The Search for the Best Burger in Michigan

John “Gonzo” Gonzalez of MLive searched far and wide across the state for Michigan’s best burger. After six days of traveling 1,700 miles and visiting 33 restaurants, he found one thing for sure – Michigan is home to a number of great burgers! Read about John’s experience below and be sure to check out the list of Michigan’s best burgers for more.

I looked down at the end of the bar at Miller’s in Dearborn, where I saw a young man eating his second burger. “Man, you must love this place to eat TWO burgers!” I said. Still chewing, he held up his hand, flashing three fingers. “No,” I said. “I only saw TWO burgers in front of you.” He gulped down his bite and said, “I order two that I eat immediately, and then I order a third one,” he said. “Oh, I see, you order a third one to go?” “Oh no,” he said. “I’ll eat it here. I just don’t want it to get cold, that’s why I wait to order the third one.”

That’s the passion I discovered at every stop on our search for Michigan’s Best Burger 2013. Whether it was patrons, chefs, owners, managers or employees, there is a Michigan passion for a good, old fashioned burger with cheese and your favorite toppings.

We have done these searches before:

Michigan’s Best Coney Dog (American Coney in Detroit),
Best BBQ (West Texas BBQ in Jackson),
Best Ice Cream Parlor (MOO-ville Creamery in Nashville),
Best Haunted House (Erebus in Pontiac), and
Best Breakfast (Anna’s House in Grand Rapids).

But our search for Michigan’s Best Burger was by far our most extensive one. After a nomination process that involves our readers, we put up polls in all of our markets to determine the readers’ favorites. Once we have that list, I hit the road.

This time we traveled 1,700 miles, visited 33 restaurants and did it over a period of six days. We visited burger joints from Sault Ste. Marie to Detroit, Bay City to Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor to Muskegon. On some days we visited 7 restaurants in one day.

If any of you have followed our other searches, I often take along an expert or companion who helps me out. It’s not easy eating all this food. On our search for Michigan’s Best Coney Dog, I was joined by Joe Grimm (co-author of “Coney Detroit”). On BBQ, it was the president of the Great Lakes Barbecue Association, Mike Terry of Flushing. And for our breakfast search it was Mike Jensen, a retired prison cook from Saranac.

For burgers, we were joined by David Kutzko, a Western Michigan University professor of Classics (Greek and Latin) who has a huge appetite and spends a lot of time checking out Michigan restaurants. Also, we were joined by Fritz Klug, a statewide reporter for MLive and David’s former student whose intention was to tag along on our trip to the Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan. But we couldn’t shake him.

What we discovered: Michigan residents love their burgers!

Most of the burgers on our Top 10 list were cooked on flattop grills and used a blend of 80 percent lean meat, and 20 percent fat. Many used a hand press. All of them are flipped only once.

Each place had a little different method; some used a secret seasoning, others used salt and pepper, and some used no seasoning at all.

The secret was in the meat, and the preparation method. We also took into account creativity, buns and those intangibles that make you want to order a second – or third – burger before you leave!

Here is our Top 10 List:

  1. Michigan burger map. Credit: Ed Riojas/Mlive.com

    Laura’s Little Burger Joint, 47141 M-51, Decatur

  2. West Pier Drive-In, 601 W. Portage Ave., Sault Ste. Marie
  3. Miller’s Bar, 23700 Michigan Ave., Dearborn
  4. Talley’s Log Cabin Bar, 2981 County Road 612, Lewiston
  5. Stella’s Lounge, 53 Commerce Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
  6. Brown Bear, 147 N. Michigan Ave., Shelby
  7. Schlenker’s Sandwich Shop, 1104 E. Ganson St., Jackson
  8. Torch Bar & Grill, 522 Buckham Alley, Flint
  9. Schuberg’s Bar & Grill, 109 N. Michigan Ave., Big Rapids
  10. Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger, 304 S. Ashley St, Ann Arbor

Take a look at our complete list of 33 finalists; you won’t go wrong at any one of them.

Where’s your favorite place to get a burger in Pure Michigan? Share with us in the comments section below!

