40+ Local Eats for a Food Tour of Northern Michigan

Two flavor fiends hit the road to bring you a batch of the North’s most delectable sips and perfect bites. Feast on this Northern Michigan food tour from Ludington to Marquette.

Featured in the March 2019 issue of Traverse Magazine. Get your copy. 

PISTACHIO BAKLAVA

The Baklava Shop / Atlanta
Nestled in the gorgeous hinterlands of Atlanta is a charming shop with an equally charming female team of baklava-makers—Georgette Prince and her daughters Chrissy Prince and Sarah Smith (pictured above). They ship Georgette’s Lebanese grandmother’s secret-recipe treats all over the country: Gorgeous layers of ground pistachios, phyllo, butter and simple syrup. P.S. They also make cinnamon rolls that will make a grown man cry happy tears.

BACON, GRUYÈRE & ONION CREPE

That French Place / Charlevoix
Smoky lardons, sweet caramelized onions and melty Gruyère stashed in origami folds of paper-thin buckwheat batter make for a magnifique morning mic drop.

MAURICE SALAD

Riverfront Pizza & Deli / Glen Arbor
When the craving for this legendary Detroit salad hits, “Bad Sue” has your back. Ribbons of lettuce, ham, turkey, Jarlsberg cheese and sweet gherkins get kissed by a lemony, creamy dressing just like Hudson’s used to make.

SHE-CRAB SOUP

Table 14 / Ludington
Rich with sherry, crab and history—it was one of Martha Washington’s faves—executive chef Howard Iles ladles up a Lowcountry bisque at its restorative, transformative finest.

GINGER SCONE

Red Rooster Coffee & Community / Ludington
These little cuties get a double dose of ginger—ground and finely chopped candied—for a kiss of delightful heat in every buttery bite. Ludington’s favorite coffeehouse sources them from the nearby Laughing Tree Brick Oven in Hart.

OATMEAL CHOCOLATE WALNUT COOKIES

L’Chayim / Beulah
Oh, how magically, meltingly wonderful they are … and not a raisin in sight for those who worry about such things. If you pass through Beulah this summer, do not skip our (highly) honorable mention: the rugelach. Worth ALL the powdered sugar on yo’ face.

BLOODY MARY MIX

American Spoon / Various locations
Stock your fridge with this Sunday morning fun-maker, then wake up and smell the Michigan-grown horseradish, fresh garlic and vibrant dill.

BREAKFAST PITA

Rose and Fern / Traverse City
Becky Tranchell’s pop-up proved a success. Now her pride-and-joy restaurant proper has fans swooning over her pillowy pita with luscious sumac hummus, golden raisins, pickled onion, pepitas and a lovely “jammy” soft-boiled egg on top (pictured above). Look for the bright blue door next to Potter’s Bakery on 8th Street.

CRESTE DI GALLO PASTA

Raduno / Traverse City
The ruffled mohawks and textured tubes on these fresh “rooster’s comb” shaped macaroni scoop up sauces like a dream.

YOU’RE A PEACH

Petoskey Cheese / Petoskey
Cheese Diva Katie Potts has engineered a near-perfect sammich with strata of soppressata, double-creme Affinois, peach preserves and greens in a twice-baked baguette.

CHOCOLATE DEVILED EGGS

Sweet Shop / Cadillac
Try not to smile when you open a box of these white chocolate eggs (yes, the same scrumptious white chocolate used for the candy emporium’s famed Snowbirds) filled with yellow-tinted chocolate yolks and showered with red sugar paprika. A treat for Easter, April Fool’s or a Monday at the office. They ship!

PORK BELLY FRIED RICE

Pour / Petoskey
P-Town’s hippest chow house offers a deliciously fusionistic fried rice with pork belly, pickled avocado, nori and cucumber kimchi. Pair with a glass of zippy off-dry riesling.

FRIED CHICKEN

Dam Site Inn / Pellston
There’s a reason that any given weeknight between May and October you’ll find gobs of cars parked outside this retro supper club on the banks of the Maple River. That reason is expertly fried chicken with a full vintage family-style spread. Oh, and a swanky mod bar straight out of a Bond movie.

