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roadtrip from chicago through WI, around lake superior, through MI and back. where to eat?

we're a couple of foodies recently moved from london. we're doing a smallish roadtrip around lake michigan and superior from chicago. i'd love to have some food/snack/ice cream/drink destinations in mind along the way, as our route is totally fluid.

i've heard door county is nice, and we may do a meal on mackinac island (or just fudge, based on reviews here!), but any suggestions for places along any stretch of the way would be most appreciated.

thanks in advance!

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  1. By "around Lake Superior" do you mean to circumnavigate it (Michigan - Wisconsin - Minnesota - Canada - Michigan)? Or do you mean to travel along the Lake Superior shore but just in Michigan and Wisconsin?

    There are some good recommendations for the north shore of the Lake, in Minnesota, but I'm not sure from your paragraph if you'll be venturing that far west.

    1 Reply
    1. re: KTFoley

      we're playing it a bit by ear, but i suspect that we'll go all the way around, including into canada. tips for that corner in minnesota would be great. we basically decided to take this trip at the last minute, so haven't had that much time to do research, and food is probably the thing we enjoy most in our travels.

    2. Michigan's Upper Peninsula is gorgeous in a minimal way. The "minimal" part, some might say, also applies to good food--somehow I doubt the Cornish pastie, the regional specialty in the faded mining towns up there, will hold too much appeal for you. This said, here are a few ideas. Go up the Keweenaw Peninsula, which juts into Lake Superior in the U.P.'s western half, north of where you might be going in Wisconsin. The scenery is rugged (don't miss Brockway Mountain Drive), and Harbor Haus in Copper Harbor has decent German food with fresh fish. A really unusual store is the Jampot ( http://www.societystjohn.com/jampot.jp ), run by a group of monks from an unusual Eastern Catholic sect who make jams and jellies from the wild fruit in the area, including the elusive thimbleberry (don't let the cost discourage you). They also have good cookies for the road. Going across to Marquette in the central U.P., a very scenic small city with big ore docks and the world's largest wooden dome, you could do pretty well at That Italian Place downtown.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Jim M

        Marquette has a lot of good food, in addition to the pasties. I really like the Sweetwater Cafe. And Jilbert's ice cream is worth driving from Chicago for.

        Try these threads for more info:


        Jilbert's Dairy
        200 Meeske Ave, Marquette, MI 49855

        Sweet Water Cafe
        517 N 3rd St, Marquette, MI 49855

      2. Sounds fun! And rather ambitious. You'll want to post about the Canadian portion on the Canada board. On the MN side, you can do a search for Grand Marais or Two Harbors to dredge up some good posts. I haven't explored everywhere in Grand Marais, there is a place right on the harbor (outdoor dining available!) called the Angry Trout Cafe. It's gotten some mixed feedback here on Chowhound, but I think it's terrific if you want a locally-sourced focus for your meal. I had an outstanding lake trout + wild rice meal there. Also, I've never been there, but Chez Jude across the street looks intriguing as well. (Can't get the places link to work, though.) http://www.chezjude.com/

        There's a frozen custard place in Grand Marais called Sydney's--I think it's a chain, but they have a deck with a wonderful view, as well as beach access, giving you a a couple of wonderful options for where to enjoy your cone.

        Sven & Ole's is a beloved pizza joint in Grand Marais. It's a good stop if you're craving pizza at that point.

        Lots of people love Betty's Pies, but I thought it was ordinary and a little disappointing. It's probably fine if your expectations are properly set: I was expecting my grandma's pie, ya know?

        Have fun! Report back!


        Angry Trout Cafe
        416 E Hwy 61, Grand Marais, MN 55604

        2 Replies
        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          Places links for Betty's Pies & Sven & Oles. Can't get Sydney's to come up. I have a friend who swears by the breakfasts at South of the Border Cafe in Grand Marais. I haven't personally eaten there--we tried to get in but the service was a bit too crabby for me (I hadn't had my morning coffee yet and was a bit on edge) and, if I recall, they wanted to seat me next to someone who appeared to be chain smoking, which I couldn't abide. I think the smoking situation has been remedied, no?

          I had breakfast at the Blue Water Cafe in Grand Marais instead. I had lake trout there, too, as my breakfast. Fine, not exceptional.

          Betty's Pies
          1633 Hwy 61, Two Harbors, MN 55616

          Sven & Ole's
          7 W Wisconsin St, Grand Marais, MN 55604

          South of the Border Cafe
          4 E Hwy 61, Grand Marais, MN 55604

          1. re: The Dairy Queen


            in Duluth, MN: Fitger's Brewhouse makes a mean root beer float. The root beer is brewed on the premises. I didn't eat there, but the burgers and portabello mushroom sandwiches+greens that other folks were eating looked good.

            in Two Harbors, MN www.superiorschoicefish.com. Their brown sugar smoked trout is divine and the perfect picnic food. I think they have a small outdoor seating area, too, if you want to have your meal there.

            in Two Harbors, MN Lou's Fish House
            Hwy 61 in Two Harbors
            Smoked fish, jerky, and cheese, to go.


