The owner , Mary Challender Smith, was raised on 4th Avenue in the east side of Big Rapids. Her mother Faith Ann was a disabled single mom raising five children on her own. Mary was her youngest child. She inherited her mother’s tenacity for life and passion for cooking.
“My mother was a great cook, when she could afford food.”-Mary Smith.
Swimming and fishing in the Muskegon River was a large part of her childhood. Mary recalls being so hungry they used a safety pin for a fish hook to catch a meal from the river, it worked. They also would dig up worms and sell them to a local bait shop for a penny a piece to help them get by.
Mary worked as a cook at Ferris and the local hospital for over 20 years.
She opened the Alamode in 2001 at a log cabin that held thirty-six people, but it wasn’t easy. She had to fight the city at every turn just to get the doors open. It took a long time to build up a successful business, but she did it through hard work and determination. Soon the little log cabin just couldn’t handle all of the business, so she purchased a larger building. After extensive remodeling, she moved the business over to 407 North State Street, which offers more seating and parking space. Soon, the new building was filled with loyal patrons and new customers.
The Homemade Beef Pasty came from Pamela Panek, her closest friend, who still makes them to this very day. The recipe came from Pam’s mother, Beatrice Panek from Ironwood located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
“Relax, unplug, and enjoy a home cooked meal at the Ala Mode Restaurant!”