Traverse City Restaurant Guide
As northern Michigan’s economic and cultural hub, Traverse City boasts many “big-city” amenities, not the least of which is our ever evolving food scene. From well-established eateries to pop-up restaurants, food trucks and more, Traverse City has a plethora of places to explore and expand your culinary repertoire.
It all starts with tart - Cherries(Back to top)
Ah, the tart cherry. Our food and fortunes are closely tied to our foundational fruit. Many champion the cherry for its wonderful, semi-sweetness, making it ideal for pies and jams. But the Montmorency is more than that…oh, much more.
Traverse City’s booming craft distillery scene has certainly been inspired by the tart cherry. Grand Traverse Distillery, Michigan’s oldest craft distillery (still in operation), makes use of the local crop to craft its Cherry Vodka and Cherry Whiskey. In fact, these are the distillery’s two top sellers, both locally and statewide. One sip of their cherry-infused nectar and it’s easy to see why.
Sauces, Salsa, etc.
Every Northern chef worth his or her whisk has been inspired by the versatile cherry. Many incorporate it into seasonal dishes, often paired with fresh, local poultry or rich, dark meats. Cherry salsa is a true summertime favorite…pick your Scoville preference and a bag of Great Lakes Tortilla Chips and you’re good to go.
By the Forkful or Handful
Cherries find their way into everything from salads to cereals to scones and more. Grab ‘em right out of the box or bag for a quick burst of chewy goodness.
Farm to Table - The Food Less Traveled(Back to top)
Here in Traverse City, we’re deeply connected to the land and the people who work it. As a result, many of our ingredients come from farms and fields just down the road. Restaurants like The Cook’s House pride themselves on their partnerships with local farmers, protein producers and even area foragers (Those morels don’t appear by magic!). This local focus ensures that ingredients are less traveled, recipes are more flavorful, and our environmental impact is greatly reduced.
We Speak Italian(Back to top)
Traverse City will never be mistaken for South Side Chicago. Nonetheless, our food more than stands up to big city fare. Don’t believe it? Try a TC slice of heaven from Pangea’s, right downtown. For you flatbread fanatics, there’s the Filling Station. Try their Overnighter with a pint of the Farmstead Red IPA…pizza and pale ale perfection! Want to expand your Italian tastes? Several eateries offer reimagined recipes from the Old Country. Check out The Flying Noodle downtown Their Bucatini, with roasted squash, bacon, parm and toasted walnuts, is a must-try. Trattoria Stella boasts a fresh menu every day. Their house-made pumpkin ravioli is beyond compare. Pair it with a fine red, but ask for the wine list and some advice—their selection is amazing and they have several sommeliers on staff.
Gluten-Free? We got you(Back to top)
As food and dining tastes and trends evolve, local eateries are keeping pace. More and more are offering gluten-free, allergen-friendly options. In fact, many have taken careful measures in their food management and preparation to ensure a completely gluten-free experience. Establishments like The Good Bowl and Taproot Cider House, both downtown, offer flavorful options that are celiac-safe. For a real treat that’s 100% gluten-free (not to mention dairy-free and allergen-friendly), visit Third Coast Bakery, just down the street from the college in Traverse City. Grab a scrumptious donut or one of their signature cupcakes and discover why people come from miles away (sometimes hundreds) to partake of their sweet perfection.
NOTE: To ensure a truly gluten-free experience, call your restaurant-of-choice ahead of time and ask about their gluten-free policy.
Mexican Fare(Back to top)
When it comes to Mexican food, TC is northern Michigan’s “hottest” town (pun definitely intended). Here you’ll discover everything from grab and go, handheld favorites to authentic eateries that cook up the real stuff just like Abuelita. Stop by The Little Fleet in downtown TC and try a fiery, fried chicken taco from Happy’s Taco Shop. Pair that with a pull from one of the craft beer taps and you’re all set. Seeking a more chill, sit-down experience? Check out Mama Lu’s right on Front Street. Start off with a cucumber-habanero margarita and an order of their best-ever guac. Then lead into an order of their braised, pork belly tacos. For you road-trippers, check out The Roadhouse in Benzonia. The perfectly seasoned fajitas, served with the most amazing homemade salsa, are out of this world.
Asian for everyone(Back to top)
The term “Asian”, as applied to food, is a very generic term that is expressed in many different (and delicious) culinary traditions. Here in Traverse City, Asian cuisine goes far beyond the fried rice and egg rolls. For example, there’s Red Ginger; a haute, downtown establishment offering a refreshing spin on popular Asian fare. A variety of cultures—Japan, China, Vietnam and Thailand—are represented on the eclectic menu. Begin with a plate of oh-so-fresh sushi…it’s the best in town (and that’s saying something!). From there, your Asian adventure can go in almost any direction…explore! At the other end of the culinary spectrum—but every bit as enjoyable—is Mary’s Asian Cuisine in Beulah. Look for the bright yellow food truck as you enter town on US-31. Order a basket of the Adobo Pork and fried rice. Grab a soda and a picnic table and watch life go gloriously by.
Bar Food – For the fun of it(Back to top)
There’s a rule about bar food—you don’t count calories. Bar food is meant to be enjoyed at its gooiest, beefiest best. In Traverse City, you’ll find many places that fit that bill—from long-cherished watering holes to the most popular pizza parlors, plus everything in between. In Traverse City, check out 7 Monks Taproom. Known for its ample selection of microbrews, it also features some tempting apps and entrees. Try the gooey-licious Monk N’ Cheese with apple-smoked bacon. Live a little and add the spicy fried chicken. In Glen Arbor, one name is synonymous with hearty bar food: Art’s Tavern. Dig into their fried bluegill sandwich—yum! In the mood for some pizza (Who isn’t?) Check out Hofbrau in Interlochen. Order up their famous cheeseburger pizza, paired with a selection from their 26 beers on tap. This is what weekends were made for!
Go ahead, treat yourself - Sweets(Back to top)
When your sweet tooth acts up, Traverse City offers a wide array of sugary remedies. But, of course, it’s all about your mood. Gotta get your fudge fix? Duck into Doug Murdick’s Fudge, downtown on Front Street. Buy a “brick” of their Cherry Chocolate Fudge. Don’t forget the extra bar for that friend or family member at home. Did someone say pie? (Okay, we did.) Stop in at Grand Traverse Pie Company and grab a generous slice of their Cherry Peach Crumb. Or for something a little fancier, try the Cherry Ganache…pure indulgence. Of course, a visit to TC wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Moomers; home of the best ice cream scoop in the country (so says Good Morning America). Order a single of their Cherries Moobilee and watch the cows come home to the nearby pasture.
Steaks & Burgers – Protein Perfection(Back to top)
Meat eaters rejoice! Traverse City and its surrounding communities are big on beef and aren’t afraid to show it. For a bit of local history while you nosh, check out Sleders in Traverse City’s Slabtown. This time-treasured watering hole has been serving thirsty patrons since 1882 (Michigan’s oldest, continuously operated restaurant). Experience one of their signature buffalo burgers and don’t spare the napkins. On the Old Mission Peninsula, there’s Boathouse Restaurant…with amazing bay views and table fare to match. (It’s the perfect place to start or rekindle a relationship.) Begin with an order of the half-shell oysters…fresh and suitably briny. Then order up the Australian Wagyu Ribeye. Be sure to go with the chef’s recommendation for how it’s cooked (likely, medium rare). Served with Rosemary-Garlic confit potatoes, it’s a sublime experience.