"The devil is in the details."
That's the expression. But can it be used in a 150-year-old church?
It should be when the former church houses the new Smackwater Jack's Cafe, a restaurant where attention to detail takes it to the next level.
From the pure albacore in the tuna salad to the homemade balsamic vinaigrette, fresh, quality food is the Smackwater goal.
"We demand perfection," owner Mandy Arthur said. "We do it right or we throw it away."
Just how good is it?
Well, I've been there three times in less than a week. Consider me hooked!
Oh, that dough!
Smackwater Jack's has a reputation for outstanding pizza and it does not disappoint.
Its No. 1 seller is The Smackwater Jack with signature sauce, ham, pepperoni, bacon, onion, mushrooms, Roma tomatoes, green peppers, black olives, banana peppers on a sesame seed crust.
I, with a fetish for feta, went for The Greek with olive oil, feta, mushrooms, black olives, raw purple onions and pepperoncini. Although I usually leave my pizza crust ends on the plate, these were devoured. The dough is homemade daily in small batches for optimal freshness and stretched, not tossed, then folded.
Those folds are the genius part, allowing soft little pockets of doughy goodness that are too good to be left behind.
The crust is the invention of Adam Buschbacher, who has worked with Arthur to create Smackwater Jack's unique menu.
"The crust is focaccia and French baguette ingredients married together to make a pizza crust," Buschbacher said. "It's both soft and crusty."
In other words, it's a match made in heaven.
A gluten-free crust is also available.
Other pizzas on the menu include The Deep South with BBQ chicken, The Alaskan with grilled salmon, sour cream and fresh dill, and a Vegetarian with white wine spritz and fresh basil.
I can't wait to try The Tuscan topped with spring mix, gorgonzola and a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.
"We offer unique flavors," Buschbacher said. "Things you can't get anywhere else."
Salads, sandwiches and wraps
The attention to detail continues with the rest of the Smackwater Jack's menu.
My favorite item — so far — is the BBQ Chicken Wrap. It's made with fresh chopped basil and cilantro tossed in ranch dressing, BBQ chicken, white corn, black beans and cheese, and its flour tortilla is covered with Parmesan cheese.
"We control quality by working in small batches," Buschbacher said. "We are prepping all day to make sure ingredients are fresh."
The batches may be small, but the portions are not.
"That's Adam's idea," Arthur said, "Everything he makes has to be way too big!"
Half of my third meal, a very tasty Smoked Turkey Reuben, went home to serve as a fourth meal, too.
Speaking of sandwiches, they are all made on bread from a local bakery. The coffee and pickles are just two more Michigan products used in the kitchen or sold in the Smackwater shop area.
"It's important to support local businesses," Arthur said. "And a lot of the products we sell in our shop people would have to drive up to Traverse City for."
About those plates
Decorated in black, grey and warm woods with its famous funky fish logo, Smackwater Jack's occupies a wide open space in the Designhaus building.
"The space fits us— upscale but fun," Arthur said.
It has 15 tables of four and a couple of high-top tables. For little diners there is a kids' menu and highchairs. Food is ordered at the counter then delivered to your table or packaged for carry out.
About that packaging and those plates: When Arthur opened the restaurant she knew one thing it would not have – Styrofoam.
"We are as green as we can be in every way we can," Arthur said. "It takes so many thousands of years for Styrofoam to break down, I didn't want that."
Arthur researched and found more Earth-friendly options for Smackwater Jack's to use. "It's really just being responsible."
'So glad you're here I wrote a song!'
With a month of business behind it, Smackwater Jack's is happy to call Rochester home.
"I just love it here. People care about quality," Arthur said. "There's always something going on, it's very inviting and very friendly."
Even knowing of Rochester's charm, Arthur was still surprised by one of the first customers.
"A grandmother brought her grandson in on one of our first days and said, 'Oh, I'm so glad you're finally open. My grandson has been so excited that he wrote you a song!' " Arthur said. "And sure enough, this 7-year-old boy belted out an original song all about us and our fish!"
With that kind of greeting, who wouldn't feel welcome?
Smackwater Jack's Cafe is located at 301 Walnut Blvd. It is open Sunday and Monday 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 10 a.m.-9 p.m. It can be reached at 248-656-9100.