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Traverse City, MI - good eats?

I'll be staying in Traverse City for a day with my husband and in-laws on the way to Mackinac Island. All the previous posts on dining in this city are at least 3 years old from my search.

Just wondering if any of you can update this topic with some good recs on where to eat? We are not looking for upscale fine dining, but some place to get a tasty, medium-priced meal in a casual setting, around the $20-25 per person price range.

Thanks for any tips!

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  1. Amical (http://www.amical.com). Strongly recommended.

    I would not-so-strongly recommend North Peak Brewing, too.

    If you've got any desire for a family-style breakfast place, I've got a soft spot for Mabel's.


    3 Replies
    1. re: gromit

      Oh, Mabel's is stll around! My family and I went there in 1993 when I was at Interlochen. We loved it. I hope it hasn't changed.

      1. re: gromit

        I tried Amical based on a couple comments on this thread -- but was disappointed. Started of fab with a completely yummy mussels in a wine broth w chunks of pork. Oh and great olives! But the duck w pasta was tragically underseasoned. Huge portion which would have been nice if...
        I was really tempted by Hanna Bistro's menu, but didn't go b/c of bad reviews on Yelp, sigh.

        229 E Front St, Traverse City, MI 49684

        1. re: eqjosh

          I agree, we stopped In amical because of posts here and it was just so-so. Had a bland pizza and the sandwiches were average. However, I was very surprised by Poppycocks recently. Looks like an upscale diner but had fresh, interesting menu items. Had a special goat cheese, walnut, cherry and sweet potato spinach salad with a strawberry-maple dressing--somehow, all the ingredients complemented each other. The hanger steak app was cooked well, and was well seasoned, and the daily soups were interesting flavor combos (like tomato, spinach, Swiss) that again, oddly, worked. Thumbs up!

      2. My wife and I were there for two nights in October last year and had two great meals. Amical and Trattoria Stella.
        Both great.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mmillerk

          I definitely concur on Stella - absolutely a great meal. 2 of us shared the STROZZAPRETI which was to die for -- it's a thick, short pasta nicely al dente, with a big portion of braised pork shoulder that was salty and rich. Then the WAGYU TOP SIRLOIN which was as close to a perfect steak as I've had -- seared outside w a nice level of salt, super tender and flavorful. I'd asked for medium-rare in it was quite red in the middle, so if you want it cooked through better go medium. The steak is served w a veal stock -- I was about ready to lick the plate.
          The dessert was disappointing, as was the bruschetta. Both had too much starch, not enough substance so ended up tasting kinda... white. :)
          However, on the whole I'd definitely go again.
          (re Amical, as I posted in a note above, I wouldn't)

          229 E Front St, Traverse City, MI 49684

        2. Last fall we had a nice lunch at the Cullinary Institute - can't remember the exact name of it, but anyone up there would know. Very nice service and within your price range. You may need a reservation??? Maybe someone else will post more on this. We also scheduled a tour of the training area after lunch, which was nice and informative. Their lovely dining room overlooks the lake. I'll be up there in August and hope more recommendations will appear here.

          1. Ok , I saw you price range , but may I humbly suggest Scalawags ? A chain sure , but a chain that exists pretty much in Northern Michigan only . Their specialty is fried whitefish , but they do many other local freshwater species very well too , most everything is fried but fried real good . Think Long John Silvers if John only knew the local fisherman captains by name , and they brought fresh fish caught locally every day . It's a good light hearted fun place for lunch . If you try it and like it , there is one in Mackinaw City as well , they are both very good for what they do .

            1 Reply
            1. re: GoalieJeff

              If you can't make it Up North there is now a Scalawag's in Rochester Hills, on Rochester Rd between M59 and Auburn.

            2. You should not pass through Traverse City without stopping at Don's Drive-In for either a raspberry or cherry shake -- or better yet, both. They use real fruit. My wife and I go to Charlevoix every year by way of TC and always stop at Don's.

