There sits a small shack in the heart of Leland’s historic Fishtown. Nothing special outside sets the shack apart from the fishing shanties surrounding it, except for a green sign over the front door that reads “Cheese” in all capital, golden letters. Inside this unassuming, little building are some of the best sandwiches in Michigan.
This is the Village Cheese Shanty, known to Fishtown locals as the Cheese Shop. They offer over 60 imported cheeses, and are open every day until they close in winter. The Shanty also offers award-winning Leelanau wine, plus beer from the Leelanau Brewing Company. All food sold is locally grown. People flock for miles just for a taste of the Shanty’s fresh made sandwiches and assortments of bread. The pretzel bread is particularly famous, and the shop often runs out of it before the day is done.
“It’s humbling,” says the owner Dave Kareck in regards to the Shanty’s popularity. “I love that people want the stuff we make.”
In an example of the Shanty’s popularity, High school students sneak off closed campuses and drive cross county just for lunch. That may seem like a lot to go through for a sandwich, but the Village Cheese Shanty’s legion of fans will argue it’s worth it. Not only is the food exquisitely delicious, but it is affordable as well. Each sandwich costs only $5.35. This includes things like the much sought-after pita sandwich, the Carp River (chicken breast with veggies, Leelanau peppercorn, fromage blanc, and pesto-mayo).
“I keep my prices low so I can be busy and keep the food fresh,” explains Kareck. “My employees make my business awesome. They are always pushing my philosophy of good fresh food.”
For those who have never been there, Fishtown is a unique cluster of historic fishing shanties born during Leland’s booming fishing industry. It is still home to various tug boats, Carlson’s Fish Market, and an assortment of other fun shops.
“We are in the act of preserving Fishtown,” Kareck says. “The more people I attract, the more maybe someone will donate to keep this awesome area for people to enjoy in the future. I love my job and this area, and I think it shows in what we do in my shop.”
The Village Cheese Shanty’s brochure describes the Shanty as “a never trendy, tourist friendly, palate teasing neighborhood story … that’s been nourishing Leelanau County with better than ever food for over 25 years.” It lives up to every single word.
Like the Village Cheese Shanty on Facebook for more information and specials. Be aware that the Village Cheese Shanty doesn’t accept credit or debit cards.