Archive for September, 2009

Silver Beach Pizza

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Silver Beach Pizza
St. Joseph, MI

Good Food : 4.5/5 | Good Service : 4.5/5 | 100% non-smoking

Over the past 5 years, several new food establishments have set up shop in this little corner of Southwest Michigan. Some of them are no longer in business, while several figured out the correct combination of food, local demand/taste, ambiance and customer service. Silver Beach Pizza is one of them.

This pizza place is actually a franchise restaurant from the Gelsosomo’s Franchise Corporation, which is the current iteration of Gelsosomo’s Pizza in Portage, Indiana. I’ve not had a chance to visit one of the regular Gelsosomo restaurants, but if the experience at Silver Beach Pizza is any indication, I’ll probably like the other locations as well.

Silver Beach is located in the old Amtrak railroad station in downtown St. Joseph, and is a 5 minute walk from the beach. The old station interior was updated to house the pizza restaurant and a dedicated bar area, with the outside gated wait area converted into an outside patio dining area. The interior lighting is slightly dim, but enough so that you don’t feel that you’re in a dark cave.

There are a variety of items on the menu to appeal to all tastes – a selection of appetizers, sandwiches, calzones, several pasta dishes as well as a ‘build your own’ option can be ordered, but I go here for the pizza. Silver Beach Pizza does a thin-crust type pizza with the ingredients going almost to the edge of the pizza crust. They offer pizzas in 10″, 13″ and 15″ pan sizes, and you can either order one of several standard combinations (cheese, sausage, pepperoni, mushroom), add additional toppings, or order one of their specialty signature pizzas.

I’ve always had a good experience ordering either one of the standard pizza combos or one from the signature menu. The crust is always crisp and crunchy, without a greasy bottom. The pizzas are brought to the table in plastic black pizza ‘pans’ which have a raised bumpy bottom that prevents the crust from getting soggy. The amount of sauce to toppings ratio is just enough to provide moisture and flavor without overpowering the rest of the pizza ingredients or dripping on your plate when you bite into it.

Unique to Silver Beach’s service approach is the green/red disk that sits at each table. The idea behind this concept : if you are enjoying your dinner, keep the disk green-side up. But if you need assistance, flip it over so that the red side is facing up and a staff member is usually there within several minutes to offer assistance. It’s a unique approach to service, but it works in the family-type environment that Silver Beach is presenting.

El Cozumel Mexican Grill

Monday, September 21st, 2009

El Cozumel #2
3029 Lakeshore Dr
St Joseph, MI
(269) 982-8020

Good Food : 4/5 | Good Service : 4.5/5

Owned by the same people that run the El Rodeo #8 restaurant in Benton Harbor, MI, El Cozumel brings decent Mexican food to a town traditionally known for its Italian restaurants. If you don’t want to eat the standard Mexican/Tex Mex food at El Rodeo, El Cozumel offers a nice alternative with an attempt to offer Jalisco-style cuisine to the American palate.

The restaurant is located in the former Mansion Grille location, and the overall building has not been changed. What the current owners have done is update the paint scheme and decorations both inside and outside of the restaurant to reflect the Mexican-themed restaurant.

This is a local chain restaurant (the original El Cozumel is located in the Courtland Center mall in Burton, Michigan) and the end product reflects this. The food menu is a light plastic-laminated binded book featuring the various appetizers, main dishes, house specialties and à la carte items available. The drinks menu has the usual fountain selections, the standard Bud Light-type light beers, but also offers some Mexican selections such as Negra Modelo. The restaurant is also able to offer mixed drinks, and you can get their ultimate margarita made with Jose Cuervo 1800 or the house margarita.

The carne asada toluca dish that I ordered was a very thin skirt steak cooked on the grill, and was slightly tough as it had been cooked well-done instead of medium/medium-well. My husband got the Fajitas Cozumel, which came with strips of steak, chicken, chorizo and pineapple rings in addition to the traditional bell peppers and onions.

2 disappointments :

  • We got flour tortillas instead of corn tortillas with our meal, a concession to the American palate. But the wait staff was very quick to bring more when we ran through our alloted 3 each taco-sized tortillas which came with each dish. And the amount of food made the $11.99 price for each dish definitely a bargain.
  • Parking is still a challenge, as the original parking lot has not been expanded, and there is some parking bleedover from the Holiday Inn hotel which is literally right behind the restaurant.

We’ll definitely be going back – perhaps when it is warmer so that we can have dinner in the outside patio/porch area & watch the sunset while sipping our margaritas …