CHICKEN BISCUIT SANDWICH

The Local / Elk Rapids
The fried chicken is corn-chip cloaked and crispy. The biscuit feather-light with craggy edges. The sausage gravy, freshly whisked up with sage and black pepper. All three together … unbelievable.

CHICKEN & WAFFLES

Birch & Maple / Frankfort
Can’t decide between Team Sweet or Team Savory for breakfast? Chef Natalie Niederhofer makes it all okay with her loving and cozy take on a classic: A juicy buttermilk fried chicken breast over tender homemade waffles with a dab of just-sticky-enough bourbon maple toffee.

ANNIVERSARY CHICKEN

Trattoria Funistrada / Burdickville
No milestone needed to celebrate the coming together of pan-sautéed chicken breasts, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, melty mozzarella and lemony white wine sauce. But, cheers Holly and Tom Reay, for 19 years strong as Leelanau’s off-the-beaten-path gathering place.

THE GHOST

Bee Well Meadery / Bellaire
This crisp cider’s heat grabs you close, kisses you, then lets you go. It’s magnificent.

CARROT CAKE

Small Batch / Harbor Springs
Small Batch’s moist, multi-level vintage masterpiece is dense with carrot, raisins and baking spices and mortared just right with airy cream cheese frosting.

SAUVIGNON BLANC ‘DUNE CLIMB’ 2017

bigLITTLE / Suttons Bay
The quality and distinctive character of sauvignon blanc grown in this tiny Leelanau County vineyard is a revelation. Expect citrus peel, white peach and sweet basil in this 2017 vintage from brothers Michael and Peter Laing (pictured above).

SMOKED TURKEY BREAST

Ebels / Falmouth
Our sales director, Julie, steals away as often as she can to grab one of these bad boys. She says their onsite smokehouse has been seasoned to perfection, and nothing leaves that aged chamber or those glorious embers without being shrouded in the perfect blanket of smoke only Ebels can produce.

DUCK FRENCH ONION SOUP

Cafe Santé / Boyne City
Long simmered roasted duck broth flush with shredded confit gets a lid of baguette crouton and Gruyère gratinée to drive away the residual winter chill.

CAMP SPECIAL #1

Brutus Camp Deli / Alanson
The camo-clad hash slingers at Brutus’ booming breakfast joint fry up a mean lumberjack platter of farm eggs, Plath’s sausage and bacon, redskin home fries and pancakes bigger than most truck rims. Pace yourself.

SPANISH-STYLE OCTOPUS

Trattoria Stella / Traverse City 
Only the best cephalopods get volunteered for Chef Myles’ Iberian appetizer of charred octopus and spicy house-made Calabrese sausage in a tomato broth with smoked shallots and rice beans.

CURRY DUCK

Thai Orchid Cuisine / Petoskey
Umami-packed morsels of roast duck are folded with bell pepper, onion, tomato and peas for a quick simmer in coconut milk laced with fiery red curry paste.

MS. JAMIE’S HABANERO GOLD JELLY

Market M88 / Bellaire
Have you ever tasted gold? One taste of this jelly’s sweet-hot glow with some Manchego cheese and you are good to go. Jars of this wonder-condiment are made locally by Jamie VanSice and stocked with pride at Bellaire’s Market M88.

SWEET POTATO FALAFEL

Edson Farms Market / Traverse City
Some days the deli team can’t get these stocked fast enough. Omena Organics garbanzo beans get blended and pattied up with roasted sweet potatoes, coriander, cumin, turmeric and cardamom, baked then flash-fried to crisp and served up with a creamy cuke-cilantro sauce.

CHITARRA CARBONARA

The Marq / Marquette
My advice for The Marq, Marquette’s on-trend temple of contemporary eats, is to order everything. If you’re making hard choices then order the chitarra carbonara: hand cut ribbons of fresh pasta with crispy lamb belly, egg and Parmigiano.

GAMAY 2017

Mari Vineyards / Traverse City
Jedi vineyard skills and Old Mission’s sandy soil super-charges winemaker Sean O’Keefe’s rare gamay with tellicherry pepper and red cherry that could put the better cru Beaujolais on their heels.

