After a day on the water, some sustenance is in order. And lucky you: the Chain of Lakes and Lake Charlevoix region has the highest concentration of sophisticated dining spots in Northern Michigan. The rustic Rowe Inn in Ellsworth (6303 East Jordan Road, 866-432-5873, roweinn.com) started the culinary revolution Up North in 1972 with a giant wine cellar and French Provençal menu that accentuates the area’s morel mushrooms and local produce. Chef Scott Lyons keeps the flame burning with special wine luncheons, brunches and six-course feasts.
Just up the winding country road is Tapawingo (9502 Lake Street, 866-588-7881, tapawingo.net), which chef-owner Harlan "Pete" Peterson opened in 1984 after a long stint at the Rowe. This highly acclaimed eatery on St. Clair Lake features the best bounty of the North. Reservations needed.
Another swell spot is Lulu’s Bistro in Bellaire (213 Bridge Street, 231-533-5252), where you’ll find upscale comfort foods and a Sunday night fondue special to die for. A recent addition to the Chain of Lakes culinary scene is Siren Hall in downtown Elk Rapids. The brick-walled restaurant boasts 22-foot ceilings, a patio and a hefty menu of fish, clams, oysters, small pizzas and steaks.
You must try Charly’s (100 Michigan Avenue, 231-547-1700) in Charlevoix, where Helen Coon prepares amazing cuisine in her restaurant overlooking Round Lake. The menu, like Coon, is a vivid combination of Indian, Malaysian, Australian and American. If you’re in the mood for a beautiful Victorian setting, head over to the elegant Jordan Inn (228 Main Street, 231-536-9906, jordaninn.com), a restored former lumber baron’s home in East Jordan with 3- to 5-course dinners, as well as delicious breakfast and lunch.
Patty LaNoue Stearns is a freelancer based in Traverse City.
Note: This article was first published in May 2007 and was updated for the web February 2008.