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May 25, 2012 12:19 PM

Upper Peninsula Road Trip

Looking for some fresh ideas/recommendations on interesting, family-friendly stops through the UP. Pretty casual, for the most part. YES, I've done the search and read all relevant threads. This is a trip we've done before, so we're reasonably familiar with what's on offer, but it's been a few years.

Especially interested in suggestions near Houghton, Marquette, and the stretch between Marquette and the Mackinac Bridge.

We're already familiar with: Suomi, Jampot, Union Grill... probably some others I'm forgetting. Anything new we should know about?


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  1. If you are passing through on a Saturday, downtown Marquette has a nifty Farmer's Market with lots of local produces and foodstuffs.

    Also, Donckers' Candy Shop serves nice casual lunches in a refurnished space on the 2nd floor of its downtown Marquette building.

    1. Be sure to pass through Munising this trip and stop for a meal at Johnny Dogs. I'm serious, this is a destination diner.

      And a short ride away is Rock River Cafe in Chatham. Just re-opened for the season.

      1 Reply
      1. re: RedTop

        When I went to NMU Vangos was the place to go.

      2. I lived in Houghton for 7 years (undergrad and grad school at MTU) and still go there every other year or so to visit. Here are some good places to eat in Houghton and beyond:

        Suomi Bakery....It's on Huron St. They do have lots of Finnish specialties like Pannukakku, which is like a baked custard and comes with a thimbleberry sauce. Thimbleberries are like raspberries, and they are a Keweenaw specialty. They also make the best pasty in the world - better than any of the tourist traps on US 2 just over the bridge. By the way, pasty rhymes with "nasty", it is not pronounced "PAH-sty" as is sometimes suggested. If you pronounce it that way, I can guarantee the locals will think you are troll (Yooper slang for a downstater - i.e. someone that lives "under the bridge") trying to fake a Yooper accent. By the way, don't call it a "paste" y, because that's something Gypsy Rose Lee wore in her act. I like pasties with gravy or mustard, but most locals like them with ketchup on them.

        B&B Bar - it's on M26 as you are slightly west of downtown toward the Copper Country mall. This is a local dive bar, but they have the very best Yooper bar snack around - the pickled egg.

        Great hamburgers can be found at the Downtowner Bar on US41, which is called Shelden Ave in downtown Houghton, near the lift bridge. If you are there in the summer, sit on the deck and watch the bridge go up and down. Definitely the best burgers in the Keeweenaw there.

        I also love the submarine sandwiches and the fishbowl cocktails at the Ambassador, which is slightly up the street from the Downtowner. The fishbowl drinks are served in brandy snifters - my favorite is the Quaalude. Be careful - they sneak up on you!

        There's a relatively new microbrewery right on Shelden called KBC or Keweenaw Brewing Company. They don't have food, just beer and peanuts in the shell, but it is really good beer.

        As you go further up the Keeweenaw, definitely stop at Jampot, as mentioned in the other post and get some thimbleberry jam and any of the monks baked goods. They are heavenly.

        I also love the Keweenaw Mtn. Lodge - it is a great place to have a meal or a cocktail. The food is reminiscient of an old time supper club - planked whitefish, steaks, etc. Also, great viewing atop the Keeweenaw Mountain.

        In Calumet, I really like this coffee shop the Conglomerate Cafe on 5th Street. It is housed in an old bank. Great sweets!

        No tour of the Copper Country would be complete without a stop at the Gay Bar. No, it's not what you are thinking - the Gay Bar is in Gay, Michigan, which is on the east side of the Keeweenaw. When I was a college student in the 80s, you could regularly see the guy that played Jethro Bodine on the Beverly Hillbillies or Ted Nugent there, as they both used to hunt nearby. Now that Tedly's moved to Texas, I'm not sure he visits anymore.

        As you get toward Copper Harbor, I like Fitzgerald's in Eagle Harbor. You can dine overlooking Lake Superior. Also good is the Harbor Haus in Copper Harbor for German food, or whitefish. It's right on Lake Superior as well, and the waitstaff will run out on the deck and welcome the boat returning from Isle Royale.

        3 Replies
        1. re: momskitchen

          Yes, don't miss Harbor Haus! Last place you expect to find it, but I would say the best German food in the state. And kids would enjoy the waitstaff routine.