As the Statewide Entertainment writer for MLive Media Group, which represents eight newspapers throughout the state, as well as MLive.com and AnnArbor.com, John Gonzalez oversees the “Michigan’s Best” series. He has led statewide searches for Michigan’s Best BBQ, Ice Cream Parlor, Breakfast, Coney Dogs and most recently, Burgers. John is based in Grand Rapids, but has worked in Detroit, Lansing, Mt. Pleasant, Flint, Holland and Bay City.  He is originally from Capac, Michigan. You can follow him on Twitter at @MichiganGonzo. 

Get Your Fall Foliage Fix at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

As we say goodbye to summer and welcome the root of fall, we face new explorations of Pure Michigan. Known for its abundance of autumnal colors, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is unique not only for its rock formations and shoreline, but also for its hiking trails and waterfalls. Whether you’re planning to experience the lakeshore by water or land, there are many ways to get your fall foliage fix.

Read more on four ways to see fall foliage near the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

1. Cruise the Lakeshore

Travel alongside the picturesque 40-mile stretch of vibrantly colored trees, sandy beaches, waterfalls, caverns and rare rock formations on a Pictured Rocks Cruise. The clear blue water and red and orange hues of the rocks rising vertically out of the shoreline add a nice touch to the fall foliage that line the Lakeshore. The tour features the most iconic landmarks of Pictured Rocks including the East Channel Lighthouse,  Miners Castle, Lovers Leap and other iconic landmarks. This family-friendly cruise also offers complimentary dog kennels on-site for the duration of the cruise. The 2 ½ hour-long cruises are an ideal way to see parts of Pictured Rocks that you cannot see from land.

Pictured Rocks Cruises is one of the best ways to see the Lakeshore

Photo Courtesy of Shawn Malone

2. Paddle Pictured Rocks

Get up close and personal on a Pictured Rocks Kayaking tour of the most iconic stretch of the Lakeshore. On this 5 hour-long tour, you’ll get the chance to paddle through caves, under arches and alongside waterfalls. Glide through the crystal clear water of Lake Superior and enjoy the vibrant hues of fall foliage surrounding the Lakeshore. The journey features many landmarks including Miners Castle, Lovers Leap, Rainbow Cave, Indian Head, Gull Rookery, Grand Portal, Chapel Cove and Chapel Rock. Pictured Rocks Kayaking provides all paddling equipment and ensures that paddling will be done with the wind at the paddlers back whenever possible.

Get up close and personal with multi-colored sandstone cliffs by kayaking

Photo Courtesy of Shawn Malone

3. Hike the Trails

Experience Pictured Rocks from a different perspective. While hiking the shoreline, you are at the heart of the fall foliage, with a breathtaking view of Lake Superior below. The Lakeshore offers a variety of recognizable sites to see and should be on every Michiganders bucket list. With over 60 miles of hiking trails within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, you’ll experience fall color like never before.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore boasts many beautiful waterfalls

Photo Courtesy of Pictured Rocks Cruises

4. Take a Drive

An explosion of vibrant red, orange and gold adds an entirely new dimension to a Pictured Rocks road trip. The route to the Lakeshore offers an astounding look at fall foliage with towering trees and royal blue lakes encompassing most of your drive. With many areas to stop and admire the scenery, you won’t mind taking the long route.

Celebrate Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore’s 50th anniversary this autumn with a cruise, kayak or hike—we guarantee you’ll fall in love.

What is your favorite memory from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore? Share with us by commenting below!

Blog provided by Pictured Rocks Cruises. Follow PRC on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

6 Ways To Take A Scenic Route To Fabulous Fall Color

Where’s the best scenic route to catch the crimson color-action of Autumn in Pure Michigan? Truth: absolutely everywhere! But we happen to be partial to the seasonal splendor that can only be experienced when you Go Great Lakes Bay… like spending a day immersed in Mother Nature’s bounty on a custom Johnny Panther Quest Adventure Trip, marveling aboard the majestic BaySail Appledore Tall Ships as cozy quilts and chili soothe your soul, pedaling the Great Lakes Bay Regional Rail Trail with the scent of fresh, fall foliage in the air - that’s how you truly seize the day by taking the #PureMichigan #ScenicRoute – whether by boat, by bike, or by car!

