Northern Michigan Restaurants: Joy to the start of another Northern Michigan summer! Long days spent on glittering waters soothed by cool breezes… fresh, local foods. This ideal combination manifests deliciously at Siren Hall north of Traverse City, where fresh ingredients near (and from) the water fuel inspired dishes. Located in the harbor town of Elk Rapids north of Traverse City, this Northern Michigan restaurant is doing extraordinary things with fresh seafood and local produce. We chat with Chef Michael Peterson to learn about oysters, local foods and, Mom's table manner instructions aside, that it's OK to play with one's food.
The focus of Siren Hall lies with fresh seafood, and you're located just a stones throw from Elk Rapids Harbor and the East Bay arm of Grand Traverse Bay. How does your nearness to the water and the start of summer inspire the menu?
This is the time of year when we start getting excited for the busy season ahead, and where to go with the menu. We always have oysters and our staple local lake fish, but when new produce becomes available in the spring and early summer, we get excited to try new dishes. Siren Hall uses produce from local farmers—one of them, Mike Werp of Werp Farm in Buckley [outside of Traverse City], we've been using since 1993—and it inspires us to take our staple whitefish or trout, and experiment with new ingredients and flavors. We're always playing with the food and having fun—trying new dishes and putting them on the menu. It's a time to try things we may not always try, while remaining conscious of what we use, and where it comes from.
Any new dishes on the menu or specials that you're excited about right now?
We've been playing around with different crudo, particularly octopus, which is delicious. It's fresh and light, perfect for summer. [Crudo is a raw fish dish dressed with olive oil, sea salt, and citrus juice such as lemon juice and sometimes vinegar. The word literally means "raw" in Italian.] We've also been preparing a Shrimp Boil. We take a big helping of gulf shrimp, add andouille sausage, corn, potatoes, onion and cook it all in a seasoned broth. It's been turning out so well, we're thinking of doing a Fall Shrimp Boil out on our front patio.
Siren Hall is known for its oysters. What's your all-time favorite oyster preparation?
I like to keep it simple. My preference is to open and eat the oyster, cold, right out of the shell, with maybe a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. We work hard at keeping oysters on our menu. Not only in variety, but in freshness and quality, as well.
Add a glass of prosecco or champagne to accompany those oysters, and it sounds like a perfect Northern Michigan summer day!
[Laughs] I agree!
Find out more about Siren Hall and Chef Michael Peterson's fresh seafood fare at SirenHall.com. Or better yet, head over to 151 River Street in Elk Rapids for your next lunch or dinner and discover Siren Hall for yourself!