Eat Your Way Through Western Michigan: 27 More Stops on a Foodie Adventure

Last month, we walked you through an Eastern Michigan food tour, but we couldn’t forget about the magnificent culinary creations of the west side of the state. If you’re planning to travel the Lake Michigan coast this spring or summer, let your tastebuds be your guide. Reference this list of just a few fantastic places to eat when you’re on the road on Michigan’s west coast. 

Savoring the Flavors of Southwest Michigan
In southwest Michigan you will find intriguing country towns mingled with vibrant cities along the scenic Michigan shoreline. These towns have an abundance of culinary destinations to visit, as well as sandy beaches and lighthouses lining the coast.

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1. Visit (1)Arcadia Brewing Company and discover small batches of beers such as Cocoa Loco, Jaw Jacker and Shipwreck Porter. The labels for these beers are just as unique and creative as they are created specifically for each flavor.
2. If Michigan made wine is more your style, (9)Tabor Hill is definitely worth a stop.  The menu changes every day so you never know what you will discover.
3. Check out a vibrant Café with a spin on your familiar comfort foods, (2)Food Dance Café will make delectable dishes you will be talking about days after.
4. The bustling (3)Kalamazoo Farmers Market is the perfect destination for fresh produce, plants, flowers, baked goods, fresh meats and handmade crafts.  Have a picnic at (8)Tree-mendus Fruit Farm, where you can pick your own fruits or rent an apple tree for the season.
5. A rustic American eatery and bakery is (4)Salt of the Earth. They pride themselves on buying locally to emphasize the flavor of their menu items and products. The menu offers wood fired pizzas, sandwiches, pastas, steak, chicken and pork which can be paired with some delicious varieties of Michigan wines from their wine menu.
6. If fresh blueberries makes your mouth water, you have to stop at this location. (5)The Blueberry Store offers every blueberry product imaginable. Blueberry products range from chocolates, jams, jellies, muffins, syrups, to meats and so much more.
7. Delectable truffles made with Michigan wine from Contessa Wine Cellars are some of the mouth-watering flavors at (6)Chocolate Garden. These handmade chocolates are perfect for a gift or a sweet treat for yourself, and have been featured on the Food Network and in Midwest Living magazine.
8. The magnificent view of Lake Michigan is what you will see as you dine on the deck or dining room of (7)Bistro on the Boulevard. Their menu offers an array of local ingredients that create delicious meals that include soups, salads, sandwiches, duck, chicken, fish, crab cakes, pasta dishes and handmade desserts.
9. Unlike your normal garden center, (10)Sawyer Garden Center offers not only its quality bedding flats, hanging baskets, color bowls and perennials along with a selection of fresh Michigan produce throughout the year and over 50 fine wines from local wineries.

Savors and Flavors along M-22 and Sleeping Bear Dunes
Stretching from Manistee to Benzie and Leelanau Counties, the M22 corridor is known for rolling through lush countrysides and along freshwater shorelines. Here, more than 30 restaurants and charter boat operators participate in the award-winning “Catch & Cook” program – where a day of fishing turns into a gourmet meal featuring your own fresh catch.

