Iconic Michigan Eats & Drinks
Dine on the wild side, raise your grape expectations, and indulge in a top chef’s creativity. The stories behind some of the Great Lake’s most iconic food and craft beverages are just as savory as the fare. Get the dish on Detroit’s square pizza, Michigan’s tart cherries, a home beer brewer who made it big, and more.
Coyote Crossing Restaurant, Cadillac
While snowmobiling, look for the orange Trail 638 sign when approaching this gem in the heart of Huron-Manistee National Forests and near Caberfae Peaks Ski and Golf Resort. Favorites include the Coyote Burger, the fish fry and house-smoked beef brisket.
Pennyroyal Cafe and Provisions, Saugatuck
Missy Corey, a winner on Food Network’s Chopped, is owner and executive chef. For brunch, blueberry pancakes burst with locally sourced organic fruit, while cornbread johnnycakes provide a gluten-free option. At dinner, savor the roasted chicken, which comes with french fries. Corey’s farm, Starflower Farm, provides the heirloom vegetables and flowers.
As a way to preserve northern Michigan’s harvests, forager Justin Rashid made a small batch of preserves using a copper kettle and Earliglow strawberries. Since 1982, his fruit-in-a-jar products have evolved to include compotes, fruit butter, sauces and condiments.
Home Base: Petoskey
Where to find: Petoskey, Harbor Springs, Charlevoix, Traverse City and Saugatuck
Bob Sutherland sold T-shirts proclaiming Life, Liberty, Beaches and Pie from the trunk of his car in 1989 before expanding to cherry-inspired cookies, now known as the Original White Chocolate Boomchunka. The oversize cookies are just one of the 175 products like jam, salsa, chocolate, wine and sausage made with Michigan’s tart Montmorency cherries.
Home base: Glen Arbor
Where to find: Glen Arbor, Traverse City, Charlevoix, Ann Arbor, Holland and Frankenmuth
Lehto’s Pasties, St. Ignace
Cornishmen who came to work in the copper and ore mines in the early 19th century brought their knowledge and portable lunch concept (pronounced PASS-tees) to the Upper Peninsula. The handheld meat and veggie-filled pies (beef, pork, carrot, onion and rutabaga) were not only hearty but would stay warm for 8 to 10 hours.
Home base: Upper Peninsula
Where to find: Restaurants and roadside shops across the Upper Peninsula, such as Lehto’s Pasties in St. Ignace
Detroit Coney Dogs
In 1906, Gust Keros immigrated to the U.S. and started a pushcart in Detroit selling popcorn, shining shoes and cleaning hats. He also had a basement speakeasy and fed his customers hot dogs with secret-recipe chili. Keros opened American Coney Island in 1917 and called over his brother, who opened Lafayette Coney Island in 1929 with different dogs and chili. Lafayette is no longer in the family, but the spots still sit side by side on Lafayette Boulevard.
Home base: Detroit
Where to find: Detroit
Buddy’s Pizza, a kitschy bar and onetime speakeasy, created the original Detroit-style pizza in 1946. A well-seasoned square pan made of heavy steel (originally borrowed from automotive plants) creates the signature airy yet crunchy crust. Next comes pepperoni (or another meat), a thick layer of brick cheese and three stripes of tangy sauce on top. The result is a thick, Sicilian-style crust with browned edges.
Home base: Detroit
Where to find: Metro Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Lansing
In 1982, Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig opened a small deli selling sandwiches and traditional Jewish foods like chopped liver, plus bread and pastries from nearby bakeries. Since then, their business has boomed beyond the original corned beef on rye and now includes a collective of 13 businesses, such as a bakehouse, creamery, coffee roastery, candymaker, and event venue with chef’s garden and a consulting company.
Home base: Ann Arbor
Where to find: Specialty retailers throughout the Midwest
Sanders Chocolate and Ice Cream shoppes
Fred Sanders Schmidt, who introduced the ice cream soda to Detroit, opened his shop in 1875. The product line expanded beyond the traditional candies and ice cream to hot fudge, cream puffs and the ever-popular Bumpy Cake. Rich buttercream forms the bumps on top of devil’s food cake, drenched in fudge icing.
Home base: Metro Detroit
Where to find: Metro Detroit and Mackinac Island
Vernors ginger soda
As legend has it, James Vernor created a medicinal tonic of vanilla, ginger and spices before leaving to fight in the Civil War. The Detroit pharmacist put it in an oak cask, and upon his return in 1866, discovered a delicious drink that’s now Michigan’s most iconic beverage. A creamy variation, known as a Boston Cooler, combines Vernors Ginger Soda and vanilla ice cream.
Home base: Detroit
Where to find: Restaurants and retailers throughout Michigan
Larry Bell, a DIY brewer who also sold home-brew supplies, made his first batch of commercial beer in a 15-gallon stockpot. Fast-forward 35 years, and family-owned Bell’s Brewery ranks as one of the nation’s largest craft breweries. Taste Sideyard Ale, made from Michigan-grown hops, in Bell’s tasting room. Bell’s sits on the Give a Craft Beer Trail, along with 11 other local breweries.
Home baseS: Comstock and Kalamazoo
Where to find: Retailers throughout the country
Valentine distilling co.
Leelanau County native and dirty martini connoisseur Rifino Valentine left Wall Street in 2005 with the goal of making world-class spirits. Today, Valentine Distilling Co. crafts small-batch whiskey, gin and vodka using Michigan-grown and other grains. The tasting room specializes in classic cocktails like Manhattans, Gibsons and naturally, dirty martinis.
Home base: Ferndale
Where to find: Bars and restaurants in the Midwest and East Coast
In northern Michigan, pretty backroads hug cherry orchards and vineyards along the Grand Traverse Bay. The lake climate and sandy soil contribute to more than half the state’s wine grape production. Taste the results at more than 35 wineries on two peninsula trails: Old Mission and Leelanau. Sip a fruity Pinot Noir from Chateau Chantal on Old Mission or any of the more than 160 wineries across the state.