It’s Memorial Day Weekend and you’ve made it to Northern Michigan. You hear a deep, ominous rumbling from your abdomen, and you think to yourself…I’m starving! Now what? Read on to find our most beloved outdoor dining options from Northern Michigan restaurants. With a thriving food and drink scene, Northern Michigan is home to dozens of fabulous food finds. With rivers and lakes adjacent to almost every Northern Michigan town, there’s plenty of outdoor, waterside dining to be enjoyed. The following is a list of our favorites in corresponding towns.
Cheboygan & Mackinac Island
- In Cheboygan, dine on classics like London broil or oysters Rockefeller at The Boathouse right on the Cheboygan River. Or visit Hack-Ma-Tack Inn, also on the Cheboygan River, housed in a classic 1894-era hunting and fishing lodge.
- How about a whole island of seaside tables? Mackinac Island of course. Try the Mackinac Carriage House at the Hotel Iroquois. Or Lake View Hotel’s Goodfellow’s for seafood dishes and late-night dining by the water. And of course who could miss the captivating view of the Straits of Mackinac from the Grand Hotel?
Harbor Springs & Petoskey
- In Harbor Springs, there’s great Lake Michigan-side dining at Little Traverse Bay Restaurant’s patio. Check out Dudley’s Deck at Stafford’s Pier, where you can score a shady spot under an umbrella or tickle your toes with a table in the grass.
- Palette Bistro is a romantic art-filled restaurant, but the view of the Grand Traverse Bay enchants its Petoskey diners. In addition to a great bay view, you can also gaze at the theater-style kitchen at Whitecaps, also in Petoskey, where you can get a wood-fired pizza. The glorious grounds frame Stafford’s Bay View Inn’s Lake Michigan vista, good for Sunday brunch and a garden stroll.
Bellaire & Charlevoix
- In Bellaire, the Dockside has prime views of river traffic and Torch Lake sunsets—but get there early, the deck fills up fast. Another choice might be Shanty Creek Resort’s regional cuisine and view of Lake Bellaire.
- Looking for a Charlevoix restaurant? Grab a seat along the windows of Stafford’s Weathervane by the Pine River Channel. This Hobbit-style Earl Young stone structure is a fab place to watch the bridge rise and fall for boat traffic. Or go for burgers and Lake Charlevoix views at Kelsey B’s Lakeside Food & Spirits.
Leelanau County & Frankfort
- In Leelanau County, blu has exquisite regional cuisine, courtesy of chef Randy Chamberlain, in an intimate setting on Sleeping Bear Bay. Also, check out The Manor, a renovated lakeside inn on Glen Lake. In Leland, The Cove seats you right next to the waterfall over the Leland River dam in Fishtown, a quaint collection of shops and shanties. Pull up to the dock at the Riverside Inn for patio dining. And there’s The Bluebird, which has been a mainstay for locals and boaters seeking a river view and signature cinnamon rolls since 1927.
- Overlooking Betsie Bay in Frankfort you’ll find the Coho Café’s spacious patio. And there’s The Cabbage Shed’s rambling restaurant with serene views and great suds in Elberta.
- Find solace staring at the roll of the waves from a table at the Boathouse Restaurant on Old Mission Peninsula. Or go for a casual experience at Mission Table at Bowers Harbor for proprietary wines and beers paired with local cuisine and a soothing view of Grand Traverse Bay.
- And what about Traverse City restaurants? Let’s start with Aerie at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa with its 16th floor panoramic view of East Bay. Or Harbor 22 for a deck-view of West Bay; come on a Wednesday to watch the Yacht Club races. Or Apache Trout Grill for a rough-hewn eatery on the water. Firefly is a sophisticated hot spot on the Boardman River.
- Of course the deck at Lakeside Charlie’s on Lake Mitchell should be on your Cadillac list. A view of Lake Cadillac goes great with Loretta DeJulian Snider’s authentic Italian at Marina Ristorante. At McGuire’s Resort, the Terrace Room restaurant serves stellar water and woods views plus American fare.