              The other place I like is Cousin Jenny's for pasties. Good, but not a must stop like Don's fruit shakes.

              1. I just got back from running the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City in late May, and I have a lot to say about the food in the area.

                Sorry for the scattered thoughts...I'm at work and typing as I think of them...

                The Omellete Shoppe, and specifically the one on Cass not Front Street was a nice little breakfast place that I'd recommend.

                I ate at Hanna Bistro twice. Once for lunch after the marathon, and once for dinner Sunday night. On sunday they have a roasted chicken dinner special for all of like $8, and it wad delicious. I really enjoyed this restaurant because it was fairly priced, pretty good, and incredibly laid back. If it were in St. Louis I would go often. It's on Cass right next to the Omelette Shoppe.

                Trattoria Stella looked good, and we drove over to it, but it just never worked into our plans.

                Though highly recommended Bower's Harbor Inn was incredibly expensive for what it was, and really, I found it to be quite terrible. I wanted to leave the minute I sat down, but it was my wife's choice, and post marathon I was in no shape to walk around arguing at length.

                There are about three coffee shops on every block in Traverse City, but they all pretty much suck if you really like coffee. What a shame! The best that I was in was Espresso Bay. There were a couple that looked like they were going to be good, but their espresso machines were filthy and I couldn't even order because of it.

                I didn't care for either brewery. North Peak was the better of the two however by far. There stout was pretty terrible though.

                Grand Traverse Pie Company (a small chain) had a really good chicken pot pie, but their sandwiches weren't to great. obviously the pie was also good.

                Moomer's Ice Cream - local ice cream joint with interesting flavors. I had carrot cake...delicious!!!

                ...there are a couple more delis/sandwich places we went to in Traverse City right on Front Street, but I can't for the life of me recall the name of them. I'll have to see if my wife remembers.
                ...and if you have time, in Leland there is a bakery called Stone House and it was one of the best bakeries I've been to nationwide. Awesome sandwiches, pastries, scones, breads.

                ...and Petoskey was a super neat day trip from Traverse City as well, also with some good food and shops. We went to Roast & Toast which we enjoyed.

                5 Replies
                1. re: bobzemuda

                  Thanks to all for your feedback! I can't wait to check some of these places out and will report back on the stand-outs!

                  1. re: bobzemuda

                    Actually, last I knew Stone House bakery is run by a former Detroit lead newsman/editorialist/respected journalist, who is married to Alice Waters' sister.They were a the front of the artisanal bakery efforts here in the Great Lakes State.

                    1. re: berkleybabe

                      He's still the guy. I briefly read an article about the news anchor portion, but the Alice Waters part I did not know. That's very interesting.

                    2. re: bobzemuda

                      I had recently had a Cherry pie from The Grand Traverse pie co. They are just frozen pies. The entire inside was raw flour while the top crust was perfectly cooked. Completly inedible and they obviously did not bother to thaw the pie before baking. I sent them an email and they didn't even respond.
                      While it is north of TC Friske's has excellent pie.


                      1. re: Docsknotinn

                        Covered wagon in suttons bay, just down 204 has wonderful pies made by Linda, the proprietor. Nothing beats homemade.

                        Side note on Suttons Bay, found a couple of faves: o'keefes for chili dogs, lil' bee (I think?) for iceys and martha 's leelanau table for farm fresh meals all around.

                    3. Be sure to check out "310" . Its a Tapas restuarant located on Cass.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: techy2001usa

                        Hi all, due to a travel hiccup, we didn't arrive in Traverse City until very late at night, so we only had time to eat breakfast before heading up further north to Mackinac. We ate at Mabel's, which is a family-owned diner with tasty and hearty breakfasts. We had some delicious omelettes, which were tasty and generous, and the pancakes and waffles with fresh fruit. A very enjoyable meal with friendly service.

