By Debi Lander
The regular crowd at my latest road-trip food pick is a pretty wild bunch. In fact, the countless mountain lions, beaver, coyote, mink, squirrels, moose, deer, elk, fish, and even a polar bear just hanging around Antlers Restaurant in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, America's third-oldest city, far outnumber the diners on even the busiest night.
Town legend says trappers once exchanged the stuffed specimens for booze. The place is so weird and wild that three episodes of Gunsmoke were filmed here.
The establishment had a colorful start as the Bucket of Blood Saloon and Ice Cream Parlor during the Prohibition era--the ice cream part a cover, of course. Eagle-eyed officials discovered the place sold just one quart of the sweet stuff a month while taking in a profit of $900 and closed the parlor down.
Four generations and six families of owners have operated the place since then, with the Szabo and Cunningham families purchasing Antlers in 2009. They've continued the raucous tradition of boat whistles, horns, and hair-raising announcements that blare from the P.A. at regular intervals. Kids love it!
No surprise that St. Patrick's Day at Antlers is celebrated heartily with green beer and dancing on the tables. "May you be in Heaven an hour before the Devil knows you're dead" is a popular Irish saying around here.
As befits any noteworthy culinary oddity, the menu connects with the theme: venison pie, wild game lasagna, and moose tracks sundaes.
You'll find this fine collection of fur, feathers, and fish on Portage Avenue at the south end of the Soo Locks on St. Mary's River connecting Lakes Superior and Huron.
Come in for a Soo Stew Canoe of freshly baked bread filled with Michigan gumbo or the Paul Bunyan burger. Just be careful what you say. The walls have ears.