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July Trip to Northern Michigan

My boyfriend and I are planning a road trip from Ann Arbor through Northern Michigan for a few days around 4th of July. He lives in Ann Arbor (I'm in DC) and is familiar with the towns but not the details.

We are thinking about spending July 2-4 (leaving early on the 4th) in Petoskey (perhaps at the Perry Hotel...any thoughts there?). What are some restaurant recommendations in the area? I think breakfast is taken care of at the hotel, but how about good lunches and dinners. We will be driving around, seeing different things, so we would also take recommendations outside of the Petoskey itself.

Starting on the 4th we will be driving to Mackinac Island, where we will stay on the 4th of July and leaving on the 6th (a Monday). Again I think breakfast is taken care of at the B&B we are staying at. But what are some great restaurants? Also where can we find the best fudge?? We know it's going to be very crowded over the 4th of July weekend. If at all possible, should we plan on making reservations? Other thoughts of places to go and things to do? I thought Mary's Bistro looked good.

Our price range is a little flexible. But since we are spending so much on lodging we probably wouldn't want to spend much more than $100 for dinner for 2.

Any other recommendations are greatly appreciated. We are very excited for this trip and a chance to see a different part of the state!

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  1. I would check out The Cooks' House in Traverse City if you make it back that way...or on your drive to Petoskey. We ate there for lunch...one of the best meals I've ever had....and worth the trip out of your way....especially if it's the only time you see yourself heading that far north.


    1. Dining options on the Island are fairly limited. The Iroquois has a great view from the dining room and excellent food. The Grand Hotel might be an option for lunch or tea.
      The Perry Hotel is very nice as are all of the Stafford's properties.
      "Also where can we find the best fudge?? "
      Every one will have their favorite pick for fudgie food. I like Ryba's but Kilwin's and Murdick's are very good as well. Most others should be avoided unless you see them making the fudge and try a sample before buying.
      In Mackinaw city there is a nice family restaurant called Darrow's right across from the Holiday Inn ( West of I-75). Very good food but service can suffer at peak times. About a block South on the same side of the street you can find the best jerky and smoked Whitefish dip at Krueger's. You can't miss the smoke house.
      Avoid that place in down town Mackinaw that looks like a two story log cabin right on the corner.
      I leave links to a few other recent threads that might help.







      12 Replies
      1. re: Fritter

        "Avoid that place in down town Mackinaw that looks like a two story log cabin right on the corner. "
        It's called The Dixie Saloon and I would recommend heeding Fritter's warning. It looks attractive from the outside, but the food is just horrible. The attached pub, O'Reilly's , shares the kitchen. If you want a burger and a beer, though the atmosphere is more local, you're better off going to the Keyhole Bar. That is, if you end up in Mackinaw City. Darrow's has great "home cooking", but no alcohol. As for the Island, don't miss the view from the Grand Hotel, lunch there would be a nice splurge. I would recommend packing a picnic and bike/walk around the back (away from town) or through the middle of the island. Pick a quiet scenic spot along your route and enjoy the view!

        1. re: tokyo

          Although I have a low opinion of the owners of the Dixie (would never encourage someone to stay at one of their motels), I have eaten at the Dixie perhaps 10 times and had only one poor experience. They have done a good job with the food my family has had there and have some of the best atmosphere in town.

          That said, I like the food better at Darrow's. Nothing fancy but the salads, pies and fish are good. The food is OK at the Keyhole, but it is extremely smokey.

          Scalawags Whitefish & Chips does a good job on fried perch and whitefish. Get it to go and have a picnic by the lakeshore.

          The Chippewa Room at Audie's is the nicest place in town.

          1. re: KansasTravel

            I was dragged to the Dixie Saloon last fall having had a few previous unpleasant experiences there. We were sat up stairs and the place was beyond filthy. There was black mold coming out of a floor register and as you looked down you could see a ton of dust on every thing. I just can't agree at all that there is any thing even remotely positive about that place including the atmosphere unless you like being packed in with a bunch of tourists that don't know where to eat and stop there only because it's right next to Shepler's.
            Scalawags is fun but if it's a peak time the original Mackinaw location is best avoided. They only have two counter top deep fryers so they can not keep up the oil temperature and the fish gets soggy. If it's not a peak time we really enjoy Scalawags. It's tucked away in a shopping plaza so you can not see it driving down Main Street.They are franchising now so many of the other units have full size fryers. The Cheboygan and TC locations are both very good but Cheboygan is seasonal.
            I've had many good meals at both Audie's and the Chippewa room.
            Another very good option that has been around next to fore-ever is "Neath The Birches" just South of town.

            1. re: Fritter

              My experience at 'Neath the Birches has been spotty. Good half the time, bad half the time and not great in over 10 years..

              1. re: KansasTravel

                I have been to Neath the Birches many times over the years. I can't recal ever having a "bad" meal there.


                1. re: Fritter

                  aaarghh. I hate menus without prices!