                      2. Thanks to everyone for all of these great suggestions. I'm heading up to TC for a few days at the end of the month, and you've already taken care of all of the work for me in terms of finding great places to eat!

                        Now for my dilemma: I'm traveling with a New Englander who I've turned into a Pastie lover by virtue of my own homemade Pasties. S, I definitely want to get some while we're at least near Pastie Mecca! I was thinking of stopping at Albie's in Gaylord on our way up, but I've never been there and was wondering whether anyone here knows the place. Are they any good, and if not, where else should I go instead?

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: ziggles

                          We have cottages northwest of Traverse City on the Leelanau peninsula and know the food places pretty well. For good eats in a delightful setting try the Blue Bird restaurant in Leland, about 23 miles north of Traverse City. It has a very informal bar area with good casual food and a dining area reknown for its salad bar and tasty dishes including whitefish. But for a truly memorable dining experience, I recommend making a 45 minute drive north of Traverse City to Elsworth, a very unlikely place for an outstanding gourmet meal presented beautifully. The restaurant is Tapawingo. Tiny town. Beautiful location. Superb food at a price you would expect for that. We take the long drive from out cottage at least once a summer.

                          1. re: dumpling

                            Seconded on Tapawingo. Could very well be Michigan's best restaurant, period.

                            1. re: boagman

                              Tapawingo is WONDERFUL, and worth the trip from Traverse City. I haven't tried many places in the Detroit area, so I can't speak to a statewide claim, but it's easily the best restaurant in western Michigan.

                              Also excellent, and in Ellsworth, is the Rowe Inn.

                              More info:

                              1. re: nsxtasy

                                Tapawingo is, unfortunately, closed. One of the best restaurants in the Midwest.

                                9502 Lake St, Ellsworth, MI 49729

                                1. re: schaf1

                                  Was just going to say the same thing...have been closed for at least a year or two.

                        2. I was in Traverse City not too long ago, and had a wonderful dinner, absolutely delicious (and not terribly expensive), at Hanna. As they note on their website, specializing in "fresh food simply prepared". You'll find more info (including a menu with prices) on their website at www.hannabistrobar.com

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: nsxtasy

                            We were there over the long weekend and had some really good food - top honors to Trattoria Stella in the old Building 50 complex. It's the area's old mental institution that's now being repurposed into restaurants, galleries, condos - a really neat place. Stella's features lots of local farms and products on its Italian-leaning menu and has a great wine list also. This is definitely the kind of place I wish we had more of in Michigan (especially SW) as I love to support local farms.

                            Don's Drive In was a lot of fun for burgers and especially the real strawberry milkshakes. Cousin Jennie's steak pasties were good also. Hanna Bistro had a great whitefish entree, and we returned on Sunday for the chicken dinner special which was satisfying after a day at the beach though maybe most appealing for its price.

                            1. re: lilAlli

                              We were in TC last week for a few days, and tried several places mentioned in this thread. I have to say the cherry milkshake at Don's is not to be missed (from the real fruit grouping on the menu). Mabel's is outstanding--the corned beef hash (ordered my Mrs. johnb) seemed to be house made, and the hash browns were crisp and really good. I had the "stuffed" hash browns which is one of the two "favorites" highlighted on the menu and they were superb. We also tried the Sunday eve. roast chicken special at Hanna. It was well worth the price, tho I must report my chicken was a bit underdone.

                              We also stumbled into a place I haven't seen mentioned, called Ham Bonz or something like that--a true chow type place, a shack, hole in the wall. Located at the SE corner of Garfield and I think 14th. Run by a very nice fellow from Mississippi who seems to appreciate good food. Their specialty is a pulled pork sandwich. It was very good, big, and finely pulled pork with sauce already mixed in, which sometimes can be deadly but this was good, not too sweet as it often is. About $7 IIRC. Well worth a stop.

