Under Construction

Dining, drinking, or shopping at Ferndale’s M-Brew is like taking a road trip up north


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Photographs by Erin Marie Miller

As the weather starts to get chillier, there’s a warm spot by the fireplace (and in our hearts) at Ferndale’s M-Brew. 

The beer/coffee shop/restaurant/store certainly wears its heart on its sleeve (or more accurately, its mitten). Pretty much everything possible in the place is from Michigan, including 30 beers on tap (more on that later) and the Upper Peninsula-inspired pasties and the art on the walls. 

The original concept was to offer draft beer to go, but M-Brew morphed into a Michigan craft café and carryout. 

“I’m a big fan of going up north,” says M-Brew general manager Dean Bach, who also owns the nearby Dino’s Lounge. He wanted to recreate a road trip feel: stopping at Exit 181 for Pinconning cheese, picking up Albie’s pasties, getting a jug of maple syrup at a gas station.

M-Brew is in a transformed VFW Hall — itself formerly a house. The cozy spot has indoor seating with a fireplace for colder evenings. There’s a patio, a wraparound porch, and picnic tables for nicer weather. It’s behind the Magic Bag and next to Valentine Distilling’s tasting room, adding an interesting twist to the east side of Woodward.

The pasties are certainly authentic — a mash-up of a recipe from Bach’s mother-in-law that’s been tweaked by chef Nicole Cass. They’re nicely browned crusts stuffed with beef, carrot, onion, and potato — and rutabaga, of course. Smother it with gravy for $1 extra (or opt for a vegetarian version). 

Brick oven pizzas — thin crust or Detroit-style — are topped with Pinconning cheese. And the Traverse City Cherry and Beef Brisket Chili is mild and delicious.

There are Dearborn or Koegel hot dogs, Frankenmuth-style fried chicken, McClure’s pickles, Garden Fresh salsa — you get the idea. Breakfast features morning versions of pasties and pizza, with coffee roasted in Michigan. 

There are a bevy of Michigan-made craft items available for purchase singly or you can create a gift basket — salsas, sauces, snacks, and cheeses. 

But wait, there’s more! Downstairs, there is a “brewcade” with shuffleboard, darts, vintage pinball machines and classic ’80s arcade games — including Pac-Man, Centipede, Donkey Kong, and the rare Q*Bert.

Back to the beer for a moment. Like everything else, you order at the counter. The beers and a few Michigan ciders can be consumed on-site or taken to go in growlers or “howlers” (half growlers). You can bring in your own from any brewpub — as long as it’s clean. 

The pricing structures are unusual. A pint of Atwater Vanilla Java Porter might run $5.19; a specialty brew like New Holland Dragon’s Milk runs $10.32. Front of house manager Felix Teichman says the goal is to offer the lowest possible price while making a reasonable profit. 

M-Brew also sells gear, with its logo modeled off the state highway sign. And, Bach jokes, like every other road in Michigan, “We’re always under construction. We don’t want people to get bored.” Beer selections and to-go items will be continually changing. 

So pull up a chair, bring some quarters for the arcade, and dive into a Michigan-centric experience.

177 Vester St., Ferndale; 248-542-2739. B, L, & D daily.

 

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