Small towns are often thought of as places where everyone knows everyone else, where tradition abounds, and where you can always find a good, hot meal. The coziness and charm of small-town life is romanticized in movies perhaps, but the charm is real, and can be found throughout the country, and of course, right here in Saline.
With Saline’s continuing growth, new restaurants are to be found on practically every corner, and yet one Saline staple doesn’t flinch in the face of competition; it knows good food, a friendly atmosphere, and that small-town charm are there when you walk in the door. Going to Saline Inn is like coming home after months or years away, knowing that the meals and the conversation will be just as good, if not better, than you remembered.
Walking in the door at Saline Inn, you’ll be greeted by the staff, inviting you to find a seat in one of the many booths in the restaurant. The booths are all new, the entire restaurant having been renovated two years ago after a fire that closed Saline Inn down for ten months. (Ten months which felt like ten years to Saline Inn regulars!) Windows on the north and west sides of the dining room allow natural light to brighten up an already bright and inviting space (with easily accessible window shades if the light becomes a bit too much), and are perfect for viewing an early sunset.
If you grew up in Saline, it’s very likely that, as you walk past the occupied booths, you’ll run into a high school teacher, or your parents’ neighbor, or even a childhood friend. It’s a place where many “locals” eat, so greeting friends and sometimes even family is not an uncommon occurrence, sometimes giving the restaurant the feel of a reunion.
Once seated, one of the busboys is always quick to bring you menus, and the waitstaff is prompt in getting and filling your drink orders. The menu is filled with delicious options, from breakfast plates - served anytime - to sandwiches and burgers for lunch, to dinner specialties and desserts.
If you go to Saline Inn as often as my family does, you’ll begin to have some dishes that become “the usual”, and yet you may be hard pressed to stick to only one favorite. Odds are your “usuals” will go into a rotation that you cycle through every time you go. And then you’ll decide to be daring and try something new, and wonder how you’ll fit this new favorite in with all the rest.
If you’re a big fan of breakfast foods (and who isn’t?), the waffles are both fluffy and crispy at once, and can be topped with ice cream if you’re feeling slightly daring. Three egg omelettes come in many varieties, some inspired by locations across the globe, from Western Omelette to Greek, Irish to Philly Steak. And if you like eggs but omelettes aren’t your thing, you can get them any style, including with fried steak and topped with gravy, if you order up a Country Breakfast.
Saline Inn’s lunch dishes speak to the owners’ American and Greek heritages. Fried favorites pop up here and there on the menu, with onion rings, cheese sticks, and chicken tenders waiting to quiet those grumbles in your stomach. Once you’ve gotten started, you can jump right in with a chicken, egg, or tuna salad sandwich, or a reuben or grilled corn beef on rye. A number of burgers and specialty sandwiches fill out the menu, and for healthy options, a salad menu (with Greek, Julienne, and chicken strip or grilled chicken salads) and variety of cottage cheese plates are available.
Dinners on the menu include homestyle classics like chicken parmesan, spaghetti, meatloaf, country fried steak, and roasted turkey. There are also several seafood options, like hand dipped cod, grilled salmon filet, and breaded butterflied shrimp. For the red meat-eaters, you have a number of choices, including chopped sirloin, NY strip, and top sirloin.
When I went to Saline Inn with some of my family recently, we all had one of our “usuals” and all came away feeling full and content. My dad, a Scotsman through and through, had fish and chips (with vinegar, of course), and while he may order that often, he never tires of it. My mom had the Hot Roast Beef plate, my sister the Grilled Tilapia, both plates full when they came to the table, empty when they left it. The fish and beef were cooked just right, the sides a perfect compliment to the main course.
I had the most usual of my usuals: the marinated chicken breast dinner with fries and coleslaw. The chicken is never overcooked, always juicy and delicious, and the fries are always perfect - crispy on the outside, potato-y soft on the inside. The coleslaw was fresh and crisp, with a little sweet tang in the dressing that always keeps me coming back for more.
We didn’t have dessert this time, but have indulged in their delicious pies in visits past, and they always taste just like your home. And the hot chocolate there is some of the best around - hot and creamy and sweet, with a dollop of whipped cream on top. Best of all, when the check comes at the end, it won't break your bank. The food at Saline Inn is reasonably priced, a family of four easily eating for between $40-$50.
Saline Inn is a perfect place for a quiet meal, a reset, or a pick-me-up. It’s big enough to never feel overcrowded (even with every booth full), and yet small enough to feel like you’re having dinner with extended family and friends. The perfect place for a hot meal in a small town, where whether you’re local or not, you can feel like you’re home.
Saline Inn, 434 E. Michigan Ave., Saline, 429-2004. Open daily 6 a.m.-9 p.m.