From Conifer to Crocodile: Brothers serve up Sichuan

Feb. 18—TRAVERSE CITY — Local chefs Patrick and Michael Evans, of Conifer, opened Crocodile Palace a few weeks ago.

The brothers brought their newest venture to the Little Fleet in April 2020 with the help of Ryan Corbin, who worked at Cooks' House with Patrick.

Patrick said COVID-19 halted their operation, but recently Michael found a location next to the Super 7 convenience store.

So, they moved Crocodile Palace there.

They serve Sichuan (a southwestern Chinese province) food, with some Cantonese items. Patrick said he and Corbin used to make this cuisine for each other during their time at the Cooks' House.

"The menu is really short — only about 12 items — to keep quality up," Patrick said. "A lot of it is kind of spicy, but not everything."

He said they try to balance sweet and salty flavors. Dishes include tofu, chicken fried rice and stir fried cabbage.

The "Dan Dan" noodles is the current bestseller, Patrick said. This pork dish is made with a spicy sesame sauce.

"I really enjoy our chicken wings," he said. "This is a fried wing with salt, chili oil and spice. They're very spicy but very aromatic and flavorful and pretty addicting."

In the spring, Patrick added, they plan to offer more vegetable options — using area produce whenever possible.

For now, the menu features a cucumber salad.

"The menu will continue to rotate with the seasons," he said. "We're trying to offer Traverse City something that we saw a space for and to make people happy."

Corbin said he and Patrick "had a passion" for Chinese cuisine, so they "threw around ideas" and made recipes from cookbooks, including noodle dishes and dumplings. Some of these are used at Crocodile Palace.

He added that he continues to learn from the Evanses, as he currently works at Crocodile Palace.

"We hit it off as friends and professionally," Corbin said.

The Evans brothers graduated from the Northwestern Michigan College Great Lakes Culinary Institute and then worked in various San Francisco restaurants before starting their Conifer pop-up in 2018-19 in Traverse City.

Crocodile Palace is takeout only, but Patrick said they might add some outside seats in the summer.

The restaurant is open from 3-9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday at 124 Cochlin St. Online orders are accepted at