Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Overnight in Alpena Michigan

…continuing with our late summer road trip to Michigan and beyond.

Our overnight goal for this particular day was the Holiday Inn Express in Alpena Michigan.  Alpena is the county seat and the only city in Alpena County Michigan.  It was founded in 1840 and persevered despite disastrous fires in 1871, 1872 and 1888.  It has a population of about 10,197, down from 14,682 in 1960. 

Located along the shores of Lake Huron and Thunder Bay, the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is located in the city.  This marine sanctuary protects an estimated 116 historically significant shipwrecks, dating from wooden side-wheelers in the 1800s to steel-hulled steamers from the 1900s.  To learn more about the Sanctuary and to view the list of shipwrecks, go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunder_Bay_National_Marine_Sanctuary.  Also of note is the Michigan Islands National Wildlife Refuge located on islands in and around Thunder Bay.

Automobiles, trucks, trolleys, trains, ships and boats…some of my very favorite things for me to photograph and research.  The 95 foot long ‘MV Spencer F. Baird’ is a research vessel operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency that is used for Great Lakes research, fish population assessment and for the release of lake trout on offshore spawning reefs.  There are roughly 90 vessels working on various marine science projects across the 5 Great Lakes, but the ‘M/V Spencer F. Baird’ is the only hatchery fish distribution vessel.

Spencer Fullerton Baird (1823 – 1887) was an American naturalist, ornithologist, ichthyologist, herpetologist and museum curator.  He was the first curator to be named at the Smithsonian Institution in 1850, later serving as Secretary of that institution from 1878 to 1887.  Under his guidance, the natural history collections of the Smithsonian increased from 6,000 specimens in 1850 to over 2,000,000 in 1887

Another vessel noted in Alpena’s harbor was this craft operated by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.  The 50 foot long ‘RV Storm’ is operated by NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab (GLERL) and it is dedicated to supporting the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.  The ‘Storm’ is just one of about 40 watercraft operated by NOAA from Hawaii to the Florida Keys.

And then it was time to find a place to eat.  I’d chosen Courtyard Ristorante for our dinner as it was TripAdvisor’s #1 ranked restaurant in the Alpena area.  It was a bit too cold and rainy to eat in the Courtyard.  During our trip, the weather definitely favored us as we only had about 1 ½ days of intermittent rain.

Founded in the early 1980s, the Courtyard Ristorante and the Olde Rooste Lounge has been considered to be one of the best restaurants in northeastern Michigan.  It was a Sunday evening so both the bar and the dining room were fairly quiet.  In keeping with the north woods theme, the restaurant has utilized a lot of stone and wood in both construction and décor.

The young man in the second photo above was our waiter.  Evan was friendly, helpful and talkative.  We learned about his future plans for both he and his girlfriend.  Good Luck Evan!

I thought that Laurie was just taking a photo of my Miller Lite ($3.75) and her Moscow Mule ($8.00)…but she also ‘included’ yours truly in the picture.  A basket of homemade bread came with our meals and it was really great bread.  Evan brought us a second serving after we ravenously devoured the initial portion.

For an appetizer, we opted for the Calamari. ($12.00) The nori-sriracha dusted calamari rings were served with garlic-chili aioli.  It was a great choice.

We had considered 2 other possibilities for our appetizer.  First there was the Ahi Tuna Poke, sashimi tuna sautéed in sesame oil, soy sauce, nori, sesame seeds, onions and served with ocean salad and wasabi aioli. ($16.00) The other choice would have been the Seared Shrimp, 6 jumbo shrimp sautéed in a Thai-chili garlic butter and then topped with a chipotle glaze a parmesan baguette. ($14.00)

For her entrée, Laurie chose the Wild Yellow Belly Perch. ($22.00) She could have ordered it either breaded or pan seared.  Note that all entrees are paired with the diner’s choice of pasta, vegetable of the day, baked potato or steak fries.  A twice baked potato would have been $2.00 more.  A house salad was another $3.00, a specialty salad was $5.00 and the made from scratch soup was another $5.00.

While Laurie said that she really liked her meal, I thought that the visual of her fettuccini Alfredo was off-putting and $22.00 seemed a bit steep for 4 small perch filets.  Of course the most important factor is that she enjoyed her entrée…

She had also considered the Mac N’ Cheese Bake for her entrée. ($15.00)  This macaroni and cheese offering involved Trottole pasta with the Courtyard’s blend of Gruyere, aged sharp cheddar, goat and cream cheese, baked with mozzarella and parmesan cheese.  Depending on what other protein a diner might want with their Mac N’ Cheese, the price would have ranged from $20.00 with chicken up to $25.00 with Langostino. 

For my meal, I chose the Chicken Tetrazzini. ($18.00) The bocconcini pasta was tossed with Courtyard’s house-made Bianca sauce with chicken, spinach and parmesan cheese.  It normally comes with mushrooms and caramelized onions as well but I don’t like either of them.  I did enjoy my dinner…

I will admit that I was tempted to order the Almond-Encrusted Gorgonzola-Stuffed Chicken. ($22.00) The almond-encrusted chicken breast was stuffed with gorgonzola, broccoli and prosciutto and then it is drizzled with gorgonzola butter and it’s served on a bed of parmesan white truffle oil risotto.

The Courtyard Ristorante and Olde Roost Lounge is open for dinner 7 days a week beginning at 4 PM.  There is live music every Thursday…and they also have pizzas on the menu.  The restaurant is located at 2024 US Hwy 23 South in Alpena Michigan.  Website: http://www.courtyardristorante.com/.  

As we departed from Alpena the next morning to begin the next leg of our road trip, I did manage to photograph one historic place as listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The I.O.O.F. Centennial ‘flatiron’ Building at dates back to 1876.  It’s a mix of late Victorian commercial Italianate architecture.  It’s referred to as a ‘flatiron’ building given its wedge shape and its visual resemblance to old fashioned cast iron clothes irons.

Originally built for Samuel E. and Samantha Hitchcock, in 1901 it was sold to the local chapter of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, where Samuel was a member.  Various chapters of the I.O.O.F. occupied the building for 93 years.  Other occupants have included book and music stores, the city library, the Red Ribbon Society…a forerunner of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and a restaurant.  Based on the chairs on the upper balcony, someone is living here…and another occupant is the Alpena County Veterans Affairs Office.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. Spencer Fullerton Baird was for sure somebody!! I will have to google what ornithologist, ichthyologist, herpetologist are...that looks like a great dinner to me. I love calamari!!

  2. Those boats are interesting, as is the namesake. I removed first comment due to misreading something. Loved seeing and hearing all about the seafood. I'm drooling!

  3. Until your trip, I didn't realize Michigan's east coast was so unsettled.