Throughout the Upper Peninsula, eateries offer hearty and delicious fare. They often shop from local purveyors, with freshwater fish and cherry-something-or-others commonplace on menus. After all, Michigan is the Number One cherry-producing state in the country. Another regional favorite is the pasty, a hand-held meat-and-potato pie popularized by Cornish miners who immigrated to the area in the 1800s.
Here are my culinary discoveries in the Upper Peninsula from a recent media trip to the Great North Woods sponsored by Travel Michigan and its affiliates and friends:
Mackinac Grille Restaurant, St. Ignace
Mackinac Grille is a casual, friendly waterfront pub overlooking Lake Huron. The indoor dining rooms are decorated with red-and-white checked tablecloths and maritime relics. The covered patio affords spectacular views of the marina and Wawatam Lighthouse.
Our luncheon spread included whitefish chowder, salad with strawberry vinaigrette, fried perch, meat pasties and more. Then we got to the main course: an assemblage of whitefish, potatoes and vegetables roasted in foil. Delish!
The Bloody Mary Bar invites you to customize your libation with 30 add-on ingredients including pickled veggies and horseradish.
I LOVED: The smoked whitefish dip and bagel chips, and the flavorful delicate, lightly-breaded lake perch.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park Brewery & Pub, Paradise
Surrounded by the thick forest of Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a laid-back brew pub serving superb regional fare. Privately owned, Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub was built on the site of a former logging camp. The amber-hued Upper Falls, a featured attraction at the park, is a moderate ¾-mile hike away.
The restaurant decor is wildlife-themed, decked in both real and faux animal figures and hides. But back to the food: Popular choices include the Porcupine Pale Ale, Wild Forest Mushrooms and Fruit-of-the-Forest Pie.
I LOVED: Smoked fish dip and the charbroiled Angus Pub Burger. The locally caught whitefish, if in season, is a must-try.
Lake Superior Brewing Co. and Dunes Bar, Grand Marais
Motorcycle enthusiasts frequently rank H-58, a county highway in the Upper Peninsula, as one of the best rides in the country. The route runs about 50 curvaceous miles from Musinging on the west, through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and on to Grand Marais on the east. That’s where they find the Lake Superior Brewing Co. and Dunes Bar. In Grand Marais, it’s called Lake Avenue.
It’s a dark and cozy joint serving up freshly brewed craft beer and root beer, and an Americana menu of sandwiches, pizzas and seasonal fish. Locals and tourists alike belly up.
I LOVED: Fish tacos. The rustic decor fashioned from aged whiskey barrels, river rocks and maritime bric-a-brac.
Les Cheneaux Culinary School and Restaurant, Hessel
Les Cheneaux Culinary School and Restaurant opened in 2012 as a hands-on training ground for future food-service professionals. After first honing their skills in the state-of-the-art kitchen, they intern at the charming 55-seat restaurant to learn restaurant management and service. It’s open to the public during the summer months, and it’s a must-experience while you’re visiting. You’ll find elegantly prepared and presented food in a laid-back maritime setting.
Menus vary, but during our visit we chose from Great Lakes salmon and corn chowder, tomato gazpacho, basted chicken breast with vegetables, and wild blueberry cheesecake.
I LOVED: The lavish attention and care that went into the preparation and presentation of the food. And the brilliant sunset over the marina.