Best Midwest Food Towns
#2 Traverse City: an established food reputation
If Disney World had a Foodland, it might look a little like Traverse City, Michigan (population: 142,000). Too-cute-to-be-true storefronts line downtown's Front Street. Kids lick American Spoon Foods gelato (spoon.com), and tourists graze on cherry-flavor everything at Cherry Republic (cherryrepublic.com).
The small farmers market is a tableau of gorgeous produce. Farm-fresh food headlines most menus--green beans in Radish's salad bar (myradish.net) or raclette cheese at Martha's Leelanau Table (marthasleelanautable.com). Lake Michigan glitters, orchards blanket the hills, and everyone talks--no, gushes--about the food.-
Several factors explain Traverse City's culinary scene. The lake climate makes for bountiful harvests. Vineyards yield respected wines. The Great Lakes Culinary Institute attracts young, ambitious cooks; some stay to open restaurants.
In fact, of our top towns, Traverse City has the most established food reputation. So why the silver medal? Traverse City is less affordable than Madison. And, aside from secrets such as Middle-Eastern cafe Silver Swan Homemade Foods (silverswantc.com), it's relatively lacking in ethnic options or hole-in-the-wall favorites. Sins to be sure, but easily forgiven over a sack of fresh-picked cherries.
Pictured: Overlooking vineyards and the lake at Traverse City