Traverse City News and Events

Little Fleet Announces Second Crocodile Palace Location, 2024 Truck Lineup; More Restaurant, Retail News

By Beth Milligan | Feb. 29, 2024

Traverse City Sichuan takeout restaurant Crocodile Palace is opening a second year-round location inside The Little Fleet, with a May launch planned for the new venture. The Ticker has an exclusive first look at that and other 2024 plans at The Little Fleet – including the lineup of this year’s food trucks – plus other restaurant and retail news from across the region.

The Little Fleet
Traverse City restaurant Crocodile Palace is coming full circle. Born as a pop-up at The Little Fleet under chefs and brothers Patrick and Michael Evans, the eatery – which has operated as a standalone brick-and-mortar location since January 2023 at 124 Cochlin Street – will soon offer a second year-round location inside The Little Fleet.

Crocodile Palace at The Little Fleet will be a permanent vendor in the bar’s indoor kitchen space starting in May. That space – once home to Happy’s Taco Shop, which vacated last fall –  is now being used for a series of winter monthly “kitchen takeover” events by rotating chefs and restaurants. Milkweed – a returning pop-up from The Cooks’ House – will operate March 6-31 in the kitchen, followed by Oakwood Proper Burgers/Easy Sliders April 4-28. The Crocodile Palace will then follow in May.

Patrick Evans says the new location’s menu will mirror some items at the original Crocodile Palace – like Dan Dan noodles – but will also have unique offerings in categories including bar snacks, cold dishes (including salads), noodles, handhelds (sandwiches and more), and fried items (think salt-and-pepper wings and spare ribs).

“Right now, we hold ourselves to some pretty strict guidelines and keep it pretty traditional (at Cochlin),” Evans says. “The menu at Little Fleet will be a little more playful.” The original Crocodile Palace will maintain its current status, operating Wednesday-Sunday 3pm-9pm. Crocodile Palace at The Little Fleet will likely operate seven days a week for the summer, with hours similar to those of the food trucks.

In the off-season it will close on Mondays and Tuesdays, allowing for other pop-up takeovers to still be featured. Those shorter two-day stints will allow The Little Fleet to bring in more guest chefs from across Michigan and the Midwest, says co-owner Gary Jonas. “We’re always trying to keep things exciting and bring in something new,” he says.

That extends to the food truck lineup this year, which has a mix of returning favorites and new vendors. Two returning trucks will include Cordwood BBQ and Traverse City Pizza Co. After a four-year hiatus, Daily Blend – offering lighter fare like smoothies, salads, grain bowls, and wraps – will return to the lot. And two new vendors will join the lineup: Moe’s Better Burgers, which will serve up burgers and fries (and fill a void created by the departure of Glendale Ave.), and Juicy Oistre. The latter will offer both raw and grilled seafood, including fresh and grilled oysters, ceviche, peel-and-eat shrimp, fried calamari sandwiches, and occasional whole fish specials.

Trucks will start rolling into The Little Fleet in mid-April, with an official grand opening weekend on April 26. Once Memorial Day weekend hits, the trucks will operate daily for the summer from lunch until 9pm (10pm on Friday and Saturday). Multiple events are also on deck this season. In addition to live music every Friday and DJs every Saturday, The Little Fleet will host four major summer events, according to Jonas: a summer launch party May 26, an Up North Pride party June 22, a Hotter Than July party July 13, and the return of the All Call Music Festival August 24.

Other updates from around the region...
Ever feel the urge to smash something? A new Traverse City business will let you do that – without the usual consequences. Mi Smash Therapy is targeting an April opening at 2682 North Garfield Road. Smash rooms allow customers to select tools ranging from bats to golf clubs to smash a variety of objects, from teacups to old television sets to objects they bring in themselves (photos of exes tend to be popular). Mandie Carpenter – who is launching the business with her husband, Adam Barlow – says that in addition to being a fun individual or group outing, a smash room can serve as a “therapeutic alternative” that offers people a safe (and legal) way “to let their anger out and tap into a release.” The company accepts donated smashable objects and works with thrift stores to intercept unwanted items that might otherwise end up in the landfill, Carpenter says.