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1. (1)Blue Fish Kitchen & Bar is a downtown eatery offering new American cuisine in a relaxed, lakeshore atmosphere. Enjoy extensive wine list, craft beer and farm-to-table artisan fare.
2. This truly a unique destination is located in Manistee. (2)Douglas Valley Organic Vineyards offers unique, award-winning hard ciders and wines, as well as a Farm Market with a variety of farm fresh organic produce.
3. (3)Pierport Farms products are made from fresh fruit grown on farms and orchards surrounding Pierport. The fruit is picked daily and prepared in small batches to create products with truly homemade flavor.
4.  Supporting local farmers by providing the best regional items from a five-county area, (4)Elberta Farmers Market has grown into a community of friendships with a common goal of providing the finest fruits, vegetables and other produce.
5. (5)Coho Cafe features fine dining and spirits overlooking Betsie Bay. Specialties include fresh fish from the Great Lakes, locally-raised meats and produce, Michigan drafts, and fine wine
6. Operating with the “Belgian-inspired, Michigan-made” philosophy, (6)Stormcloud Brewing Company brews  well-balanced beers with specific attention to the yeast profiles. These quality Michigan craft brews are served up in the 85-seat vintage-inspired taproom or outside on a 1200-square-foot covered beer garden.
7.  Satisfy your sweet tooth at (7)Hill Top Soda Shoppe. The homemade ice cream is sweetened with Michigan sugar beets. Toppings are hand-chopped and served up fresh.
8. If you’re planning date night out, (8)Nonna’s Ristorante features classically-inspired contemporary Italian cuisine prepared with the freshest local ingredients. Served in a three level, timber-framed structure with natural stone fireplaces, a chef’s table, two intimate dining areas and a warm and welcoming loft.
9.  For more than a century, the Carlson family has operated (9)Carlson’s Fishery in historic Fishtown.  You’ll find some of the best fresh and smoked fish, smoked fish sausage, smoked fish pate, beef and turkey jerky you can find!
10. (10)Martha’s Leelanau Table Cafe could be best described as a European style cafe, where every entree is made from scratch, (including the pastries) and made from the very finest ingredients available in Leelanau County.
11.  Say Cheese! (11)Leelanau Cheese features award-winning artisan cheeses including a variety of cellar-aged Swiss Raclette cheese – rated “Best of Show” by the American Cheese Society in 2007 – as well as French Style Fromage Blanc cheese spread.

If a stop in Petoskey is on your itinerary, don’t miss twelve more places to get your grub on!

Appetizing Creations From Western Upper Peninsula
The west side of the UP offers more than just beautiful scenery, miles of coastline, small friendly towns, and areas for hunting and fishing. You can find amazing and unique dishes from the north such as their famous pasties and the freshest Lake Superior whitefish you can find.

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1. (1)Harbor Haus is the perfect spot for a new selection of dishes as their menu changes daily. Their passion, expertise and commitment to serving the freshest foods available make every dish amazing.
2. “Fine dining in a distinguished atmosphere” is what you will find at (2)Fitzgerald’s. The restaurant hosts a magnificent view of Lake Superior with deck seating for the warmer days. Fitzgerald’s takes pride in offering delicious menu items every day such as their Lake Superior Whitefish, Jager Schnitzel, Pecan Walleye, Burgers, Smoked Trout Pate, Hummus and Nachos.
3. (3)Keweenaw Co-op is a one-stop shop for the freshest Michigan produce and products. Above having the perfect ingredients for your meal they have a delightful deli menu. Here you can purchase sandwiches of all kinds, salads and homemade soups.
4. The (4)Keweenaw Brewing Company taproom is located in the middle of historic downtown Houghton. Its rustic barn-wood interior welcomes all with cozy atmosphere that includes a large fireplace area and comfy couches.
5. Nestled in the woods of the Upper Peninsula is (5)Konteka Black Bear Resort, which offers a delicious variety of dishes. Their menu is perfect for any taste bud as they have soups, salads, sandwiches, steak, ribs, seafood, chicken and scrumptious desserts. While enjoying your dinner you can watch wild black bears roaming the premises. This sight makes for a unique dining experience that can be enjoyed by all.
6. What used to be known as Grama T’s Pasties is now (6)Irontown Pasties. Along with their delicious warm pasties, you can enjoy many flavors of their hand dipped ice cream. Your stomach will thank you later.
7. Downtown Marquette hosts the (7)Marquette Farmers & Artists Market every Saturday. The market includes local farmers and growers offering a wide variety of fresh produce, herbs, eggs, meat, baked goods, plants and fresh-cut flowers. Stop in and support Michigan vendors.

