GTPulse: Cheap Brunch in Retro Digs at This Traverse City Restaurant

New Year’s Day of 2020 I was hungover and awake earlier than I wanted to be. My best girlfriend and party accomplice from the night before was in the same condition. What else was there to do besides brave the public and find something to soak up last night’s libations? We ventured out for what I recently realized, is the last brunch I’ve had.

Despite having tried and true brunch spots in Traverse City, the thought of battling the masses to get a table at one of them was not something we had energy for. Everyone else was going to be just as hungover and hungry eyed for carbs and a little hair of the dog. We had to go someplace unassuming and off the beaten path.

We ended up at Flapjack Shack. And while its US-31 location across the street from Meijer isn’t necessarily off the beaten path, the longtime breakfast and lunch spot doesn’t usually come to mind for brunch.

“We have a special liquor license we can serve at 7 a.m.,” said General Manager Jennie Block. “I don’t think many people realize that we have a full bar. And we close at 3 p.m., but we have the entire menu available all day.”

I went out for breakfast at Flapjack Shack when I first moved here. I like informal restaurants and the puffy pastel colored letters caught my eye every time I drove past. The inside is a nostalgic ‘70s feast for the eyes. Avocado green booths, orange and brown floral wallpaper, and circular lighting fixtures that look like paper. What really makes it a cozy spot is the wall of windows that overlooks some of TC’s west side, including some of the Grand Traverse Commons. And even though the view is dotted with commercial buildings, staring out makes me feel content in the way I imagine a dog or cat feels when they look out the window.

“In the fall, the colors on the hill are beautiful. If you sit towards the back you can see the castle. They re-did all the peaks on Building 50 and it’s all red, from here it looks like a castle.”

FlapJack Shack opened in the mid-’70s, but its decor didn’t always match the vibe the way it does now.

“When the new owners Jeff Lobdell and Scott Parkhurst bought this place nine years ago, they came in and basically gutted all of the front of house. There used to be a buffet and a giant fish tank. Before the renovations, it kind of looked just like an old diner.”

Jeff’s then-wife reimagined the interior to be the ‘70s theme it is now. She’s an interior designer and wanted the inside of the building to pay homage to the building’s history. Wallpaper, warm glow light fixtures, and restoring the popcorn ceiling were all a part of the transformation. An outdoor deck for warm-weather eating was added too.

The eatery is one of four, but the Traverse City location is the original Shack and beloved by locals old and new. Jennie credits this to the comfy atmosphere of the restaurant, the warmness exuded by her staff, and the menu is affordable.

“We get a lot of church groups, groups from the school. We’re close to Munson so we get a lot of nurses. We have regulars come in every week, but we treat everyone like family and that’s why they keep coming back.”

The regulars are Jennie’s favorite aspect of the job. She enjoys knowing what their favorite order is and being able to share friendly banter with them, but she hopes to also attract more young folks and new residents in the area too.

“We want to appeal to a younger crowd too and get people to come in. We do dollar off drinks on the weekday, we try to switch it up and get people to come in on their days off or weekend mornings.”

Open Monday through Thursday at 6 a.m., Friday at 8 a.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 7 a.m., the restaurant closes every day at 3 p.m. The menu is varied and has all the standard breakfast and lunch fare you could expect. Throw in a cozy booth, midday cocktail and a big window to stare out of, and you can find me happy on a Saturday afternoon.

The next time you’re in the market for a brunch out, don’t despair if your downtown go-to is booked up. 

“We’ve been a staple in Traverse City forever. You drive by here and can’t help but to see the big lantern. It’s a relaxed atmosphere and these days it can be tough to go out, but people know they can come in here and sit and have a drink and something to eat with your friend.”

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Categories: GTPulse