when local entrepreneur Edward K. Warren (Warren Dunes’ namesake) found a way to make turkey bones one of the most sought-after materials of its time. He obtained a patent to use turkey bones in women’s corsets — a more efficient alternative to whale bone. The Warren Featherbone Co., which had once employed hundreds of people, closed by the mid-1900s and is now home to loft condos and retail space.

When the Featherbone Restaurant opened 15 years ago, the Featherbone name, synonymous with Three Oaks, seemed like a perfect fit.

“We wanted to make this bar, this restaurant, part of the community,” explained Denny Grosse, who co-owns the U.S. Highway 12 eatery with his daughter, Jodie Haughey. The business venture began when four owners purchased the former Carpenter’s Restaurant and renovated it. Haughey’s then-husband was a chef, and helped develop a menu.

“We’ve done a lot over the 15 years,” said Grosse, who also works at an insurance agency next door. “We want to be part of what’s happening in Three Oaks with the arts and music.”

The Featherbone boasts a casual atmosphere with booths, a polished-wood bar, darts, big-screen TVs and expansive outdoor seating, including another bar and stage which hosts live music acts year-round.

Grosse, however, avoids using the term “sports bar” to describe his business.

“We are a restaurant you can come to and watch a game,” he said. “We kind of walk a fine line with what you call a sports restaurant and a fine dining restaurant.”

The menu includes bar fare appetizers like nachos, potato skins and quesadillas. Salads, priced at $9.99 or less, include a steak portabella salad and crispy ranch chicken salad. Sandwiches, served with fries, range from a prime rib sandwich to the Italian beef dip to the blackened grouper sandwich. The signature Featherbone Burger is a half-pound of ground beef grilled to order, served on a toasted pretzel roll with toppings and priced at $6.99. The dinner menu offers steak, fish and pasta.

“We try to keep our prices moderate,” he said. Grosse said his customers have shown interest in spicy menu items, like the Cajun chicken sandwich and the jalapeno chicken wrap.

“Our ribs from the beginning here have always been popular because they are made with a watermelon barbecue sauce,” Grosse said. The Featherbone also recently added a 2stone pizza oven, which cooks pies in two minutes, similar to a brick oven.

The Featherbone has seen an upswing in customers who came to the area to visit Four Winds Casino; the restaurant is four miles from its back door.

“The (Four Winds) casino has had a big impact here,” Grosse said. “(Highway) 12 has become extremely busy. We can always tell if they won or lost by the food they order.”

It now can also claim a small moment of fame — the Featherbone was featured in a horror movie, “Cyrus (Mind of a Serial Killer),” filmed in the area. Watch a trailer of “Cyrus (Mind of a Serial Killer)” at www.myspace.com/cyrusthemovie.

But despite its brush with stardom, the Featherbone is really a laid-back restaurant with a small-town feel and upscale taste.

“You like a place that’s comfortable; you like a place that’s friendly,” Grosse said. “It’s like you’re at home.”

The Featherbone Restaurant and Lounge is located at 6741 U.S. Highway 12, Three Oaks. It can be reached at (269) 756-9302.

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