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Can't Miss Eats in Saugatuck & Traverse City

Hi All,

My boyfriend and I are planning on exploring Michigan this summer on a road trip--Saugatuck and Traverse City in particular. We are major foodies and like an assortment of cuisines.

I would love to find at least one or two higher end places to dine in each place (where would you go for a celebratory meal or a romantic/nice evening out?), but I'm also interested in more moderate or even cheap eat places...while still maintaining good quality meals and service.

We love Italian, New American, seafood, French, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Asian, and Latin. We have a particular fondness for seasonal cooking. We don't eat a lot of pork, so probably no pig-centric places. But otherwise we are pretty open to anything. We would love to have a variety to choose from. And if there is a great place to grab a Michigan-brewed beer and relax or the best pie in town, please include that as well.

We are planning to be traveling the week leading up to and including 4th of July (I know..it will be crazy).

In addition, if you have any great B & Bs or inns with nice breakfasts and centrally located to downtown Traverse City or Saugatuck that you could recommend, please let me know.


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  1. For recommendations in the Saugatuck area, see this topic:

    In it, you'll see my strong recommendation and detailed report on Everyday People Cafe in Douglas. This is a wonderful restaurant, one of the best anywhere in Michigan. I've been there a couple of times since the meal I posted about and it was every bit as good as it was then. Note the caveats in my post about reservations and about credit cards. www.everydaypeoplecafe.com

    For recommendations in Traverse City, see these topics:

    4 Replies
      1. re: nsxtasy

        From what I can tell at least from the Saugatuck list Everyday People Cafe, Salt of the Earth, Elbo Room (esp. for breakfast) and Mermaid Bar (for lunch) looked good. Am I missing anything else?

        Everyday People Cafe
        11 Center Street, Douglas, MI 49406

        1. re: Elyssa

          Maybe it's just me but I don't think the Mermaid Bar is all that great. It's a super location if it's a nice day and you can sit outside but as far as food in concerned, I'll stick with Phil's.
          Will you be anywhere near New Buffalo down by the Michigan/Indiana border? If so, go to AnnePierre's for the best crepes you can imagine!

          1. re: SonyBob

            Agreed. Mermaid is incredibly average other than the outdoor seating. I'd rather sit outside at Wally's.

            Phil's for sure... if only for a beer and an order of portabella fries.

      2. As mentioned before, we go every year to Saugatuck; we're fond of Marro's for dinner and Phil's for lunch. Always like to mention the Harbor Duck ride. Corny funny driver, lots of fun and good information about Saugatuck and Douglas.

        1. <"I'm also interested in more moderate or even cheap eat places...while still maintaining good quality meals and service.">
          Phil's and Marro's fall into this category. Ditto SonyBob's recommendation.

          1. First time eating at Wicks Park last night. Used to be Billie's Boathouse, across from the chain ferry. Think they've been open about 8 mos or so... I know they were at Taste and heard good things about their fish tacos from that.

            Shrimp po'boy was tasty although not a lot of shrimp. Hand cut fries were crisp and hot. One of my table mates had the chicken finger appetizer as entree. Nice chunky chicken, good looking batter and he took probably 2/3 home with him. Rave's over the turkey burger. Another friend said the carbonara is really good although the menu description sounds more alfredo-y; they offer 1/2 orders of their pasta dishes and he said a 1/2 is more than plenty for $7. Most entrees are in the $11-13 range up to maybe $23.

            The bar area is really nice.


            3 Replies
            1. re: Scott D

              Cook's House in Traverse City --- small, use only locally sourced products. No reservations. Best meal I've had this year...cozy, informal, tiny kitchen turning out just wonderful food. BYO OK-- so go to Two Lads on Old Mission and get a bottle to take. Really, this is a don't miss stop.

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

              1. re: berkleybabe

                This sounds wonderful! We have been looking at Cook's House. I love your idea of BYO. Do they not have a wine list?