                  We're going to be in Mackinaw at the end of the month, might have to check this place out.

                  1. re: coney with everything

                    I hear ya but the prices change every season. The one thing I would say about Neath the Birches or Audies for that matter is that if there are buses there it's not the best time to go.
                    The other options we talked about in Harbor springs or betwen there and Mackinaw are better choices (IMO) than every thing in Mackinaw except Scalawags on a good day.

                1. re: KansasTravel

                  We ate @ the P-town Scalawags the week after Mother's Day & it was great. I had the whitefish & shrimp basket and my sister had the whitefish & perch. She had perch at the Chart Room the night before and thought the coating on the Scalawags perch was a little too heavy in comparison.

                  We both thought the whitefish & shrimp were excellent. Try the chowder - it's thinner than the Stafford's version but very good.

                  Also in the same area is the Sidedoor. This used to be a real dive but the current owners have built a very strong business. Their whitefish with lemon & capers is the best.

                  1. re: clsmith

                    How is the Chart Room? That was my Aunt's recommendation for Petoskey.

                    1. re: Elyssa

                      Actually, The Chart Room is in Harbor Springs. It is the more casual room at The Pier, which is a Stafford's restaurant on the water with very good food. In Petoskey, the Perry Hotel, in addition to its more formal dining room, has a room called the Noggin Room with a sports bar ambiance but with good food. They were recently serving pizza with morel mushrooms and always have a nice planked whitefish. Petoskey and HS are a very pleasant 15-20 minute drive along the bay.

                  2. re: KansasTravel

                    The P-town Scalawags has been very good each time we have been there. I never get any thing but the Whitefish at Scalawags. IMO it's a hanging offense to deep fry perch.

          2. The Perry Hotel is lovely. I have never stayed ther but have eaten there many times. The food is excellent as with all of Stafford Smith's properties.ou might also want to check out the Bay View Inn which is also owned by Stafford and is an old victorian inn on the water in a quaint area just north of Petoskey called Bay View with a village of Victorian homes.It also has a nice dining room and is worth going to for lunch or dinner.Your price point should be fine in almost any area restaurant depending on alcohol.Definitely take the drive up 119 from Harbor Springs to Cross Village through the tunnel of trees. You should at least see the Legg's Inn even if you don't sample the Polish cuisine. The interior can't be described, and the gardens and view from the rear (you can dine outside) are spectacular. You can also eat at the Crow's Nest between Harbor Springs and Cross Village. The area specialty is whitefish served on a "plank" with dutchess potatoes. We like the New York in HS and any of the Stafford restaurants, although they are similar so you may want to only sample one. In Petoskey check out the City Park Grill and its famous bar where Hemingway hung out. If you drive to Charlevoix - you should, it is beautiful - Terry's Place does whitefish, perch and walleye really well. Also check out the stone houses that look like they were built for trolls. We also like the Douglas Lake Bar and Steakhouse which is right on the lake in Pellston and you can eat on the porch. Great "up north" feal and good food. Also in Pellston and definitely worth checking out is the Pellston Market which serves gourmet dinners although sporadically. Hopefully others can assist you with the island. Have a great time and report back.

            2 Replies
            1. re: sammy o

              " In Petoskey check out the City Park Grill and its famous bar where Hemingway hung out."

              Great suggestion there. IIR the bar was brough to the US from Ireland in 1889. Save room for dessert and walk a block down to the American Spoon Foods Gelato shop after dinner.

            2. The lunch buffet at the Grand is spectacular. Something you should experience at least once. With two of you, you should be able to snag one of the small two person tables by the window with a great view of the Straits of Mackinac and freighters passing below. The buffet uses a series of tables, over 70 foot long, with dishes on each side. Many fruits, cheeses, Hors d'oeuvres, salads, pastas, breads, oysters & mussels in the shell, smoked salmon.

              Admission to the Hotel for non-guests is $10, but is applied to your purchase. The meal is expensive at $47.95, but that includes tax and tip.

              The Cupola Bar at the top of the hotel has great views and is usually empty during the middle of the day.

              The Village Inn is not fancy at all, but is comfortable, reasonable priced and does a good job on local fresh fish.

              You will get many different opinions on the best fudge, but my favorite is Marshall's in Mackinaw City. And they are the only one ever to get everything correct with the orders I have shipped to family and friends.

              You might consider staying in Mackinaw City the night of the 4th. The fireworks plus the Bridge are beautiful and you can also see the displays in St. Ignace and Mackinac Island.

              I recommend adding a day trip to Tahquamenon Falls and Whitefish point. These are photos that I took last fall http://www.mightymac.org/tahquamenonf... or even staying one night in the UP and taking a cruise at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. http://www.mightymac.org/munisingpict...

              1 Reply
              1. re: KansasTravel

                Update: the Grand Hotel has reduced the price of the buffet this year. $40 for non-guests (the $10 admission voucher works here) and $30 for guests. Including tax and tip.

