The Bavarian Inn – Best Pancakes in Marquette
The following is from My Marquette – a perfect time to post it when October is in its golden height, so I offer it as an Oktoberfest tribute to Mrs. Latour who was from Germany. Note that in My Marquette, there are also pictures of the Bavarian Inn.
Bonanza was John’s favorite place to eat supper, but the Bavarian Inn was the best place in Marquette for breakfast. Even if there were a wait to be seated, it was well worth it. John would have waited an hour for those pancakes, just a bit thicker than crepes and topped with whipping cream and a choice of apples, peaches, or blueberries. He and Chad never had anything else. Let the grownups settle for eggs and coffee. Pancakes with whipping cream and fruit and hot chocolate with more whipping cream was his idea of a German cultural experience.
The Bavarian Inn itself was very German. Four dining rooms were darkly paneled as if the wood itself had come from the Black Forest, while red trim, Alpine decorations, and pictures of Bavarian villages decorated the rooms. The dining rooms were separated by walls containing shadow boxes made to resemble windows looking out upon German landscapes; the windows had ornate red shutters with hearts carved into them for an Alpine flavor. Arranged along the windowsills of the boxes were several little Hummel figures for added effect.
Presiding over this Bavarian world transplanted to Marquette was Ernestine LaTour. She had immigrated to the United States from Germany, and now that her husband, who had helped found the restaurant and its motel, was deceased, she had rented out the restaurant for others to manage, but a day never passed that she was not there, making sure all was well. Her husband had hired Henry to do some carpentry work when the hotel was first built, and since then, the families had been friendly. Many times she had been included in family parties at the Whitmans’ house when John was younger, but now he was at an age when her friendliness embarrassed him.
After saying hello to everyone, Mrs. LaTour asked, “John, do you remember that time you wanted to play hairdresser and I let you comb my hair?”
John smiled and nodded his head politely. He had not played hairdresser since he was five, and he could not imagine what had possessed him then.
The adults laughed, while Mrs. LaTour pulled up a chair, lit a cigarette, and visited with the family. Henry and Beth invited her for a Sunday drive that afternoon. Then she went to ensure her other guests were content while the waitress brought those delicious pancakes. — Superior Heritage
What I wouldn’t do to go back one more time to the Bavarian Inn to have the pancakes, rolled up almost like crepes, complete with loads of whipping cream and fruit topping!
But far more than the food made the Bavarian Inn special.
This German looking restaurant and motel was owned by Sherman and Ernestine LaTour. The Bavarian Inn was built in 1965, and while I don’t know all the details, my Great-Uncle Jolly was among those who helped to build it, and the LaTours were so happy with his work that on the front of the building when they painted the German boy and girl in traditional costume, Uncle Jolly (without a drop of German blood in him) was the model for the boy.
Then in 1976, the Bavarian Inn Restaurant was built in front of the motel. My grandfather was hired to do much of the restaurant’s fancy interior woodwork. The restaurant had shadow boxes in the walls separating the four different dining rooms, and these boxes contained pictures of Bavaria; to make the boxes look like windows with views of Germany, Grandpa made shutters with hearts carved into them. He would use the same heart pattern to make the shutters for my parents’ house. Grandpa also designed the wooden porch awning that ran inside the restaurant. The result was one of the most distinctive and beautiful restaurants in Marquette.
The Bavarian Inn Restaurant featured such German foods when it opened as weinerschnitzel, sauerbraten, and rostbraten. Eventually, however, the restaurant made a shift and became instead famous for its breakfasts and was renamed the Alpine Pancake House until 1986 when management changed and it became The Chalet Restaurant. In either case, throughout the 1980s it was always packed on Sundays for breakfast and remained open through the 1990s.
Because my grandparents became good friends with the LaTours, they always attended our family parties. Mr. LaTour was a short little man who was content to sit on a stool that was almost like a high chair at the kitchen table. He died in 1981 when I was only ten, so I barely remember him, but Mrs. LaTour I knew well. She had been born in Germany and retained her German accent. My grandparents would take her for Sunday drives after her husband died, and she was frequently at their house. One day when I wasn’t much more than five, she came over and let me play hairdresser with her hair. That was a mistake on my part. She never let me forget it. For years after that, she would always ask me whether I wanted to play hairdresser.
After my grandparents died, we did not see Mrs. LaTour very often. In the summer of 1998, when I came home from downstate to visit, I went with a friend to the Bavarian Inn for lunch. Mrs. LaTour was in a wheelchair by then and sitting on the other end of the restaurant. I was too embarrassed to go over and say hello to her from fear she would embarrass me in front of my friend by asking the usual hairdresser question.
Later, I felt guilty that I had not made a point of speaking to her. She died only about a month later. Her daughter who lived in Germany—we had no idea she had a daughter—came for the funeral, but since she lived in Germany, the Bavarian Inn was sold. It was soon after torn down. Today a Citgo gas station occupies where once it stood on the other side of Werner Street across from the Westwood Mall’s parking lot.
But I can still taste those pancakes with whipped cream and peaches on them—they really were that good.
Read more about Marquette’s history in My Marquette, available from www.MarquetteFiction.com and in bookstores throughout Marquette County.