Northport Restaurant Celebrates Community and Family Fun
By Laurel Manke | November 12, 2022
Opening a restaurant was a childhood dream of Laura Cavendish, owner of Around the Corner Food and Fun, so it’s only fitting that her dream come true in a beloved destination since she was young.
Growing up, Cavendish visited Northport every vacation and summer. After college in 2006, she moved permanently to Northport, and in 2018 her restaurateur dreams came true when she began serving inventive comfort food in a tent at Northport’s Music in the Park Festival. Even then, she intended to open a food truck with a more permanent home. 115 S. Waukazoo Street, the former home of Stubb’s Sweetwater Grill and Northport’s Soggy Dollar, turned out to be that spot.
Build a Community Light Fixture
Cavendish and her husband, Thomas, worked with owners Kelley and Ken Radeke to breathe new life into the Waukazoo Street location while celebrating its history and character. Structural issues led to the demolition of the building on the site in 2019, but a major effort to preserve the locality’s history remains as they construct Around the Corner Food and Fun on the multi-storey lot.
“It is important for us to integrate the story. The original building could not be saved and we were sad to see it disappear. We’re redesigning it with a smaller footprint to thoughtfully build a year-round business that serves the community,” says Cavendish.
The Around the Corner Food and Fun Food Truck moved to the property in 2020, offering al fresco dining and hands-on family entertainment for all ages. Over the past two summers, locals and tourists alike have flocked to their grounds not only for the food, but also for a unique breed of pleasure not offered by other restaurants. (Think treasure hunts, on-site arts and science days, and outdoor games like giant Jenga and dominoes.)
As a particularly interesting example, families can purchase their “Living Mural Fence Experience” for $30. It comes with a six-pack of spray paint, aprons, stencils, and a few hours of family fun and creativity painting the restaurant fence.
Another draw occurs on the big screen. Every Tuesday and Saturday night in the summer and every Saturday night in the fall, Around the Corner Food and Fun hosts a free, family-friendly outdoor movie night. They blast a large projection screen into their 100ft by 31ft lawn, which is adorned with speakers and lights.
“2022 has been an incredibly busy summer, especially our movie night on Tuesdays. Many restaurants in the area are closed on Monday and Tuesday evenings due to staffing constraints, so those were our busiest nights,” says Cavendish “We have chairs and tables, but most people – and it’s really fun to see – bring their own beach chairs, blankets and pillows and make themselves comfortable.”
For each film, the food truck is open and offers themed dinners, appetizers and special desserts that coordinate with the film of the night (think “Book Brownies” and “Life Potion” drinks at a recent screening Halloween weekend Hocus Pocus).
A new breed of bass
In November, Around the Corner Food and Fun will add a whole new dynamic: indoor dining. The construction of their indoor bar and restroom should be completed this month. The new building’s design and decor are rich with nods to local history, including reclaimed barn wood cladding, a state hospital butcher’s bar, eclectic artwork, and collectibles from nearby farms. There are also plans to convert the original building’s 10,000 pound furnace into a fireplace on the property.
For a nice family touch, a vintage refrigerator door will be mounted on the wall inside. Children are invited to bring their good grades and in turn they receive free boba tea.
“When I was a kid, my parents were involved in my elementary school and had a fridge door installed to strengthen the kids and make them proud of their achievement,” says Cavendish. “When the kids got good grades, they got a free personal pizza pan from Pizza Hut. This was a big deal for me as a kid and I wanted to offer this to the kids in our community.
When the bar opens in November, it will stand out in a sea of Grand Traverse and Leelanau wineries, breweries and distilleries: it will be Leelanau County’s first exclusively non-alcoholic bar. They will be offering an extensive menu of beer, wine, and non-alcoholic spirits, as well as boba tea drink specials and other non-alcoholic beverages.
“We originally planned to open a typical bar, but my health changed in 2019, and because of that, I can’t drink. We saw an opportunity to open a place to go if you don’t want to drink in an area surrounded by vineyards and breweries,” says Cavendish.
The food truck menu will also be available this winter, with dishes that change with the seasons (and their movie night themes). There are, of course, some beloved mainstays, like fried grilled cheese with homemade tomato soup; fried pastries with sweet Runza batter (their Burger Mac cheeseburger, Sloppy Joe and Veggie Greek pastries are fan favorites); and fish and chips, a recipe from Cavendish’s husband, who comes from England. There are also plenty of treats for young eaters; kids love their Chicken and Chips appetizer and PB and Jelly pastie.
The menu is full of many other comforting delights, including a mouth-watering selection of desserts like puffy Southern donuts.
After two years of serving the community, Around the Corner Food and Fun has settled in the heart of Northport and dreams of continuing to grow there. Basically, they want to provide a community gathering place with fun activities for kids of all ages to do.
“We appreciate the loyal local clientele we have and the business community here. We help each other rather than compete, which helps navigate the madness of staffing issues,” says Cavendish.
Around the Corner doesn’t have an official opening date for its indoor space, but they hope to be open by the end of November. Once their space opens, they will also offer a to-go refrigerator with on-the-go options such as salads, sides and pastries to take home or on adventures in the Northport area. In the meantime, their food truck remains open every evening for dinner except Sunday.
Find Around the Corner at 115 S Waukazoo St. in Northport. (231) 386-2216, www.aroundthecornerfood.com