1. Completely Unique Trips 

Why do people flock to Johnny Panther Quests Color Tours by Boat? Because there’s literally nothing like it in the state (or anywhere else, for that matter)! Mother Nature is the conductor of this show, so no two Johnny Panther eco-tours are the same: this group witnessed a bald eagle, this outing included a mesmerizing sunset …  

Even the boat that brings folks to Autumnal awesomeness-shallow draft, custom-built boats-are unique, as is the tour guide ‘Johnny Panther’ himself.

Fall Color Tours by Boat: Customized 2- 3 hour excursions, mid-September through October
Pricing and boat-sizes vary; multiple offerings and options

Photo Courtesy of Great Lakes Bay CVB

Photo Courtesy of Great Lakes Bay CVB

2. Aboard Beauty 

The Great Lakes Bay Region is home to Bay Sail, and the Appledore IV a.k.a. the majestic tall ship vessel and magnificent scenic route to Fall colors in Pure Michigan. Water-kissed viewing pleasure, epic surroundings, hot cider, chili, cornbread-it doesn’t get better than this, folks!

Autumn Color Tour River Cruises are 2-hour journeys, available October 1 – 23, 2016
- Cost is: Students, $27, Adults, $37
- Along with the lovely colors, look for Bald Eagles and Snowy Egrets

Photo Courtesy of Great Lakes Bay CVB

Photo Courtesy of Great Lakes Bay CVB

3. Wonder Found in Waterways

Ike’s Mobile Kayak Rentals is the spot for on-your-own or guided kayak tours-and the scenic route of choice to maneuver your way through gorgeous during Fall Color Paddle Tours.

Single kayak rates differ from tandem kayak rates
Group excursions, fishing outings and even overnight adventures will surely enhance your viewing pleasure.

And if paddling doesn’t sound like your kind of serenity, boarding Bay City Boat Lines’ Princess Wenonah and/or Islander will bring the scenery to you with nary a finger lifted. Cruise through their Calendar of Events for times, dates and prices of Fall Color Boat Rides, and prepare to ride off into the sunset.

Photo Courtesy of Great Lakes Bay CVB

Photo Courtesy of Great Lakes Bay CVB

4. On A Bicycle Built For ‘You’ 

Even if you’re from halfway across the globe, surely the place to bike for Fall beauty is the Great Lakes Bay Regional Rail Trail.

A note before riding: The Great Lakes Bay Regional Rail Trail is magical in its own right and it was forged to connect these not-to-be-missed opportunities for beauty:

Bay County River Walk/RailTrail: 17.5 miles through Bay City, including the Bay City State Recreation Area
Saginaw Valley Rail Trail: 11 miles from St. Charles to Saginaw Township’s Center Road Bridge Path
Pere Marquette Rail Trail: 30 miles from Midland to Coleman, with a loop around Chippewa Nature Center

Photo Courtesy of Great Lakes Bay CVB

Photo Courtesy of Great Lakes Bay CVB

5. All Kinds of Fall Fun

With 1,200 acres and over 15 miles of trails, Chippewa Nature Center is both massive in size and opportunity to take the scenic route(s) and experience spectacular displays of the season.

- Hike and bike the trails; explore the Ecosystem Gallery and Wildlife Viewing Area
- Gather at events from Homestead Sunday in September to Autumn at the Wigwam in October for all kinds of Fall fun, too.

Photo Courtesy of Great Lakes Bay CVB

Photo Courtesy of Great Lakes Bay CVB

6. 4-Wheel-Wowing 

Roll down your window during this car ride, honey. You’re in for quite a show while meandering along, driving through Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge-yes, driving!

The newly-constructed, 6.5-mile Wildlife Drive (Auto Tour Route) has paved the way to a whole new joyride, and the creatures to be spotted and wondrous scenery await. This fall, this spot: oh yes!

Here’s to enjoying every leaf crunch underfoot and crimson color by boat, bike, or from the passenger seat! Savor the #scenicroute when you #gogreatlakesbay, and enjoy every moment of Pure Michigan in all her Fall glory!

Drive great lakes bay

Photo Courtesy of Great Lakes Bay CVB

Meet The Blogger: Jen W. O’Deay

jen w odeayJen is a freelance writer in Bridgeport, Mich.  She specializes in writing that connects, delivered through feature articles, branded content and marketing copy.  You can find Jen reading, always, camping with her family, or at: www.feelthesewords.com