Satisfy your cravings

Published 11:38 am Friday, May 23, 2014

At The Lake House by Cravings, patrons can choose from a wide selection of beers to enjoy on the spacious terrace that overlooks Lake Michigan. (Leader photos/JILL McCAUGHAN)

At The Lake House by Cravings, patrons can choose from a wide selection of beers to enjoy on the spacious terrace that overlooks Lake Michigan. (Leader photos/JILL McCAUGHAN)

ST. JOSEPH — When El Cozumel closed this past March, many St. Joseph residents and visitors were sad to see it go. After all, it had boasted one of the best terraces in town, providing patrons with a spectacular view of the sunset over Lake Michigan.

However, the news quickly spread that the Bleich family, owners of the Holiday Inn Express & Suites – St. Joseph, located next door, would soon be opening a new restaurant in the handsome mansion, capitalizing on the beautiful, bluff-top location at 3029 Lakeshore Dr.

In fact, the planning began immediately, according to Amy Bleich Heugel, director and part-owner of the Holiday Inn Express and the property which is now known as The Lake House.

“El Cozumel closed on March 8, and we were in there the next day, talking plans for the new restaurant,” Bleich Heugel said. “Since then, we’ve undertaken an extensive renovation of the building, both inside and out.”

Originally built as a lake house by the Smiths, a well-to-do Chicago family, the home was bequeathed to the Colbys, who had served as the maid and butler at that home. As they lived there for more than 60 years, it was by their name that the mansion became known locally—the Colby Mansion.

“My father, Don Bleich, bought the building in the early 1990s from one of his clients,” Amy Bleich Heugel recalled. “Then, it was the Mansion Grille. He leased it to them, and then later to El Cozumel.”

Upon El Cozumel’s closing, the Bleichs saw an opportunity to open a new restaurant that would return the mansion to its former glory as a stately lake house. However, without experience in owning a restaurant, they decided to partner with Chef Eduardo Pesantez, owner of Cravings Bistro and Pub in Benton Harbor.

“We always knew the type of restaurant we’d like to open here,” Amy Bleich Heugel said. “We wanted it to be more like the lake house that it was—with space for private events—capitalizing on that beautiful location with the view of the lake, and giving our hotel guests somewhere they could go. We really wanted to bring it back to its roots.”

Now, with the renovations complete, the wait is over, and the restaurant is finally ready to serve guests beginning on Thursday, May 22 — just in time for the Senior PGA Championship.

“It is a casual seafood and steak restaurant,” Bleich Heugel said. “We also have a lunch menu with burgers, wraps, and salads. We also have lots of appetizers on the menu. We’ll serve a little bit of everything.”

Patrons who remember the old El Cozumel will be stunned upon entering the newly-renovated Lake House. Freshly painted in soft, neutral tones, the walls are decorated with the stunning landscape photography of local photographer Joshua Nowicki. New floors and seating have also been added, and the bar area has been expanded as well.

And, happily, the terrace will be open once again as well—for al fresco dining, cocktails  or craft beers with friends, and spectacular sunset views.

“We really have the largest outdoor seating area in St. Joseph,” Bleich Heugel pointed out. “We have the best view of the lake and the sunsets. No one else in town has anything close to that view.”

The Lake House by Cravings can be reached at (269) 982-8020, and more information about the restaurant and its menu can be found at They also have a Facebook page at