EMMA BUSH COLUMN: A place from which continue to come really good things

Emma Bush

I had such a good day. When I say a good day, I mean a REALLY wonderful day. It was Friday, and you would have thought it was an early spring day in April. The warm sun was rapidly melting the ice and snow. The highway was dry on a journey that only last week had taken us through a Michigan winter wonderland on our way to Hersey. We had gone back to Hersey after rescheduling our visit to the new River Junction restaurant.

I am on my mission to catch myself up on what is happening in today’s world, and I can already say that I am going to learn a lot in a hurry based on just what happened today. Did you know, for example, that Hersey is NOT located at the end of the world, it’s the place where the world BEGINS — that it is an example of a place from which continue to come really good things.

That was the answer from Randy Gibson, the dessert chef at the River Junction restaurant. It was his answer when we asked him about why anyone would locate such a nice restaurant so far from everywhere out here at the end of the world.

Before we left an hour-and-a-half later, it felt like Randy was talking about more than just the good food served at River Junction. We left Hersey with the impression that Hersey is a place where good people come from, people who actually know who lives next door and neighbors who help each other. A place where a group of people are willing to work together to rebuild a restaurant to fulfill a lifelong dream, to have a job and build a life for a family, or to just plain help make it happen because of the challenge it represents.

But, getting back to the River Junction restaurant’s food itself. Let’s start with one of the desserts from the Friday dessert menu, the River Junction Jack Daniels bourbon-bread pudding. It was not just good, it was the best I have ever tasted and I’m talking about 96 years of tasting bread pudding. It was a homemade, three inch thick, fluffy and moist bread pudding with a wonderful cake-like texture with a very nice cinnamon flavor thoroughly blended throughout. A slightly sweetened, rum sauce (with Jack Daniels in place of the rum) had been generously poured over the top and down all four sides with a dollop of whipped topping nestled against the dessert where it landed after losing its balance during the trip from the kitchen.

I want to leave some dessert discoveries for you, the readers, when you try the River Junction restaurant, so I won’t describe the whipped, lightly-flavored, lightly-textured peanut butter cream pie on a homemade graham cracker crust with a top lightly drizzled with chocolate fudge and garnished with crushed Reese’s Pieces. Then, in the case of another dessert, one member of the River Junction staff admitted to the tape recorder to having eaten the last piece of Texas chocolate swirl cake earlier that afternoon. She then went on to describe it as having been very, very good with vanilla cream swirls on chocolate-frosted chocolate cake that started out as big as a wedding cake. Looks like you and I both will have to get there before noon someday to find a piece left so that we can find out what she was talking about.

Having read this glowing food report, your first impression might be to wonder if the restaurant had advanced warning that we were coming or that the meal was free in exchange for a few complimentary words, but be rest assured that our report is true — cross my heart and hope to die as we used say back when I was a kid. The food really was good and the check was $31.46 plus as much of a tip as I could muster this close to the end of the month. Not bad for the quality and amount of food eaten by the three of us. When I say the food was good, I’m talking homemade meals, including potato chips sliced fresh and fried in the kitchen, and hand-breaded mushrooms, hand-breaded chicken strips and fish, and fresh meat sliced off chunks of butchered meat on an as-ordered basis, homemade desserts, etc.

As far as the restaurant itself, we’re talking about a well done, spacious, country-type restaurant with a bar. I didn’t notice one of those old fashioned, cast-iron, pot belly stoves with a chrome dome decoration on top or a fancy old wood burning kitchen stove sitting around as a decoration, but it is that kind of good feeling place that you might expect to find something like that sitting around.

River Junction hasn’t even advertised yet or had a grand opening, but even so, on the first night after opening, there were cars parked the full length of the main street on both sides. In fact I can testify to that because when my son, John, and I came that night, there wasn’t any place to park. There wasn’t even any place to turn around, so we had to drive out to US-10 and come back to Big Rapids the long way.

We learned that the next River Junction step will be to try out a “Feature Night,” which sounded like it was going to be all homemade specials that include, beef stroganoff on Tuesday, Mexican margarita on Wednesday, lasagna on Thursday, something-fried on Friday and then prime rib on Saturday.

We met some really good people in our visit to the River Junction restaurant, the kind of people that you feel comfortable with almost as soon as you meet them. As interesting as anything, was the River Junction “team” that is making it all happen. The American spirit yet lives on in Hersey. It lives in people who believe that individuals have the God-given right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” where the God-given right is the pursuit of and the work for happiness, not a guarantee of happiness itself. It is my prayer that Larry and Nancy Turner and all those wonderful others whose names were lost in the noise on the tape recorder, will each realize their hopes and dreams beyond anything you can imagine.

And to Bion Jacobs, the brother of Pat Jacobs from last week’s article, your wonderful stories and information will be a part of another article. You were correct, Pat. Your brother has local Osceola history and a memory beyond anything I ever expected. Thank you both so very much. We will meet again.

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