                              1. re: johnb

                                Ham Bonz is located at the corner of 8th street and Garfield. Hole in the wall, good for breakfast or lunch

                                Ham Bonz
                                1108 E 8th St, Traverse City, MI 49686

                          2. I'm clearly way behind here but I feel like I have to put in a plug for the sandwiches at Folgarelli's Market. Front St., just west of the main downtown drag. The sandwiches are definitely pricey but worth it for a once-in-while indulgence. My favorite is The Godfather; roasted peppers, prosciutto, pesto, capicola on an Italian roll. Delish.

                            1. Any good vegetarian recommendations in this area? We're staying in Suttons Bay, but would go to Traverse City for something good.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: johnbycz

                                To answer my own question, a friend recommended Poppycocks in Traverse City. They offer four vegetarian entres, plus salads and pasta dishes. There were two vegetarians in the group and both enjoyed the meal, as did all us meat-eaters. Good beers on tap, good drink and a decent wine selection. I'd go back.


                              2. Amical (http://www.amical.com). Had a great dinner with my family for birthdays, including 2 children under 13. Great service, great food, casual atmosphere.

                                Red Ginger. (http://www.eatatginger.com/sit.php). While I don't have personal experience here, my sister raves about it.

                                Red Ginger
                                237 E Front St, Traverse City, MI 49684

                                1. We are heading back up North in a 2 weeks for our yearly vacation in Northern Michigan. Can't wait to taste fresh cherries and local cuisine.

                                  This time around we will be staying in Charlevoix and Sutton's Bay. I'm interested in hearing about good eats in the Sutton's Bay/Leelanau Peninsula area. Breakfast is covered at our B&Bs, so we are mostly interested in lunch and dinner. Also would love to hear about any good bars with live music or a fun scene.

                                  In Traverse City we will likely return to A Cook's House, which was a favorite of ours. Might also do Stella (which we've done before) or Poppycock's (which we hear great things about).

                                  Would love to hear about any place you love: dives to high-end cuisine.


                                  Cook's House
                                  439 E Front St, Traverse City, MI 49686

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Elyssa

                                    as i mentioned in your charlevoix thread. imo la becasse is now even better than cooks and not far from suttons bay. in the same direction is blu. i have not been but hear good things.

                                    right brain brewery in tc is my favorite brew pub anywhere in the us. it is byo food if you like. get a sandwich at folgarellis (3 block walk) and enjoy with some truly fantastic brews.

                                    good coffee and muffins at pedalin' beans at the narrows on lake leelanau.

                                    phils can be very good if somewhat inconsistent compared with cooks and stellas but they do have live music IIRC.

                                    1. re: Elyssa

                                      In Boyne City-Cafe Sante, ask for Ned, tell him The Wine Counselor sent you. If you enjoy wine Go to the Boyne City wine shop down the street from Cafe Sante- ask for Ed, mention The Wine Counselor sent you. Have fun!

                                    2. A couple places that havent been mentioned here are worth checking out the first is Pearls New Orleans Kitchen in Elk Rapids about 20 miles North of Traverse City and approx a half mile off U.S.31 It is worth the stop and its a change of pace with Cajun and creole fair.

                                      The second place worth checking out is the Trillium its located at the Grand Traverse Resort at the top of the tower with some of the best views of Traverse city you can find. I have to warn you this place can be pricey but worth it. Make a reservation during seasonal peaks.

                                      The last place I would suggest for a lunch or casual dining experiance is the Bay View Inn in Acme. Really good Pizza and they have great steaks that wont cost you a ton.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: NorthernNative

                                        I think Trillium is now Aerie. Haven't been, but have heard good things.

                                      2. Just back from a long weekend in TC. An excellent weekend. Great weather. Tall ships.

                                        Several great meals.

                                        Red Ginger: Pan Asian cuisine

                                        - Arrived ~15 minutes early. No problem or hesitation at the hostess stand.

                                        - VERY NOISY and crowded (inside). We begged for outside seating and were accomodated.

