40 Killer Eats You Gotta Taste Now! Add These Local Dishes to Your Bucket List

Just take a second and appreciate this sandwich. Wow. (We’ll tell you where to find it below.) Now, savor these 40 food favorites, picked by Northern Michigan foodies, and put them on your taste-bud bucket list.


Dig in to the March Food Issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine!

Get your own copy for the local scoop on the NoMi food scene—like where to get the perfect macaron and the recipe Mario Batali cooked for the Obamas.
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Foodie: Brian Confer

Formerly a commercial photographer reborn as the owner/brewmeister of Frankfort’s Stormcloud Brewing, Brian Confer is a renaissance mensch of food and art. Brian fell in love with food behind the camera as he watched Northern Michigan’s nascent food scene take shape in the 1980s and 90s with restaurants like Tapawingo, Windows and the Rowe Inn. After photographing a feature on up-and-coming craft brewer Joe Short, Brian resolved to get into the beer game himself and now crafts masterful Belgian-style ales at his brewery and taproom. A recent stay in Philadelphia’s Chinatown has put Brian on a mission to master Korean cooking at home.

The Farthest Shore | Stormcloud Brewing Company
303 Main Street, Frankfort | 231.352.0118
Yes, he picked his own beer but what’s not to love about this rich and somehow lithe Belgian strong ale suffused with dark fruit, noble maltiness and 10 percent alcohol. Go slowly.

Maple Bacon Doughnut | Crescent Bakery & Café
404 Main Street, Frankfort | 231.352.4611
A sort of dare for your cholesterol number, Crescent’s beloved breakfast roulette is fried dough painted with maple frosting and sprinkled with bacon crumbles.

Pork Rinds | Villa Marine Bar
228 Main Street, Frankfort | 231.352.5450
Nothing escorts cold ale better than screaming hot pork rinds tossed with Sriracha or mesquite seasoning.

Peppy Peach Jam | Wee Bee Jammin’
8925 Norconk Road, Bear Lake | 231.510.9500
Bear Lake’s bee collective cooks up these sweet peach preserves wired with the right amount of chili pepper heat. Pair with double-cream brie.

Fish Tacos | The Fusion
300 Main Street, Frankfort | 231.352.4114
Fusion’s tasty Asian spin on fish tacos takes on crispy wonton and Sriracha mayo.

Bread Pudding | Mayfair Tavern
515 Frankfort Avenue, Elberta | 231.352.9136
At the crossroads of custard and pastry stands Mayfair’s deliciously moist pudding, bathed in warm bourbon sauce.

Duck Tenders | Grille 44
12951 Pleasanton Highway, Bear Lake | 231.864.4000
Umami-rich slices of duck breast get almond breading and a sweet ginger dipping sauce to the shame of chickens everywhere.

Fried Bluegill Sandwich | Port City Smokehouse
1000 Main Street, Frankfort | 231.352.9192
Arguably the tastiest of all panfish, the bluegill’s delicate sweetness gets rightly worshiped with tartar sauce and a tender top-shelf bun. 


Foodie: Matthew Welch & Karin Killian

Recent transplants to Traverse City, Matt and Karin boast a global foodie résumé that folds together a generational family butcher shop, fair trade coffee communities in Northern Peru, chowing on fresh-caught piranha in the Amazon and perfecting one-pot cookery in the Alaskan bush. Matt works as operations director for Circle of Blue, a nonprofit media organization reporting on water, food and energy issues, while Karin does nonprofit project management consulting and freelance editing. Infatuated with the North’s local food scene, Matt and Karin love to troll for produce at the Sarah Hardy farmers market and cook risottos, pastas and smoked meats at home with their daughters, Millie and Luella.

Da’ Bomb | The Redheads Cafe
202 West Main Street, Lake Leelanau | 231.256.7720
The Redheads’ morning skillet melée is loaded with potatoes, peppers, roast turkey, chili powder and feta cheese then crowned with poached eggs.

Kimchi Fried Rice Balls | Harvest
113 East State Street, Traverse City | 231.486.6037
Chef Simon Joseph has built a sycophant subculture around the tangy kimchi karate chop bursting from every bite of these signature rice balls.

Caramel Macaron | Sweet Tartlette
445 East Front Street, Traverse City | 231.642.5333
The wait for perfect Parisian-style macarons is over. With an ultra-thin crispy shell and chewy caramel interior, this haute couture cookie sandwich is très bon in every bite.

Peanut Butter-Coated Soft Serve | Dairy Lodge
405 North Division Street, Traverse City | 231.941.4374
Traverse City’s retro ice cream stand spirals creamy vanilla soft-serve atop a cake cone and dips the whole business in peanut butter shell coating.

