Coastal views and a variety of cuisines make Northern Michigan a great place to satisfy any foodie’s craving! From eclectic eats on Mackinac Island to riverside BBQ, here’s the best of Northern Michigan’s restaurants and outdoor dining, as picked by you in our 2022 Red Hot Best awards.

Take a Red Hot Best Road Trip! Grab the June issue with ALL the Red Hot Best winners and take the list with you as you make your way across Northern Michigan this summer. Find out what makes each winner RED HOT BEST! Available for a limited time only, grab your RHB issue here.

Best of the Above the Bridge Region

Restaurant & Outdoor Dining: Pink Pony, Mackinac Island

Earning the top spot for both Restaurant and Outdoor Dining, the Pink Pony is certainly a favorite to locals and tourists alike, and it’s easy to tell why. Quirky and fun (not to mention entirely pink) decor with delicious craft cocktails and a patio on the water make this restaurant a great place to gather with friends and family after a day of exploring Mackinac Island. Plus, there’s a lineup of live music lasting all summer, so each day at Pink Pony is bound to be a fun one!

Photo by The Pink Pony

A view from the deck at the Pink Pony on Mackinac Island.

View the full list of the Above the Bridge Red Hot Best winners to find the best breweries, events and more.

Best of the Benzie & Leelanau Region

Restaurant: Nittolo’s Pizza, Lake Leelanau

Nittolo’s is a place the whole family can enjoy. With highly praised pizzas and delicious cannoli, the menu offers authentic Italian cuisine and kid-friendly classics. Sit outdoors during the warmer months on Nittolo’s patio, which is surrounded by luscious greenery in a casual environment, perfect for dinner after a day at the beach. Make sure to book a reservation because the restaurant fills up quickly.

Outdoor Dining: Hop Lot Brewing Co., Suttons Bay

While the beer and soft pretzels earn high remarks among visitors, what truly stands out about Hop Lot Brewing Co. is the setting. Beneath strings of lights and tall tree tops, guests can dine at picnic tables as they take in the great views of Suttons Bay. It’s the perfect stop to unwind after biking the TART trail or shopping in Downtown Traverse City.

An evening at Hop Lot Brewing Co. in Suttons Bay.

View the full list of the Benzie & Leelanau Red Hot Best winners to find the best breweries, events and more.

Best of the Cadillac, Manistee & Ludington

Restaurant: The Glenwood, Onekama

The Glenwood in Onekama is a hidden gem to anyone in the area. With elegant entrees and a sophisticated atmosphere, this restaurant is for visitors who are looking to spend a little more on a meal that is certainly worth it, and the spectacular views of Portage Lake are a bonus. Don’t forget to save room for the delicious homemade dessert!

Outdoor Dining: Blue Fish Kitchen + Bar, Manistee

For delicious brunch or dinner on the water, stop by Blue Fish Kitchen + Bar in Manistee. Situated along the Manistee River, the views from the outdoor seating are gorgeous, and the food is equally delightful. Fans love the Brunch Burger and the entrees off the grill at dinner including wagyu steak and fresh seafood.

Photo by Dave Weidner

Dinner at the Blue Fish Kitchen and Bar on the Manistee River.

View the full list of the Cadillac, Manistee and Ludington Red Hot Best winners to find the best breweries, events and more.

Best of the Charlevoix & The Chain of Lakes Region

Restaurant: Short’s Brewing Company, Bellaire

Found in the quaint town of Bellaire, Short’s is the number one pick for a meal after a day spent on the water. Order pizza to-go or be seated in the pub’s dining room, which has a fun, casual and kid-friendly atmosphere that is livened up with musical performances. Not to mention, Short’s has its own diverse line of ciders and beers that are fun to try, so fans recommend ordering a flight.

Outdoor Dining: The Landing, Charlevoix

At the South Arm of Lake Charlevoix sits The Landing, a beautiful waterfront restaurant where you can dock your boat during your summer adventures. With a menu full of classic handhelds, fresh veggie bowls and seafood baskets, The Landing is a great casual eatery to grab lunch with friends and take in Pure Michigan views. Check out more on how to best enjoy this restaurant in MyNorth’s latest Grab & Go feature.

The Landing in Charlevoix

Photo by The Landing

The Landing’s famous Beach Fries.

View the full list of the Charlevoix and The Chain of Lakes Red Hot Best winners to find the best breweries, events and more.

Best of the Kalkaska, Gaylord & Grayling Region

Restaurant: Big Buck Brewery, Gaylord

For beer drinkers, this brewery is a must-stop in the Gaylord area. Serving flights with cute antler carvings for reasonable prices, Big Buck allows guests to sample a selection of their famous brews, which can be bought at markets nearby. In terms of food, the menu varies from hand-cut steak entrees to Pickle Pizza (A surprising fan favorite!) and burgers. The Big Buck Brewery is also kid-friendly, making it a great place to appease everyone.

Outdoor Dining: Ray’s BBQ, Brews & Blues, Grayling

It’s all about BBQ, beer and good times at Ray’s. Diners rave about the flavorful sauces and tender smoked meats, and its location on the Au Sable River makes it a great eatery for the summer months. Ray’s offers over 30 craft beers on tap, ranging from national staples to popular Michigan-made brews. As far as blues, the Grayling joint promises to immerse guests in music as they enjoy their finger-licking BBQ.

View the full list of the Kalkaska, Gaylord and Grayling Red Hot Best winners to find the best breweries, events and more.

Best of the Petoskey, Harbor Springs & The Straits Region

Restaurant: Rusty Saw North Smokehouse, Brutus

Rusty Saw North Smokehouse boasts that it is the “best barbeque in Northern Michigan,” and it is clear that fans agree. From perfectly smoked brisket to extra sweet potato fries, the Rusty Saw upgrades the traditional idea of the backyard BBQ with its creative menu and clean interior. Frequent diners recommend ordering the “She’s Gone Mad,” a dish that takes chicken and waffles to the next level by piling it high with mac and cheese, spicy syrup, and pulled pork.

Outdoor Dining: The Back Lot, Petoskey

Parked in Downtown Petoskey, this collection of food trucks cooks up awesome food while the bar serves local draft beers and craft cocktails. From local favorite street tacos to fresh Mediterranean, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. All set in a fun environment with live music, The Back Lot ensures guests will have a great time.

A couple getting a drink at a bar

Photo by The Back Lot

A couple getting a drink at The Back Lot in Petoskey.

View the full list of the Petoskey, Harbor Springs and The Straits Red Hot Best winners to find the best breweries, events and more.

Best of Traverse City

Restaurant: J & S Hamburg South Airport

While much of Traverse City has changed since J & S Hamburg was founded in 1978, the diner’s commitment to good old-fashioned American food makes it a popular choice for tourists and locals alike. J & S Hamburg is praised for its kind service and kid-friendly atmosphere, and make sure to stop in early for the highly recommended breakfast options! J & S also chose to go above and beyond during the pandemic offering free meals for children, showing their constant commitment to our community. 

Outdoor Dining: The Little Fleet

Whether stopping in for lunch while shopping or for a drink and live music after a day at the beach, The Little Fleet is sure to make everyone happy. A collection of five food trucks and a fully functioning bar, The Little Fleet offers cuisine ranging from beefed-up burgers to Vietnamese street food. It’s also kid-friendly, making it the perfect eatery for anyone in Downtown TC.

On the terrace at The Little Fleet in Traverse City

Photo by Taylor Brown

Diners eat on the terrace at The Little Fleet.

View the full list of the Traverse City Red Hot Best winners to find the best breweries, events and more.

Photo(s) by The Landing