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

                1. re: Elyssa

                  As I recall, they didn't. But there's a good wine shop close by that will help you out. Or, of course, take a trip up Old Mission and get a couple of bottles of anything by 2 Lads winery and enjoy the gorgeous view, too.

            2. NYTimes travel issue has a lovely story about Petoskey and environs with some food and lodging recommendations


              Now that I've read this, I want to go Up North RIGHT NOW.

              2 Replies
              1. re: coney with everything

                Wow, *great* article! McLean & Eakin is every bit as enjoyable as it sounds (and I find the used bookstore/bus stop down the road equally as much fun. It's called 'The Book Stop')
                Speaking of pie... Crooked Tree Breadworks has some nice varieties. I haven't stopped in a couple of years, but House of Pies (outside of Petoskey in Oden) has always had a great selection of homemade pies as well. These would be worth seeking out rather than settling for Grand Traverse Pie Company's frozen, flavorless pies. Now, where to find the best pie in Traverese City...

                1. re: tokyo

                  Yes...where does one find the best pie in Traverse City?

              2. Holland is just up the road a piece from Saugatuck. Check out Butch's in the center of town for a delicious meal. A wonderful treat... Also, the Crimson Cottage in the Woods (www.crimsoncottageinn.com) is a relaxing, well-appointed place with excellent food and friendly innkeepers. A much better value than you will find in Saugatuck!

                1. As long as you know that Saugatuck and Traverse City are not anywhere close to each other :) you'll enjoy both of them. But be advised that in the summer, they are both overrun with tourists. Much of the traffic is on two-and-four lane roads (neither is right on a major highway) so just time your trip accordingly.

                  Highly, highly recommend that you stop at the many orchards and farm stands between Traverse City and Petoskey on U.S. 31. You can eat at some of them, and there's everything from cherries to pie to pizza. Just turn in that one that strikes your fancy.

                  In Petoskey, one of the best bargains you will find is at the Weathervane, the bar downstairs in the Perry Hotel. They serve a dirt cheap special each night, incluing locally caught whitefish, fried chicken, roast turkey, and you get everything included for $9.95. They also pull a nice Guinness. http://www.staffords.com/

                  The dining room upstairs at the Perry has knockout views of Lake Michigan and a fantastic breakfast. It's also an elegant spot for dinner. But reserve.

                  Also in Petoskey, there's a new branch of Plath's Meats. http://www.plathmeats.com/ They smoke fish, meats, their own bacon, and it's a great place to pick up fixings for a picnic. They know everything there is to know about meat.

                  In Traverse City, there's a terrific burger joint called Don's Drive Inn, right on the main drag. It's all good - burgers, shakes, fries. I went there on my birthday last year because I like it so much, and I'm a foodie. You can get your meal and dine in, or take it to a nearby beach.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: CulinaryWoman

                    If the OP decides to take the jaunt from TC to Petoskey (though it doesn't sound like that's in their travel plans), just wanted to clarify - The bar downstairs at the Perry Hotel is called the Noggin Room. The Weathervane is another Staffords establishment, located in Charlevoix.
                    There are so many orchards and farm stands on the west coast of Michigan, you probably won't need the extra trip to Petoskey, though it is a lovely town.

                    1. re: CulinaryWoman

                      We did Petoskey last year so we are sticking with Traverse City and Saugatuck this year. We have an entire week to travel and will be spending 2 days in Saugatuck and 3 1/2 days in Traverse City.

