Find family-friendly dining (and a delicious souvenir) at this experiential food market at The Homestead near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Once upon a time, there was an Irish mother who had 7 hungry children … I’m thinking about Maggie Cavanaugh as I lead a pack of my young friends, their moms and two grandmothers (I am one of them) into Cavanaugh’s, the combination market, pizzeria, salad bar and hot food bar tucked into The Village at The Homestead. At The Homestead they refer to Cavanaugh’s as a grocerant, that’s the European name for a market with wholesome prepared food to eat in or take to go. It also encapsulates the soul-satisfying dishes like lasagna, macaroni and cheese and yes, baking pizza, whose scents are swirling in the air at Cavanaugh’s today.

Maggie Cavanaugh was Robert Kuras’s grandmother—Bob is the president of The Homestead. Bob named Cavanaugh’s after Maggie to honor her big, loving spirit. And for her ability to make sure her teeming household ate three hot squares a day. It’s not hard to imagine that Maggie would have heartily embraced (or more likely, been stunned by!) the opportunity to treat her family to a ready-and-waiting spread of home-cooked food.

I’m also thinking that Addie, Harper, Lucy, Evelyn, Hailey, Ethan and Henry probably wouldn’t pay much attention to my reflections on Maggie if I were to try to share them.  Their eyes are on the tub of Superman ice cream in the ice cream case.

But first, a real-food lunch. Addie, Harper and Lucy McDonald help coax their friends past the ice cream to the food. The McDonald kids ate here several times last winter, fueling up after hours of heroic wedge turns down their favorite ski runs—Lamb’s Quarters and Snow Drop. “It was great because each of them could find what they loved: meatballs for Addie, fried chicken for Harper, and mac & cheese for Lucy,” their mom, Kenna, tells me as we huddle around the hot dish bar looking at the warm, homey goodness of the family-friendly dishes. We beeline for the salad bar, where freshness awaits in a dozen chilled stainless bins. And what goes better with a luscious salad than a fresh-brewed Stormcloud Rainmaker Ale on tap? The moms and grandmas toast our good fortune.

It’s pizza for the kids, and the three McDonald sisters lead the way to the make-to-order pizzeria set in a cozy corner of Cavanaugh’s. A perfectly sized rough-hewn beam set in front of the toppings bar allows the kids to step up and pick out their own toppings and watch the pizzas being made. Ah, choices! A whopping 25 of them. Three toppings (red sauce, pesto or herbed oil?), cheese (of course), meatballs, ham, pepperoni, sausage, bacon, olives, pepper rings, pineapple and freshly chopped onions, green peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms. Gluten-free crusts and lactose-free cheese are available as well.

Harper steps out with black olives. Addie shakes it up with a little bacon. But mostly, this is a cheese and pepperoni crowd. A hungry crowd, that is. They’ve worked up an appetite playing in the splash pad just steps away from Cavanaugh’s. They want pizza and they want it fast.

And speedy it is. Each child watches as The Homestead’s head chef, John Piombo (yes, he is an authentic Italian), puts their very own pizza crust into a dough presser shaped like a flying saucer, tops it to order and runs it through the Turbo Chef oven—a racey sports coupe of pizza ovens that turns out golden crusted, melted cheese pies in just 3 minutes and 5 seconds. Then it’s shake-shake, squirt-squirt time: Parmesan, dried Italian herbs, hot peppers (Ethan and Henry dare each other to try one; eek!), buffalo sauce and two types of oil.

In just over 20 minutes, seven kids are fed. I am thinking Maggie would be awed beyond imagination. But I keep that thought to myself. The current topic of discussion is how much Superman ice cream can fit into one ice cream cone … or small, full belly.

By Elizabeth Edwards, Managing Editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine and Northern Home & Cottage.