We stopped at Iva's recently en route home from doing some business in northeast Michigan. Iva's, which got its start as a boarding house and expanded to include a restaurant in the 30's, is one of the few businesses left in the tiny village of Sterling, a few miles northwest of Standish -- the building is right on the main drag, is easy to find and has a nice, handicap/stroller accessible entranceway. On the afternoon we visited the place was terribly empty, which made us feel rather sad. (Our waitperson told us there were a couple of events in nearby Standish that day that she thought would generate more dinnertime traffic.) Iva's is regionally famous for its chicken dinners, so that's what we ordered, even though there are other menu items like chops and steaks, and lunch items like sandwiches. We ordered the "family style" meal, which at first glance seems a little spendy (about $14/head) but ensures all you can eat, served in shareable dishes -- small wholegrain biscuits, mashed potatoes, gravy (with submerged biscuit -- something that mystified us for a few minutes), a simple sage stuffing, vinegar-based coleslaw and a relish plate. Diners are also offered a choice of juice or chicken soup. We ordered the Southern fried chicken, the restaurant's best seller, a simple flour-dredged, pan-fried chicken. (Other chicken choices include stewed chicken and American-fried, which is described as batter-fried.) Each plate includes a mixture of light and dark meat. Meals are made to order, so expect a wait; the waitress brought our biscuits out early to keep us occupied until the rest of the meal was ready. My partner, who is admittedly not a fan of fried chicken, really enjoyed hers. The chicken was incredibly tender for fried chicken, and -- a plus for me because I'm fussy on this point -- it was completely cooked through. The seasoning is mild, almost bland, but the skin was nice and brown and crispy. We loved the multi-vegetable coleslaw -- I got seconds and wound up eating most of the bowl myself! -- and the dressing, which is a moist, "loose" stuffing rather than a crouton-based one and is very sage-y and savory; to me it made up for the mild flavor of the chicken. We also liked the biscuits, although our second round were much fluffier and warmer. (And, once I understood what it was, I called dibs on the gravy-submerged biscuit.) The mashed potatoes were fine but a bit salty; the gravy was really good, and this is coming from someone who normally passes by the gravy boat. Not so great -- the relish plate, which consisted of a briny halved dill pickle, two scraps of raw carrot and two celery sticks.(Seriously, they could bring their food costs down a little by skipping this, or by just providing pickles.) I was also somewhat unnerved by the un-busy kitchen staff standing in the doorway staring at the three occupied tables. I ordered coffee, which came in a cute vintage personal carafe -- nice -- but tasted pretty Maxwell House "meh." My partner, however, ordered iced tea and was pleased to find it brewed, not out of a fountain, and refreshing. Soft drinks, beer (including Bell's Oberon -- nice!) and wine are available as well. We didn't order dessert, but the diners behind us shared a slice of apple pie and were very pleased...we heard definite sounds of approval. The dining area is clean and roomy -- but, hearkening back to its origins as a workingman's restaurant, it's nothing fancy; 60's-era faux wood paneling with a pastiche of artwork all around. A local old-skool country radio station plays over the sound system. (Which I found annoying but which I suspect is enjoyed by the regulars and fits the general atmosphere of the place.) A brief peek into the kitchen area revealed a very clean and organized area -- at least as much of it as I could see. We'd definitely eat here again if we were in the area, although next time we might try something else on the menu. Since Sterling is near prime northern Michigan recreational options -- kayaking, canoeing, hunting, fishing, leaf-peeping, snowmobiling -- we think hungry outdoorspeople might enjoy a hearty meal here; it's worth the drive and the prices.
Nice experience. Chicken was good but not great. The soup was FABULOUS !!Service was good. The chicken seemed a little dry to me. The sides were all tasty and the atmosphere was wonderful. It took you back to eating in your Grandmothers kitchen. This place has some how escaped our "modern" rushed world.
If your heading north on I-75 and thinking of stopping at Frankemuth for chicken don't! Go about a 1/2 hour further to the Sterling exit and head to Ivas Chicken. A 1800's pink farmhouse turned restaurant. Each dinner is cooked to order in old cast iron pans which makes the best crust on the chicken. Family style or individual dinners with relish tray with a awesome sweet sour cole slaw. Dinners also include mashed pt. with graveyboats with a biscuit floating in it, veg and biscuits with honey. Ohh I think i need to take a long drive now. GO THERE!!!!
Okay bar food. Only thing in the area besides Ivas. MJs when they were open had better pizza. I do not like anyones pizza around in the Sterling/Standish area to be fair to Cliffs. I actually prefer Papa Johns chain pizza quality better than this place and I do not usually touch pizza of their caliber unless there is no other options. When I am visiting my mom as I am from the burbs of Chicago I have a high standard for pizzas I only go to Cliffs for fried stuff I am too lazy to make at home. Never pizza again from there and I had it few times already to say its not the cook that day its their choice of ingredients.