Five foodies in Northern Michigan share their favorite things to eat and drink across the north. May we suggest a napkin?
Dig into 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 best comfort food, an unlikely fine dining destination in the U.P., the man behind three of TC’s hottest restaurants, and more!
Foodie: Ariel Mokdad
In one of her rare quiet moments, Detroit native Ariel Mokdad can be found in her home kitchen cooking a rich winter bone broth and chopping mint and parsley for fresh tabbouleh. The rest of the time this 26-year-old dynamo splits her time between teaching undergraduates at Wayne State, where she’s pursuing a Ph.D. in composition and rhetoric, packing her trunk with fresh pita from Detroit-area bakeries or tasting wines to pour by the glass at Olives & Wine, her Traverse City wine bar and Lebanese eatery (Olives & Wine closed after the publish date of this article). Ariel loves the way in which small farms are empowering the Northern Michigan food scene. This month she’s off to explore the cuisines of Morocco.
SPINACH SAUSAGE | Olds Farm, Mesick
Spinach lends a bright green high note to the flavor of free-range hens in these succulent chicken sausages.
CAVIAR & OYSTERS | Boathouse Restaurant, Traverse City
Cold-water oysters with mignonette and a sidecar of salty black osetra caviar with blinis and crème fraîche is so worth the tariff.
TOM KHA SOUP | Samsara, Traverse City
A deep umami undercurrent runs through this bright and fiery Thai soup laced with chili oil, lime juice, fish sauce and fresh vegetables.
THE REVOLVER | Rockwhich, Traverse City
Chase the Rockwhich food truck for this stack of roasted yardbird, bacon, crispy chicken skin, lettuce and tomato slathered in proprietary fried chicken mayo.
COCONUT MILK GREEN TEA MATCHA ICE CREAM | Red Ginger, Traverse City
Earthy, herbal green tea and sweet coconut milk commingle in cold fusion bliss. Love the color.
FRUITS DE MER TOWER | Siren Hall, Elk Rapids
Siren Hall serves fresh-from-the-sea hedonism with shrimp cocktail, fresh shucked oysters, mussels and lump crab calamari salad bedded in a silver tower of crushed ice.
NAMASTE NECTAR KOMBUCHA | Cultured Ferments, Traverse City
Cultured Ferment’s electric pink staple kombucha marries snappy hibiscus notes with dark berry infusions.
Foodie: Kalin Sheick
Former 9&10 News reporter and passionate foodie Kalin Sheick has given up green screens for purple fields as the proprietress of Stems & Sprigs—Kalin’s floral design business and working lavender farm near the shores of Walloon Lake, where she spent summers growing up. She, along with husband, Matt, hosts an innovative dinner series called The Gather in their barn, which networks local food entrepreneurs around a shared meal. In the cold months, Kalin can be found slow-cooking Bolognese or chili in her farmhouse kitchen, while summer means local fish and CSA veggies on the grill. A southern-France fan, Kalin plans to hit up Provence to explore lavender farms and local eateries.
TAYLOR’S HASH | Chandler’s, Petoskey
Chandler’s signature brunch indulgence matches your martini hangover against a stuffed hash brown with bacon, Gouda, poached eggs and hollandaise. The hash wins every time.
FARM STYLE CATSUP | Harwood Gold, Charlevoix
Harwood Gold ups the condiment game with a tomato soul sauce sweetened with maple syrup from their Charlevoix sugarbush.
COFFEE ICE CREAM | Brian’s Ice Cream Experience, Charlevoix
The small batch ice cream wizard of Bridge Street amplifies everything you love about coffee in sweet cream solid form.
JOHN CROSS SALMON | Palette Bistro, Petoskey
Sage-laced brown butter sauce and butternut squash risotto sing backup for a toothsome fresh-off-the-boat slab of John Cross salmon.
