LAC LA BELLE - After much anticipation, the Bear Belly Bar & Grill at the Lac La Belle Lodge is reopening Monday, Dec. 26.
Situated on beautiful Lac La Belle, the Bear Belly Bar & Grill and adjacent cabins is a premier destination for snowmobilers, families and those simply looking to head outdoors and enjoy Keweenaw County's scenic backcountry.
The full-service bar and restaurant opens at noon daily and the menu features made-from-scratch soups, chili, sandwiches, salads, dressings as well as a variety of homemade dinner entres. One of their more famous sandwiches, which lures appetites from across the Upper Peninsula, is the reuben.
Left, Lac La Belle Lodge and Bear Belly Bar & Grill owners Troy and Cathy Westcott are seen in the business in Lac La Belle.
"We have a couple that comes in from Marquette and tells us we have the best reuben in the U.P.," owner Cathy Westcott said. "We also have a guy who has his own plane and he flies in for our fish sandwiches and his friend loves our reuben."
Served hot, the reuben is made from slow-cooked brisket, topped with swiss cheese, sauerkraut and a homemade classic Russian sauce on swirled marble rye bread. On the side, the restaurant features beer-battered Brew City fries.
Dave Menominee, who has been manager at the lodge for the past 10 years, said they offer a homestyle turkey dinner on Sunday with homemade stuffing and mashed potatoes "starting at noon until we run out."
For the hungriest of appetites is the 10-ounce char-broiled Bruno Burger, named after a black bear that used to hang around the lodge.
"Everyone called him Bruno, so that's how it got its name," he said.
A big draw for visitors to the Bear Belly Bar & Grill is the atmosphere.
With its natural cedar timbers, animal mounts and view of the lake and surrounding hillsides, diners feel cozy and comfortable.
"There's not too many views like this around," Dave said. "We always encourage our wait staff to talk with the customers, too, and doing it that way, we get a lot of return customers."
Like many visitors to the U.P., Cathy and her husband Troy fell in love with the Keweenaw and ended up purchasing the Lac La Belle Lodge in 2000 when they moved from downstate with their four children.
"It's been a family operation ever since," she said. "We absolutely love it here."
In addition to the Bear Belly Bar & Grill, the lodge offers cabin rentals and a convenience store.
There are two, one-bedroom cabins and four, two-bedroom cabins available for rental by the night. There's also "The Big House," for an occupancy of eight. All rentals include satellite TV and full kitchens with dishes, pots, pans and utensils. Rental prices range from $109 to $259 per night.
Cell phone service is limited, however, free WiFi is available in the restaurant and bar area, as well as in some of the cabins.
Situated on snowmobile Trail 132, less than a quarter mile from Mount Bohemia Extreme Ski Resort, the Lac La Belle Lodge is a prime getaway for outdoor enthusiasts. Even snowshoers and cross country skiers alike can take advantage of the backcountry wilderness.
And just in case visitors forgot something behind, the convenience store carries a little bit of everything, from beer and wine and spark plugs to engine oil, munchies, aspirin and gasoline.
"We usually keep it open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. but if someone runs into a problem where they need emergency gas, if the bartender is here, they can help them out," Cathy said.
During the remodel in 2006 owner Troy Westcott wanted to utilize as many local resources as they could. The natural woods seen in the bar were from John Simila. Local taxidermist Brad Fortin created all of the animal mounts and Kirkish Furniture put in the blinds. Wood carving artisan Dan DeForge created the restaurant's unique door.
"It's important for us to keep the businesses around the area going," she said.
Cathy said the lodge has been a family operation since they purchased the business. Their son Zach and daughters Alexandra, Meghan and Gabriele all help out. Even their employees are like family.
"Most of them live right around the lake," she said. "We're like one big family."
Down the road, Bear Belly Bar & Grill will feature guest bartender John Dee, who will be raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Cathy said they will be matching the tips John Dee makes during his shift Jan. 21 and all proceeds will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Bear Belly Bar & Grill offers a variety of logo items for sale including cozies, pint and wine glasses, shot glasses, hats, t-shirts, sweatshirts and more.
For more information or to make a cabin reservation, call the Bear Belly Bar & Grill at (888) 294-7634 or (906) 289-4293.
Visit laclabellelodge.com for additional information.
Editor's note: This feature is part of a paid advertising package purchased by Bear?Belly Bar & Grill of Lac La Belle. Businesses interested in being featured on the Business page may call Yvonne Robillard at 483-2220.