Visiting 1852 Grill Room on Mackinac Island

Just a short walk from downtown, 1852 Grill Room on Mackinac Island offers fine dining and a casually sophisticated atmosphere. As you enter, music from a live pianist sets the scene for a peaceful experience with breathtaking waterfront views and the timeless elegance of one of Mackinac Island’s most historic establishments.

We caught up with Executive Chef Phil Kromer to get an inside look at 1852 Grill Room. But first, let’s look at the history of 1852 Grill Room inside the historic Island House Hotel.

A plate of food at 1852 Grill Room restaurant on Mackinac Island including meat, potatoes and asparagus with a lemon

HISTORY OF 1852 GRILL ROOM ON MACKINAC ISLAND

Located inside the Island House Hotel, 1852 Grill Room is part of the establishment’s extensive history on Mackinac Island. Originally built as a beachfront resort for Charles O’Malley in 1852, the hotel would be inherited by different proprietors over a century, each working on expanding and improving the guest experience.

This was the case until owner Rose Van Allen Webster passed away in 1938, leaving the building vacant, as the tax rate became too high for anyone to purchase it. Although the Island House was used as a center for operations for an international peace organization in the 1940s, the subsequent owners of the establishment would not appear for decades. Finally, in 1969, Mackinac Island fudge king Harry Ryba, his son James Ryba, and Victor Callewaert purchased the hotel and began renovating it, carefully preserving as much of its history as possible. Renovations were completed in 1972, and the Island House Hotel reopened to the public.

Construction and alteration of 1852 Grill Room would be a part of the next series of renovations in the 1980s and again in 1995. The most recent transformation occurred in 2013, adding elegant décor and floor-to-ceiling windows, exposing a gorgeous view of the harbor. Today, the Island House Hotel and 1852 Grill Room remain a symbol of resilience and sophistication on Mackinac Island.

A couple clink wine glasses while sharing a delicious meal at 1852 Grill Room restaurant on Mackinac Island

Q&A WITH THE EXECUTIVE CHEF OF 1852 GRILL ROOM AT ISLAND HOUSE HOTEL

Executive Chef Phil Kromer has been crafting mouth-watering meals at 1852 Grill Room for nearly a decade. His dedication to delicious cuisine and excellent guest service is part of what makes dining at 1852 Grill Room a truly unforgettable experience.

This Q&A session with Kromer reveals more about his history, career, and life on Mackinac Island.

Q: Where are you from, and what brought you to Mackinac Island? 

A: I was born in Ohio and moved to Michigan when I was in middle school. We spent summers at the family cottage on Mullet Lake. Every year we would go to Mackinac Island for a day, ride around and have lunch at Ft. Holmes. Graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and, after working for Stouffer Restaurants and Chuck Muer, took a job as Chef at Hotel Iroquois on Mackinac Island. After five seasons, I left and married my wife, Megan. Returned to Mackinac Island as Executive Chef at Mission Point Resort for three seasons. Worked for Marriott and Renaissance Hotels in Cincinnati and Indianapolis. I accepted a position with the Callewaert family in 2013 and am now a year-round resident of Mackinac Island.

 

Q: 1852 Grill Room offers seasonal menu options for different times of the year. Do you prefer cooking during one season over another, and why? 

A: Mackinac Island’s tourism season (May-October) really has three seasons: spring on Mackinac Island, summer on Mackinac Island, and fall on Mackinac Island. We formulate menus on seasonal ingredients…ramps and morels in spring, Michigan fruits and veggies in summer, and root veggies and hearty dishes in the fall.

 

Q:What is your favorite meal to prepare at 1852 Grill Room? Does it differ from your favorite one to eat? 

A:We buy the best available ingredients, so I love all our dishes….my two favorites are Red Flannel Hash for breakfast and, in the fall, Wiener Schnitzel with braised red cabbage and spaetzle.

 

Q: What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned working as a chef? 

A: My management philosophy has always been to find out what people do best, let them do it, then fill in from there!

 

Q: What is the best part about living/working on Mackinac Island? 

A: I love the change in seasons on Mackinac Island and how things change based on those seasons. I also like that there is a beginning and an end to each season, so you get a chance to reset every year.

An appetizing plate of meat and veggies with a glass of wine at 1852 Grill Room restaurant on Mackinac Island

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