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I-75: Flint to Sault Ste. Marie, MI--chow wanted

  • j

Spring is here, Michigan hounds and other users of I-75, and this means only one thing: going "up north"--at least as far as we can with gas prices at current levels. I'm sure we all have tales of fast food, half-frozen pasties, and other disastrous meals on the road to the U.P. Can you help save us from eating any more?

I'll start. Today, on the recommendation of other hounds, I ate at the Big Eazy in Flint Township. Taking the Corunna Rd. exit in Flint, you go maybe two miles west on Corunna, and it's on the left. I had a blackened catfish with a great tomato cream sauce that had scallops and andouille sausage in it--it was called Big Eazy sauce. They had several fresh fish and an oyster bar. I'll have to try it again, and my cardiologist is going to be hurt and angered, but it was very decent New Orleans-style food, which is notoriously hard to find in these parts.

Any place else, in Saginaw? Bay City? Grayling/Gaylord? West Branch? Mackinaw City/St. Ignace? I think the key is to get away from the highway.

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  1. I have a place near Mackinaw so I make this drive at least twice a month. I think your descriptives of food horrors are probably the norm along I-75. There is a place in Mackinaw West of the bridge that has the most fantastic Jerky. We all know about the fudge (and the fudgies).
    My favorite stops are not for restaurants but for food items to take to the cottage. Williams cheese, Seasonings and bread at Freeway Fritz in Bridgeport.

    1. Not off 75, but US 23 (we prefer the coastal drive) is Flour Garden in Harrisville. Although last time we ate there it was just ordinary, usually their food is outstanding--great breakfast, home toast, and real greens in the salads, not just iceberg. Service is faster than the usual Up North speed. No alcohol.

      They also have a great, albeit tiny, attached market with interesting foods and wine, as well as baked goods.

      1. I don't know of anything good in that stretch of road. You have to get over to the Lake Michigan shore to get good food in Northern Michigan.

        1. Two of the very best restaurants in the entire state of Michigan are 30ish miles west of Gaylord in the booming metropolis of Ellsworth, and definitely worth the detour:

          Tapawingo - www.tapawingo.net
          Rowe Inn - www.roweinn.com

          You can also find some recommendations for Grayling/Gaylord in the topic at www.chowhound.com/topics/429825

          1 Reply
          1. re: nsxtasy

            Tapawingo is no longer what it once was. I'm glad to see both places still have fans but there are far better restaurants (IMO) in the state. Are we talking about any place in northern MI or just off I-75?
            Petoskey has some nice spots, Andante, Staffords Bay View Inn, The Perry Hotel, The dining rooms at Bay Harbor.
            The dining room in the Iroquois Hotel on Mackinaw Island is an outstanding experience as well as the Grand Hotel.
            Vivianos in Indian River is fine for fried Perch.
            The Douglas Lake bar is always fun.
            Albies Pasties has a shop in Gaylord.
            If you feel like getting off I-75 head over to Traverse City then take the drive North. Charlevoix and Petoskey are beatifull and Lake Shore drive aka tunnel of trees (M-119) from Harbor Springs to Cross Village (Home of the Leggs Inn) has been voted one of the most scenic drives in America. Don't forget to stop at Friskes along the way for pie or cider and doughnuts!







          2. That can be a pretty barren stretch of road for the Foodies. I have always found The Sugar Bowl in Gaylord to be very good. It is within a mile east of the Gaylord exit of 75 on the North side in downtown. Also plenty of parking in the rear even for those pulling a trailer. It is two places in one a family restaurant which is attached to finer dining restaurant. Solid food and clean I have never been disappointed.


            1 Reply
            1. re: firestalker

              Well there's always Gobblers in Gaylord or Big Bucks Brewery but the brewery sure isn't what it used to be. When they used to serve the Sterling Silver steaks it was a favorite stop.

            2. Try Wheelers in Standish. Old time restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

              You'll thank me later.

              1. You really should hit the Antlers Bar & Restaurant in SSM. Food is chowy, amazing taxidermy collection.

                1 Reply
                1. re: dinerminer

                  Not to mention the placemats . . . "Like the city of Sault Ste. Marie itself, Antlers is in a state of suspended animation."

                  Thanks for all the responses, y'all--I knew there were a few places out there! Keep 'em comin'!

                2. North of Bay city just a few miles off I-75 is Williams cheese. The extra sharp, Smoked swiss and Horseradish cheddar spread are all great. It's about a ten minute detour.
                  At Birch Run there's Tony's if you like a mongo breakfast or just West of the ramp is Dixie Dave Minors place.
                  At the Toppinabee exit North of Indian River headed into Toppinabee there is a small cafe called Noka.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Docsknotinn

                    I believe Dixie Dave's is east of I-75 near the first light . . . only went there once. I had a lionburger. Not a Detroit Lion burger--we're talking ground Simba here. With fries. Definitely unusual.

                    1. re: Jim M

                      Jim your correct. Dixie Daves is West and Tonys is east. Both are with in a mile of the I-75 ramp.
                      In West Branch there is a BP gas station right off the exit. I know some of you will think I've lost my marbles but they have excellent broasted chicken.

                      1. re: Docsknotinn

                        Not in the least--in the South, some of the best chicken is at gas stations. In south Alabama once I had an incredible barbecued turkey meal bought from a trailer in a gas station parking lot.

                        However, you said I was correct but also said Dixie Dave's was west of the freeway again. As I recall, going north you turn right (east) and then hang a right at Dixie Hwy. to get to Dixie Dave's, which is very near the intersection. It's on the left. To get to Tony's you head toward the outlet mall, which is west.

