Lake Orion, Michigan is a fickle town, as far as dining out is concerned. Restaurants come and go rather quickly. Some are good, some have been bad. It is puzzling because the places that people rave about seem to disappear overnight, and others have remained despite not being very memorable.
One restaurant that has survived in the tiny little downtown district is Sagebrush Cantina. When I say survived, I mean that literally. Early one morning in March of 2004, a fire swept through the building where Sagebrush is located, gutting the place.
They rebuilt the restaurant, expanding the space and redecorating with funky beer bottle chandeliers, colorful pinatas, tall wooden tables, and a massive, long bar. Sagebrush reopened in 2006, and has since been the place to go for monstrous portions of fresh Mexican food, tall cocktails, and even raucous nightlife on the weekends.
Sagebrush is notorious for being busy. People will wait upwards of 45 minutes for a table for a weekend dinner. Lunch is often busy, but if you can manage to stave off your hunger and go after 1pm, waiting is not typically a problem.
Some of the menu items Sagebrush is famous for among the locals are the Chicken Rice Soup, the one-and-a-half pound Outrageous Chimichanga, and the Cabo Fish Taco. For those who want to design their own platter, the “Create Your Own Combo” is a fun option. Choose two or three items from a list including tamales, chile relleno, and enchiladas which are served with Mexican rice and refried beans. All their menu items are substantial, generous portions.
The chile relleno is tender and full of oozing cheese, topped with a chunky and fresh relleno sauce. As for the chicken enchilada…it is disappointing. The chicken inside is bland, there is very little seasoning and is not shredded well enough making it tough to cut through. Filling the blank spaces on the plate, the rice and beans add no significant flavor value. If you are looking to fill your belly, this will do the trick. Just do not expect an explosion of Mexican-inspired tastes. I detected no cumin, there was no lime, garlic was non-existent.
The chimichanga – not the “outrageous” one! – is a mountain of food. It can be filled with chicken or beef and is served with pico de gallo and guacamole. There is a freshness about the food at Sagebrush, but the flavor is so docile. The beef inside the chimi was like the chicken, forgettable.
Sagebrush Cantina has a lot of positives; friendly and hard-working staff, welcoming atmosphere, an extensive menu of freshly prepared food, and a nice selection of tequila-based drinks. You will have a good time here, and leave with a full belly. If you are expecting dishes with rich flavor, lower your expectations before coming.