The Cunning Ham Cider | Left Foot Charley
806 Red Drive #100, Traverse City | 231.995.0500
Fermented with farmhouse-style saison yeast, this dry blend of heirloom apples is completely laced with yeasty traces.

Pulled Pork | Kolu’s
133 Ames Street, Elk Rapids | 231.313.9094
The North’s sole outpost for soul food is this Elk Rapids lunch counter where smoky saucy pulled pork gets piled beside homemade mac-and-cheese and salty collard greens.

Frenchies Pastrami | Frenchies Famous (This Is THE Sandwich!!!)
619 Randolph Street, Traverse City | 231.944.1228
French Clements’s funky diminutive Randolph Street diner stakes its rep on this next-level brisket slathered with honey mustard and melty Swiss on salty ciabatta.

Bacon Jerky | Maxbauer’s Meat Market
407 South Union Street, Traverse City | 231.947.7698
Marrying the twin peaks of heart-smart pleasure snacks, bacon and jerky, Maxbauer’s makes it controlled-substance good.


Foodie: Katie Potts

Sole proprietress of Petoskey Cheese, Katie Potts is her hometown’s de facto cheese diva and an eager advocate for local restaurants and artisan food producers. Though she began life as an impossibly picky child, Katie cultivated her foodie chops in the Windy City while studying sustainability at Columbia College and working at Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Wine & Bread. Returning home and opening Petoskey Cheese in October 2015, Katie is excited to see big city food trends creeping northward. Katie is headed to compete, for the second time, at San Francisco’s Cheese Monger Invitational and is plotting a someday visit to the Netherlands’ gouda country.

Rueben | Cormack’s Deli
2569 Charlevoix Avenue, Petoskey | 231.347.7570
A formidable stack of lean corned beef layered with melty Swiss, kraut and Thousand Island dressing between thick slices of grilled rye.

Roscoe | Small Batch at The Cupola
340 State Street, Harbor Springs | 231.242.4686
Chef Loretta and her crew actualize the chicken and waffles fantasy with a salty-sweet duality made better by bourbon maple syrup at this decadent breakfast nook.

Lamb Cheeseburger Taco | Happy’s Taco Shop
happystacoshop.com, Petoskey | 231.330.9408
This folded masterpiece of ground lamb, Chihuahua cheese, onion, pickle, lettuce and special sauce deserves a tip of the hat to the North’s mobile taco tycoons.

Mabs’ Atomic Mustard | Mabs’ Atomic Mustard
mabsatomicmustard.com
Begot in the kitchen of a Swedish grandma, this tangy sweet-hot heirloom mustard lends verve and versatility to barbecue vinaigrette and roasted Brussels sprouts alike.

Ginger Sesame Pork Lettuce Wraps | Tap 30
422 East Mitchell Street, Petoskey | 231.881.9572
Sandbag your stomach against the tide of pale ale by leaf-wrapping this bright mince of pork tenderloin, bell pepper and scallion, and dunk it in finger-licking-good ginger sesame sauce.

Salted Caramel Cookie | Simply Sweet by Jessica
324 East Mitchell, Petoskey | 231.622.8322
Petoskey’s newly crowned cake queen, Jessica Stubbs, deftly plays the salty sweet card with this moist cookie masterpiece.

Pad Thai Curry | Thai Orchid, Petoskey
433 East Mitchell, Petoskey | 231.487.9900
Thai Orchid’s improv on the rice noodle classic ups the game with fragrant yellow curry and lemon.

Moules and Frites | Café Santé
1 Water Street, Boyne City | 231.582.8800
A full pound of Prince Edward Island’s finest takes their last bath in the sauce of your choosing and then hits the table in a hot terrine paired with a cone of crispy fries.


Foodie: John Robert Williams

John Williams is a co-founder of the Traverse City Film Festival and a skilled shutterbug who’s shot food photography on three continents and been the lens for iconic New York Times food writer R.W. “Johnny” Apple Jr., as well as cutting-edge companies like Grillworks. When he’s not behind the camera or teaching photography at NMC, John loves to prowl the TC restaurant scene or put on multi-course dinner parties with his physician wife, Terrie, in their state-of-the-art kitchen. John is excited by the global flavors being created in kitchens around Traverse City and looks forward to a further broadening of the local food scene.

The Whole Hog | Ham-Bonz
1108 E. Eighth Street, Traverse City | 231.929.9288
Not for the feint of pork, Ham-Bonz’s heart-stopper breakfast brings together ham, bacon, sausage links and potatoes topped with eggs and smothered in sausage gravy.

