"A computer can't understand a handshake," says Jack Schwindler, explaining why he retired after 32 years as a food broker. He missed the face-to-face aspect of the business, which diminished as technology swiftly advanced. So when he and his wife found a defunct marina on Lake Lotawana, where Jack spent his childhood, he found his calling. In 1993, Jack and his wife opened Marina Grog & Galley, and now, Jack says, "I'm shaking hands again."
Marina Grog and Galley is run by a tight-knit crew of longtime employees, including servers who have worked there since 1996. Their menu boasts dry-aged steaks from a local purveyor and fresh fish flown in from Hawaii three times a week. The smell of steaks searing over mesquite charcoal drifts out to the front driveway, creating an aroma that attracts passersby and envious traveling steak peddlers. Other specialties include baby-back ribs crafted from a recipe Jack penned when he was 21 years old, and a range of fried, boiled, and stuffed shrimp.
Every night, Jack visits with guests at the tables arranged around the dining room, which look out at the lake or a 1,500-gallon saltwater tank that houses a 48-foot living reef. Leather seats in cobalt blue comfort backs, and stone fireplaces warm the stone walls and light wood around the restaurant. Outdoor tables along the water seat up to 150 people, and on-deck fireplaces keep diners comfortable. "Something happens every night in the restaurant business," says Jack, and he doesn't want to miss a minute of it.
Fun House Pizza’s cooks have been tossing craving-satisfying pizzas since 1964, catering to families with their shareable fare and friendly staff. Gooey pizzas arrive topped with Fun House Pizza’s secret sauce recipe, sprinkled with toppings that include kraut, mushrooms, and Italian or Polish sausage. The kitchen crew gets creative with their specialty pizzas, which play dress up to create pies of the taco, bacon cheeseburger, and mexican variety. The restaurants cater to kids with a slew of entertainment options, from Thomas the Tank Engine rides to game rooms with air hockey and video games to the cheerful servers who are ready and willing to eat homework assignments.
Crystal Mooers has been decorating cakes for nearly three decades, including 15 years working as a cake decorator for large food chains. About seven years ago, she and her husband Steven decided to tap into the teamwork they'd honed raising five children together and started their own business: Just Cakes. Together, they provision parties of every sort with festively layered cakes.
Crystal festoons birthday sheet cakes with basic decorations or spruces them up with edible images, cutout shapes, or fondant designs. Her grooms' cakes express new husbands' interests, from cheering on a sports team to fixing up vintage cars to eating cake. Wedding-cake flavors, including butter pecan and red velvet, are spackled together with cheesecake mousse, peach-velvet topping, and other sweet fillings, creating multi-tiered masterpieces that realize newlyweds' confectionary dreams. She also shapes adult novelty cakes into risqué works of art for bachelor or bachelorette parties. To help hosts and hostesses put the finishing touches on their events, they rent out plate-topped columns, stands, pedestals, and fountains.
Just Cakes is a labor of love for the couple for reasons beyond their confectionary passions. They donate a percentage of the bakery's proceeds to help Crystal's sister pay her medical bills as she fights breast cancer.
At the family owned restaurant, you can spot head chef Alex Potts working alongside the restaurant manager, Joe Scaglia, as they nimbly slice up fresh green peppers or peek into the fiery stone deck oven to check on their pizzas. The skilled duo adhere to the classic Neapolitan style of pizza-making, baking thin-crust pies until they are crispy, chewy, and ever-so-slightly charred. They favor local produce, meats, and cheeses, asserting, "using local and seasonal ingredients is the best way we can support our local economy while also getting the best possible product." They shower their creations in both traditional and uncommon toppings and crusts, from a wheat crust to plump morsels of classic italian sausages and less orthodox brie, almonds, or potato. Like an overly complicated valedictorian speech, the selection of toppings also includes pineapple, prosciutto, bacon, soppresata, pesto, and cream cheese.
For more than four decades, Eddy, T-Bones Deli & Meat Market's head butcher, has cleaved and trimmed meats into hearty cuts and chops. Steaks, pork chops, grade-A turkeys, European sausages, and other meats line up in the shop's glass display cases, divided into tidy rows by lanes of Astroturf. T-Bones also serves brisket sliders, snow-crab legs, pastas, and other meals indoors or beneath umbrellas on the outdoor-patio bar. An array of wines, sauces and marinades, chips, and other grocery items round out T-Bones' inventory.
The cooks at Bulldogs Gourmet specialize in three things—hot dogs, frozen custard, and coffee. They top their signature dogs with traditional ingredients as well as pineapple, mango salsa, and jalapeños for a unique taste. For dessert they serve scoops of chocolate or vanilla frozen custard or top them with syrup for their sundaes.