From field to fork—in Michigan, this relationship remains tantalizingly direct. The lake-tempered climate and rich soil produce bounty that inspires chefs in cities as well as in vacation areas. Come along for tastes of vibrant food scenes across the state.
Grand Rapids chefs stroll the midtown Fulton Street Farmers Market, mentally massaging their menus to include new arrivals like heirloom tomatoes, emerald peas, radiant wax beans and red raspberries. The result is a food scene in Michigan’s second-largest city that’s as fresh as the day’s bounty.
Using the best of the season is a passion for Chef John State at six.one.six restaurant at the impressive new downtown JW Marriott Hotel. “I can go toe-to-toe with any chef in San Francisco when it comes to seasonal cooking,” says the Michigan native, who spent his teenage years working with migrant pickers in berry fields. “You get an appreciation for how much work it is to get produce to a plate.” John adds, “And a good sense of what just-picked taste really means.”
His menu reflects his devotion to food that’s only hours from its source: the ground, a tree, a lake or a pasture. One third of any evening’s dinner offerings come from what he calls the Chef’s Collection: farmers market-inspired seasonal dishes such as chilled strawberry-citrus soup or almost-too-pretty-to-eat bundles of yellow wax and bright green beans wrapped in prosciutto jackets.
John’s motto and mantra, luxury in unexpected places, is visible in the distinguished interior. There’s the bi-level dining room’s soaring ceiling with wood-grain chandeliers that are as big as bass drums and waterfall drapes, which make it all feel
a bit like a 1940s nightclub updated for a new century.
In Northern Michigan, you'll want to plan a trip to the following eateries:
The Rowe Inn--Chef Scott Lyons started as the dishwasher and rose to become executive chef at this knotty-pine-paneled restaurant just five miles from Tapawingo on East Jordan Road. One taste of the pecan-stuffed morels or the grilled, molasses-glazed sockeye salmon, and you’ll be glad he worked his way up the ladder.
Red Mesa Grill--Authentic Latin dishes such as Peruvian pollo aji amarillo and Costa Rican sirloin steak make a trek to Traverse City worthwhile, even if the cherries aren’t in season. Everything is made on-site, including the smoked pintos in the restaurant’s popular steak and smoky bean burrito.