Pure Michigan has so many different foods to discover. Check out more unique Michigan cuisine that you can make your own.

Where is your favorite place to eat in Pure Michigan?

Seven Michigan Eating Challenges That Are Sure to Make You Hungry

Order up! Michigan may be known for its beautiful scenery and outdoors, but Michiganders know all too well that the state boasts some of the best restaurants around. While many of these hometown spots offer delectable classics, a few others bring something far ‘bigger’ to the table.

We rounded up seven eating challenges across the state that are available to try year round. So prepare your stomach, and mind, for these gargantuan Pure Michigan food feats.

The Dog Central Challenge
Dog Central, Mount Pleasant
If you’re heading to Mid-Michigan, ask around: Many of the Mt. Pleasant locals will know about the famed Dog Central Challenge. Dubbed as a test of both mental and physical toughness, challengers are tasked with taking down three foot long hotdogs with chili and two toppings, a bed of French fries, stack of onion rings and a 20 oz. fountain pop to wash it all down. If you complete the challenge, your determination earns you a spot on the Wall of Fame. But be warned! Losing the challenge earns you a spot on the Wall of Shame

Other Dog Central challenges include: most hot dogs eaten in two hours, most hot dogs eaten in one half hour, and the Ghost Chili Challenge (three hot dogs with ghost pepper chili)

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Photo courtesy of Dog Central

Lumberjack Club
The Grill House, Allegan
Do you have what it takes to join the Lumberjack Club? This 42oz Top Sirloin is not for the faint of heart. The record time for eating this monstrous steak is 5 minutes and 26 seconds, but you get one full hour to take on this mountain of meat. Don’t worry if you can’t finish it in under an hour – you’ve still had a wonderful steak dinner, and now you can have a tasty steak and egg omelet for breakfast!

50-Wing Challenge
The Winter Inn, Greenville
Every Sunday, challengers are invited to take part in the famed 50-wing challenge. You’ll have one hour to eat 50 of the Winter Inn’s delectable wings in the hopes of earning a plaque to put on the Wall of Fame. If you’re able to finish the challenge, you’ll receive a Winter Inn t-shirt, $15 gift certificate, and, of course, bragging rights as the wing champion.

Big Bambino Burger
Stucko’s Pub, Marquette
If you’re looking for a burger challenge, look no further than Stucko’s Big Bambino.  This mammoth one-pound burger is topped with a quarter pound all-beef hot dog, three slices of bacon and three slices of American cheese. Served with lettuce, tomato, pickle spear and one pound of fries, this majestic sandwich will bring even the burliest-burger lover to their knees.

Hellfire Hat Trick 
Mallie’s Sports Grill and Bar, Southgate
Spice-chasers head to Mallie’s Sports Grill & Bar in Southgate, a Detroit suburb, to take on the “Hellfire Hat Trick.” Eat 1 hellfire burger, 6 hell fire wings and 1 bowl of hellfire chili in 30 minutes or less with a 5 minute burn period. Complete the Hat Trick and win free burgers for a year or a $100 Mallie’s gift certificate. This challenge is so hot it was even featured in USA Today Travel’s list of America’s spiciest eating challenges. 

Also available at Mallie’s – a burger challenge even more mammoth than the Big Bambino! The 10 lb. Monster Burger Challenge dares the largest of appetites to finish it all in 2 hours or less and it’s free. Plus, you get $100 and your photo on Mallie’s Wall of Fame!

Photo courtesy of Mallie's Grill n Bar

Photo courtesy of Mallie’s Grill n Bar

Burrito Challenge
Sabor Latino, Ann Arbor
If you’re looking for a challenge in Ann Arbor, take a trip to Sabor Latino for the hearty Burrito Challenge. You’ll come face to face with a triple-size burrito stuffed with beans, rice, you choice of meat or vegetables, lettuce, cheese, habanero-onion slaw, and topped with sour cream, guacamole and cheese. If you finish the burrito, you’ll earn a $20 gift card, your picture added to the Burrito Challenge Hall of Fame Facebook page and Sabor Latino will pick up your bill.

