5 for Foodies: Michiana seafood restaurants to get hooked on this summer

We may live in the Midwest, but with Lake Michigan so close folks in Michiana are able to ditch the corn fields in favor of the open water. The oppressive summer heat and humidity that sweeps into the area begs for lighter meals, and there are few light meals as satisfying as seafood. Here are a couple of places where us Midwesterners can get a taste of the coast at home.

1: Lakehouse Restaurant and Bar

Photo by Joe Kuharic

Located a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan, this restaurant easily boasts the best view on the list.

Classic seafood lovers will find their favorites in perch and salmon, but the menu also boasts calamari, ahi tuna, walleye and a crabcake sandwich. The walleye, a rarity on many menus, comes on a bed of quinoa — an excellent palate cleanser for the fish — and is topped with a relish of tomatoes, red onions and balsamic vinaigrette and feta cheese to round out the texture of the meal.

The family-friendly restaurant celebrated its third anniversary in May, and has live music Friday and Saturday throughout the summer. Look for the addition of outdoor games — think large-scale Jenga — to be added this year.

The restaurant is located at 3029 Lakeshore Drive, St. Joseph, Michigan. Hours are 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday; and 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call (269) 982-8020 or visit thelakehouserestaurant.com.

2: Grande Mere Inn

Photo by Joe Kuharic

The Grande Mere Inn is a southwestern Michigan institution.

The restaurant and its owners, the Racine family, have been giving back to the community for 37 years. The family and restaurant host an annual fundraiser for the Readiness Center, and were honored at a ceremony by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2015 for their spirit of volunteerism.

The menu offers a great selection of seafood: there are acquired tastes such as escargot and oysters, as well as perennial favorites such as shrimp, lobster and crab, as well as more difficult to find items such as swordfish. The lightly battered perch, paired with dill tartar sauce, will keep you coming back year-round. If you’re lucky, you may visit when the restaurant offers its rare soft-shell crab, but there is a will-call list so you may have to try and muscle some regulars for a spot at the table.

The restaurant is located at 5800 Red Arrow Highway, Stevensville, Michigan. Hours are 4:30 p.m. to close Tuesday to Saturday. For more information, call (269) 429-3591 or visit grandemereinn.com.

3: The Stray Dog Bar & Grill

Photo by Joe Kuharic

The Stray Dog rebuilt in June 2013 after an electrical fire devastated the restaurant in 2012. The restaurant has the fewest seafood choices on this list, but what it lacks in breadth, it makes up in depth. Stray Dog offers three different types of fish tacos — tilapia, shrimp and mahi — that are packed to the gills.

The three mahi tacos are stuffed with black beans, red onions, corn, tomatoes and citrus slaw, and each is topped with a melt-in-your-mouth avocado slice. They come on flour tortillas, but don’t be afraid to ask for corn tortillas if that’s your flavor. Arguably just as eyebrow-raising is the hard-to-find-on-a-menu-in-the-Midwest grilled grouper.

The restaurant is located at 245 N. Whittaker St., New Buffalo, Michigan. Hours are noon to midnight daily. For more information, call (269) 469-2727 or visit thestraydog.com.

4: Fat Cam’s at Garver Lake

Photo by Joe Kuharic

If you are looking to spice up your seafood life, then Fat Cam’s Louisiana-style Cajun/Creole has you covered. The menu boasts gumbo, grits, étouffée, gator and catfish, any one of which will have you licking your lips in anticipation.

The catfish, served deep fried or blackened, comes with multiple sides as an option, but we highly recommend the smoked Gouda grits. The juicy, flakey and expertly-spiced blackened catfish is complemented so well by the creamy in-your-face grits that ordering anything else — I’m looking at you, French fries — is a sin.

Surprisingly, Fat Cam’s was the only restaurant on the list currently serving catfish. They also had bluegill as a menu special. Check in often to see what surprises the special menu offers.

The restaurant is located at 25020 May St., Edwardsburg, Michigan. Hours are 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday; 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (269) 414-4446 or visit fatcamsatgarverlake.com.

5: Chubby Trout

Photo by Joe Kuharic

After 10 years in its original location , owner Cam Snyder purchased the former Golden Egg Pancake House on Elkhart’s north side — a former horse stable many moons before — last year and recently reopened in the new space.

But one thing hasn’t changed: Seafood comes first.

Chubby Trout offers an extensive seafood menu including the namesake, which is open-lake trout from “the other lake, ”  Lake Huron. The restaurant offers a good amount of sushi and sashimi on the menu, including combination samplers, group “boats” and house favorites.

The restaurant is located at 3421 Plaza Court, Elkhart, Indiana. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call (574) 264-5700 or visit chubbytrout.com.