Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer
Date night at my house occasionally involves a movie and popcorn at the local movie theater. Sometimes, after a long week of work, we don’t have the energy to leave the house, but instead flip on a late-run movie and order a pizza.
With spring in the air, however, we could all make a little more of an effort to improve our cultural and culinary IQ.
Drive in any direction and you can find an outstanding meal and high-quality, live theater and music of all genres. Following are three of my favorites.
Our own little town of Marshall boasts two live theater options, and several great restaurant choices.
With its recent refurbishment, the Franke Center for the Arts is a gem of a small theater venue, and there isn’t a bad seat in the house. In 1921, the Center started out as the Brooks Memorial Methodist Church. The Marshall community came together in 1998 to save the historic building, and the Marshall Civic Center Trust was born.
Many small Michigan communities, such as Marshall, build their cultural life around an iconic place like the Franke, and its appeal is built on the strength of local patrons and volunteers. The Marshall Civic Players are putting on “Boeing Boeing” this weekend and next.
Another choice for live performances in Marshall — Great Escape Stage Company — is a tiny theater in the round. You can buy tickets right now for an almost participatory theater experience. “The Light in the Piazza” opens May 19.
Right down the block is the venerable Schuler’s restaurant, where fresh new plates join traditional favorites on the Winston’s Pub and Centennial Dining Room menus. The prime rib sandwich is my favorite. During the season, Schuler’s outside seating area beckons the pre-theater crowd.
Another popular Marshall destination is Zarzuela’s. The tapas and sangria are perfect theater-night complements.
Kalamazoo has several live theater and music venues. My favorite is the State Street Theatre. Since 1927, the theater has been an anchor of downtown. Many acts have tread its boards, including vaudeville, big band, ballet and opera. In 1985, a group of concerned citizens came together to “Save the State,” and another landmark venue was preserved.
Kalamazoo has a diverse and well-established food scene, with personal favorites Rustica, Zazios and Bold leading the way.
Before catching one of the music acts at the State this spring, try new destination Principle Food & Drink for dinner. Principle is a rustic-chic hangout serving cocktails and food they call “elevated comfort grub,” made with local ingredients. As a starter, the cheddar biscuits are to die for. And if you like veggies, I suggest the beet salad or spring pea soup. Small plates such as the crispy chicken thigh (with hash-roasted new potato, garlic sausage and romesco sauce) bring fresh flavors to the table. The real appeal is Principle’s mixology, however. The Smoked Sazarac is a show-stopper, with infused smoke from a small device adding to the presentation and flavors.
A short drive away from Calhoun County is the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea. This high-quality regional theater is celebrating its 25th anniversary, the product of actor Jeff Daniel’s dream to create a strong local repertory theater. Now the theater is a community landmark with a significant economic impact on the surrounding county.
The same year Purple Rose opened, Craig Commons created the Common Grill as a dining destination for theater-goers. Both the theater and the restaurant have thrived. Try the fresh oysters for a special treat before the show.
These are just three area choices. So many more communities offer similar “dinner and a show” experiences. Try them the next time you and your significant other are looking for an evening out.