Chicken Potpie Proprietor Terry Left turns his pub into Charlevoix’s Thursday gathering place with his homemade vegetable-rich potpies with delicate puff pastry tops. They’re so beloved, word is the captain of Island Airways wants to start flying them over Lake Michigan to folks on Beaver Island. The Villager Pub, 427 Bridge Street, Charlevoix, 231-547- 6925.
Wild Rice Salad The chefs at Traverse City’s food co-op toss wild rice and smoky baked tofu with plump organic raisins, toasted pecans and slivers of crisp red pepper and green onion for a salad that’s both rustic and elevated. Oryana Natural Foods Market, 260 East Tenth Street, Traverse City, 231-947-0191.
Homemade Wheat BreadTake a squat little loaf home and slice it as thick as you like for wonderfully fragrant toast with nutty-tasting nooks for butter and honey. Grandma Ferol’s Kitchen, 9047 Helena Road, Alden, 231-564-0357.
Turkey-Asparagus Panini A pressed delight with turkey, Swiss, honey-Dijon mayo and slender soldiers of asparagus. Goody’s Juice and Java, 343 River Street, Manistee, 231-398-9580.
Chipotle Chicken Sandwich Slices of house-baked seedless rye golden off the grill are escorts for chicken, melted colby-jack, smoky chipotle mayonnaise and a lively cilantro pesto. Chef John’s European Bakery and Cafe, 110 West Filer Street, Ludington, 231-843-3327.
Gorgonzola-stuffed New Potatoes Seasoned red skin halves are filled with roasted pecan-gorgonzola pâté, anointed with a dried cherry, then finished in the oven to create luxurious little morsels folks fawn over at parties. Grandview Catering, 428 East Front Street, Traverse City, 231-932-9713.
Paella TraVino’s version of the Spanish classic – rich, sunshine-yellow saffron risotto with chicken, shrimp, mussels, calamari, chorizo, lemon and a tomato-herb sauce – sends the mouth into reverie. TraVino, 4341 M-72, Williamsburg, 231-938-9496.
Dutch Baby Eggy batter takes a turn in the oven in a buttered cast iron skillet to pillow up like a popover. Accompanied by wedges of lemon, whipped butter and powdered sugar. Original Pancake House, 4000 Main Street, Bay harbor, 231-439-2646.
Ginger CookiesThese are soft – not snappy – with a gingery, molasses-y sweetness and a sanding of sugar on their oven-cracked surface. Linda Sisson whips them up according to her sister Sandy’s recipe. Sisson’s Main Street Specialties, 203 North Main, Leland, 231-256-9201.
Guacamole Maria Lopez mashes avocado with her house fresh-to-order pico de gallo to make a creamy-fresh indulgence. Dig in with crackly crisp corn chips. Our thanks to the mortar and pestle. Jose’s Authentic Mexican Restaurant, 309 Petoskey Street, Petoskey, 231-348-3299.
Good Fellas Pizza This pie has a lot of character, starting with the flavorful, crisp crust and the basil-infused olive oil as sauce. Toppings of turkey, hot capicola, pancetta, onions and roasted red peppers take you where you want to go. Papa Lou’s Pizza Pub & Grill, 317 East Lake Street, Petoskey, 231-348-3663.
Eggs Pontalba A hearty little spark of a breakfast dish: poached eggs served on New Orleans’ brabant potatoes with diced ham, fresh mushrooms and scallions and a smooth Creole sauce. Tuscan Bistro, 12930 South West Bay Shore Drive, Traverse City, 231-922-7795.
Carnitas Crispy, tender and juicy seasoned pork tips with a tangy tomatillo sauce. Herraduras Mexican Grill, 1700 South Mitchell, Cadillac, 231-775-4575.
Pretzel Bread Faintly sweet, chewy dough is perfectly balanced with crystals of sea salt, and makes an extra-special sandwich to eat in the smoky-freshwater air of historic Fishtown. Village Cheese Shanty, the docks of Fishtown, Leland. 231-256-9141.
