One of the pleasures, and occasional challenges, of traveling away from the main routes is finding a good local restaurant. Forty years ago, around the time we got married, Patti gave me a copy of the first edition of Jane & Michael Stern’s book Roadfood.
It’s a listing, with a few details, of great, mostly inexpensive food joints within a few miles of our country’s most traveled interstates. The book went through numerous editions, each one thicker than the last, until it finally became a website. We’ve had the pleasure of adding to the collection several times over the years, and one of our favorite contributions is a diner in Birch Run, Michigan, just off interstate 75, called Tony's.
Whenever we travel to the upper peninsula, as we did recently for the Roadtrek winter freezeout, we pull off for a meal. It’s always best if it’s breakfast, and on this trip we spent the night in the parking lot of the nearby Meijer store. The Meijer parking lot is quiet, the staff is friendly, and the doors are open 24 hours. And Tony’s is just a few hundred yards down the road. The menu looks like a tabloid newspaper, and you’re encouraged to take it with you. Tony’s has a lot of tasty offerings, but they’re best known for bacon. Ridiculous amounts of bacon. Their BLT has a pound of fried meat, and I don’t know anyone who can get their mouth around it.
We asked for a cheese omelet and an order of bacon to share. The omelet is made with at least a dozen eggs and a half pound of cheese, and comes with two thick slabs of toasted Italian bread, made in-house every day. Loaves of it are offered for sale at the counter, and it goes out the door by the sackful. Looking forward to a weekend of visiting, we also brought in a half gallon thermos.
They filled it with coffee without batting an eye, and at no charge. We took most of the bacon away in a carry out box, ate two more meals off it, and served it with biscuits to the early risers in the campground on Sunday morning. There’s still a little of it in the fridge.
Tony’s has been in business for nearly seventy years here. They serve eleven thousand pound of bacon a week. That’s right, five and a half tons. That same amount of hash browns will hit the plates in a weekend. Their desserts are as legendary as their bacon, with slices of pie that weigh in at a pound and a half, and a banana split that can serve a table of eight. And just in case, they give you a handful of candy on your way out the door—wouldn’t want you to leave hungry.
Roadfood finds are great fun. They give you something to look forward to when traveling in a particular part of the country. Like the throwed rolls at Lambert’s in Sikeston, Missouri or the foot high pie at the Crystal Cafe in South Sioux City, Nebraska, Tony’s lives up to its legend at every visit. And just like that granddad catfish lurking in the bottom of every farm pond, you know there’s another one out there waiting to be discovered. We’ll happily keep looking, and we’ll look for you, too, asking for just one more cup of coffee, at a booth in the corner, somewhere off the beaten path.