                    2. Elyssa:

                      As you have found both Saugatuck and Traverse City have some good restuarants, most of the TRULY good restuarants however (and less touristy for that matter) are either off the beaten path or inland. If you are in the area anyway, you might as well take a sidestep to Grand Rapids one night and eat at The 1913 Room in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel - I always manage to make it there on my visits - it is a bit pricey (for Michigan standards), but if you are use to dining in the metrolopolis of the eastern seaboard then it won't break the bank

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Macho PeaChew

                        On my most recent trip to Grand Rapids some months back, I ate at the 1913 Room. I thought it was good, but didn't "wow" me. On the same trip, I ate at six one six, the restaurant in the JW Marriott downtown, and I thought it was terrific in every way. I posted detailed reports on both dinners in the Grand Rapids topic at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/379217

                        1. re: Macho PeaChew

                          I'm interested in your views of Traverse City. We will be visiting there on Labor Day weekend. Which are the better(non-touristy)"off the beaten path" restaurants in your mind?

                        2. If you're going to be in Saugatuck for a spell, please be sure to take M89 a few miles inland to Fennville, a small farming community. It's a dinky town, but there's two great restaurants there. Salt of the Earth does the high-end local organic seasonal thing at reasonable prices (you can go all out for fancy dinner, or have a sandwich or pizza for less $$). Also in Fennville is Su Casa, one of the cheapest and most delicious and authentic mexican joints you could ever find. If you're not into pork or steak or chicken, they have some nice seafood selections as well.

                          Enjoy your trip! I just relocated FROM Michigan, and I'm finding that the thing I miss most is the lakeshore.........and the food that's there! ;)

                          Su Casa Restaurant
                          306 W Main St, Fennville, MI 49408

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: dingey

                            You and me both Dingey! I moved from Holland to Colorado 3 years ago and really miss the lakeshore, especially this time of year! Is Salt of the Earth in the old Journeyman location? I miss Su Casa! And Everyday People Cafe! Marro's and Wally's! And we really miss Fenn Valley Winery! I flew back to MI in July 08 to pick up a car my stepson bought for us at an auto auction. I drove back to CO but timed my departure so I could stop at the winery to stock up. I really need to plan a West Michigan pilgramage!!

                            Everyday People Cafe
                            11 Center Street, Douglas, MI 49406

                            Su Casa Restaurant
                            306 W Main St, Fennville, MI 49408

                            1. re: Squint

                              HA! i feel ya! Somehow my husband and I never checked out Marro's till last summer on my birthday. Most italian places disappoint me because we've got a great one in our hometown, but Marro's blew my mind. I had bracciole and had to keep grabbing the table edge to avoid food-swoons. Went back for pizza later, and that was really good, too!

                              And yes, Salt of the Earth is in the old Journeyman location. Oh, Journeyman. Sigh.

                              We were talking last night about some show where chefs were talking about what they'd want as their last meal, and I said "Mine might have to be Su Casa tradicionale pork tostadas....."

                              We're living in the western north carolina mountains now, so we've got a whole other world of beauty. A lifetime of sand in my toes this time of year, though...it's hard not to miss The Lake!

                              Su Casa Restaurant
                              306 W Main St, Fennville, MI 49408

                          2. Following lots of recommendations on this board, we went to Cook's Table and had the tasting menus (7-course for me, 5-course for my wife). The standout dish featured local grass-fed beef, but the tomato veloute soup, the walleye, the salad, and the cheese tray were also particularly fine. What a great meal featuring local foods!

                            Following Elyssa's recommendation in another post, we went to Salt of the Earth for lunch on Sunday and had their local grass-fed burger. It was wonderful! As were the greens, the potatoes, the bread, the ketchup, and the fabulous draft beer selection. These two places were just what we were looking for in terms of great local cuisine.

                            We also followed another of Elyssa's recommendations and visited the Cherry Hut in Beulah for breakfast. They have a nice breakfast buffet (including cherry muffins) which we complemented with a slice of their awesome cherry pie. We did Cherry Hut and Salt of the Earth on the same day, the last of our vacation - what a great chow conclusion to our trip. Thanks again for all the recommendations here!


                            Salt of the Earth
                            114 E Main St, Fennville, MI 49408

                            The Cherry Hut
                            211 N Michigan Ave, Beulah, MI 49617