Take a Staycation, Explore Culinary Hidden Gems in Northern Michigan

You won’t find salt water beaches, palm trees, or coral reefs in northern Michigan – and that’s just the way we like it. Traverse City and its surrounding areas are some of the most scenic and beautiful destinations in the world, and they just might be in the comfort of your own back yard. If you’re a northern Michigander, here’s a roundup of some of the off-the-beaten-path food and culture gems to check out when you want to get away without going far.

First things first- the beer.

Traverse City is home to many breweries, taprooms, and pubs that you can only find when visiting.  You can’t truly call yourself a craft beer connoisseur until you try some of the many, many delicious brews that have made the breweries famous.  Some of the most popular destinations to grab a cold one:

  • Brewery Terra Firma fall-color-tour
    • Brewery Terra Firma is unique in its approach as a brewery and as an agricultural destination. Through the integration of sustainable production methods, environmentally conscious waste management and innovative water recycling/reclamation techniques, they hope to become a model for breweries and agricultural destinations throughout the nation.
  • The Workshop Brewing Company
    • The Workshop Brewing Company exists to preserve Northern Michigan’s spectacular natural environment, to reinforce Traverse City’s warm and vital community, and to honor traditional craft. They do not consider their business to be a success unless they are demonstrably and sustainably doing all three. They express this commitment by using the Trifidelity symbol, which stands for their motto: Nature. Community. Craft.
  • The Filling Station Microbrewery ???????????????????????????????
    • Established in the spring of 2012, The Filling Station Microbrewery is a family owned and operated business, dedicated to providing friendly and knowledgeable service and the highest quality of hand crafted brews and edibles.  Located just off the TART Trail in the historic railroad district, the Filling Station Microbrewery features a rotating list of at least 10 craft beers, which pair perfectly with our wood-fired flatbreads and fresh salads.  Whether on your own, meeting friends or with your family, patrons of all ages feel welcomed in our casual pub-style setting.   You’ll enjoy views of Boardman Lake from inside the pub or out on the patio, live music and the occasional train passing by.
  • Right Brain Brewery
    • Right Brain Brewing is committed to using the best available local ingredients in every small batch of  craft brew. Featuring a rotating right brained beer menu & artwork!
  • Short’s Brewing Company
    • Today Short’s Brewing Company continues its efforts to make the best beer on earth in Northern Michigan. Although Shorts has quickly grown to be one of Michigan’s largest breweries, they still take pride in their hands-on, mom-and-pop approach and the energy they put into the quality of our beer, food, staff, customers and facilities.
  • Stafford’s Noggin Room Pub
    • The Noggin Room Pub’s casual and comfortable atmosphere provides a great place to break from shopping the near-by Gaslight District, meet with friends and enjoy our award winning selection of domestic and imported beers. With personal service from the “Best Staff in Northern Michigan” (as voted by Northern Express), we’re sure you’ll feel right at home.

For those looking to enjoy their favorite node of Traverse City wine, check out these taste rooms and vineyards:

  • Left Foot Charley LeftFootCharly
    • The winery has since grown to around 6000 cases and is located in the former Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane in Traverse City, Michigan. The urban environment has served to bring the terroir to the people. LFC is a Michigan version of an Austrian Heuriger – a place where aromatic and flavorful wine is an everyday event. Locals and visitors alike have come to realize that the non-traditional setting pairs perfectly with the atypical fruit sourcing and old style winemaking that defines LFC. Left Foot has a committed a focus on white wine varietals, hard cider, and sparkling wine.
  • Blustone Vineyards
    • Bluestone’s story started 20 years ago visiting Leland as a family for the first time. The simplicity and beauty of the “tucked away” secret that is Leelanau has always been what we treasure most about the area. There is a connection to the land found only here amongst the lakes, dunes, hills, and sunlit fields and our dream to start Blustone was born out of that.

If you give a mouse a cookie, they’ll ask for a glass of milk. If you give a tourist a beer, they’ll ask for something to eat.  

Along with famous craft beers, Traverse City is known state and nation wide as a hub for unique and tasty meals from your not-so-typical mom and pop type restaurants.  Whether you’re in the mood for a hearty breakfast, fresh caught walleye, or a mouth watering burger, Traverse City boasts it all.  At the risk of leaving out some hidden gems, here’s a few nibble nooks you won’t want to miss:

  • Bay Bread Co.
    • Specialties: Breakfast and lunch sandwiches and some of the best baked goods you can find!
  • Cherry Republic

