There’s a big, new pub in Dexter–the Null Tap House–in a place you wouldn’t expect to find one–the industrial park off Dan Hoey Road.

In addition to its out-of-the-way location, Null has an “are they or aren’t they?” relationship with Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales. The confusion is of no small significance, because the founder of Jolly Pumpkin, a nationally renowned, small-batch, open-fermentation brewery, is Dexter native son Ron Jeffries.

When Null manager Dan VanDuinen explains it, it sounds easy. NULL is an acronym for Northern United Liquid Libation; Jolly Pumpkin, which brews on the premises, is “still owned and operated by Ron Jeffries,” says VanDuinen. You might remember the Jolly Pumpkin brewery on Broad St. Though it periodically let people stop in, “It wasn’t a tasting room. There wasn’t really enough space.”

Jeffries was the original brewmaster of Ann Arbor’s Grizzly Peak Brewing Company before he struck out on his own. Then, several years ago, he rejoined the Grizzly Peak founders, Jon Carlson, Greg Lobdell, and Chet Czaplicka, who now partner in countless food and drink operations promoting Michigan terroir.

Null is a tasting room for all these products. In the back of the tap house are actually two breweries: Jolly Pumpkin and North Peak. Or, as Carlson puts it, in a patient, but basically unapologetic email: “clear as mud–right? … Northern United Brewing Company is the ‘company,’ Jolly Pumpkin and North Peak are their beer brands. Civilized Spirits is their line of liquor. Bonafide is their wine … Jolly Pumpkin [and] Mission Table are their restaurants.”

But enough genealogy. The craft beer people in Michigan are playing the long game to get Michigan on the map as a beer destination and tend to wave away petty distinctions like who owns what. So here’s what’s on offer: thirty tap beers (half Jolly Pumpkin, half North Peak); chardonnay, dry Riesling, pinot grigio, cabernet, and old vine zinfandel from Bonafide; and a few dozen distilled spirits ranging from the traditional sour mash whisky to lunatic fringe infusions like chipotle peach moonshine and pumpkin walnut rum. And bar snacks, but, since tap houses are not restaurants, VanDuinen’s staff can’t prepare food: “We can’t even cut a lemon.” Hence, he explains, the irony of a g&t made with small-batch hibiscus lime gin and served with bottled lime juice on the side instead of a lime wedge.

Eventually, VanDuinen says, Null hopes to offer tours of the breweries out back–the two operations are entirely sealed off from each other, communicating only via a “decontamination room.” On the Jolly Pumpkin side, uncovered tanks bubble away, the air a yeasty, sour miasma. On the other side are the more antiseptic, closed fermentation tanks of North Peak. Both breweries, says VanDuinen, can’t bottle it fast enough to meet demand.

Null Tap House, 2319 Bishop Cir. E., Dexter, 792-9124. Wed. & Thurs. 2-9 p.m., Fri. 2-11 p.m., Sat. noon-11 p.m., Sun. noon-8 p.m. Closed Mon. & Tues.


In late October, Dexter regained that small-town necessity: a Main Street breakfast restaurant. Albana and Jim Hoxha reopened the restaurant that was most recently, but not for very long, Dexter’s Coney Island. The Hoxhas are calling it the Dexter Riverview Cafe.

The Hoxhas already run a restaurant in Wixom, part of the small Senate Coney Island chain owned by George Dimopoulos, but this will be their own place. Albana says she and Jim come from small towns on opposite sides of Lake Ohrid, a picturesque vacation destination on the border of Greece and Albania (she’s Albanian, he’s Greek), and “when I found this place I thought, Oh my gosh, it’s like home. When you go out on the street, everyone is taking a walk, everyone says hi.”

The Hoxhas were surprised to hear that the previous owners, the Cacinis, were also Albanian. They’ve dealt only with building owner Loreen McCalla (who for many years operated the restaurant herself, as Loreen’s Village Cafe).

The menu will be classic Greek diner. Breakfast forms a big part of it, rounded out by burgers, sandwiches, gyros, homemade soups, and Greek salad. “I make chicken lemon rice soup; that’s a favorite,” says Jim, the cook. “But also beef barley, chicken noodle, clam chowder. And of course homemade salad dressing too. That’s what makes a Greek salad. You’ve got to have homemade dressing.”

Dexter Riverview Cafe, 8124 Main St., Dexter, 388-6028. Mon.-Sat. 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.-3 p.m.


Dexter’s pizza wave appears to have crested. As it recedes, new choices are washing up on the shores. Next to one failed pizza experiment–the short-lived B-Line Pizza Island in Busch’s shopping center–Sushi Time opened in mid-September.

This is Min Kang’s first restaurant. Formerly a fireman in Seoul, he immigrated fifteen years ago and began working in Detroit-area sushi restaurants, most notably, he says, Novi’s Cherry Blossom.

“Around here, people like salmon, crab, and shrimp,” Kang has noticed, so he features them in the rolls that he’s named to catch the local eye: the “Dexter” with shrimp tempura, the “Chelsea,” with spicy crab. The “Cherry Blossom”–a tip of the hat to his mentors–has crab, avocado, tuna, and salmon; the house special “Sushi Time” is similar plus a “torch finish.”

For those who find rolled rice and fish unappealing, there’s bi bim bab, tempura udon, and teriyaki. For the more adventurous, the austere, traditional nigiri sushi and sashimi.

Though it doesn’t serve alcohol, Sushi Time is a small, sit-down restaurant, with artistic presentation and real plates. And for takeout: “I don’t use foam cartons,” he points out. Instead, he uses high, clear plastic clamshells so you can admire your dinner as it sits on the car seat next to you.

Sushi Time, 7050 Dexter-Ann Arbor Rd,, Suite 100, Dexter, 253-2581. Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Closed Sun.


A wall of crated Ski-Doo snowmobiles has long been a harbinger of winter on Dexter’s north side. But this fall, the parking lot in front of Mill Creek Sport Center was bare except for a lonely Western snowplow and a couple of unsold Sea-Doos left over from summer. Silence replaced the sound of gunfire from the practice range on the property.

A small handwritten sign on the gate asked anyone needing to get in touch to leave a note in the mailbox. In late October, it was joined by a large Swisher Realty sign that offered the property for sale.

Mill Creek Sports closed in July, when forty-nine-year-old owner Ray Kroske died suddenly of a stroke. Though it seldom got press in recent years–unless someone was protesting its buck pole, where deer hunters displayed their prizes each fall–it embodied the self-reliant, outdoors culture of Dexter’s pioneers.

So it was fitting to learn, from local historian Paul Cousins, that “it’s the most historic space in the village.” Village founder Samuel Dexter built his sawmill and log cabin there in 1824. In 1826, he moved to a large house he built on Huron Street, roughly where Classic Pizza is now. In 1841, when the railroad reached town, the train noise drove Dexter to the quieter site across the river, where he began work on Gordon Hall (see p. 19).

Like Gordon Hall, the Mill Creek site is outside Dexter proper, split across Webster and Scio townships. “Some people think it would be nice if the village could acquire it to use as a park space,” says Cousins. He won’t say if he’s one of those people and allows that buying it would be “a big bill to pay. I can’t see it unless a Daddy Warbucks comes along.”

Swisher’s John Evans says the building and contents are priced at $670,000. If no one buys the package, the inventory will go up for auction Dec. 2 and 3.

Evans says interest is running high: fifteen people stopped by while he was putting the sign up in late October, and by noon the next business day, he’d already fielded ten phone calls. “One guy was looking at selling canoes and kayaks to put in the river down there.”