When I was in fourth grade, the art teacher introduced us to an art form called stippling. I was intrigued by this idea and started out very well, but soon got bored and made the dots bigger and bigger. My chosen subject was something I often doodled at the time, a dolphin jumping out of the water, in this case, at sunset. I believe that is what I titled the piece: dolphin jumping out of the water at sunset. Or something like that.
Whatever my level of interest was in the project, the teacher was impressed with my sunset dolphin enough to enter it in an area competition, and it ended up in a regional show of children's artwork in St. Joseph, Michigan. So one evening, my family and I took the roughly one hour trip to St. Joe from Portage and oohed and ahhed over my dolphin at sunset painting. I had never felt more proud (and amazed at how easily impressed adults are).
That was my first and only trip to St. Joe until last weekend, roughly twenty years after that memorable night in the St. Joe library. I had one image of the city in my memory, still, like a postcard. And I saw it before my eyes again as my friend rounded a corner at the top of the bluff as we headed toward Silver Beach Pizza along Lake Michigan's shore.
I was told that Silver Beach Pizza is a staple of St. Joe. As soon as we approached the old train station that houses the pizzeria, I had a good feeling about the place, and once inside, I was not disappointed. We sat in the enclosed patio where we had an excellent view of Silver Beach, the indoor carousel across the way, and even watched a train go by.
This may be an odd thing to note, but this is the restroom I have ever been in that had a foot pedal to open the door from the inside. Intriguing and also a decent idea. That way you don't have to touch the door handle, which I suppose is probably swimming with germs.
The pizza was as excellent as the view, so if you are in the St. Joe area, I highly suggest stopping by. We ordered a pizza margherita, one of my favorites, and I was not in the least disappointed. I also highly recommend the bread sticks. Though I did not order a drink, they had a good sized beer selection with a few names I recognized as beers that my beer-drinking friends enjoy. They also had a few good wines for the wine-lovers out there.
After our meal, my friends and I walked over to Silver Beach, often rated as one of the best beaches in America, let alone along Lake Michigan's shore, and I can see why. It's far more expansive than the beach I often went to in South Haven growing up, and is not the slightest rocky as a lot of beaches along the Lakes tend to be. I'm convinced that Silver Beach is must-stop for all serious beach-goers.
For anyone who enjoys old architecture, driving along the bluffs is a treat. You get to see all the Old Chicago Money in action via gorgeous old homes overlooking the Lake. To this day, many people of Chicago still use St. Joseph as a summer resort town, and locals are often heard griping about the FIP (F***ing Illinois People), a term I have occasionally heard on this side of the Mitten, as well. (Though people around here are more likely to complain about visitors from Ohio than Indiana (Kalamazoo's favorite grievance) or Illinois.)
Downtown St. Joe is also delightful with its old buildings and vintage storefronts. Much like Ann Arbor, St. Joe has coffee shops, ice cream shops, little stores to pop into, and even a Kilwin's to satisfy the fudge craving you didn't even know you had.
So not only did I enjoy my time with friends that I do not see nearly enough, but I was very happy to finally get to give a real visit to St. Joseph, a city that is an often overlooked jewel, at least in its home state. It is with confidence that I recommend St. Joe as a summer destination, or even as a winter destination. I've seen some killer pictures of the St. Joe lighthouse covered in ice.
(Seriously, image-search it. It's awesome.)