Taste Iconic Pure Michigan Flavors in Unique Places

Many destinations have a “must have” experience. The meal, landmark, scenic view, museum or street you must experience while you are in town.

Romantic getaway at Chateau Chantal in Traverse City, MI
Chateau Chantal | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

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They are the experiences, especially meals and drinks, that are forever tied together with the place and keep travelers coming back for more.

Michigan is full of these legendary experiences, too many to name, but a few rise above the rest. Today we’re looking at some of Michigan’s most iconic foods and views.

A Chubby Mary in Fishtown U.S.A.

You’ll find one of Michigan’s most stunning views at the Leland Dam in historic Fishtown on the Leelanau Peninsula. The setting overlooks the deep blue waters of Lake Michigan not far from the Manitou Islands. It’s here you will find The Cove, a bustling restaurant on most summer nights that is known for its famous Chubby Mary. What’s a Chubby Mary? Just picture a house-made Bloody Mary mix with a nice dose of horseradish, along with olives and house-made pickles for a garnish, all topped off with an entire smoked chub fish! It’s so awesomely beautiful and tasty at the same time! You have to see it to believe it.

Wine Tasting with Traverse City’s Coastal Views

With rolling hills, breathtaking views of Grand Traverse Bay and picturesque vineyards, the Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City is a reminder of why we love Michigan. Whether on a hot summer day or weekend getaway to see the fall colors, the scenic surroundings make wine tasting an immersive and enjoyable experience at 10 wineries, each with their own distinctive experiences. Whether it’s a wine dinner at Chateau Chantal or enjoying sparkling wine at 2 Lads while overlooking the East Grand Traverse Bay, it’s always a perfect trip. Oh, and you can’t go wrong with a Frosé, a frozen wine slushie made with Pinot Noir/Riesling, strawberry juice and lemon juice at the Brys Estate Upper Deck. It’s the perfect summer drink!

Fudge on Picturesque Mackinac Island

Horse-driven carriage rides. Bike trips around the Island. A walk up the hill to Fort Mackinac. They are all part of the Mackinac Island experience. But none of those activities can top getting fudge from your favorite fudge shop and taking a walk down Main Street as families ride by and you hear the klip-klop of horses. Don’t have a favorite? No worries. You can choose from 13 fudge shops on Mackinac Island, which imports about 10 tons of sugar per week during the busy season. The top selling flavor? Straight up chocolate.

A selection of fudge flavors on a plate displayed outside.
Mackinac Island Fudge | Photo Courtesy of Ryba’s Fudge Shops

House of Flavors Ice Cream during a Lake Michigan Sunset

It’s not summer in Michigan without sunsets and ice cream – and there is no better place to do it than House of Flavors in Ludington. The beloved establishment is celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2023 as part of Ludington’s 150th celebration. Today the Neal family churns out almost 25 million gallons of ice cream every year. Select from a rotating list of about 30 flavors every day and stack them up in a homemade waffle cone, or try one of the Pig Dinners that come in various sizes and are served in a trough. Either way you’re only a few steps from Lake Michigan where you can walk it off while enjoying one of Ludington’s sunsets.

A Pasty at the Iconic Pictured Rocks

While Detroiters have their coney dogs, the Upper Peninsula has their pasties. These hearty meat pies have a long history with Upper Peninsula culture. You can almost imagine Cornish miners warming them up over a mining shovel. While you can find pasties in restaurants, bars and even gas stations all over the U.P., it only makes sense to stop at Muldoons Pasties in Munising. It’s here you can savor them while looking over South Bay at the mouth of Lake Superior and Pictured Rocks. Maybe bring one along on a hike to Grand Island. Just make sure to bring ketchup, if you must.

A Duly’s Place Coney Dog in Vintage Detroit

Duly's Place has been around serving up Detroit famous coney dogs since 1921, so it's no surprise Anthony Bourdain chose to dine here when he was in town. Bourdain referred to Detroit as “one of the most beautiful cities in America” and fell in love coney dogs which he said was a "delicate interplay" of a hot dog smothered in savory coney sauce, fresh diced onions and mustard – all in a steamed bun. During your visit to Detroit, you can step back in time to a classic diner setting and sit in the same counter stool as Anthony Bourdain did at Duly’s Place. Relish in a special moment of Detroit foodie history!

About the Author: John Gonzalez is a Grand Rapids-based journalist with more than 30 years of experience. He loves doughnuts, a good IPA and an off-the-beaten path hiking trail. He is a member of the Central Michigan University Journalism Hall of Fame and originally from Capac.