                                        Unless NOISY is the goal, they really need to soften the interior to cut the roar.

                                        - Service was excellent

                                        - Dragon roll special appetizer was tasty, but hastily assembled.

                                        - Thai coconut curry with seafood & chicken was fabulous.

                                        - Good WiFi (if you need it)

                                        Omlette Shop:

                                        - They did a good job with the eggs. Ingredients seemed fresh - quite flavorful.

                                        - Good WiFi

                                        Trattoria Stella:

                                        Arrived 12 minutes early. Told we were early. Uh, yeah. Told that a table is not available.

                                        There were ~20 tables within sight that were unoccupied. Told to wait in the bar. The only

                                        two seats together were at a table that seats 10-12. We were asked to move. Found one

                                        seat at the bar for my bride. The seat next to her was unoccupied, but the space was taken

                                        by the guy next-door who was taking up counter space for two with his gear on the bar top. So

                                        I stood.

                                        Bartender was not particularly knowledgable about the available beers - and they had quite a

                                        varied selection. I asked for something "hoppy" and her response seemed confused/unknowledgable. Glass was not chilled. My bride's Cosmo was fine.

                                        Still waiting on the drinks to be delivered when the hostess says our table is ready. Ask the

                                        bartender if she can deliver the drinks to the table? No. Can you roll the bar charge onto the

                                        dinner tab? No. Grrr. Hostess is waiting ... obviously, so. Hey, doll - not my rules. Not exactly

                                        the start I was expecting.

                                        Waiter (Keith) seems VERY knowledgable about the food, preparations and drinks. We place

                                        our orders. He asks if I'd like another of whatever beer was underwhelming me. I decline. I ask for "something hoppy? ... he suggests something I've never heard of, different than what the bartender recommended ... then, as an after thought mentions, "if you want REALLY hoppy,

                                        we have Huma Lumpa Licious." Great! He knows the bar-stock too! Sold. Take this one away, bring me the HLL. It arrives promptly - still no chilled glass.

                                        The mussels (appetizer) were EXCELLENT. I didn't think to ask for a bit of garlic with them

                                        (personal pref) ... would definitely order again.

                                        I would have sworn that Keith described the Chef's cut that evening being a ribeye ... my wife

                                        heard ribeye. The able adjacent to us heard ribeye.

                                        A server arrives waaay to soon; deliverying entrees, not salads. Nothing like what we ordered.

                                        We explain, wrong table. He seems puzzled. Walks away. Returns. "We're expecting salads

                                        for our next course, not pasta." Walks away again. We overhear Keith explaining "wrong table."

                                        and "right table."

                                        Again; the server returns with more appetizers. Uh, oh. We didn't order more appetizers. He

                                        seems puzzled. Salads; SALADS, are our next course. He retreats slowly., clearly confused

                                        as to which table should be getting the plates. We overhear Keith explaining the table

                                        numbers. Uh, oh.

                                        Entrees are arrive; but the chef's cut is now pork? Pork? Is pork ever called "Ribeye"?

                                        Suspecting yet another server snafu, I mention "Chef's cut" ... he takes it away. Keith returns with

                                        the plate and explains pork loin is the Chef's Cut tonite. Oh. I'm puzzled. Bride is puzzled.

                                        Adjacent table is amused and puzzled. The pork loin is excellent. My wife's veal loin is

                                        excellent. We overhear him describing the Chef's Cut to another table. He says "pork loin."

                                        Dunno who screwed-up. Not a big deal. It was excellent.

                                        The manager is making his rounds and asks about our meal. Food is excellent. Waiter is

                                        excellent. Server needs a GPS. Suggest reconsidering the whole hostess/bar/stand/not-sit/table-ready "thing." I get no reaction whatsoever. He's polite, seems to be listening ...

                                        and seems to have heard it all before.

                                        There free-WiFi doesn't work - router is issuing goofy DHCP leases. I say nothing.

