The Court Yard Restaurant has become a time-honored tradition for many Alpena locals since the early 1980’s. Purchased in 2006 by natives Chris and Lora Carlson, the restaurant has worked to carry on the legacy of the original owner, Dave Patin. As Chris said, he just “wants a place where he can bring his own kids to eat and know they’re getting healthy food and a great environment to eat it in.”
Chris knows that growing a garden there at the restaurant and working with local farmers and fishermen when he can are the best means to that goal. Any time you join them for dinner, you may find berries, lamb, or asparagus from AJ’s Berries on the menu; you’ll also find an ever-changing menu that highlights whatever is coming out of the garden that day. Ten of their twelve taps at the bar are always pouring Michigan beers and you can peruse a wine list featuring quite a few of the Mitt’s vineyards.
The Carlsons also worked with Captain Jason A. Snyder, the owner and operator of Two-Hearted Charters in Alpena, to help implement the “Catch and Cook” program in the state of Michigan six years ago.
In collaboration with MSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan Charter Boat Association, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Restaurant Association, this program allows charter fishing patrons who catch fish from Michigan’s Great Lakes to take their fresh catch to a participating Michigan restaurant for the chef to prepare it that night for dinner.
Captain Snyder mentioned that this program has been great for people that are on vacation in Alpena who love to fish, but can’t cook it at their hotel; they get the freshest fish possible, and the captain preps all the fish for the charter clients before they take it to the chef at the Court Yard. Typically, Snyder cleans it a few different ways so the chef can do deep fried nuggets, or fillets or steaks, depending on the fish species.
The Captain said, “The Court Yard does a great job because they combine it with fresh produce out of their garden and bread they bake right there.” You also get $1 off Michigan beer or wine in combination with this local feast. Considering northeastern Michigan is so renowned for its hunting and fishing and all the land has to offer, I can’t think of a better way to get to know Alpena during the summer.
Molly Stepanski is the Local Food Coordinator for NE Michigan for Taste the Local Difference and the co-owner of Presque Isle Farm. Contact her at [email protected]