    • Celebrating the beauty and spirit of northern Michigan in everything we make and do, Cherry Republic has grown from a t-shirt sold out of the trunk of a car to the world’s largest exclusive retailer of cherry food creations. Along the way, we have turned one man’s vision into a nation of citizens embracing his creed of life, liberty, beaches, and pie.
  • Pepe Nero Kabob
    • PepeNero is a cozy and intimate restaurant snuggled inside the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. Owners Giorgio and Monica Lo Greco are experienced professionals who know how to amaze your palate by preparing simple, genuine Italian food utilizing the gift of fresh seasonal ingredients from local markets and the high quality of imported Italian products.
  • Quay Restaurant and Bar
    • Quay Restaurant + Terrace Bar, pronounced kwā, is located in the beautiful town of Charlevoix, Michigan.  Come enjoy our three story restaurant and bar offering a New American menu along with a comprehensive wine and beer list.
  • Terry’s of Charlevoix
    • With over 35 years in the business since graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Terry Left, the proprietor, and Paul Bradley, the executive chef, have brought their years of experience to bear in developing exquisite recipes complemented by just the right sauces. Terry’s offers excellent full course dinners in a warm, casual dining atmosphere. Given the close proximity to the Great Lakes, their fish entrées are a fresh and ever-popular selection.
  • City Park Grill
    • In 1997 Bob & Mary Keedy, Dick & Laura Dinon, Chef John Norman, and Patrick Faylor purchased the Park Garden Café and changed the name to City Park Grill. The menu was changed as well to reflect their scratch kitchen and daily/seasonal specials. Since then, the restaurant has been restored to the glory days of the past, serving a wide array of guests from around the world.
  • Twisted Olive Quattro beef_1920x1200
    • A true Northern Michigan gem, Twisted Olive Quattro offers some of the most unique and decadent samplers, entrees, and drinks of anywhere in the mitten.
  • Cafe Sante
    • A casual, European-style bistro serving The Classics—simply and with flair. Featuring wood-fired pizzas, mussels and frites, pastas, Panini, unique breakfasts and casual cuisine from other fine European traditions.

Now that’ you’re good and full, you’re probably wondering what is there to do?

From the Sleeping Bear Dunes, scenic Lake Michigan beaches, and countless trails to explore, there truly isn’t enough time in one day to see it all.  If you’re looking for something a little more relaxing, we encourage you to check out a guided tour or make a stop at one of the local museums.  You can’t go wrong with what you pick to do in TC, but here’s a few of our favorite things to get you started:

  • Sleeping Bear Dunes tour outdoors_naturepark_dunes
    • You will find a wide variety of activities for every age available to you at the Lakeshore. Climb the Dunes, swim at one of the many beaches, or take a hike through the Maple/Beech forest to some beautiful overlooks. Maybe you will want to spend some time in the museums or tour Port Oneida to learn about the rich history and culture of the area.
  • Music House Museum Tour
    • Recognized by Forbes.com as one of the ten reasons to visit Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, the Music House Museum offers a unique collection of instruments that provide guests with a walk through the history, the artistry and the engineering of automated music.
  • Earl Young House Tour
    • This tour will take you around the triangular block bounded by Park Avenue, Grant Street, and Clinton Street.  Here you can see some of the most famous, and most beloved, work of long-time Charlevoix resident, Earl Young, homes he built or remodeled beginning in the late 1930s, and culminating in the construction of the “mushroom house” in the 1950s.
  • Castle Farms Garden Tour kings_grand
    • Northern Michigan’s very own fairy tale castle! With cobblestone courtyards, soaring stone towers, and magnificent sweeping gardens, Castle Farms has earned a reputation as one of Michigan’s premiere historic attractions, as well as a celebrated wedding venue. Whether you’re on a travel adventure, or searching for the perfect site in which to exchange marriage vows, this French Renaissance style castle offers the perfect blend of old-world charm and modern-day elegance for visitors seeking family fun and bridal couples-to-be.
  • Little Traverse History Museum
    • The Little Traverse Historical Socity was established in 1905 and, 1969, it was incorporated as a non- profit organization, “To preserve, advance and disseminate knowledge of the history of the Little Traverse Bay Area.” To this end, and with the support of members and winter and summer residents, they acquired and restored the abandoned Chicago and West Michigan Railroad depot. Originally built in 1892 to accommodate the large influx of summer resorters, the depot now serves the area as The Little Traverse History Museum.  The museum houses the historical society’s archives, long term displays, and an annual new summer display.  It is also the site of ongoing programs.  Currently, the museum is only open during the summer season (Memorial Day – mid October).
  • Cooking demonstration at Fustini’s
    • The company was founded by Jim and Lane Milligan, who lived in Minneapolis/St. Paul and took frequent family vacations to the beautiful resort town of Traverse City, Michigan. Like many others before them, the Milligans fell in love with northern Michigan and hoped to “someday” settle down there.  Flash-forward to today and Fustini’s is a Northern Michigan staple!

With everything there is to eat, drink and do in Northern Michigan, there’s no reason not to plan your staycation!  These are just a few of our own suggestions, however.  For more information on how to plan your own staycation in Northern Michigan or any other #PureMichigan destination, visit michigan.org

Michigan’s Craft Beer Craze Continues

Home to more than 100 breweries, Michigan is fifth in the nation for the number of breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs.  We were thrilled to see three Michigan cities take home Beer City USA honors this week, with Grand Rapids being named Beer City USA with more than 50 percent of the votes and Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor coming in second and fourth place, respectively.