                                        Accomodations ... Park Place Hotel. I was in TC for both business & pleasure. We chose

                                        the PPH because it was downtown ... and I need the car for ~4 hours during the day for a

                                        business-thing. We reserved a primo room - high-floor facing the bay. We got it. Two gripes:

                                        - A bit of mildew in the shower; maybe 20 tiles.

                                        - Cob webs above the sink.

                                        Mentioned both on Friday afternoon. They said housekeeping would inspect/clean while we

                                        were at dinner. Not.

                                        Sat morning; I mentioned it to the front desk again. They promised, again. Not.

                                        Sat ~5PM; mention it on our way out the door for a walk, drinks & dinner. Also mention we

                                        in desperate need of another roll of TP. They promise yet again. NOT.

                                        Sunday morning; o'dark-thirty. I call the front desk, asking for a roll of TP. Housekeeping is

                                        not available to deliver it - come to the front desk. I trudge down, get the roll of TP ... and

                                        mention that housekeeping has been a real disappointment. Night clerk listens and is visibly

                                        UNninterested. "Look pal, when I'm spending $200+/night; I expect better." It seems I got his attention.

                                        Checkout: before I have an opp to mention the housekeeping oversights, they mention

                                        knocking 10% off the bill due to our housekeeping not meeting our expectations ... explaining

                                        that "mildew cannot be cleaned from grout. It must be re-grouted." Uh, not this mildew. It's

                                        mostly superficial and I was able to remove ~half of it using soap and hot-water. A bit of

                                        stammering ... so I mention the cob webs and explain that there is no reasonable excuse for

                                        cob webs when I'm paying $200+ per night. Crickets.

                                        Wired internet was excellent. Wi-Fi was excellent.

                                        Red Ginger
                                        237 E Front St, Traverse City, MI 49684

                                        Park Place Hotel
                                        , Traverse City, MI 49684

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: rainsux

                                          Love it!! You much have the patience of a saint!! I live in the lower part of MI, but have spend a lot of time up north but not in the TC area . Mostly in the HS area which I love. Did enjoy reading your review though.

                                        2. We just spent several days in the Traverse City area, and tried several places.

                                          There was one place we absolutely LOVED. I have not seen it mentioned on this board, so I consider it a huge find! :) It's a combination of a French pastry shop called Patisserie Amie, and a French bistro called Chez Peres. It's a couple blocks south of Front Street in downtown Traverse City. We had an outstanding breakfast there, including an amazing Friture au Pain (a lightly fried version of French toast) and an egg dish with a terrific accompaniment of lentils with a dab of mustard. And the pastries we got to go were excellent! When I go back, I want to go there every morning!

                                          Martha's Leelanau Table in Suttons Bay had been recommended here for breakfast. We went there at 11:30, only to find that they stopped serving from their breakfast menu after 11. :( They have a prix fixe special of half a sandwich, a cup of soup, and a dessert of their choice for $12.50, so I got this. The sandwich (Santa Fe club) and soup (butternut squash) were decent enough, but the dessert was where they really shined. Since it was their choice, I was expecting something small like a cookie, but they brought out a delicious slice of a strawberry-topped cake made with corn meal.

                                          We had dinner at the Boathouse on Old Mission Peninsula. The real attraction is the setting; they have an outdoor deck overlooking the water, as well as full-length windows looking out from the dining room. The weather was perfect, so we dined al fresco, and it was lovely. The food was pretty good, not amazing but decent; several of the dishes seemed a bit on the heavy/greasy side.

                                          Incidentally, Hanna, mentioned above and which we had enjoyed in the past, closed at the end of last month. :(


                                          Patisserie Amie / Chez Peres
                                          237 Lake Ave
                                          Traverse City, MI 49684

                                          Martha's Leelenau Table
                                          413 North St. Joseph, Street
                                          Suttons Bay, Michigan 49682

                                          14039 Peninsula Drive
                                          Traverse City, MI 49686