I have been trying to get in touch and sync up with Chris Boyle for about a year. Unfortunately, our schedules just never could connect. Being a history buff, I wanted to see the plans Of the Dark Sky Tavern with what was likely one of the last buildings standing from the old lumber mill town of Port Crescent.
Boyle was the founder and creator of Port Austin Kayak, PAKs garage, and many other ventures in the Upper Thumb. I was surprised, but not shocked that he was taking on a renovation of such an old landmark on Port Austin road.
The old Buccaneer Den Restaurant site has been a buzzing hive of activity for well over a year, and I knew the Boyle had done extensive renovations with the old restaurant and motel. So I was anxious to see what it looked like.
Big Home Projects And No Energy For Making Dinner
We’d arrived at our place from in Caseville only two weeks before, and we were finishing up a long day of home improvement projects. Needless to say, we were too tired to fix anything. So we decided to head over to the Dark Sky Lodge. We were amazed and pleasantly surprised at that the look of the old restaurant at the end of Port Cresent road.
An Open and Airy Restaurant
First, let me say that Boyle has done a great job with the old Buccaneer Den. I remember the Buccaneer as something out of central casting from the 1960s Mad Men series. It was dark and smokey.
However, they have done a grand job with that former darkened dining room and transformed it into an open and welcoming place. There is a distinctly casual feel and an outside patio for large groups; all in all, I would say the word was “comfortable”. A huge improvement.
The Dark Sky Tavern’s Simple Menu, Classic Choices
Their menu is laid out on a simple one page, with some of the favorite barbecue items you would find in any serious BBQ restaurant. Our server, Nora was split between us in the main dining room and a large party on the patio. As we came to understand later that she had only been serving for a month, she did a great job juggling between her large party outside and us.
We ordered burnt ends as an appetizer, my wife ordered the BBQ nachos as dinner, and I ordered the BBQ plate with smoked brisket and pulled pork along the sides of barbecue beans and mac and cheese. We hardly had a couple of sips of beer before our order arrived on the table. Yep, Nora pushed our order to the front of the line, so we didn’t have to wait for the large party that arrived. That was a professional move by someone so new in the industry. Nice touch.
The Burnt Ends – Not To Be Missed
We order the burnt ends with a little bit of trepidation. From our experience in BBQ restaurants, these rib ends tend to be dry and as hard as beef jerky. However, what arrived with our beers was a tiny little tray of the tastiest, delightful,l and, I’ll say, decadent BBQ taste you will encounter anywhere. They were so rich that we didn’t finish them during our dinner, and they came home with us as an appetizer for the next day.
BBQ Nachos A Lighter Flavorful Option
If you’re not hungry but want to taste something delicious, I would get the barbecue nachos listed on the appetizer side of the menu as a dinner. Melissa ordered it with pulled chicken, and it was flavorful and scrumptious. It served as an excellent alternative to the heavier Taste of smoked meat & BBQ.
The Main Event – The Barbecue Plate
I ordered the barbecue plate with the smoked brisket and the pulled pork alongside the sides of BBQ beans and mac and cheese, all considered classics in the barbecue world. I was not disappointed. The brisket was tangy and flavorful, and I nipped small pieces along the way. The pulled pork, meh? It needed the BBQ sauce that was parked on every table.
The side items of barbecue beans were delicious and slightly sweet and could be ordered as a take-home option all to themselves. The mac and cheese oh, well, it was just plain mac and cheese, nothing too special. I consider the best Mac and Cheese in the state of Michigan belongs at the Clarkston Union in Oakland County.
The Vegetarian Options
While on this first visit, we didn’t try them, we noted several great-looking vegetarian options. Smoked lentils and the famous jackfruit are available on the barbecue nachos. The smoke lentils are also a side item, and a Michigan Cherry salad for a lighter option.
There are also menu items for kids ten and under. For example, they have both a pulled pork and a pulled chicken slider along with mac and cheese for only six bucks, a great option for little ones.
Final Thoughts on Dinner at the Dark Sky Lodge and Tavern.
Everything was so rich and flavorful that we could not finish. So we took it in a box for home and made our way out. I think it’s been over a hundred years or more since folks came to the former Lumber Town of Port Crescent for a complete hearty meal like what we had this evening.
We will be back and, hopefully, meet up again with Mr. Boyle and discuss what he will be doing next around the great little town at the end of the road of the destination town of Port Austin.