The service counter at The Farmhouse Deli & Pantry is my happy place. On the left, more than a dozen colorful salads, with kale and seeds and all their cousins. To the right, bars and cookies, and slabs of cake so big they should be illegal. A perfect pairing.
Maybe on a beach day you’ve noticed The Farmhouse on Blue Star Highway in Douglas, seen a long line out front, and just kept rolling. If that line’s all that held you back, pull in next time. Expansion and renovations this spring will more than double The Farmhouse’s indoor seating capacity to 80 by the time summer hits its stride. More shaded picnic tables out back, too. The farm-meets-modern vibe won’t change.
Christine Ferris started the place ten years ago, figuring the lakeshore was ready for healthy yet exuberantly flavorful sandwiches, salads and soups. “What excited me when I first opened is I said, ‘I’m going to feed beets and kale to everyone.’ Lo and behold, our beet and kale salads are best sellers,” she said.
Ferris likes to keep things “hyper-local.” She buys produce, bread and meat from West Michigan farms and bakers, grows her own herbs, and adjusts the menu on the fly as things come into season at local farmers markets. “Our customers are people who’ve been hiking in the dunes, or who have a summer place here, or a boat — really active people who understand healthy and fresh food,” she said. Nut-free, vegan and gluten-free items are always available, and they aren’t afterthoughts, as a melt-in-your-mouth gluten-free chocolate layer cake with coconut frosting proves.
The kitchen staff led by brothers Nick and Matt Hallgren has worked till now in a kitchen smaller than those in many homes. The much larger cooking line and dedicated bakery area should be a relief, because the Farmhouse cooks churn out soups, salads, baked goods, meat, fish and poultry. Behind the kitchen they smoke pork, and salmon filets (which also are available sans smoke, roasted with whatever’s in season — recently, onion jam that kept the fish moist and sweet even when microwaved gently later at home).
And then there are the sandwiches — about 1,000 a day, Ferris reports. They run the gamut from $3 PB&Js or grilled cheese for kids to elaborate creations like muffeletas, Cubanos, reubens, and bahn mi (pork and vegan). Ferris’ favorite is the turkey club made with Michigan white cheddar, red onion, tomato, organic greens and lemon mayo on multigrain bread from deBoer Bakkerij in Holland. A fan raves about the Bellybuster, house-made pulled pork on a Dutch Crunch roll.
The “pantry” side of things includes many locally made products, from cheese and bread to lakeshore-made condiments. The Farmhouse closes around the start of many people’s dinner hour, but in pantry fridges you’ll find meals from the Farmhouse kitchen to cook or heat at home, such as meatloaf or hearty, creamy mac and cheese (with five cheeses and a sriracha zing). Ferris is adding pre-made sandwiches this summer, too, for folks in too much of a hurry to reach the beach to wait for one made to order.