BANANA FUDGE PIE SUNDAE

Kilwin’s / Boyne City
If there’s a better way to expunge sorrow than a large scoop of banana fudge pie ice cream parked in a fresh waffle bowl and drowned in hot fudge, I haven’t found it.

HAND PIES

Harwood Gold / Charlevoix
Sisters and fifth-generation sugar bush owners Katie Untalan and Amber Munday (pictured above) sweeten their from-scratch catsup only with pure maple syrup. It is the perfect anointment to their meat pies, half-moon homages to Gold’s chef Phil Munday’s Aussie roots.

THE BUZZ ALDRIN

Alliance / Traverse City
Alliance’s artful improv cred is as deserved behind the bar as it is in the kitchen. See the Buzz Aldrin, a sexy citrus meditation of orange-infused Milagro, amaro, orgeat and lemon.

SHAVED ASPARAGUS SALAD

The Tribune / Northport
Sure, it competes with that shiny pickle-brined fried chicken sandwich nearby on the menu. But when you let local asparagus dance with shaved fennel, dusky and deep Egyptian dukkah, creamy burrata and Champagne vinaigrette, a star is born. Find it in season (and if not, there’s always that chicken sandwich!).

SPICY HABANERO PICKLED ASPARAGUS

Natural Northern Foods / Traverse City
Launch your Bloody Mary game to new heights with these little javelins of pickled-crisp perfection.

ASPARAGUS SOUP

Hansen Foods / Suttons Bay
A simply divine family-recipe soup is served and sold to-go in the grocer’s deli and only made during those precious weeks of asparagus season. Get it while it’s hot.

BEEF & ASPARAGUS ROLLS

Harrington’s By the Bay / Traverse City
Zero in on this steakhouse’s happy hour snack of verdant spears cloaked in filet mignon with Béarnaise for dipping.

THE CLASSIC

Alley’s Market / Traverse City
If a friend brings you a slice—nay, rectangle—of this chewy crust cloaked in lacy, crispy cheese and topped with a perfect swoop of fresh tomato sauce, well, then you are friends for life. Chef Simon Joseph went all-in on his Detroit-style pizza research, so the rest of us can sit back and truly, madly, deeply enjoy.

STARMAN PALE ALE

Black Rocks Brewery / Marquette
With a manifold hop profile sans bitterness, this Yooper brewhaus delivers the Platonic beverage for beach fires and lazy afternoon paddles. Bring more than you think you’ll need.

WHITE CHEDDAR ALE

North Peak Brewing Company / Traverse City
No surprise that this beloved beer cheese soup now has copycat recipes popping up on Pinterest. It speaks the very language of comfort, with a velvety texture, a backbone of ale and a blanket of onion-mustard pretzels for good measure.

SUPER GRAIN BREAD

The Daily BakeHouse / Manistee
He’s the bread whisperer, a mad scientist, the village baker. We asked the mastermind behind this amazing loaf to reveal his alchemy: A 16-hour pre-ferment builds into a final dough, with the addition of honey, sea salt, yeast, a blend of flours, boiled bulgur wheat and a soaker comprised of millet, flax, oat groat and wheat berry. It’s hearth-baked in an imported Italian steam tube deck oven. And super grain bread is born.

MICHIGAN BEER BATTERED WHITEFISH SANDWICH

Barrel Back / Walloon Lake
Less a sandwich and more a crispy fish flying saucer, Barrel Back’s eye-catching environs are made even better with this vertiginous presentation of crunchy fish, slaw and lemon-garlic aioli.

POUR OVER COFFEE & ALMOND CHAI CROISSANT

Dripworks / Petoskey
Hot water poured slowly over just-ground Madcap coffee beans is made better only by the addition of a buttery croissant dosed with almonds and chai spices.

Emily Tyra is editor of Traverse Magazine. emily@traversemagazine.com // Traverse food and drinks editor Tim Tebeau writes from Petoskey. dining@traversemagazine.com // Andy Wakeman is a commercial and editorial photographer based in Traverse City.