TUNA POKE NACHOS | Pour Kitchen & Bar, Petoskey
Order a flute of champagne with these crispy triangles of housemade wonton piled with tuna marinated in ponzu and sprinkled with sesame seeds and pickled jalapeños.
WHITEFISH BLACKENED & GRENOBLE | Side Door Saloon, Petoskey
Kalin endorses a two-pronged approach to Side Door’s fresh whitefish: a smoky spice crust taken over the top by bright lemon caper sauce.
GOTTA TRY THIS | Julienne Tomatoes, Petoskey
Join the afternoon queue at Petoskey’s favorite lunch spot for roasted turkey, avocado, sprouts and sun-dried tomato mayo on Crooked Tree’s Parmesan pepper bread.
BLACK BEAN NACHOS | Barrel Back, Walloon Lake
This melty pyramid of black beans, avocado and brisket begs for an escort of cold IPA and an eyeful of Walloon Lake’s azure waters.
Foodie: Chris Treter
Chris Treter found the inspiration to launch Higher Grounds Coffee while advocating for the rights of indigenous communities in Chiapas, Mexico. Traveling throughout the coffee-growing world to meet with farming communities has seen Chris savoring falafel in Jenin, Palestine, beef tips served on injera bread in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and unmatched chicken soup in Chiapas. At home in Traverse City, Chris, his wife, Shauna, and daughter, Pearl, love cooking with seasonal produce or pawing through stalls at area farmers markets. Chris values the development of our Northern Michigan food economy as a distinct reflection of our unique local culture.
RED VELVET PANCAKES | Red Spire Brunch House, Traverse City
This decadent Southern bakery staple is reborn in breakfast form as rich red cocoa-laced hot cakes.
BLUEBERRY LAVENDER JAM | Food for Thought, Honor
Sun-ripened Michigan blueberries boosted with fragrant lavender buds make for an addictive accoutrement to toast or triple-crème cheeses.
RHUBARB PIE | Grand Traverse Pie Company, Traverse City
Chris gets as-good-as-grandma vibes from this tangy confection of early summer rhubarb, buttery crust and sweet crumb topping.
STOKER PIZZA | The Filling Station, Traverse City
Wood-fire-roasted onions, peppers, garlic and tomatoes studded with house-made sausage and mozzarella slide into the inferno atop a crisp Neapolitan crust.
Omelette Ratatouille | Patisserie Amie, Traverse City
Fresh herbs, Gruyère and a Provençal-style vegetable medley deftly folded in an airy eggy envelope.
NORTH SHORE | Village Cheese Shanty, Leland
The lines are deep outside Fishtown’s favorite sandwich shack for tasty strata of turkey, bacon, Swiss and cucumber on salty pretzel bread.
CHICKEN SHAWARMA | Nada’s Mediterranean Gourmet Deli, Traverse City
Marinated chicken, pickled vegetables, parsley and powerfully delicious garlic toum twisted in tender pita make up Nada’s divine Middle East street food staple.
HENRY’S PIPPIN HARD CIDER | Left Foot Charley, Traverse City
Five Northern Michigan varieties lend their apple essence to this Solera Method hard cider that unites mellow, barrel-aged complexity with fresh apple flavors.
Foodie: Chris Dennos
Born to a food-loving, globe-trotting family in Long Island, New York, lifelong foodie Chris Dennos suffered something of a culture shock when she moved to Traverse City at age 14. She recalls a formative food epiphany at 18 while tasting fresh-from-the-sea calamari on a beach in Crete. Launching a travel agency after college, Chris has traveled the world sampling nuanced pho in Vietnam and wild game cooked over open fires on safari in Africa. When she’s not sampling Chef James Bloomfield’s latest creations at Alliance, her favorite, Chris can be found entertaining in her home kitchen building lavish brunch spreads or cooking fresh pasta with lemon cream and caviar for friends.
MANHATTAN | Grand Traverse Distillery Tasting Room, Traverse City
Drive out the residual chill with GT Distillery’s Ole George whiskey stirred with bitters, a splash of vermouth and whiskey- soaked cherries.