Mocha Java Porter A special brew at Jamesport Brewing Company, with a creamy texture and a pronounced chocolate coffee aroma and flavor. Jamesport Brewing Company, 410 South James Street, Ludington, 231-845-2522.
Cuban Burger I can’t tell you how many of these my hubby has eaten since Blue Tractor Cook Shop opened its Old Towne doors last July. The burg is topped with pulled pork (pit-smoked in the back), jack cheese, house-made pickles (sweet and laced with mustard seeds), Hellmann’s mayo and yellow mustard. Blue Tractor Cook Shop, 423 Union Street, Traverse City, 231-922-9515.
Chocolate Meteor Cake How ’bout a hunk of this mouthwatering marvel made with two layers of chocolate cake frosted in chocolate ganache then covered in cubes of regular and Swiss chocolate cake and dusted with cocoa and powdered sugar. Special order one for a birthday or a meteor shower party. Julienne Tomatoes, 421 Howard Street, Petoskey, 231-439-9250.
Spicy Almond Turkey Bacon SaladBeth Bosscher combines roasted turkey with the knockout flavors of aromatic basil, bacon, toasted slivered almonds and a house chili-lime dressing. Shay Station Coffee Co., 106 South Mitchell Street, Cadillac, 231-775-6150.
Peach PieCoffee roaster Kate McCracken nestles juicy Georgia peaches in a tender butter-and-lard crust that had our editor and photographer swooning. The pie’s even better with a cappuccino brewed with the house espresso blend. Dead River Coffee, 143 West Washington Street, Marquette, 906-226-2112.
Rosemary Ham Sandwich Dry-cured, rosemary-crusted ham that’s grilled and layered with caramelized onions, white cheddar and savory-sweet American Spoon Foods’ Red Spoon Peppers relish and piled on Crooked Tree Breadworks crusty, tangy Italian sourdough. American Spoon Gelato Café, 413 East Lake Street, Petoskey, 231-347-7004.
Panfried Trout Julie Gates makes magic out of straightforward ingredients like impeccably fresh fish filets and potatoes. Try her mouthwatering pan-fried trout with down-home hash browns. (Homemade apple dumpling for dessert.) Hungry Fisherman Dining Room at Gates Au Sable Lodge, 471 Stephan Bridge Road, Grayling, 989-348-8462.
Lobster Bisque A brie and tomato crouton adrift on top adds even more complexity to this velvety, deeply flavored soup. Jockey Club at Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, 906-847-3331.
Penne al Bettola A classic Kosher delicatessen transforms itself into an Italian ristorante at night, serving this perfectly prepared penne in a lavish sauce of tomato and red pepper with cream, vodka and olive oil. The Italian Place & New York Deli. 102 West Washington Street, Marquette, 906-226-3032.
Veal Piccata A seductive dish, well executed with butter, parsley and lemon. Monte Bianco, 02911 Boyne City Road, Boyne City, 231-582-3341.
Enchiladas Mexican-born staff members in the kitchen put out their home-cooked favorites on Village Inn’s pub menu, like the enchiladas made with hand-rolled corn tortillas, Chihuahua cheese and homemade enchilada sauce. Village Inn, 201 North St. Joseph’s Street, Suttons Bay, 231-271-1024.
The Thompson Eggs scrambled with fresh black bean salsa, sautéed jalapeño peppers, diced smoked ham and sharp cheddar, with crisp hash browns and homemade toast. 45th Parallel Café, 102 West Broadway, Suttons Bay, 231-271-2233.
Curry Puffs Dip these puff pastry pockets with a curried beef filling in Helen Coon’s homemade tamarind chutney, look out over Round Lake and die happy. Charly’s, 100 Michigan Avenue, Charlevoix, 231-547-1700.