Old George Rye Whiskey | Grand Traverse Distillery Tasting Room
15 East Front Street, Traverse City | 231.946.1259
Sweet caramel oak notes and the spicy soul of distilled rye sing sweetly when poured over a massive ball cube at Grand Traverse Distillery’s Front Street tasting salon.

Steel Cut Oatmeal | Grand Hotel
286 Grand Avenue, Mackinac Island | 800.334.7263
John says this is the sort of porridge that plaid-clad Gallic huntsmen dream of: slow-cooked and elegantly presented with an array of dried fruits, nuts and syrups.

Naturally Nutty Chocolate Cherry Peanut Butter | Naturally Nutty Foods
6272 Bates Road, Williamsburg | 888.224.9988
It’s chocolate peanut butter studded with Northern Michigan dried cherries. Move over other obsessions.

Thai Fried Chicken | Alliance
144 Hall Street #107, Traverse City | 231.642.5545
These tender morsels of crispy fried chicken bring the Bangkok street cred with crispy rice, jalapeño, cilantro and mint.

French Fried Ice Cream | Mission Table
13512 Peninsula Drive, Traverse City | 231.223.4222
This 1980s flashback confection remastered by the Mission Table pastry team has a crunchy exterior, a creamy vanilla core and a healthy dose of dark chocolate sauce.

Chopped Sub Special | Mode’s Bum Steer
125 East State Street, Traverse City | 231.947.9832
It’s not on the menu, so you’ll have to flash the secret hand sign and hope it means two fist-sized patties smothered in sautéed onions and mushrooms beside a slab of Texas toast.

White Bean Chicken Chili | Minerva’s
300 East State Street, Traverse City | 231.946.5093
Pulled chicken gets simmered with white beans, Southwest spices and cream in Minerva’s rich blanco riff on the chili bowl.


Foodie: Tricia Phelps

As operations director for Taste the Local Difference, Tricia has an up-to-the-minute perspective on Northern Michigan’s dynamic local food web. Coming from a culture of convenience food, Tricia had her mind blown with a CSA experience in college and went on to work at the MSU student organic farm. Tricia has since converted to become an avid home chef and an enthusiastic food tourist, learning about Michigan food communities and recently traveling to Charleston to chow down at Fig and Husk, two of the country’s hottest farm-to-table eateries. The cold months find Tricia’s kitchen aromatized with local root vegetable soups, while in summer she regularly rocks fresh spring rolls.

Breakfast Bowls | Blue Heron 2
408 South Union Street, Traverse City | 231.778.2583
Shifting its flavor set with the ebb of seasonal produce, Blue Heron’s breakfast bowls land poached eggs on a creatively savory subfloor that may include lamb curry, apples and local goat cheese.

Brisket | Cordwood BBQ Food Truck
cordwoodbbq.com, Traverse City | 231.486.5464
Smoked low and slow like they do down in ol’ San Anton(io). Cordwood’s traveling pit boss piles it high with briny pickled onions.

Strawberry Basil Jam | Food for Thought
10704 Oviatt Road, Honor | 231.326.5444
Sweet Northern Michigan strawberries mate with the delicate herb love of local basil—and a better toast topping is born.

Farmers Market Pizza | Pleasanton Bakery
811 Cottage View Drive, Traverse City | 231.941.1964
Legit Neapolitan-style pizza crust piled with local produce is made sublimely crisp and toothsome in Pleasanton’s wood-fired inferno.

Scallops | The Riverside Inn
302 River Street, Leeland | 231.256.9971
Leland’s Riverside flash sears these succulent sea creatures and often plates with a creamy seasonal risotto.

The Oregon, with Raspberry Jam | Rolling Farms Cafe
4000 Eastern Sky Drive # 4, Traverse City | 231.421.5711
Channeling the great turkey sandwiches that have gone before, The Oregon builds its legacy on sourdough bread with Swiss, cream cheese, pickles and raspberry preserves.

Panna Cotta | PepeNero
700 Cottageview Drive, Traverse City | 231.929.1960
Panna Cotta is either a sublime airy delight or it’s Jell-O’s milky stepchild. PepeNero’s effort falls into the first category and comes infused with a refreshing essence of orange.

Baked Bao | BLK\MRKT
144 Hall Street, Traverse City | 231.714.5038
Happy teeth unwrap this pillowy pastry topped with sesame seeds. Enjoy with a cup of joe. 

Photos by Courtney Kent 


More Northern Michigan Foodie Fun:

8 Flavorful Northern Michigan Foodie Destinations

Obsessions: 3 Young Foodie Entrepreneurs in Northern Michigan

Center City Kitchen Provides Affordable Workspace for Small Businesses

Dinner at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island: 130 Years of Caviar and Aristocracy

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