A piece of history

Jean Kay’s Pasties & Subs continues culinary tradition

Jean Kay’s Pasties & Subs, located at 1635 Presque Isle Ave. in Marquette, offers pasties made the same way as those made by Cornish miners in the 1800s, owners say. (Journal photo by Jaymie Depew)

MARQUETTE — Upper Peninsula natives are notorious for showcasing their Yooper pride as well as preserving the area’s historic roots through museums, renovations and environmentalism. Another attribute Yoopers share that can’t be denied is their love of food — particularly pasties.

“What’s really unique is that pasties are culinarily historic to the U.P.,” said Bea Harsch of Jean Kay’s Pasties & Subs. “We have a lot of people who buy pasties and bring them home to share with friends and family because they’re special to this area.”

Harsch started working at Jean Kay’s, a pasty shop owned by her father Brian Harsch, when she was 14 years old.

The family-run business is named after Brian’s grandmother who came from the Cornwall region in England, where pasties arguably originated from.

The Harsch family first opened Jean Kay’s in 1975 in Iron Mountain. The business started as a bakery where donuts and other baked goods were sold. However, after a Mr. Donut opened in the same small town, business plummeted for Jean Kay’s.

According to Harsch, her grandmother suggested the family revamp the business by using an old family recipe to make pasties instead. The idea worked.

Over 40 years later Jean Kay’s Pasties & Subs, now located at 1635 Presque Isle Ave. in Marquette, makes hundreds of pasties daily.

With pasty shops popping up around the U.P., what makes Jean Kay’s stand out from the rest is that their pasties are completely traditional, Harsch said.

“Our pasties are the same pasties Cornish miners made in the 1800s,” she said. “We make them with steak, potatoes, onion and rutabaga. Everything’s cubed and nothing’s ground.”

Harsch stated that some pasty shops use recipes the Finnish and Scandinavians adopted from the Cornish. Those recipes often use lard to make the pasty crust and ground meat for the filling. Jean Kay’s doesn’t use lard in its crust, and uses steak in their pasties, rather than ground beef.

“We make everything fresh and buy the best of the best,” Harsch said.

Over the years, Jean Kay’s has become so popular the business started shipping pasties over the country during the wintertime. Harsch said roughly 500 pasties are shipped out per week. All orders are filled out on the business’s website, www.jeankayspasties.com.

“Our mini pasties are really popular too,” Harsch said. “They’re $10 for 12, steak or veggie. They’re the perfect size to share with families at parties and things like that.”

Jean Kay’s also offers their very own pasty sauce — Jean Kay’s Kickin’ Pasty Sauce.

“It’s our jalapeno ketchup sauce,” Harsch said. “We also have sides of gravy.”

Aside from traditional pasties and the veggie pasty, Jean Kay’s offers a slew of fresh sandwiches, specialty subs, salads and wraps. Sides such as potato salad, cookies, chips and dessert bars, as well as beverages, are also available.

“We’ve started to notice a lot of people coming here to socialize with friends,” Harsch said. “Jean Kay’s used to be more of a take-out type of place. It’s good to see it transforming into a dine-in spot, too.”

Jean Kay’s hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

For more information, visit the website www.jeankayspasties.com.

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is jdepew@miningjournal.net.