“All this way for chicken?”
That’s what I said years ago as a kid when my grandmother drove me, my father and family for some celebrated chicken dinner.
Except it was for hours in the dark, and nobody really knew how long the drive, and we were getting hangry.
My grandmother took it well, sitting stoically with a steely grip on the wheel.
Long story short, the chicken was so good that the comfortable silence that began during the orgy of eating never became awkward silence in the car on the long drive home.
And my grandmother’s grip on the wheel relaxed.
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“Slo’ Bones BBQ Smokehaus stages fun and interactive live music, and cooks up tasty ribs that make me want to go back!”
Frankenmuth is where my grandmother introduced me to “Little Bavaria,” the “World’s Largest Christmas Store,” Bavarian Inn Restaurant & Lodge, and Main Street. There’s a Main Street in most towns, but this is the one. Just like there are little Bavarias here and there, this is where you’ll find it. While the years have gone by since my grandmother drove straight as an arrow for miles, the Muth has wonderfully preserved its Old World foundation as it has artfully developed new attractions and traditions. My grandmother would be proud of this old settlement, and she might do a double take to see me pass up the chicken after all this way.
I introduced Lisa to Frankenmuth several years ago, before The Simple Luxuries, and we thought it would be nice to take a vacation, revisit the Muth, and score a post. We had fun then, so we decided to take a little extra time to explore more of “Little Bavaria” and its neighbor, Birch Run.
As we approached the famous welcome arch, it all came back to us. I remembered everything in its right place. Frankenmuth is like a favorite blanket. It might evolve over the years, but the look and feel are always familiar. We wrapped ourselves in the warm glow of all the smiles we saw on our travels. No doubt they did the same from us.
First was Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. It has grown and expanded over the years since my first visit when I was a kid. Despite all the tinsel and glitter, the spirit of Bronner’s has always remained true right up to the replica of the Silent Night Memorial Chapel as a tribute to “Silent Night.”
Moving from traditional to new, we visited River Place Shops, a tasteful outdoor mall situated on the river, where at the waterfall the Bavarian Belle Riverboat offers one-hour sightseeing of the scenic and historic icons of Frankenmuth.
We walked Main Street a bit before turning toward Jefferson Street, a surprisingly dense and eclectic collection of restaurants for those with a taste for something other than chicken. I heard about some catfish at a place called Slo’ Bones BBQ Smokehaus. Lisa wanted to try their ribs. The live music was an unexpected treat. As Terry played and sang “Comfortably Numb,” we could feel all our work stress get pushed behind a firewall of spicy ribs and zesty catfish. Lisa: “Slo’ Bones BBQ Smokehaus stages fun and interactive live music, and cooks up tasty ribs that make me want to go back!” And me: “Once I heard that Slo’ Bones BBQ Smokehaus had catfish on the menu, I had to try the fry. Yes, all this way for catfish!” A distant smokehaus’ smoke on the horizon.
Birch Run is neighbor to Frankenmuth. It is a town that benefits from the overflow of Frankenmuth visitors. Besides the gentrified network of restaurants, malls and motels, Birch Run is home to Wilderness Trails Zoo. From the outside, it looks a little modest. Walk beyond the front entrance, and it’s a whole new world. Complete with lions and tigers and bears, New World parrots, an open-air Parakeet Encounter, a huge Reptile Sanctuary, a fun petting area, numerous feeding stations, and extensive wilderness trails, this was easily the biggest surprise of our trip.
“T.Dub’s Mad Bishop Oktoberfest Lager is smooth with a crisp finish!”
If I ever go on a real sightseeing safari, there’d better be pizza. It’s the ideal welcome kit after a full day seeing all the wildlife. We heard that T.Dub’s Pizzeria & Pub was the choice spot for ice cold suds and piping hot crust. T.Dub’s is famous for their 14-inch pizza, so we sat at the bar and were served fast. Lisa tasted their Mad Bishop Oktoberfest Lager. Lisa: “T.Dub’s Mad Bishop Oktoberfest Lager is smooth with a crisp finish!” Then we pulled apart slices of fresh garlic, black olive and green pepper pizza. Lisa: “Their signature pizza is served hot from the oven. The crust has a nice bite and the toppings are very fresh. Spectacular!” And me: “I love their sauce; this is the perfect sweetness. The cheese has a pleasant zing. And the crust shows off a few crisp puffs. T.Dub’s serves one of the best pizzas I’ve had in a long time!“ “All this way for pizza” is how I will remember it.
All this good food jogged my memory. I remembered that the Glockenspiel Tower at Bavarian Inn Restaurant played a long song with some dancing figurines rotating above the clock. The next presentation was minutes away. We had to get on our horse, and not the carriage kind. After waiting for a few minutes, a spoken narration went on for a while, and then the music began to play. The doors above the clock opened and it was as I remembered it. The Glockenspiel Tower performs this retelling of “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” only a few times a day, and so this clock stops time and traffic with every performance. It left an interesting impression on me now. The subtle undertone of dark Grimm’s fairytales mood was lost on me as a child.
The long drive in the dark by my grandmother was long. Keeping in tradition we saved Bavarian Inn Restaurant for our last experience. It was Lisa’s first visit to one of the pillars of Main Street, along with Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth, where we dined on our first visit together to Frankenmuth years ago. Lisa ordered the classic Frankenmuth German Dinner. Lisa: “Bavarian Inn is famous for its authentic family feasts, German family style. This plate dinner is very satisfying. I want to try more of their huge menu!” I might have been the first to eat fish twice in Frankenmuth, with a Broiled Lake Superior Whitefish Plate Dinner. And me: “In the land of meat, I had to fish for something different. This dinner plate is barely a keeper to hold up the huge filet. The crust is crisp while the fish is fresh, tender and light. Look at all these people with their chicken!” Take me to the river.
“Bavarian Inn is famous for its authentic family feasts, German family style. This plate dinner is very satisfying. I want to try more of their huge menu!”
As we drove through the gate on our return home, we shared our thoughts about Frankenmuth, especially since this was our second visit. Lisa: “Frankenmuth is fun for everyone! The ‘Little Bavaria’ experience is genuine. I love shopping at River Place. There are so many interesting attractions. The Bavarian Belle Riverboat is a memorable one-hour cruise. The captain and crew are family, and they know everything about the sights and the history. The Wilderness Trails Zoo in Birch Run may look small but there’s a huge population of animals with a nice set of trails. We will be back!” And me: “My grandmother introduced me to Frankenmuth when I was a kid. I loved everything from Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland to Main Street. Frankenmuth and I have grown over the years. While there has been progress, Frankenmuth preserves Little Bavaria right from my memories. My grandmother would be so proud that I am introducing Frankenmuth to everyone now!” Thank you, Obachan.
We will see you again, Frankenmuth. We might change more than Frankenmuth the next time we meet again, but we will be as familiar as a favorite blanket. They say that the strongest memory cues are smell and sound. How about taste? I could drive for hours in the dark for
chicken fish. Winner, winner.
All this way for chicken.
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6 thoughts on “Frankenmuth”
Amazing from start to finish. Can’t wait to go back!
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I miss everything at Frankenmuth!
Definitely all that way for chicken, Christmas ornaments and the clock. Remembering the chicken there made my mouth water. Glad you got to go back and enjoy it again, and making all the new treats known too. Photos were great! Well done!!!!
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Thank you! I hope you can visit Frankenmuth again soon!! All that way for chicken!!!
I love Frankenmuth. Been there many times. They have many festivals. I especially love the ice festival in January with the ice sculptures.
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Frankenmuth calls everyone back for more! Glad you love the ice festival!!
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