I arrive at Lipka’s (an old fashion soda fountain and restaurant, est. 1895) on the corner of Dowling and Ferry in downtown Montague, MI, with no expectations. I had heard through the grapevine that the food was good, and that’s all I needed to know.

After a quick read of the handwritten sign on the door “only cash or check is accepted”, I dig through my purse to make sure I won’t be volunteering to do dishes later. Deep in a pocket, I discover that I’m rich and pull out a five dollar bill with excitement, before proceeding through the front door that bursts with character.

I look like a tourist with my camera pack, gawking at every little detail of the 1950’s decor that plague the interior. For those of you who have not idea what I am talking about, watch the 1985 movie, Back to the Future. Everything has its place; it was eclectic and nostalgia in one space. Time slowly sauntered me back to chalk written menu in the back of the building, beyond the soda fountains and memorabilia.

Now knowing what I can afford, I scan the food options and settle on a bowl of chili ($3.50) that my grandma would have served when I was a kid. I told the waitress where I would be and took a seat near the front of the shop where natural light could highlight the food I was about to eat.

The atmosphere felt small town, where everyone knew everyone, where regulars poured their own coffee and the honor system is how you paid at the register. Quaint drew me in further than the glass windows, curiosity sparked my lingering, and the cook in me craved something new. I know what you are thinking, “What’s so new about chili?” Truth be told, it wasn’t that the food was new, it was that experience of this place that was new.

Within an hour, the place emptied quite quickly. After watching one of the last patrons leave, I pushed my empty bowl, still savoring the rustic flavor on my tongue, to the edge of my little wooden table, and headed to the cash register. I stood there for a minute before the soda clerk assisted me.

As I stood paying for my meal, a social man in a bright blue jacket, spoke loudly, “Don’t forget about the money on the table.” He paused before then rudely stating, “Do I even have to tell you that?” Unsure of whom he’s speaking to, the clerk focuses on cashing me out, while I ignoring the him. Something was amiss, and I don’t have time to find out, so I tuck my change into my purse and head for the door, while another patron addresses me. “Have a good day!”

In response I say, “You too!”

And just like that this new discovery turned into weirdness. But just when I thought I was going on with my day, the rude man’s voice nagged me over and over, until I realize that I never tipped my waitress! Was he talking to me? I will never know.

Geared towards my next appointment for the day, I pushed aside his voice lingering in my head and let guilt determine that when I return another day, I will double the tip with my next order, that’s in hopes the blue jacket man will let me back in the establishment!

Lipka’s serves food on Monday – Saturday, 11-4pm.
@8718 Ferry St, Montague, MI 49437

You can connect with them on their Facebook page, Lipka’s Old Fashion Soda Fountain.


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