More than 12,000 people voted in MyNorth’s 2020 Red Hot Best competition, and if you were one of them, you saw we’ve changed it up. After more than a decade of sharing the winners in each category for Northern Michigan as a whole, we decided to dig into 11 different regions and discover the best in each unique area. So, without further ado, here are voters’ picks for best businesses, people and places in Gaylord and Grayling.

Want to see the winners from other regions, too? Click here for Above the Bridge, Cadillac, Charlevoix, Leelanau, Ludington, Mackinac Island, Manistee & Benzie, Marquette, Petoskey & Harbor Springs and Traverse City.

Bank or Financial Institution (Branch)

1st Place Tie – Huntington Bank, Main Street, Gaylord
In the words of one employee: “We welcome everyone, whoever walks through that door. We don’t turn people away because they are down on their luck. We try to help everyone out, even it isn’t always financially.”

1st Place Tie – Fifth Third, Main Street, Gaylord

2. Community Financial Credit Union, Main Street, Gaylord

Bar to Hear Live Music

1. The Logmark, Otsego Resort
Take a seat on the patio of this rustic icon, order up a drink and a pizza, sit back and listen to solo and duo musicians perform a wide genre from folk to rock. There’s an evening!

2. Snowbelt Brewing Co., Gaylord

3. Tinker’s Junction, Grayling

Bloody Mary (Place)

1. Spike’s Keg O Nails, Grayling
The house-made mix is what sets these Bloody’s apart. Folks love it so much Spike’s sells it to-go by the jug.

2. Otsego Club & Resort, Gaylord

3. Bennethum’s Northern Inn, Gaylord

Breakfast Spot

1. Diana’s Delight, Grayling
Breakfast served all day. Raise a coffee mug to that!

2. Grayling Restaurant, Grayling

3. Jan’s Deli & Catering, Gaylord

Brewery (Must Brew Own Beer)

1. Snowbelt Brewing Co., Gaylord
Great beer (we’ll take a Summer Fling, please) served up in a brick-and-chalkboard vintage setting. Yep, they got it going on.

2. Rolling Oak Brewing, Grayling

3. Big Buck Brewery, Gaylord

Chicken Wings (Place)

1. Ray’s BBQ, Brews, & Blues, Grayling
Order ‘em up, spiced and smoked, by the pound.

2. La Señorita, Gaylord

3. Porter Haus, Gaylord

Conservancy Preserve

1. Hartwick Pines State Park, Grayling
Forty-nine acres of old-growth pines protected here. Thank you.

2. Sturgeon River Preserve, Gaylord

3. Louis M. Groen Nature Preserve, Johannesburg


1. Rolling R Farm, Gaylord
If it is good for you (and it tastes good!), they grow and raise it.

2. Jim’s Farm Market, Grayling

Favorite Nonprofit (In Region)

1. Otsego County Community Foundation, Gaylord
What do the local Little League and the Gaylord Center for the Arts have in common? They’re on the diverse list of organizations that this foundation lends a hand to. Knuckle-bump for the folks behind this foundation!

2. River House Women’s Shelter, Grayling

3. Ausable River Festival, Grayling

Fish Fry

1. Paul’s Pub, Johannesburg
Since back in the 1970s when Paul’s wife prepped for the fry in her own kitchen, they’ve staked their reputation on frying fish. It’s got to be good.

2. Spike’s Keg O Nails, Grayling

3. Alpine Tavern and Eatery, Gaylord

Gallery to Buy and Browse Local Art

1. AuSable Artisan Village, Grayling
A round of applause for this nonprofit, volunteer-run organization that has given Grayling a center for the arts including a gallery, classes, workshops and a performance stage.

2. Gaylord Area Council For Arts, Gaylord

3. Main Branch Gallery, Grayling

Happy Hour

1. Bennethum’s Northern Inn, Gaylord
Half-off on drinks from 4 to 6 p.m. and a fabulous menu of specialty small plates including oysters, fried-feta salad and boom-boom shrimp. Who needs dinner?

2. Rolling Oak Brewery, Grayling

3. The Sitzmark at Otsego Club & Resort, Gaylord

Hardware and Building Supply Store

1. Preston Feather Building Center, Gaylord
More than a century of helping folks with their construction and remodeling needs, right down to the kitchen sink.

2. Gaylord Kitchen and Bath, Gaylord

3. Lovells Home Center, Grayling

Inland Lake

1. Otsego Lake, Otsego County
Ringed in hardwoods with great fishing, a beautiful sandy beach, boat launch and a park with camping. Yep, this is a true-blue Michigan lake!

2. Lake Margrethe, Crawford County

3. Big Bear Lake, Otsego County

Interior Furnishings

1. Old Spud Warehouse, Gaylord
Eclectic interior elements with a sense of humor including original artwork, furniture, one-of-a-kind antiques and shoes.