To build on the beer craze that’s continuing to sweep the state, we recently asked fans to help us and Founders Brewing Co. choose a Pure Michigan beer style to be featured on tap at Founders this summer. More than 1,200 fans voted for their favorite of three styles – Vanilla Stout, Apple Ale and Wheat IPA, and today we’re excited to announce that Vanilla Stout will be available in the Founders taproom this July during Michigan Craft Beer Month.

Thanks to everyone that voted, and be sure to let us know if you plan to make a visit to Founders Brewing Co. this July!

In other related news, a new Pure Michigan radio ad begins airing today in regional markets that showcases Michigan’s craft beer offerings. Michigan beers featured include New Holland Brewing Company’s Dragon’s Milk, Huma Lupa Licious from Short’s Brewing Company, Grizzly Peak Brewing Company’s Steelhead Red and the Motown Lager from Motor City Brewing Works.

Take a first listen below, and learn more on michigan.org.

Do you have a favorite Michigan craft beer? Share with us below!

Ann Arbor: A Clear Choice for Beer City USA 2013

We’ve heard from Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids on why they should get your vote for Beer City USA 2013, and today Ann Arbor makes their case. Read from Maricat Eggenberger of the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau below.

Ann Arbor is pleased to join our friends in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo as one of three Michigan cities in Charlie Papazian’s 2013 BeerCity USA poll. We’re thrilled other cities have discovered craft beer, but Ann Arbor – a town historically full of German immigrants – is unmatched in its long history of celebrating serious suds.

According to Papazian, BeerCity USA is about “[l]ocal support of the final sum, which is the enthusiasm for beer choice, diversity, flavor and accessibility. Most importantly it highlights ‘beer’ as the meeting place.” Ann Arbor excels in all these areas.

Local Support

Ann Arbor supports three brewpubs, two microbreweries (with a third on the way), and a plethora of multitap bars and restaurants committed to serving craft beer.

Although “supports” doesn’t really capture the enthusiasm. Grizzly Peak has been Michigan’s No. 1 selling brewpub for the past five years, according to Michigan Beer Guide. Arbor Brewing serves not only its own award-winning beers but has hosted often-sold-out monthly tastings of beers from around the world for more than 15 years. Both were among Michigan’s first brewpubs when they opened in 1995.

Enthusiasm for Beer Choice, Diversity, Flavor, and Accessibility

Ann Arbor is second to none in embracing beer diversity. For example:

  • For 30 years beer lovers have found a huge variety at the 72 taps of Ashley’s, recognized as one of America’s best beer bars by DRAFT magazine, Travel & Leisure, Men’s Health, and RateBeer.com.
  • Jolly Pumpkin Café & Brewery serves the coveted sour ales brewed just down the road in its newly expanded Dexter facility. Jolly Pumpkin’s Oro de Calabaza was ranked No. 1 in a 2010 New York Times Belgian-style ale tasting. The Ann Arbor café is one of the only places to get special releases, which always sell out in hours.
  • Wolverine State Brewing is one of the few craft breweries in America to specialize in lagers, and their efforts have resulted not just in medals in competitions like the World Expo of Beer but in multiple expansions since opening in late 2010.

Beer as A Meeting Place

Whether at a 50-year-old neighborhood joint like Fraser’s Pub or the city’s newest hotspot, Bill’s Beer Garden, meeting over beers is just what people do in Ann Arbor. In the summer, sidewalks and rooftops transform into oases of craft brew and lively conversation. Other examples:

  • The Ann Arbor Brewers Guild has been meeting to exchange homebrew and camaraderie since 1986.
  • Since 1948 the German Park Club has hosted picnics attracting thousands to its old-fashioned beer garden full of great German brew, music, and food.
  • The state’s oldest and largest beer fest, the Michigan Summer Beer Festival, brings more than 10,000 enthusiasts to the area every July.

Local beer writer David Bardallis sums up: “For a community atmosphere, people truly knowledgeable about beer, and a ‘beer ethic’ that views our favorite beverage as part of a life well lived, you can’t beat Ann Arbor.”

But don’t just believe me, Bardallis adds. Listen to one-time Ann Arbor resident Larry Bell, who founded his famous brewery with equipment purchased from another Ann Arbor area resident: “I’ve always thought Ann Arbor had a great beer scene.”

The choice is clear: Vote Ann Arbor for Beer City USA!

Maricat Eggenberger is the Communications Manager for the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. She’s a proud Michigander that loves traveling and anything eco-friendly!

We’re proud to see these three Michigan cities in the running. Voting runs through 1:59 a.m. on Saturday, May 11, 2013. Who’s your pick for Beer City USA?