HOME > Chowhound > Great Lakes >
May 25, 2014 08:18 PM

Ludington and Manistee MI?

I'll be in Ludington for a few days and will probably want to do a side trip to Manistee. I don't want nsxtasy to think I'm lazy so I made sure to go thru most of the preexisting threads. Some of my fellow DTW members recommended Boathouse Grill, Chuckwagon Pizza, Scotty's, etc.. I also read about Bortell's fish shack, Bluefish and Blu Moon. My family loves fresh fish, no matter how it is prepared or with what it comes.

Are these places still good for the money? What else am I missing?? T.I.A!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. We ate at Boathouse Grill this past weekend, and I had really lovely pan-fried walleye (special, not on the regular menu) with fresh asparagus and mediocre risotto. DH had a smoked chicken pasta dish which was good, not particulary smoky though. The side salad was actually mixed greens and not iceberg, which of course is a big plus Up North :)

    Service was pretty slow but in fairness they had two large parties that were seated just before us so I'm sure that bollixed up the works a bit.

    Really love the waterfront location.

    ETA: Ack. BUGS. Not at the restaurant but where we were camping...mosquitoes BIG TIME. Be prepared.

    1. Disclaimer: I haven't been to Bluefish, but it is a sister restaurant to Blue Cow in Big Rapids and it looks like there are some common menu items. I go to Blue Cow fairly regularly - they do a nice job with fairly simple preparations of steaks, fish, veggies. The starches are hit-or-miss...I dislike their "risotto" so much I will actually avoid menu items if they come with it. People around here love it, but in my opinion, it is mushy and bland.

      I don't know if you're interested in somewhere for drinks, but I really like the Mitten Bar in downtown Ludington. They serve only Michigan-made beer, wine, and spirits in a cozy, almost coffeeshop-esque atmosphere. There's a sister bar attached called Barley and Rye that specializes more in whiskey but doesn't have the Michigan-made limitation - I haven't been there yet but they also have a kitchen and the menu can be ordered from either bar.
      Bortell's is on my to-do list for this summer - if you go, please let me know what you thought. :)

      1 Reply
      1. re: Wahooty

        Dear c w/e and Wahooty, thanks for the tips!

      2. Chuckwagon is good, but I think Stix and Sportsman's both have better pizza.

        The Grand is a good lunch place, but be careful what you order. They have two different homemade soups every day. Friday is Canadian cheese soup. My wife loves their Wet Burritos.

        Blu Moon is a nice little Bistro. Last year they added a rooftop deck.

        Jamesport Brewing Company is pretty consistent. They brew their own beer on site. The hot wings there are excellent.

        House of Flavors has good, cheap breakfast and diner food.

        1. PS
          The Grand is cash only and I think Bortell's is too.

          10 Replies
          1. re: Ross B

            Great sounding tips. Thank you Ross B !

            1. re: Ross B

              Well, I had a great holiday in Ludington. Great fireworks, surprisingly good prices, not overcrowded or over-policed. The streets and beaches were all clean and decorated with cute planted annuals, to match the many flags. The ferry was showing off, blowing its steam horn. Kid friendly parks, free parking, numerous outpourings of genuine gratitude for my patronage. Not sure I could possibly ask more of a lake beach town. For this reason, I didn’t make a side trip to Manistee, as planned. Next time, for sure.

              On our first night we went to Blu Moon per Ross B. Happy. Would go back. I might shy away from the expensive dishes (>$22), as I think the chef is competent but not up cranking out four star dishes on a consistent basis. My wife’s cherry/pear/candiedwalnut/greens salad was overpowered by dressing. My fries were soaked to the core in oil. Granted, I arrived at closing time!, so I give a pass. The coleslaw was decent and the grilled bread was good. But, my fried fish was huge and delicious (see pic, but note that it doesn’t do full justice, as the fish was much thicker than it appears). Great batter. Perhaps the fish had been cooked one or two minutes beyond optimum, but it still could have maybe even passed for something from a London fish and chip shop, and was only $14+, in an adorable sit down atmosphere. Did I mention that there also were a surprisingly high number unaccompanied females hanging out downtown, in the vicinity of Blue Moon, Barley and Rye, The Mitten Bar and Jamesport Brewing Company? I’ll assume this is something Wahooty can relate to ;-)

              The next morning I went to House of Flavors for breakfast. Excellent toast. From where does the bread come?? No problems with the eggs, hash browns, pancakes, sausage. Solid place. Got a quiche and a pastry from Le Serving Spoon. Next time I’m in town for a birthday I will get the cake from there. But, until then, I might next try Chef John’s European Bakery (right downtown but very hidden) for baked breakfast goods…too bad it was closed on Sunday, so I was unable to taste compare. Behind Le Serving Spoon is a relatively new place named Café 106, I think. I was eying some food belonging to the diners on the patio, which looking quite good. Next time, for that place. The espresso at the Redolencia Coffee place was truly excellent, and this is a very spacious and comfortable place to hang out. Though, they were playing Jimi Hendrix (not loud) while I was there, and some might not find this comforting.

              Went to Stix Bar, as also mentioned by Ross B. This place was wildly popular on July 3&4, for both pub grub and beer. This dive seems to be actively targeting a young Tommy Hilfiger crowd. I didn’t feel highly welcomed (except in my dreams), but if you are young, attractive and sporting designer “laid back” dock wear, you might dig this newly-clever, ol’ roadhouse, as did many on the holiday weekend.