2. The Curator, Grayling

3. Great Rooms Furniture, Gaylord

Photo by Seth Kelle

Hartwick Pines State Park // Photo by Seth Kelle

Local Insurance Agent 

1. Katie Olson, Farm Bureau, Grayling
Folks trust that Katie knows what their needs. Her family has been in Grayling for generations and she learned the business from her dad who ran this office for 35 years. Yep, Grayling is in her DNA!

2. Kevin Jansen, Jansen Insurance, Grayling

3. Neil Drzewiecki, Meemic, Grayling

Local Realtor 

1st Place Tie: Nancy Jacobs, Berkshire Hathaway, Gaylord
You get the expertise and experience of two agents when you contact Nancy. She and her partner, Leslie Burroughs, teamed up 25 years ago when they were young moms. They founded their business on the advice of an old-timer who told them: The day you start caring more about the paycheck than your customer you won’t do well. “He was right,” Nancy says adding, “We are an all in operation.”

1st Place Tie: Lesa Jarski, Real Estate One, Gaylord
This testimonial from a happy homebuyer says it all: “Always a pleasure to be around … A great listener and always helping you. Thanks for your hard work, Lesa!”

2nd Place Tie: Chet Wheeler, RE/MAX Grayling

2nd Place Tie: Sheri Kimberly, Coldwell Banker, Gaylord

Mountain Biking Trail

1. Hanson Hills Recreation Area, Grayling
More than 20-miles of rolling single track shaded by a hardwood forest. A pedaler’s heaven.

2. Hartwick Pines State Park, Grayling

3. Treetops Resort, Gaylord

Outdoor Dining

1. Ray’s, BBQ, Brews & Blues, Grayling
The perfect trilogy (being BBQ, brews and blues) indulged while seated by the Au Sable River. Oh baby!

2. Alpine Tavern and Eatery, Gaylord

3. The Duck Blind Grill, Gaylord

Outdoor Gear Store 

1. Jay’s Sporting Goods, Gaylord
Walk in an ordinary citizen. Walk out a person of the Northwoods.

2. Northbound Outfitters, Grayling

3. White Birch Outfitters, Gaylord

Outdoor Running Trail

1. Aspen Park, Gaylord
The entire park is lit until 11 p.m. so it’s never too late to get your run in—or see the elk that call this downtown park home.

2. Hartwick Pines State Park, Grayling

3. Hanson Hills Recreation Area, Grayling

Party Store

1. Hops & Schnapps, Gaylord
Looking for that hard to find liquor? Look here first. Need a keg for your party? They got ‘em? Want to outfit a bar for your wedding? This is the place. Just want to find some good ol’ customer service? Yep, you’ll find that here too.

2. Ole Dam Party Store, Grayling

3. DerMiner’s Parkside Market, Gaylord

Place to Get Your Annuals and Perennials

1. Grayling Greenhouse, Grayling
Three generations have made the family business bloom. In Grayling, browse three on-site greenhouses supplanted with plants from the family’s 40 greenhouses not far away in Rose City.

2. North Star Gardens, Gaylord

3. Flowermania, Gaylord

Place to Take an Instagram Photo

1. Hartwick Pines State Park, Grayling
What did Michigan look like before the logging-era? Go back in time at Hartwick Pines’ 49-acres of old-growth forest.

2. Otsego Resort, Gaylord

3. Rolling Oak Brewery, Grayling

Restaurant for a Special Occasion

1. Bennethum’s Northern Inn, Gaylord
Ask about their private dining experience—an intimate, very special way to celebrate with family and friends.

2. Gates Au Sable Lodge, Grayling

3. The Bearded Dogg Lounge, Gaylord

Sports Gear Rental Company

1. White Birch Outfitters, Gaylord
Forget the tie. Get Dad a gift certificate here for Father’s Day.

2. Northbound Outfitters, Grayling

3. Penrod’s AuSable Canoe and Kayak, Grayling

Spot to Bird Watch

1. Hartwick Pines State Park, Grayling
Kirtland’s warblers, evening and rose-breasted grosbeaks and more than 200 other species inhabit this park’s old-growth forest. A birder’s heaven.

2. Pigeon River Country State Forest, Northeast of Gaylord

3. Otsego Lake State Park, Gaylord

Summer Festival or Event

1. Alpenfest, Gaylord
For more than a half-century, this fun festival has helped give Gaylord its Swiss accent—right down to the annual Burning of the Boogg.

2. Ausable River Festival, Grayling

3. Otsego County Fair, Gaylord

Wedding Venue

1. Otsego Resort, Gaylord
Frame a romantic view of the Sturgeon River Valley with your altar, choose from four unique reception venues, then relax because the service here is first-rate.

2. Sonshine Barn Wedding and Event Center, Gaylord

3. Camp Grayling Officer’s Club, Grayling

Winter Festival or Event

1. Alpenfrost, Gaylord
This February festival that makes winter sparkle with fun comes along just when you need it most.

2. Beer and Wine Festival at Treetops, Gaylord

3. Christmas Walk, Grayling

Photo(s) by Brian Confer