          If you're in Sault Ste. Marie, no one would claim that the Antlers has great food, but your kids will love it.

          1. re: momskitchen

            Update on Calumet: the Conglomerate Cafe is now Cafe Rosetta. More ambitious menu, but still with lots of local charm. (They're on Facebook).

            Another new-ish dining option in Calumet is Carmelita's, Tex-Mex/Southwestern fare in an interesting restored building. They have a thimbleberry margarita - which sounds like something you really ought to try at least once in your life!

            If you are doing the chowhounder tour of the Keweenaw, you might also like to check out the Lindell Chocolate Shoppe in Lake Linden, a very well preserved early 20th century malt shop.

            Oh, and I have to second the rec for the Rock River Cafe in Chatham: Finnish pancakes and Smoked whitefish omelettes are so good!

            1. re: momskitchen

              I would also add the Ambassador for pizza in Houghton. Was up there last summer and it was some of the best I've had in a while

            2. If anyone has places by Iron Mountain, I would love to hear them!

              1 Reply
              1. re: exvaxman

                Try Spiro's downtown; it has greek influences but american menu. Great bruscettas, too.

              2. I am doing a UP road trip in a couple weeks and thought I'd respond to this thread instead of starting a new one. We are doing Tahquamenon Falls and Pictured Rocks and will be camping in the parks. Our route will take us through St. Ignace, Paradise, Grand Marais and Munising.

                Here are a few stops I've read about and am curious to hear if anyone has any other recommendations, I'd say we tend to prefer the casual hole-in-the-wall, unique type of places vs upscale restaurants.

                Brown Fisheries - Paradise

                Tahqaumenon Falls Brewery - Tahquamenon

                West Bay Diner - Grand Marais

                Muldoon's Pasties - Munising

                Brownstone Inn - Au Train

                Clyde's Drive-In - St. Ignace


                9 Replies
                1. re: GreatLakesBetterFood

                  I don't think you need to worry much about coming across too many upscale restaurants in the eastern U.P. (as long as you stay off Mackinac Island, that is)

                  Chamberlin's Inn in Curtis has a nice, 1950s-era resort feel to it.

                  1. re: GreatLakesBetterFood

                    Not to diss Muldoon's Pasties but if you're stopping in Munising it really ought to be at Johnny Dogs. Pasties can be had all over the UP, but these dogs are local and special.

                    1. re: RedTop

                      Good point. Speaking of pasties, where should I go? I was thinking about stopping at either Suzie's or Bessies in St. Ignace as soon as I cross the bridge.

                      1. re: GreatLakesBetterFood

                        I like Suzie's but then you wouldn't be able to eat at Clyde's, which you really should do! :)

                    2. re: GreatLakesBetterFood

                      On another site, UP visitors are singing the praises of Lehto's Pasties on US 2 about six miles west of the Bridge.

                      1. re: GreatLakesBetterFood

                        I've been to Brown Fisheries, and would highly recommend a stop. As the server told me when I inquired about a different fish...."get the whitefish, it just came out of the bay this morning."

                        I've also been to the Tahqaumenon Falls Brewery. Didnt eat there, since my belly was full of fried whitefish from Browns, but the beer was serviceable.

                        1. re: GreatLakesBetterFood

                          Something unique are whitefish liver so stop at the Galley in St Ignace for these. You can have them as an appetizer

                          Lehtos on the far west side of St Ignace have good pasties

                          Are you camping at Muskallonge State Park and Pictured rocks? if so, I'm envious but I know you will enjoy it. I can't think of the restaurant in Mu ising where we've eaten whitefish but I think its Sydneys. Nothing special, just good whitefish. Be sure to stop at Great Lakes Breing in Grand Marais for good fresh beer. They are a brewpub

                          Brownstone had decent whitefish a year and ahalf ago when we were there

                          Enjoy your trip

                          1. re: trbeer

                            Thanks for the tips! We are planniing on camping at Twelvemile Beach, which is one of the campgrounds in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore park area. We haven't finalized those plans yet (they don't take reservations), is Muskallonge a better area than the sites inside the Pictured Rocks lakeshore park?

                            1. re: GreatLakesBetterFood

                              12 Mile Beach is beautiful and off the grid; tranquil and relaxing.
                              Hurricane Rive is also a good campground at PR.
                              Muskallonge could be your fall back campground if PR is full