              Hey, there also is a good sized, cool looking gourmet grocery, named Best Choice Market. If you want to have a high-brow cookout, this would be the place to get the fancy steaks, wild mushrooms, organic shallots and quality bottled demi glace. I didn’t get beyond the window shopping. Just sayin’ what looks to be. I did get pulled in to Luciano’s Ristoranti, for some “olde world home recipe” Italian pasta and pizza. It was okay, but I’ll probably try the pub food at Sportsman’s or at the other cute trendy bars before doubling back to Luciano’s, even though I did enjoy their piano player while eating my pizza.

              Time for more fish. I went to Scotty’s. The community institution where everyone went as a kid, and now where they return as an adult and say, “Back in the day it was fantastic, but now it’s really gone downhill.” Anyway, when I arrived inside, I got a terrible feeling. The feeling like this place didn’t go downhill; rather, there is no way this place ever could have been good in the first place, unless evaluating from the perspective of the whole time having been located in a tacky, budget level, retirement community. But, I had invited another party with my family, so it was too late to get the caravan turned around. While most of the dishes met or admittedly slightly exceeded my suddenly plummeted expectations, I must say that the fried perch was very good, and it was reasonably priced. I’ve had fried perch about fifteen times, and Scotty’s ranks about #6 out of those, particularly when price is considered. I’m not sure whether this is a caution or a recommendation. I just might be back.

              Finally, I went to the food bloggers’ “secret find” of Bortell’s fish shack, which is on the (way, way!) south side of Ludington. On Saturday July 5th this place made me feel like I was at some kind of Yelp convention. Bortell’s is in the middle of nowhere. Seemingly at the end of a road, surrounded by only about six summer mansion properties. There is no other reason to be in the neighborhood unless you are a member of one of those six families or you are a foodie who will go to the end of the earth for a piece of widely available flesh, dredged in cornmeal and dropped into a heavily used vat of hot vegetable oil. I ashamedly was of the latter, of course.

              The clams, shrimp and other misc. industrial fish all were forgettable, as of course were the fries, coleslaw and even the smoked fish (okay, decent). However, the lake perch was quite good. Comparable to Scotty’s. The deep fried Lake Superior whitefish was excellent, though! I recommend getting a pound of it per person, and nothing else…even noting, that the 1LB is the precooking weight, and it will cost you $22 a la carte(!), without even a plastic fork or maybe even a place to sit when the few picnic tables fill up, other than on your butt in a small plot of trampled grass. Huh? So, think twice about before wearing a short skirt. (You are allowed to, and should, bring your own side dishes and drinks—including beer, apparently, if discrete— and also don’t forget to bring wetnaps and fresh lemon wedges, PLEASE). Say, Yes, when asked whether you want your fish salted. Again, as Ross B pointed out, Cash Only. (Thanks Ross B) https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bortel...

              Indeed, I will be back to Bortell’s. Along the way, I may pull off the road at the Consumers Energy power plant pedestrian overpass and try to walk around to get a high altitude view of the lake, which apparently is possible. That might be awesome. Also just a short turnoff along the way is some place called Historic White Pine Village, which looked sort of fun from the road, behind the locked gates.

              I hope I don’t sound ungracious, as I’ve tried to share my impressions of what delineates the great from the good from the okay, at this wonderful vacation town. The bottom line is that I heartily cast my vote for this destination, feeling that even a big-city food fanatic won’t find her/himself feeling adrift with nowhere good to anchor, while in Ludington. Thanks again for the input from Cw/E, Wahooty and Ross B.

              PS: During our drive, I stopped in East Lansing at the MSU Ag School’s dairy for some student-made delicious Spartan green tea ice cream, as well as some “Big Ten” Husker sweet corn ice cream, which was even tastier.

              1. re: VTB

                mmm...now I want fried fish.

                Did you go in the water? I'm just wondering how cold it is, assuming REALLY cold :)

                1. re: coney with everything

                  Hi, The rivers were warm, as was the lake near the river outlet in Ludington State Park. Generally the lake temp was tolerable, particularly for kids. I was happy with my microbrews on the uncrowded beach in 80F sunshine, so much so that I found the town wide restaurant closure time of 9pm to be a bit of a hindrance. Fortunately they also have a Meijer grocery in town. :-)

                    1. re: Ross B

                      that's a bit chilly :). It's got 5 weeks to warm up before we are at Tawas!

                      1. re: coney with everything

                        Um, you do know that Ludington and Tawas are on opposite sides of MI, right? ;)

                        1. re: Markcron

                          oh yeah, I figure the Lakes will warm up at approximately the same rate though :)

                          1. re: coney with everything

                            Nope. There is about a 20 degrees difference today.

                  1. re: VTB

                    "Did I mention that there also were a surprisingly high number unaccompanied females hanging out downtown, in the vicinity of Blue Moon, Barley and Rye, The Mitten Bar and Jamesport Brewing Company? I’ll assume this is something Wahooty can relate to ;-)"

                    <snork> I'll cop to having been one of those unaccompanied females on occasion, but I tend to head out there during mellower times - random weekdays or the off-season - so I've never noticed a particularly large number of sisters-in-arms. ;)

                    For the future reference of others who might be headed to Manistee, I did visit Bluefish a week or so ago. Right now, they're operating at a higher level than the Cow...I think the owners are paying more attention to the newer place, especially since it's the high season there and the low season here. The fish dishes we had were both quite lovely, and the sides are a little more creative and varied - the red beans and rice that came with my fish weren't great as Red Beans and Rice, but a perfectly nice rice and beans side dish, if that makes any sense.