            Fitger's Brewery Complex
            600 E Superior St, Duluth, MN 55802

            Lou's Fish House
            1319 Hwy 61, Two Harbors, MN 55616

            Superior Choice Fishing Company
            10th Ave, Two Harbors, MN 55616

        2. Hi lettezilla,

          That sounds like a nice trip. As with the others here, I am only familiar with the section from Bayfield, Wisconsin around the Minnesota side up to the border with Canada.

          Here are links to some information I posted here last summer -- they are still valid:


          Once you get past Grand Marais, other than the Naniboujou Lodge, there are very few options for food until you reach Thunder Bay.

          By "a couple of foodies" do you mean a couple romantically connected or two non-related individuals? (Why am I struggling for the right way to ask that???) The reason I ask is because, for couples, I would recommend a place called Sweetgrass Cove for at least one night's stay. It's a wonderful, private guest house (with excellent meals included) halfway between Grand Marais and the Canada border.


          If you like hiking, be sure to burn off some of your chow at the Temperance River/Cascade River State Park trails or some of the other hiking trails along the way.

          1. Make sure you hit the New Scenic Cafe -- just about 5 miles northeast of Duluth, MN on scenic 61/Lakeshore Drive (parallel to the more businesslike regular incarnation 61).

            It's a little more upscale than the rustic surroundings would suggest, but they do a really solid job. Terrific local charcuterie plate, and pie that is a step or two better than Betty's, which is a tourist trap and has good filling stuffed into mediocre crust.


            In general, you will find Culver's restaurants on the road in Wisconsin. Do try one. The butter burgers (so named because they are lightly buttered on the crown of the bun) are thin and delicious, and the chocolate concrete frozen custard shake or malt is truly a force to be reckoned with. Split it, because it's somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 calories. But oh, is it good. Frozen custard is really a step up from ice cream, and I say that as a Wisconsinite who's been eating all manner of frozen dairy for about 30 years. Much silkier in texture and richer in flavor.

            While in Door County, try the local lattice-crust cherry pie, and do a traditional fish boil if you can make it up on a Friday night. As for food up there, it's hit or miss. But Al Johnson's in Sister Bay is a hoot -- goats on the sod roof, good Swedish pancakes, and an all-around Scandinavian-themed aura of mayhem. Go early (8am) to duck the rush.


            1 Reply
            1. re: jrnorton23

              Not sure how many weeks you have, as you've got some huge distances in the areas you've mentioned. As a general guide, and I think better eating will be in these sections: Door County, Bayfield Wisconsin, the Keewnau Pennsinsual, and the stretch in Minnesota from Duluth to Grand Marais. The Lake Superior coast in Michigan and Canada are more desolate, although very beautiful.

            2. It looks like Duluth, MN now has a Hell's Kitchen, which is a much-beloved Mpls breakfast & lunch spot. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/420309

              I can't get the places link to work, but here's a link to the Minneapolis HK website.
              http://www.hellskitcheninc.com/ There don't seem to be any details about the Duluth location, alas. Maybe you can contact them if you're interested.


              1. If you're coming down the west side of Michigan, along Lake Michigan, I'd recommend Leggs Inn in Cross Village. The food is good (mostly Polish) but if it's a nice day, they have outdoor seating and the view of Lake Michigan is SPECTACULAR.

                If you eat in Mackinaw City, the Admiral's Table is not fancy but has good whitefish. It's near the ferry docks. Mackinac Island is not horrible but a bit spendy--since you're from London, the prices won't seem that bad to you :) We ate at Mary's Bistro a couple of years ago and it was decent, also a good waterfront view.

                1. If you go up the North Shore in Minnesota you might want to to try The Wild Onion in Grand Marais, MN for breakfast and try the "Wild One" on the menu. Also in Grand Marais, the Angry Trout is a good stop. As an alternative for pies the Rustic Inn in Castle Danger is a good place. If you want a very unique dining experience just to sit in the Naniboujou Lodge dining room is an unforgettable experience. Food is good too. If you venture into Ontario Rossport is a must stop. The tiny town has a great restaurant at the Rossport Inn.

                  1. A couple of out of the way places I like: The Jam Pot in the Keewenaw Pennsula Is a shop owned and operated by a monastic order of monks. They sell great stuff. Google "the jam pot." It's on M26 5 miles west of Eagle Harbor. Another unusual place for lunch in called The Crepeary in New Buffalo just north of Michigan City on I 94 Very quaint with out of this world crepes, both savory and sweet. An overlooked jewel.
                    Sounds like a great trip. Don't miss Door County.