Several changes are underway in downtown Traverse City. As recently reported in The Ticker, Maxbauer is closing its Union Street store and consolidating operations at The Butcher's Block on South Airport Road – with Friday its last day downtown – while Red Ginger owners Pam and Dan Marsh have sold the restaurant to employees Jordan Apsey (the Marshes’ son) and Oana Neacsu. Brilliant Books is in the final push today of a fundraiser to pay off a supplier and remain financially sustainable, now more than $32,000 of the way toward its $35,000 GoFundMe goal. In another potential plot twist, the building Brilliant Books is housed in at 118 East Front Street – the three-story, 9,045-square-foot Wurzburg Building – is listed for sale for $3.2 million. The Three West listing cites options for ground-floor retail and upper-floor office or residential use. Brilliant Books owner Peter Makin tells The Ticker he’s aware of the listing and has a lease signed through 2028, with an option to extend. Makin says that should mean Brilliant Books is “safe for at least” the lease duration, adding the bookstore has been "overwhelmed by good wishes and support" in recent days from the community.

Local lifestyle brand Lakes and Grapes – which recently took over the Compass Rose Outpost space at 326 East Front Street and has been closed for a remodel – is set to reopen Friday, with a grand opening party to follow this spring. My Secret Stash owner Karen Hilt announced this week that Tuesday was the last day of her other store – I’m Planty AF on Union Street – with Hilt consolidating both store operations at the My Secret Stash location on Cass Street. “Our amazing 3,000-square-foot greenhouse downtown was purchased by the city to tear down and create a much-needed parking garage,” Hilt wrote on Facebook. “So we pivot!” The consolidated businesses will reopen inside My Secret Stash on Friday.

The Elk Rapids Cinema is undergoing a name change. The Chalfonte Foundation, the Detroit-based organization that bought the movie theater following the passing of longtime owner and operator Joe Yuchasz, announced Wednesday it will now be called the Chalfonte Theatre. “The name change reflects the venue's expanding vision to encompass a wide range of arts and community programs beyond cinematic arts. This will be the fourth name change in as many owners of the venue,” the organization wrote in an email. “While cinematic arts programming will continue as usual, with additional classic and indie films added to the repertoire, the venue's offerings will now encompass a wider spectrum of creative experiences for audiences of all ages including staged programs, puppetry, a community radio station, an outdoor concert series, music education, community events, and more.”

De Food Truck has announced it will set up for the summer at Traverse City Whiskey Company on Fourteenth Street. The all-gluten-free truck has offerings like Double Dutch Fries, fish and chips, Asian-inspired curries, and more. “With the exception of a few Saturdays in August and September, you will be able to find us open at least four days a week, with live music three nights a week,” the business posted.

Nawbin Jewelry & Curiosities is drawing attention to the plight of its own and other East Front Street businesses soon to be impacted by the Grandview Parkway reconstruction. With highly restricted access to the store, owner Karl Bielman posted that the project will impact “my family business immensely.” Bielman is in the middle of an intensive “push” now for business – operating Monday-Saturday 12-5pm and Sunday 12-3pm – until construction starts March 10, after which time the store “will take it day to day,” Bielman wrote. Nawbin has put up a cheeky sign outside that reads: “Welcome to the Forbidden Zone: A New T.C. Neighborhood District.” Bielman wrote online: “My hopes are that our community and beyond continues to stay curious, shop local, and support Nawbin, now and in the future, by planning a trip or two to the shop during our ‘Traverse City’s Forbidden Zone’ neighborhood district’s phase this spring and summer.”

Finally: The historic Cherry Bowl Drive-In Theatre has been listed for sale in Honor for $625,000, with the current owner retiring. “This business has the potential to expand to even more than movies.” the listing states. “With the addition of a stage, it could be used for concerts, plays, or whatever the new owner desires.”

Pictured: The Little Fleet patio

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