Have you conquered an extreme Michigan eating challenge? Do you know of any others to add to the list? Tell us! 

Interested in learning more about places to eat in Michigan? Head over to Michigan.org/dining for more delicious Michigan made entrees.

The Agri-Tourist’s Guide to Taking a Michigan Farm Tour

Spring is here, which means Michigan’s growing season is just around corner. Today, the Michigan Agritourism Association shares their insider tips for having some fun on a Michigan farm this summer. 

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As warmth fills the air and the sun stays up longer each day, spring is a welcome relief from a winter of bone-chilling temperatures. Michigan farms are waking up. Greenhouses are planted, seedlings are sprouting, newly born baby animals cry out, and orchards will soon be blooming.  Farm crews are opening up the barns, dusting “winter” off the play areas, and preparing to open the wonder of a farm to visitors.

Asparagus3Fresh, delicious, local produce will soon be available at road-side stands and farm markets, along with an opportunity to interact with those who grow your food. Asparagus is the first harbinger of spring  that normally pops out of the ground in early May. It can be prepared in so many different ways and is a treat to the taste buds after a long winter.

Insider tip:  Since it is only available fresh for about 6 weeks, try to get it as frequently as you can before it is gone for the season! 

This year’s Asparagus festival is May 15-17 and includes a Kick Ass-paragus 5K Fun Run/Walk, the infamous asparagus poem contest, a parade full of homemade asparagus hats and more.

In June, strawberries make their debut!  Many Michigan farms offer picked or u-pick strawberries, which is a fun experience for families. Ask the farm folks to show you the different growth stages of a strawberry:   from their start as small white blossoms to plump red ones which quickly fill up a quart box.

SB6_11_14Insider tip:  Wear a red shirt for when the strawberry juice drips down your chin!

In late June and into July, the growing season kicks into high gear with cherries, raspberries and blueberries.  If you loved picking strawberries, look for farms that offer U-Pick on these fruits, too.

Insider tip: If you’re not already a jammer, try hand-making jams and jellies and freeze them to savor the flavors year round!

The National Cherry Festival in Traverse City is one of the oldest and largest festivals in the country. The eight-day celebration, held July 4-11th this year, is jam-packed with activities for all ages. Though not as large, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries take main stage at various festivals around the state.

tomatoesThrough mid-July well into August, indulge in fabulous Michigan sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, sweet onions, peaches, plums, and almost any vegetable you desire.

Insider tip:  Visit the farm market first to get what is locally fresh in season, then plan the rest of your meal planning and shopping from there. Grilled vegetables?  Absolutely delicious!

For longer outings, look for farms which offer farm-style play areas, animal petting, and educational sessions and tours. Enjoy the onsite bakeries and food venues for fruit slushies, ice cream, fruit pies and of course – donuts!   We have no scientific proof, but farm bakery donuts just taste better when eaten while enjoying fresh air and the views of a farm!  A down-to-earth farm outing will simulate all five senses, teach you how food is grown, and most importantly, it’s just plain fun.

donutsInsider tip: Look for picnic areas, inviting benches and chairs to pull up and soak it all in. 

Plan your next experience by searching for local farms at www.michiganfarmfun.com or with a printed directory available at Michigan Agritourism Member locations, Michigan Farm Bureau offices, Michigan Welcome Centers or by calling the Michigan Agritourism Association office at (866) 964-3628.

Have you been to a Michigan farm? Tell us about your visit!

Allissa McManus and Beth Hubbard are passionate Board members of the Michigan Agritourism Association, which is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote agritourism by supporting our membership of farmers, farm marketers, and agritourism operators, who work tirelessly to provide fresh, delicious produce, education and farm fun to residents and visitors of our great State of Michigan. For more information about us and our members, please visit www.michiganfarmfun.com.