DINING & DESTINATIONS: Latitudes offers appetizers with an attitude

Gastropub focus is on freshness, quality meal

moved to Big Rapids from Greenville, last year.

Before the move, I did a two-month hour commute from Greenville to Big Rapids.

My favorite route took me through Howard City. Each time I would drive north on Northland Drive I would see a blue, brick building, with a corner entrance between wooden pillars. Above that entrance are large letters on a sign that spell ‘Latitudes.’

I don’t know how many times I would ask myself, “I wonder if that place is any good?”

Finally, I started asking people, if they have tried Latitudes, and what they thought about the place?

A few responded with, “It’s OK,” but the majority were quite positive.

I remember Judge Scott Hill-Kennedy telling me about the appetizer menu during an interview.

He assured me the food wasn’t simply average pub food. I was intrigued and knew this would be my next stop for Dining and Destinations.

I made the trip to the establishment on Saturday, on my way back to Big Rapids after attending an estate auction in Greenville. I made some good deals and I was excited to try Latitudes, 101 East Edgerton St., in the village of Howard City.

Latitudes is a Gastropub — a pub, bar, or tavern that offers meals of high quality and high-end drinks. If it was anything like the Gastropubs I visit in Grand Rapids then I knew I would be in for a treat.

The menu at Latitudes features seafood, walleye, bluegill and other fish that you can find in the Great Lake State. There also is a nice selection of sandwiches and entrees. It’s not a large menu, but everything on it is priced in the range I would expect from a Gastropub. The waitstaff goes out of their way to make sure you are taken care of. I did not see the mussels on the menu I have heard about, but our server did tell me the menu changes with what is in season, so I understood.

I decided to start with the Bang Bang Shrimp appetizer for $9.90. I was told their shrimp are wonderful. Latitudes offers an all-you-can-eat shrimp and crab for $19.99 from 4 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays. I will have to check that out after eating our appetizer. The shrimp were cooked perfectly. Topped with crisp fried onion strings, the shrimp were tender — not tough and rubbery from being overcooked. Too often the shrimp I order come over done, but not these. Each bite the shrimp meat was juicy and their mild flavor offered a sweet taste, with a crunchy texture. The shrimp blended well in the sweet, pepper flake sauce they were coated in.

For dinner, I ordered the walleye for $16.90. The walleye is prepared in a lightly bread coating and pan-seared in extra virgin olive oil, lemon, garlic and Chardonnay sauce. It is served with a choice of soup or salad, fresh baked bread and the choice of baked potato or rice pilaf. My dining partner, ordered the Wisconsin Smoked Cheddar Burger for $9.50 with homemade steak fries.

We ordered everything at once and our entrees arrived shortly after we finished the appetizer, which was perfect because after eating the shrimp, I couldn’t wait to try the walleye.

The plate presentation was superb. The sauce glistened across the crisp breading and encompassed the fish on the plate. The tang of the lemon and sweet taste of the Chardonnay was the perfect finish for the fish. It didn’t mask the mild flavor of the fish, but enhanced it with the hints of lemon, garlic and herbs. The walleye had a slight crunch from the breading and was moist and flaky inside. The rice pilaf was plain tasting. It seemed generic compared to the taste of the fish.

My companions burger also satisfied. He likes his burger prepared rare and not many places will cook a burger to a perfect rare, but Latitudes does. Served on toasted Brioche bun with haystack onions, apple wood smoked bacon and aged smoked cheddar this thing looked like a monster. It also was the “perfect rare.”

Latitudes is worth making Howard City a destination stop. The village does have annual events held throughout the year such as its popular music in the park, winter festival and the farmers market. It may not be a beach town or a hub of tourist activity, but it does offer the hospitality of a Michigan small town. Whether you are looking to eat at Latitudes or want to see what the village has to offer, its well worth the trip.