As we settled in at our table and opened the menus, the first thing our server said after “hello” went like this:
“Our desserts are on the first page because life is short, and we feel that’s important.”
We’d never heard that from a server before. But we were, after all, in a place called The Village Baker.
The Spring Lake restaurant and bakery changed hands in January. The new owner is Doug Burton, who’s been the chef since 2018. He may tinker with the menu this spring, but that’s been routine all along. Other than that, he doesn’t plan changes.
“I love this concept, and all the people here are great,” said Burton. “I want it to be welcoming. I want people to come in and feel like we’re going to take care of them — a community gathering place.”
We do feel that way in this establishment that sits at the intersection of homey and hip. There’s ketchup on the tables, but tenderloin with wild mushrooms on the dinner menu. There’s vintage furniture in the cozy, warm green dining rooms, but also contemporary art. Instrumental music is just audible below the happy hum of diners, and every hour on the hour, a cuckoo clock chimes in.
What a fun combo it is, right down to pickle-shaped erasers and ironic tea towels in the hallway gift shop — and in the women’s restroom, a photo gallery of bold, pioneering women, with biographical hand-outs to take home. (They were installed by Sara Rathbun, who, with her husband Oran Rankin, opened the Village Baker in 2011.)
At each meal there’s variety and lots of it. At breakfast there are eggs and five kinds of pancakes, but you could opt for eggs benedict with lobster. At lunch, along with sandwiches, burgers and pizza the Village Baker offers grain bowls and salads. Feijoada, a Brazilian stew, is served daily. Dinner entrees include several German dishes; beef with spaetzle (small egg noodles) and pork schnitzel were hits at our table.
Pizza is a customer favorite, our server told us. We enjoyed an unconventional one, the garlic and greens pizza: thin, chewy crust; nutty cheese laced with spinach, artichoke hearts and golden cloves of roasted garlic topped with salty, crunchy pretzel crumbs.
Pastry chef Michelle Bracken and her team create the desserts, including mousse, a chocolate bombe, cheesecake, carrot cake and Black Forest cake. If you’re picturing cupcakes, don’t. Lemon cheesecake, for instance, alternates three discs of light cake with two layers of lemon curd and a cheesecake middle layer, and it’s topped with lemon glaze and perfectly fresh berries. Bread and pretzels are sold from the bakery storefront, too.
The bar mixes signature cocktails. Michigan and Germany are well represented on the beer list, and there’s an international array of wines.
This is a place people are willing to stand in line for, and boy, do they—especially in the summer, even with two outdoor seating areas. Reservations are available (and wise) Labor Day through Memorial Day only, except for Sunday brunch.
The Village Baker 617 E. Savidge St., Spring Lake 616-935-7312 villagebaker.us