We took off for a long weekend up to Southwest Michigan earlier this year and one of the places Cindy wanted to stop at was the Lighthouse Place outlet mall in Michigan City, IN. It was around 1 p.m. when we got there and she decided that she needed some lunch before she went to shop. Just up the street from Lighthouse Place, it turns out there's a local brewpub - Shoreline Brewery. We did a U-turn in the parking lot of Lighthouse Place and went to Shoreline Brewery for some food and a beer. (See map)
The Shoreline Brewery opened in 2005 and the co-owners are Sam Strupeck - a veteran of the restaurant industry and the brewmaster of Shoreline Brewery; and his father, Dave Strupeck - whose main vocation is an accountant as well as an accounting professor at Indiana University Northwest in Michigan City. Sam Strupeck had been working in the restaurant industry since a teenager and the Strupeck's were involved with the Aberdeen Brewing Company in nearby Valparaiso from 2000 until it closed in 2004.
The Strupeck's found a building near the Lake Michigan shoreline that was built in 1857. It started out being a lumberyard, but later on in its life it was a golf ball factory, a camera factory and a training facility. The Strupeck's took over the building and completely gutted and revamped the inside of the 16,000 square foot facility. From the outside, the building looks old and somewhat distressed. But it also adds to the charm of the place.
Like their beers, most of the food served at Shoreline Brewery is made from scratch. Chef Barry Davis, who learned classic French cuisine as a young culinary arts student, provides many entrees that you wouldn't find at many other brewpubs, as well as making sauces, dressings, soups and appetizers in house. Before we went there, we didn't really know much about the place other than it was a brewpub that sold food. We just didn't know the extent of what they had to offer at Shoreline Brewery.
We sat in the main dining area of Shoreline Brewery. One thing that we didn't expect was the smoking in the room. I guess we're so spoiled from having smoke-free restaurants in Iowa and Illinois that when you do encounter a place that still allows smoking - like Indiana does in many locales - it's a minor shock to the senses. It wasn't a deal buster because they had the doors open and a nice breeze was coming through the place. But the smell of cigarette smoke would occasionally come across our table.
The dining room featured a large bar that was backed by glass that looked into the brewing area at Shoreline. Light colored knotty pine paneling helped give the large room an open and bright look. For having wood paneling, hard floors and a high ceiling the place wasn't overly loud. Cindy remarked that if it were more full it probably would have been louder. But even at 2 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, the place had a good sized crowd in it.
Our server for the day, Amanda, dropped off a couple menus for us to try. She pointed out the beer menu on the table and I have to say that it was rather extensive. They had 10 beers on tap and at first I wasn't certain if all the beers on tap were from Shoreline or if they were beers from other breweries. But Amanda assured me they were all Shoreline brews. I was surprised because you normally don't find a brewpub that will have this many beers to choose from.
And choosing was the hard part. Cindy likes pale ales and they had five different styles of pale ale to choose from. Amanda told us that we could sample some of the brews if we liked and Cindy immediately signed up for a sample of the Benny's American Pale Ale - a Western U.S. style of pale ale made with American grains and hops; and the Sum Nug India Pale Ale - a hoppy American style I.P.A. with a forward taste. They also had something called Leaper American Pale ale that was described almost word for word like the same thing as the Benny's pale ale, and the Nitro Queen Mum India Pale Ale that had a higher alcohol content and uses English hops and grains. I signed up for the Nitro Queen Mum without even wanting to sample it beforehand.
Looking through the menu, the food served at Shoreline Brewery is definitely a step above what you'd find at most brewpubs. They have some interesting appetizers including homemade sour dough pretzels served with their homemade "Don't Panic" stone ground mustard, a Scotch Egg that is a sausage covered hard-boiled egg breaded and deep fried, and something called Thistle Sticks - spicy cream cheese wrapped in wonton skins served with roasted red peppers and Greek tzaziki sauce. Those sounded overly interesting and I almost got that for us to try.
The main entrees include a number of luncheon specials including fish and chips, pastas, sandwiches, salads and burgers. But they also featured steak entrees, as well as a stuffed chicken breast, seared scallops, baby back ribs and probably their signature entree, an Oatmeal Stout Braised Lamb Shank - a slow-cooked lamb shank topped with an herb and Oatmeal Stout demi-glaze, served with carrots, onions and celery. I don't care for lamb all that much, but Cindy almost pulled the trigger on that.
Amanda brought Cindy's beer sampler glasses over for her to try. She didn't bring my Nitro Queen Mum saying the foam needed to settle in the glass before she brought it over. "It's the nature of the beer. It takes about 10 minutes from the beginning of the pour to the serving," she explained. I wish she would have explained that before I ordered.
Cindy tried the Benny's American pale ale and then the Sum Nug I.P.A. She immediately said that she liked the Sum Nug better and asked for a pint of that. I tried both beers and while the Benny's was smooth with a little hoppiness to its finish, the Sum Nug was much more forward. When Amanda came back, she had both Cindy's Sum Nug and my Nitro Queen Mum. The Queen Mum was very hoppy and had a somewhat bitter aftertaste. Cindy's Sum Nug didn't have that bitterness. I liked mine and she liked hers.
During this time we pretty much figured out that we were probably just going to get burgers for lunch. They did have a reuben on the menu that was tempting to me, but I decided to go with their Shoreline Pub Burger - a prime beef ground chuck burger that's served on a pretzel bun with beer caramelized onions and their homemade Don't Panic mustard. For an extra buck I got some pepperjack cheese on top. Cindy got the same thing, only with bleu cheese on hers. For sides, I got the French fries and Cindy inquired about cole slaw. "Is it homemade," she asked Amanda.
Amanda sort of stammered for a moment and said, "Well, yeah, I guess it is. I mean, they make a lot of stuff in house, so I'm guessing it's homemade." Even with that less than stellar endorsement, Cindy still got the cole slaw. We figured that Amanda had to be somewhat new. She kept referring to the kitchen staff and management as "they" and not "we", sort of like she was from another restaurant helping out that particular afternoon.
Amanda brought the burgers out and the presentation was nice. The pretzel buns were big and spongy with a somewhat hard crust on top. Cindy doesn't understand the allure of a good pretzel bun, but I certainly think it's a great touch when a burger is served on one.
The burger was cooked a perfect medium with a little bit of pink in the center. The homemade "Don't Panic" mustard offered a good flavor with the burger. I usually like my burgers with yellow mustard, but the homemade stone ground mustard was a great compliment with the chewy pretzel buns.
Cindy said that her bleu cheese burger was "good", but once again said that she didn't really care for the pretzel bun. "I guess I don't like the bun to be so thick and chewy," she said. Still she pretty much finished the burger, leaving only a small bite or two on her plate.
By the way, the fries were all right - nothing special. They were deep fried to a golden brown color, but were a little limp. They were edible, but they weren't on par with the burger. And Cindy declared the cole slaw as somewhat bland and nothing special. But I was certainly happy with my burger and the beer I had at Shoreline Brewery.
I will say that Shoreline Brewery was a pleasant surprise - both for the beer and the food. Not many brewpubs that I've been to can boast of having a chef, let alone one that was trained in French cuisine. Although I thought having five different styles of pale ale was a little confusing, I thoroughly enjoyed my Nitro Queen Mum I.P.A. Shoreline Brewery is definitely above average as far as brewpubs are concerned.