KETTLE CHIPS | Great Lakes Potato Chip Company, Traverse City
Crisp, salty thick-cut chips that encourage compulsive enjoyment to the envy of controlled substances everywhere.
CHAMPAGNE DILL HONEY MUSTARD | Herkner Farms, Traverse City
Champagne vinegar twang dosed with honey, garlic and dill take deviled eggs to the next level.
OCTOPUS | Alliance, Traverse City
Chef James Bloomfield achieves cephalopod perfection with a three-part harmony of sous vide, flash grilling and piquant shawarma spices.
HAND PIE | BLK MRKT, Traverse City
Fruit filling with a soupçon of tang enrobed in flaky pastry. Makes the macchiatos go down easy.
BLACKENED SALMON CAESAR | amical, Traverse City
Amical delivers fresh salmon armored in scorched spices on a bed of judiciously dressed romaine with croutons and shards of Parmigiano Reggiano.
SWEET POTATO TORTA | Raduno, Traverse City
Roasted sweet potato, black bean spread, Loma Farm greens and salsa macha on fresh baguette converts even the staunchest carnivores.
BRAISED BEEF TACO | Mama Lu’s, Traverse City
Mama Lu’s crew drops the taco mic with tender strands of slow-braised beef dressed with spicy tomato marmalade, onion, cilantro and a crispy sweet potato chip.
Foodie: Nicole Knapp
Leelanau County native Nicole Knapp skied and traveled the world before resettling in Manistee to open The Fillmore, a hip coffee house and cafe dedicated to showcasing Michigan ingredients. A passionate advocate for Northern Michigan’s local food economy, Nicole networks area farmers and companies like Higher Grounds Coffee to supply her restaurant and is excited about businesses like the Yellow Dog Café and Iron Fish Distilling, which are putting Manistee/Benzie on the food map. Nicole’s favorite food memories trace back to the kitchen of her Grandma Lila, whose homemade chicken and egg noodle dish is a favorite in her own kitchen. A self-described sweet tooth with a crème brûlée addiction, Nicole looks forward to learning more about Thai cooking.
FARMER’S SKILLET | Iron Works Café, Manistee
Local farm fields volunteer their freshest veggies to stand alongside goat cheese, housemade sausage and fresh eggs on the front lines of breakfast.
TACO TRIO | Taco ‘Bout it Truck, Kaleva
Legit street-style tacos are best wolfed in threes. Taco ’Bout It makes it easy with a trifecta of chicken, pork and beef.
ESCH ROAD PEACH SALSA | Food for Thought, Honor
Summer peach sweetness lends verve and versatility. Dunk chips or serve it with grilled fish.
TRUFFLE BROWNIE | The Daily Bakehouse, Manistee
Crispy corners and liberally drizzled caramel guard a fudgy inner sanctum. Get there early before they sell out.
BLUE CHEESE FILET MIGNON | The Glenwood, Onekama
Marbled tenderloin picks up a dose of moxie from tangy blue cheese cream sauce at this resort-town icon.
TRADITIONAL WOOD-FIRED PIZZA | The Fillmore, Manistee
Hand-stretched dough made daily is the canvas for The Fillmore’s signature pie of pepperoni, sausage and mushrooms.
FAJITAS | The Roadhouse, Benzonia
Magnum salt-rimmed margaritas quench the fire between bites of sizzling chicken and steak, grilled peppers, guacamole and housemade salsa at Benzie’s Tex-Mex watering hole.
WINE & CIDER FLIGHTS | Douglas Valley Tasting Room, Manistee
Sip your way through the vineyards and orchards at Douglas Valley paired with charcuterie boards or Nicole’s favorite, Halloween candy.
Traverse food and drinks editor Tim Tebeau writes from Petoskey. [email protected] // Photographer Jesse Green shoots commercial, wedding and lifestyle photography from Detroit and Leelanau County. Jessedavidgreen.com.