                        1. re: Jim M

                          Yes sir you are correct, again! NO more posts from me with directions before coffee....LOL

                    2. re: Docsknotinn

                      ahhhh, tony's. truely a guys place for breakfast. my wife refuses to go there because "they serve huge portions of exceptionally mediocre food that costs too much." she's not too far off base, but where else can you get a good blt with a full pound of bacon on it or an 8-10 egg omlete.

                    3. I grew up in Saginaw - if you want greasy but good food, stop in town at the Tony's Restaurant on Gratiot Rd. I enthusiastically recommend the Steak Sandwich, grilled, with pizza cheese and mushrooms. The onion rings are pretty good too. Don't forget your Lipitor. Most of the other Tony's restaurants I do not recommend for various reasons. The best food comes from the Tony's take out place on S. Michigan, but it's take-out only. In the same neck of the woods (also on Gratiot) is one of my favorite bars on the planet, the Scottish Inn. They've got pretty good greasy food, too.

                      For non-greasy fare in Saginaw, check out Jake's in old town (corner of Court St and Hamilton). It's pricey ($20+ per person) but the atmosphere is great and the food is outstanding. You won't hardly believe you're in Saginaw while you're inside.

                      Further north, I confess that I always stop at the Big Boy at the bridge. They do a lot of fresh fish stuff there, and it's freakin' awesome. The last time I went up, I believe I got a cajun whitefish sandwich (grilled) and it was delicious.

                      1. There is a bakery in Grayling that serves some of the best cinnamon rolls I've ever eaten, (at least as I remember them from childhood). I cannot remember the name of it, though. Anyone else know what I'm talking about?

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: rweater

                          The bakery is Goodales. I stop in at least a couple times a week when I'm up at my cabin on the Au Sable just east of Grayling.

                          1. re: Wakeley Bridge

                            So, since you stop there, I'm assuming it's still good?

                              1. re: Wakeley Bridge

                                How about some directions or land marks. Is this down town? Have you seen the fire damage yet? Right up to the southern edge of town and both sides of I-75 were burned.

                                1. re: Docsknotinn

                                  500 Norway St. 989-348-8682. Sort of behind the Shell station on M-72 just before you turn west towards Traverse City. Near the Crawford Cty museum and across the street from the quilt store. If it's early in the morning, just follow your nose - the baking aroma will lead you to it. I was at my cabin when the fire occurred. Luckily the damage didn't reach downtown. It was really a near thing. The May 1990 Stephan Bridge fire destroyed a lot more dwellings.

                        2. Scalawags, for whitefish and chips in Mackinaw City is really good. Paper plate kind of casual, but great fish.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: grouper

                            I like Scalawags as well and we eat there frequently. The only caveat is that they use counter top fryers so avoid them at peak times. The oil temp drops to low and the fish and frys can be soggy. But when it's not packed with fudgies I really enjoy Scalawags. There are stores in Cheboygan and Petoskey as well.

                            1. re: Docsknotinn

                              We went in mid-June before it got too busy up there. Now I just go to the location in Rochester. Much closer, sadly they are in a terrible location.

                              1. re: grouper

                                I was by there yesterday and it looked like that location closed. It has always been a terrible spot for what ever has been in there.

                                1. re: Docsknotinn

                                  Docsknotinn, I drove by Scalawags last night and the open sign was flashing away, so I hope that indicates they are still in business. If they had to count on me to keep them going, they would close. I don't eat a lot of fried foods, but when I want fish that's where I drive.

                                  1. re: grouper

                                    Ate at Scalawag's Rochester location this evening (5/12). Still open, still good. There are "closed" signs in the window of the storefront just to the north of Scalawags. Maybe that was what was causing the confusion.

                                    1. re: Wakeley Bridge

                                      Yes It was my mistake. It was indeed the store right next door that caught my eye.
                                      The place I had mentioned earlier for the best jerky is called Krueger's in Mackinaw.
                                      203 W. Etherington.
                                      If you find the IGA on the main street right next to I-75, drive under I-75 and turn right. It's the second shop on the left next to a gas station. Very friendly people. I buy a few pounds at a time to stock the freezer. It's very near the Holiday Inn Express. Less than three minutes off the highway. Right across the street from the Holiday Inn is Darrows. Easilly one of the best restaurants in the area. Avoid peak tourist times unless you are staying in Mackinaw as service can be slow. Early and late season it's just locals and worth a visit.
                                      If you need a cup of coffee in Mackinaw try The Island book store on the North side of the main drag near KFC. They serve Seattles Best.

                                      1. re: Docsknotinn

                                        Docsnknotinn, my son and I had Scalawags, in Rochester last Thursday, 5/18. Drove by yesterday and the are now indeed closed...sign is gone, etc. You must have had a premonition a few weeks ago when you said it was closed then. You should by lottery tickets!!
                                        I would like to think they found a better location, but I didn't see any sign on the door.

                                          1. re: grouper

                                            Their website references to RH store have disappeared, with no mention of a new location coming.

                            2. At the southern exit to Gaylord, take Old 27 south about 1/2 mile to Benethum's. Good American fare for lunch and dinner at reasonable prices.
                              If you want to venture farther afield, take exit 264 east to Lewiston for a Tally's burger.Then go out into the Lewiston woods and search for morels.

                              1. H & H Bakery in Pinconning is a good lunch stop, always 3 or 4 homemade soups, the sandwiches are made on their bakery bread which you can buy by the loaf to take with you. Cheddare cheese and Cinnamon swirl are terriff
                                Just take the Pinconning exit from 75 about 6 or 7 minute drive