McGowan’s Menu: Lake Charlevoix’s Cafe Sante

Cafe Sante in Boyne City has a built-in attraction to draw customers; it’s right on the shore of Lake Charlevoix.

But after four years, it’s their European-style bistro menu that brings people back again and again. 

John McGowan stopped in for a look at Cafe Sante and their busy kitchen in this week’s edition of McGowan’s Menu.

“This is one of our most popular items, yes, so you come to Northern Michigan, and it screams whitefish.”

Chef Kyle Marshall is the man in charge in the Cafe Sante kitchen, and has been since day one four years ago. He’s worked at other Magnum Hospitality properties, and helped open Red Mesa Grill in Traverse City.

Look for some traditional European favorites, but made with lots of local products.

“Traditional French, Italian and pretty much anywhere across Europe, we’re taking those old dishes, that maybe your grandparents remember, back in the day, and bringing them back to life, and infusing them with local ingredients,” explained Kyle.

Cafe Sante is open all year and draws a lot of customers who are visiting Boyne Mountain, just a few miles away, and general manager Don Ryde says he enjoys the look on some of those visitors’ faces when they get a look at the Cafe Sante menu.

“They’re kind of shocked, they turn and pinch themselves, and they go ‘Oh my God, I’m in Boyne City and we have one beer that’s only available on draft in Boyne City, Michigan, in the United States.’ So we have some items that they can’t even find in Chicago. And yet they’re able to get them here in Boyne City. We work very hard to keep everything fresh and unique,” said Don.

“We’re going to lightly dredge the fish in some seasoned flour,” Kyle explained.

Kyle is in the kitchen preparing one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, the Whitefish a la Menniere.

“Ya know the dish came from the Miller’s wife. And it was how she prepared it, And so they milled flour, and she would take fish, and very lightly sauté it in this flour, and we do that with a lemon-brown butter. And serve it with our house potato.”

To get a real feel for the place, Kyle has another recommendation for first time visitors who like seafood.

“You know, I highly suggest the mussels, we do mussels five different ways. We fly them in fresh from the east coast. And so, a great way to learn about Café Sante that way.”

Cafe Sante is open for breakfast and lunch, you can get either until three, when the dinner menu takes over. Don offers some recommendations. “Well, European food, so there’s like Eggs Benedict, a lot of the European Classics on the Day Menu, paninis, and Wood-fired pizzas done in Italian Wood-fired Oven. Everything is pretty much scratch-made. We make our own bread. We make some of our own pastas.”

Kyle explains another popular dish, the Chicken Supreme, “And then this dish is based off of Chicken Blu-tay, which is a mother sauce in French cooking. The Chicken Supreme is a little twist on a classic boulevent, which would be French, where they take puffed pastry, stuff it with chicken and filling, and so we take a fresh chicken breast, sauté it and bake off the puffed pastry. We have a braised leek, then the chicken is finished with a morel cream sauce. And that’s all laid over the puffed pastry.”

Cafe Sante features live music four nights a week. Lots of Michigan and European craft beers, and a wide selection of mostly European wines, and the dinner menu contains nothing priced over 20 dollars.

“Well, I want them to have a good time. Have a good experience in a comfortable atmosphere, and I want them to enjoy their food, and we do the best we can to give them a great experience so they do come back,” said Don.

Cafe Sante is located on Lake Charlevoix in downtown Boyne City, one water street to be exact. They’re open seven days a week, 8:00 am to 10:00 pm Sunday through Thursday, and 8:00 am to 11:00 pm Friday and Saturday.