Here’s Part 2 of Nick Ponton’s Pure Michigan Edition of “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”. You can catch up on Part 1 here, and let us know what YOUR favorite Michigan eats are by leaving a comment below!
Cheesy – Classic Mac & Cheese at Food Dance in Kalamazoo. J and I wouldn’t agree on this one, but as far as Mac & Cheese goes, easily the best one I have had is at Food Dance in downtown Kalamazoo. The imported noodles and aged cheddar just make a perfect, creamy concoction. J thought it was too cheesy, but is there such a thing? I loved the fact that I had extra cheese to dip her french fries in.
Salty Goodness – Pulled Pork Sandwich at The Cooks’ House in Traverse City. You don’t really think of pork as being salty, but I was surprised by this sandwich. When we walked in to The Cooks’ House, I never thought I’d be getting a pulled pork sandwich I’d still be talking about. This thing is amazing. The slow cooked pork is smothered in a sweet BBQ sauce, topped with cheese and served on an artisan roll. At the time, I called it “gourmet pulled pork.” It wasn’t the sloppy, roadhouse sandwich you expect. The cheese gave it kind of a salty taste to counter the sweetness of the BBQ sauce. It’s something I never would have expected and like nothing I’ve eaten since.
Meat Fest – Roast Burger at Roast in Detroit. Does it really surprise anyone that I’m talking about burgers again? The Roast Burger is one of my all time favorites. I felt kind of silly ordering a burger in a fancy restaurant, but I’ve learned that if it’s on the menu at a fancy place, it’s probably going to be a fancy burger. The Roast Burger came with bacon, cheddar cheese, and a fried egg. In another interesting twist, it was served on an English muffin, so you get the whole “is this breakfast or is it dinner?” thing. The burger was deliciously juicy and the fried egg adds an interesting touch.
Snack Attack – Home made chips at Craftsman Chop Company in Portage. At the time, these chips were just an afterthought, but the more I think about it, the more I want to go back just to get some. I didn’t really write anything about them in my original review, but the chips are fresh cut and fried nice and crispy. They’re served with a bleu cheese and we tore through them like it was the only thing we had to eat in weeks.
Chocolate – Mackinac Island Fudge at Ryba’s Fudge Shop on Mackinac Island. Have you ever taken a trip just for fudge? We did. Well, we wanted to see the Island too, but the main purpose of the trip was authentic Mackinac Island fudge. It’s just so much creamier than the stuff you make at home with marshmallow fluff. The fudge at Ryba’s is another one of those things that I’m really glad I don’t live closer to. We intentionally made the fudge shop the last stop of the day so we’d be full and not tempted to buy the whole store. It sort of worked, but as soon as we got on the ferry, the box was open and I was thinking about diving off the boat and swimming back for more.
Crunchy – Make Your Own Pizza at Rose’s on Reed’s Lake in East Grand Rapids. When it comes to crunchy, the first thing I think of is pizza crust. It’s a requirement for good pizza. Not many places in Michigan do it right, but Rose’s on Reed’s Lake uses a wood fired oven to get that crunchy crust. I went with the build your own option and got proscuitto on my pizza. I had never done that before and it was crispy, crunchy, salty goodness.
The Classics – Lasagna Bolognese at Zazio’s in Kalamazoo. I know I’m kind of going against my rant from the beginning by picking a really fancy place like Zazio’s, but it is seriously the best lasagna I have ever had. The noodles were so fresh and so soft and bolognese had a rich, meaty taste. Lasagna is one of my favorite ways to eat pasta and even though the portion size is a little small at Zazio’s, it’s still one of the best Lasagna’s I’ve ever eaten.
Guilty Pleasures – Ice Cream at the MSU Dairy Store in East Lansing. I’m convinced there is no ice cream better than the ice cream from the MSU Dairy Store. It’s similar to a Baskin Robbins with all their flavors, but the ice cream is made on site from milk from the MSU farms. The MSU Dairy Store was a huge guilty pleasure and one we would drive across town for.
Hot & Spicy – Jalapeno Burger with Cheese at the Dam Site Inn in Hell. We had other motives for “going to Hell” when we did, but we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of food at the unincorporated town’s only restaurant. I had eaten Jalapeno burgers in the past, but this one was topped with a mound of Jalapeno’s. I’m not sure I ever tasted the burger. It was like eating straight peppers. My mouth was on fire when we were done, but that was ok. There’s an ice cream store next door.
Totally Unexpected – Chicken Strips from Olympic Broil in Lansing. Chicken strips aren’t usually unexpected, but the strips from Olympic Broil were not what we were expecting at all. Olympic Broil looks like a fast food place, but the strips are actually home made and hand battered. No GFS box here. Easily one of the best Chicken Strips I’ve had and by far, the best from a fast food restaurant ever.
Served Cold – Chocolate Peanut Butter Chunk Ice Cream from Moomer’s Home Made Ice Cream in Traverse City. Before we left Traverse City, we had to find Moomer’s. It’s a little out of the way, but totally worth the detour. I like chocolate and peanut butter in anything and Moomer’s did not disappoint.
So, there you have it: The Best Thing I Ever Eat Michigan-style. I’m sure there will be disagreements…heck, there are a couple other restaurants I wanted to get in there…some of the choices were tough. Some of the choices were easy. Feel free to add your opinions in the comments section.
Nick is the author of the SW Michigan Dining, a blog that highlights the best of the Kalamazoo area dining and entertainment scene.