As the days get colder and brisk winter winds blow the last crunchy leaves from the trees, some Michiganders greet winter with enthusiasm, hitting slopes, ice rinks and cross-country trails the second the first snowflake appears. Others don flannel and disappear under heavy blankets in their toasty dens, not to be seen outdoors until the grass is green. Whether Michigan winters spark joy in you or not, there’s one thing we can agree on: There’s nothing like warming up by a roaring fire. In the dead of winter a few years back, my spouse and I mapped out a fireplace restaurant tour, sipping and snacking our way around the area’s coziest restaurant fireplaces, and it’s been a tradition for us every winter since. Here are our favorite spots:
Cove Lakeside Bistro
9110 Portage Road, Portage
Overlooking West Lake, the Cove offers delicious seafood and steaks along with unobscured waterfront and sunset views through its west-facing wall of windows. The juxtaposition of the frozen snow-covered lake and the fire burning in the long, modern glass fireplace makes you feel like you’re fooling Mother Nature as you warm your bones by the flickering embers.
Few things can top a cozy seat by the lake and by a warm fire except maybe the Cove’s hot, bubbling Lobster Fondue and a steamy bowl of Hampton Clam Chowder. But beware, you will be thinking about this comfort food for days afterward.
For more information or to make reservations, call 350-5380 or visit covewestlake.com. The restaurant currently closes at 9 p.m.
The Dock at Bayview
12504 East D Ave., Richland
Walking into The Dock feels like walking into your best friend’s living room. Its laid-back vibe is just as warm and welcoming as its toasty fireplace. The restaurant/bar, set on a hilltop overlooking the east end of Gull Lake, offers a casual atmosphere, plus live music on weekends. The food is great, the service is friendly, and there’s always plenty of room near the fire. There’s a second circular fireplace in The Dock’s banquet room, reserved for larger parties.
The Dock is also home to one of the biggest and most unusually stocked Bloody Mary bars in the state. I have watched people roll by with all kinds of things sticking straight out of a big Bloody Mary mug, including ham and cheese roll-ups, pickles, olives, hot peppers, grilled vegetable skewers, peel ‘n’ eat shrimp, chicken wings and mini pork sliders. You can watch the Bloody Mary parade from the fireplace from noon–3 p.m. every Sunday. It’s a first-class buffet in a glass.
For more information, call 731-4911 or visit thedockatbayview.com. The restaurant closes at 11 p.m. Monday–Friday and 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
3501 Greenleaf Blvd.
Martell’s, a Kalamazoo institution overlooking Willow Lake in Parkview Hills, offers three fireside dining options. You know it’s going to be cozy when you enter the restaurant’s lobby and feel like you’ve stepped into an old English Tudor residence with leather club chairs and long, comfy window seats under large leaded-glass windows. The main dining room, which faces the lake with most tables having unobscured lake views, offers a large, triangular fireplace that allows open views of the flames from either side of the room. A similar fireplace is featured in the restaurant’s banquet room for large groups (up to 55 guests, with a 25-person minimum). Or you can find a cozy table for two right next to a fireplace in the lower-level bar area. Sometimes it gets so toasty in the bar that the bartenders need to wear shorts and tank tops in the winter.
Martell’s mushroom soup is remarkable and pairs extremely well with a roaring fire, as do the house-roasted meatballs with red wine sauce.
For more information or to make reservations, call 375-2105 or visit martellsparkviewhills.com.The restaurant closes at 10 p.m.
Panera Bread Company
5627 Gull Road
If you score one of two tables directly adjacent to the open-sided fireplace at Panera, you can enjoy fresh, delicious treats, both baked and brewed, while the warmth of the fire soothes your soul. Panera has perfected a coffee-shop atmosphere where you can relax, read or chat with a friend. Panera has also made no-contact food service easy, with three no-contact ordering options: online, app or lobby kiosk. Just walk in and grab your order or hit the kiosk to order and then grab your fireside seat.
There are so many favorites from Panera, but if its mac and cheese doesn’t scream warm and fuzzy, I’m not sure what does. Whatever your pleasure in food and drink, enjoying it in a comfy seat by the fire on a cold winter day at Panera will make it even better.
For more information, call 345-8888 or visit panerabread.com. The restaurant currently closes at 9 p.m.
3970 W. Centre Ave., Portage
Entering the main dining room feels like checking in at the lodge of a high-end nature resort. You’re immediately drawn to the establishment’s two-story fieldstone fireplace, anchored on a wall of glass that overlooks the natural wetlands of the Moors Golf Club. This floor-to-ceiling fireplace, burning every day fall through winter, is the most grand on our tour. It was constructed with stones excavated from the property of Millennium Restaurant Group partner Ken Miller. Its flickering fire washes over you like the warmth of an old friend.
On the other side of the restaurant, the open kitchen offers flames of its own in a rotisserie, wood-burning grill and stone pizza oven. A 14-inch stone-fired pizza and a bowl of Herbed Chicken & White Bean Soup are highly recommended for winter chill elimination.
For more information or to make reservations, call 321-8480 or visit fieldstonegrillwoodbridge.com.The restaurant currently closes at 9 p.m.