Avocado SaladLight but delightfully satisfying with avocado, fresh corn, zucchini, tomato and goat cheese drizzled with lemon-basil dressing. 310, 310 South Cass Street, Traverse City, 231-932-1310.
Wild Mushroom BisqueRich, earthy and spicy. Bennethum’s Northern Inn, 3917 Old 27 South, Gaylord, 989-732-9288.
Apple Salad Snappy green apple, roasted pecans, toasted coconut and frilly greens are perfectly balanced with a subtle, smoky cumin dressing. Hanna, 118 Cass Street, Traverse City, 231-946-8207.
Asparagus Brats Even more than Midwesterners love their brats, Empire-ites love their asparagus. Honoring duel regional delicacies, Deering’s Market in downtown Empire crafts limited edition brats laced with fresh Norconk Farms asparagus during the town’s newly famous Asparagus Festival. Deering’s Food Market, 10233 Front Street, Empire, 231-326-5249.
Sweetwater Vanilla Tea Made with real pieces of Madagascar vanilla and Ceylon black tea from Sri Lanka, this tea has an exquisite pure vanilla aroma and flavor. Great Lakes Tea and Spice Co. 6610 1/2 Western Avenue, Glen Arbor, 231-645-8327.
German Brats Karen Watters makes plump all-pork brats from a German recipe with whole milk, fresh eggs, nutmeg and mace. Bellaire Smokehouse, 508 North Bridge Street, Bellaire, 231-533-5069.
Gourmet Oatmeal Just three bucks will get you a cozy cup of this rib-sticking morning treat with four kinds of organic oats, sunflower seeds, dried cherries, honey, brown sugar and a baby pitcher of milk. Java Jones, 139 River Street, Elk Rapids, 231-264-1111.
Vegetable Pasty The U.P. Cornish miners might scoff at this meatless wonder – until they taste it. What a crust (!) and the skin-on potato, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and rutabeggie inside are robust and well-seasoned. (Last time we stopped, Mr. Fosie’s was for sale, so go get your Mr. Fosie love while you still can.) Mr. Fosie’s Pasties, 154 Leisure Road, Cadillac, 231-779-9042.
Chicken Salad Supreme We loved the chicken salad straight-up, plain on the plate. But after trying the perfectly poached chicken – mixed with just a whisper of mayo, mustard, herbs and Michigan dried cherries – on fresh baked homemade wheat with bacon and provolone cheese, that’s the only way it will do. Harborside Deli, 3916 U.S. 31 South, Petoskey, 231-347-1500.
Pickled Brussels Sprouts Opening the jar that we had in the office resulted in a late afternoon sprout frenzy, a group hunched over the jar. Cutely sized and not too puckery, these are mellow sisters to their steamed version; try them instead of artichoke hearts on an antipasto plate with olives, capicola, pepperoncini … Goodstuffs, 111 South Hancock Street, Pentwater, 231-869-5535.
Mackinac Island MilkshakeWe can’t think of a more charming spot to sip a frothy ice-cream drink than this: Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel Tea Room, housed in Fort Mackinac’s original stone 1780 Officers Quarters, the oldest public building in the State of Michigan. Sit under yellow umbrellas looking over the Straits of Mackinac and enjoy one of the richest milkshakes around topped with a turban of fresh whipped cream. The Tea Room at Fort Mackinac, Mackinac Island, 906-847-3331.
Yooper Cookies Inside Houghton’s house of vegetarian, Middle Eastern and Yooper cuisine, Victoria Williams makes wonderfully delicate baby dessert pasties filled with dates – no sugar – and spices. Victoria’s Kitchen, 518 Shelden Avenue, Houghton, 906-482-8650.
Emily Betz Tyra is associate editor at Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine. [email protected]
Tried these eats? Know of a food find we’ve missed? Let us know at [email protected]
Note: This article was first published in March 2007 and was updated for the web February 2008.