What stands out in people’s memories? Ask that question of a dozen passersby, and you might get a dozen answers: weddings, births, graduations, special vacations. All of these examples are good, noble, and vivid. But, if we’re honest with ourselves, we might add something else to the list: we remember food. To give us a taste of nostalgia, this week’s Flashback Friday presents a few menus from local restaurants of the not-so-distant past. Maybe memories of a favorite dish will come flooding back.
For college students and other young people with busy schedules, a quick but hearty lunch is always a hit–as is a place that stays up late for those midnight cravings. Togo’s, located on Shelden Avenue in downtown Houghton, billed itself as “the home of the submarine sandwich.” As of 1972, it offered some 34 variations on the sub, including warm and cold options. A 1982 menu listed several signatures among them: the Bomb Steak (with steak, onions, cheese, peppers, and genoa salami), the Torpedo Steak (which added mushrooms to the Bomb Steak), and family-size versions of traditional subs that measured an impressive two feet each in length! Togo’s knew its college-town audience: at one point, it stayed open until 2am on weekdays and 3am on some Fridays and Saturdays, as well as offering occasional deliveries to campus. Togo’s began selling sandwiches in Houghton by 1971 but disappeared from the city directories by 1987.
Another downtown Houghton restaurant became a staple as Togo’s neared the end of its local life. Marie Catrib, an immigrant from Lebanon who settled in Michigan as a young wife, had sold baked goods to Copper Country colleges and grocery stores before opening her own cafe. Marie’s Deli, at 518 Shelden, served its first customer in 1985 with a menu ranging from local favorites (pasties) to American classics (Reuben sandwiches) to tastes of Marie’s childhood (baba ghanoush). Breakfast fare featured hearty sides of potatoes, spiced with a special Marie’s blend of seasoning. At one point, the deli also offered a mail-order service, allowing distant diners to taste her cheesecake and cookies. In 2000, Marie left the Copper Country to pursue other opportunities. She would eventually operate a new incarnation of her restaurant in Grand Rapids until her death in 2013, serving some of her Houghton hits to Yooper expats.
A little further outside town sat a restaurant equally known for casual eats and elegant fare. The Onigaming Supper Club operated in the historic 1924 headquarters of the one-time Onigaming Yacht Club. Naturally, a social organization focused on boating needed a prime location on the water, and the Onigaming delivered with a self-described “superb view of Portage Lake,” a broad porch, and a dock stretching to 190 feet. After the yacht club disbanded in 1962, just shy of its 70th anniversary, the managers of the Douglass House acquired it for a restaurant. In keeping with its history, the supper club featured a menu with a heavy dose of fish: in addition to the house special of planked Lake Superior trout, whitefish, lake perch, shrimp, and lobster tail were on offer. Its side spinach and bacon salad, available with all entrees, quickly became famous locally. The Onigaming, open seasonally, later became the Onigaming Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge. Today, the vacated building bears the name Pilgrim Point.
For every nostalgic restaurant in Houghton, another can be found in Calumet, Hancock, Lake Linden, Copper Harbor, or the wooded hamlets along UP highways. Some–like the Onigaming, Togo’s, and Marie’s–exist only in the memory, alongside the special occasions celebrated there, the late night snacks purchased there, or the warm company who shared our meals.