              2. I can give you Ludingon or Manistee recommendations, but I'm not sure if you'll be going over that way.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Ross B

                  Actually we'll be in Manistee for one night, visiting his Uncle.

                  1. re: Ross B

                    I'm headed over to the Manistee area tomorrow and would LOVE recommendations for that area: Ludington, Frankfort, etc.

                    1. re: gazpacho

                      We had lunch at the Boathouse Grill in Manistee a few weeks ago. Sat on the deck overlooking the river and watched the boats. Food was very good, albeit bar-type food.

                  2. I'm partial to the fudge at the Murray hotel on the island; I think they have a few more varieties than some of the other shops.


                    1. Hello,

                      I hope you have fun on your visit up here. I live in Nothern Michigan and there are many good places to eat but also many tourist traps.

                      Here are the places I like in or near Petoskey.

                      The New York in Harbor Springs http://www.thenewyork.com/
                      - Everything is always well executed here with exceptional service and a great wine list

                      Esperance in Charlevoix. This place can be hard to find for vacationers. http://www.esperancewine.com/ It is an exceptional wine and gourmet food shop but they also added dining this year. Bistro style menu and you can pick any wine from the shop to have with your dinner.

                      Jose's Authentic Mexican in Petoskey - great tacos, homemade guac and salsa. Good lunch spot.

                      This link is also a good place to find places to visit.


                      IMHO the food at the Stafford's properties is average. Lots of Sysco and GFS ingredients.

                      Please stay away from any chains and support Northern Michigan businesses. We appreciate it.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: willygreen

                        "IMHO the food at the Stafford's properties is average. Lots of Sysco and GFS ingredients"

                        Every single restaurant in the towns listed here receives products from Sysco and GFS because they are the only vendors for many kitchen supplies. It's unfortunate that people see the Sysco truck assume they are getting "sysco" food.
                        That's just not always the case.
                        There are indeed many restaurants in the area serving food straight from a Sysco freezer box or can. Staffords is just not one of those places.
                        As a Chef that is not only from Petoskey but has worked as a chef in the area I can tell you from first hand experience that product delivery options are very limited.

                        1. re: willygreen

                          If Charlevoix is added into the mix, I like the food and service at Weathervane Terrace Inn, and enjoy watching the boats pass by during the meal.

                          1. re: willygreen

                            Thanks for all these recommendations.

                            And trust me--we will be staying far away from chains. We are big proponents of local dining and sourcing. And supporters of all aspects of the MI economy besides being foodies (my bf lives in MI and one of his chief concerns is supporting the local economy).

                          2. Has anyone been to Mary's Bistro on Mackinac Island? It seems right up our alley but I was looking for some first hand reviews.


                            1 Reply
                            1. My boyfriend did some research and it looks like in Petoskey we are going to eat at Chandler's and Andante. The menu at Chandler's looks great. But I couldn't find much on Andante.

                              I think we'll go to some of these other places for lunch (the City Park Grill seemed like a fun place to go).

                              We are still up in the air about what to do in Mackinac Island, but we are leaning towards at least lunch at the Grand (although everyone I talk to says to go to the Iroquois for lunch...is there really a difference?)

                              10 Replies
                              1. re: Elyssa

                                You don't have to pay to walk across the porch at the Iroquois and it's right on the water down town. No AC in either of the Inn's so on a hot calm day the Iroquois can be more pleasant. The food at either will please. The Iroquois is a little more relaxed on the formality and is A la carte Vs the buffet of the Grand Hotel.
                                Here is a partial menu for Andante. I can't seem to find their main web site at the moment.


                                1. re: Fritter

                                  For lunch at the Grand Hotel does my bf have to wear a coat and tie?

                                  I couldn't find their website either. I'm begining to think they might not have one.

                                  1. re: Elyssa

                                    No website yet, but here's the menu

                                    1. re: FM23

                                      Oops looks like it didn't accept my file....

                                      1. re: FM23

                                        Trying to submit menu again. Fingers crossed

                                        1. re: FM23

                                          Is this posted online somewhere? It's hard to read through the photo. I appreciate your help though! You guys have been great.

                                          1. re: Elyssa

                                            It's not posted online, but if you call them they will fax it to you right away. That's how I got it.

                                      2. re: Elyssa

                                        It's not hard to feel out of place even touring the lobby at the GH with out proper attire. I believe they require a coat and tie in the main dining room and through out the hotel after 6 PM but IIR it's resort casual in the day. Chinos and a SS dress shirt for gents should be fine.
                                        The GH is very formal.

                                        1. re: Elyssa

                                          The Grand is only formal in the evening. You could probably find something scruffy enough not to feel comfortable, but would need to work at it. After all, it is filled with tourists.

                                          I enjoy walking the halls, checking the photos from over the years (and the 2 movies filmed there), and admiring the antiques.

                                          Oh, and one of the gift shops had the chepest postcards we found on the Island:-)