Perhaps it was a German tourist who said "So schön hell!" ("So beautifully bright!"). Commenting to his travel companion. It may have been local wives who’d say “He’s gone to hell” when their husbands would get drunk on whiskey at the tavern. Maybe just maybe it was the hellish terrain and bug problems that plagued early explorers. No one really knows what made George Reeves tell the state “Call it Hell for all I care….everyone else does” when asked what he’d like to call his town. But on October 13th, 1841, “Hell” became the official name of the tiny burg in central, lower Michigan.
Settled by Reeves in 1838 around a mill and a general store on the banks of what is now known as Hell Creek, the tiny, blink and you’ll miss it town has become quite legendary. (George would later add the tavern.) There’s car and bike rallies every year as well as plenty of weddings. Unofficially the population sits at 266 and about the only thing that’s changed since then is the height of the dam and the addition of electricity. Although Reeves businesses have long dried up.
Hell has only one industry now. Kitsch. They survive on the selling of all things “Hell.” Tee shirts, bumper stickers, coffee mugs, you name it. Letters are stamped “I’ve been thru Hell” and are singed before being postmarked.
There’s the fictitious “Damnation University” (Damn U) from which you can get a diploma. The general store is named “Hell in a Handbasket” and the local watering hole is named “The Dam Site Inn” (also for its location right in front of the dam).
Opened in 1948 the Dam Site Inn is a nice rustic place with chains hanging from the ceiling and fake pyres throughout. Recently it was purchased by Jim Mills and his partner and they’ve pretty much kept the menu the same. Most things are made in house. A notable exception is the pizza dough made by a local bakery. They roast their own beef, make their own chili and hand form their own burgers. All of this means nothing if they don’t deliver and deliver they do.
So lets give the Devil his due as it were.
We split a (pepperoni) pizza. I had the "Smitty" Burger and Mrs. Sippi had the Hot Beef Sandwich.
Mrs. Sippi’s sandwich was great. It came with mashed potatoes and smothered in a rich, home made gravy. The beef was tender and flavourful (leftover prime rib after all) and the potatoes came skin on and had a slight fruitiness to them.
My Smitty Burger is so named for the previous owner and inventor of the “Special sauce.” The burger came medium well without even requesting it and was very juicy. I wasn’t excited about the sauce. It was an amalgam of hamburger condiments (Ketchup, mustard, onion, pickles, etc.) and truth be told, I’d just as soon have them put on, individually. All in all, a great burger though.
The pizza was really tasty. Thin crust, I kept it simple with only pepperoni. The best part was it had a great cheese taste. It also warmed up really well the next day which is always a good sign.
You can visit the Dam Site Inn at 4095 Patterson Lake Rd. in Hell, Michigan. (not to be confused with the Dam Site Inn in Pellston, Michigan)
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You can also visit them on the web.
Well that’s all for now. See you next time in the Food Court