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College tour of Michigan- lots of ground to cover!

We (my hubby and I) are taking our niece on a college tour in Michigan. She lives in Saginaw. from there we will drive to Allendale near Grand Rapids, then to rest for the weekend in Saugatuck- Douglas area. From there we head to Kalamazoo and then to Albion near Jackson. We will end our tour at Wayne State in Detroit. We like good LOCAL food. We prefer more casual bistros and cafes. Brew pubs and good beer would be great. Of course we have to consider pizza etc for the 17 year old! We would also like to visit farmers markets on the way.
Any help in any of these areas will be great!

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  1. If you are near Jackson, you'll get a big kick out of this place-- www.westexbbq.com (limited hours and not-super-attractive area, but very authentic barbecue).

    Speaking of barbecue, assuming you have patience, you'll probably want to hit Slow's in Detroit. Even closer to Wayne State is Motor City Brewing Works, which serves decent food. Also nearby, in perhaps the state's biggest farmers' market, is Supino's Pizza in Eastern Market.

    Note that between Albion and Detroit is Ann Arbor (A2/UM conspicuously missing from your list). There are a couple worthy Zingerman's food places there, as well as some nice (not necessarily budget priced) places on Main Street in Ann Arbor...just if you happen to be passing by.

    From Wayne State, a 17yr old may appreciate a drive up Woodward, with some stops in Ferndale, Royal Oak (a couple blocks off of Woodward) and then on up to Birmingham.

    The places I've mentioned are pretty well described elsewhere on this site, and I'm sure others will weigh-in too. You and your hubby sound like a pretty awesome aunt and uncle!

    2457 Russell St, Detroit, MI 48207

    3 Replies
    1. re: vtombrown

      Thanks vtombrown! I forgot to mention that we are flying in from the SF Bay Area to do this college tour so this will all be new to us too! We are going to colleges that she wants to apply to and UM seems to Off the list! Hopefully we will pass through at lunch . What are "Zingerman's worthy" places? Thanks, Zin

      1. re: zinfanatic

        The local Zingerman's empire is a bit of a landmark. They do a huge gourmet mail order business and draw a lot of visitors. If you're not familiar with them, though, it's not something you need to travel out of your way for, in my opinion. However, if your interest is now piqued :), you could visit their deli at lunch and split one of their enormous sandwiches.

        1. re: zinfanatic

          These four breweries all are around Detroit's Woodward Avenue. They're all pretty cool, each for different reasons, but the food generally is just decent. (Listed in order from WSU heading north)---
          Motor City Brewing Works, just a bit off of Woodward http://www.motorcitybeer.com/
          Woodward Avenue Brewery http://thewabsite.com/
          Royal Oak Brewery just a bit off of Woodward http://www.royaloakbrewery.com/
          Bastone Brewery just a bit off of Woodward http://bastone.net/
          (Slow's Barbecue is a place people go for food, and while they don't brew, their on-tap list is virtual tour of Michigan micro breweries! http://slowsbarbq.com/on_tap.php ...hard to get a table there, though)

          If you are in Detroit on a Saturday day, you really must go to Eastern (farmers') Market, and hit Supino's while you are there. http://www.supinopizza.com/ (I make my own combo, because each of their set combos has something on it which detracts...according to me but not to hardly anyone else... such as too much garlic or a fried egg.)

          Regarding Zingerman's, they have the deli / market (and next door coffee / ice cream bar) with tables, as well as the less crazy restaurant closer to the freeway. I usually spend a good half hour gawking at all the fancy stuff in their market, but I also kick myself for spending WAY too much money there. (The owners are kings of hype, and appear on food programs such as The Splendid Table, or whatever.) They also have a retail counter at their offsite bakery facility and offsite creamery--built after I graduated, so I've never had occasion to visit them.
          Deli/market: http://www.zingermansdeli.com/ (like A.G. Ferrai's, on steroids)
          Restaurant: http://www.zingermansroadhouse.com/

          Here's to your neice getting a scholarship or financial aid grant!

          Royal Oak Brewery
          215 E 4th St, Royal Oak, MI 48067

          419 S Main St, Royal Oak, MI 48067

      2. If you're in Kalamazoo for breakfast or lunch, try the Crow's Nest on Westnedge. (Although I think it might be open 24 hours.) It's on the second floor of a building it shares with another restaurant. It has a great menu! Their specialty is banana-nut french toast...friends had it and loved it. I had the best egg white omelet ever.....spinach, feta and black olives. Liked it so much I've been there twice this month.

        1. You're gonna love Saugatuck. Marro's has wonderful pizza for the niece and excellent Italian entres for the adults. Phil's is a great place for lunch. Everyday People Cafe is said to be the holy grail of food but, and I'll be crucified for this, I don't think it's worth the fuss or the price. Be sure to get some salty seedy bread at the spice store in Saugatuck.

          Everyday People Cafe
          11 Center Street, Douglas, MI 49406

          1 Reply
          1. re: SonyBob

            Second Marro's and Phil's. My first choice would be Marro's, but I think they are takeout only at lunch(?), so it would have to be dinner there.

          2. One thing I might suggest is that if your neice is interested in Grand Valley, you may want to make a point to check out the downtown campus (the Pew Campus). Although I believe mostly graduate courses are held there, it's really an amazing facility, and you could have lunch/dinner at any number of places nearby.

            As far as restaurants downtown Grand Rapids, Leo's is definitely at the top of my list, although it's not really what I call casual. They do, however, serve more casual food at lunch (sandwiches) along with entrees, and there's a large bar area will full service. The reason I mention this despite your mentioning that you prefer casual is because being from the Bay Area, it might be a great opportunity to get some really good freshwater fish. (I missed perch and walleye while living in SF.) The link is here if you're interested: http://www.leosrestaurant.com/

            1. The Farmer's Market in Holland is held on Wednesdays and Saturdays and is outstanding. I moved to Colorado 3 years ago and am still tempted every year to make a special trip to Michigan just for this market. It is predominately local area growers and the variety and prices are great. It may be just a little early for blueberries but there should be plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables available. And there are a couple of fresh flower stands that I loved.

              If you are in Grand Rapids two of my favorite restaurants are San Chez, a tapas bistro on Fulton and Bistro Bella Vita. I can't remember the street for Bistro Bella Vita but it is close to Van Andel Arena. They have excellent pizza for your niece and the ambiance is really nice.

              Good luck with your trip!

              Bistro Bella Vita
              44 Grandville Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

              1. In the Wayne State area, try La Pita on Cass Ave., right on campus. No beer, but Middle Eastern food is as local as it gets in the Detroit area, and theirs is excellent.

                In Kzoo, surprised that nobody has mentioned Bell's, the king of all the Michigan brewpubs. They often feature experimental brews from the Bell's brewery. On E. Kalamazoo Ave. downtown.


                La Pita
                5056 Cass Ave, Detroit, MI 48202

                1 Reply
                1. re: Jim M

                  I would consider both of Jim M's suggestions as 'musts'. La Pita would be the perfect opportunity to sample Detroit's excellent Middle Eastern fare without veering from your route.

                  Ditto Bell's.

                  The Grand Rapids farmer's market is on Fulton St. and it is excellent. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, 8-3. www.fultonstreetmarket.org

                  La Pita
                  5056 Cass Ave, Detroit, MI 48202

                2. In the new JW Marriott hotel in downtown Grand Rapids, there's a new restaurant called six one six that is absolutely terrific. It has supplanted Leo's (mentioned above) as my favorite restaurant in downtown Grand Rapids, although Leo's is still excellent, as is Bistro Bella Vista (also mentioned above). For reports on meals at these places, as well as more recommendations in Grand Rapids, see:


                  In Saugatuck/Douglas, Everyday People Cafe is absolutely FABULOUS, as good as anything in Grand Rapids (or even Chicago). They specialize in local food and everything is just amazingly delicious. It started as a very casual cafe (which it still is) that got popular because the son of the owner went to culinary school and they decided to start serving a more creative menu. They expanded into the space next door and the rest is history. Beware, they don't accept reservations, and waiting times for a table can be lengthy during the summer in this resort community. I posted a detailed report about one of my meals there in the first of the two links below, so you can read about how great it is. DON'T MISS IT.

                  You'll find more recommendations for Saugatuck/Douglas in these discussions:


                  Everyday People Cafe
                  11 Center Street, Douglas, MI 49406

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    Thank you all for all the links and help with restaurants and markets. We leave on July 21. I am looking forward to exploring what is unique in Michigan- including fresh water fish, good local brews and middle eastern food in Detroit.

                    1. re: zinfanatic

                      If you're coming from the Bay Area, make sure you try some Detroit-style square pizza. You can't get this type of pizza anywhere else in the world. The crust is amazing. Long time classic locations for this are Buddy's and Loui's. I'm a Detroit native and SF Bay Area hound coming back to Michigan about the same time as you, and Loui's is going to be the first place I go to in the Detroit area. It's not just for 17 year olds, though I bet she will love it too!

                      Fresh water fish is of course a great local choice, another thing we can't get in SF (perch, smelt, pike, whitefish, mmm...). Bell's beer is awesome; I'm especially fond of the stouts. Hope they're still as good as when I last visited the Midwest; they don't have distribution in California.