Where to Find Michigan's Iconic Foods
Explore nine of the Mitten’s signature flavors, like Motor City deep-dish, fresh Great Lakes fish and apples with snap.
Pasties from Houghton
Pasties (pronounced PASS-tees) came to the Upper Peninsula with 19th-century Cornish copper and iron miners in need of hearty, easily portable lunches they could eat with their hands. Engineered from flaky crust and stuffed with beef, pork, carrot, onion and rutabaga, these hand pies dominate restaurants across the Upper Peninsula.
Try them at: Roy's Pasties and Bakery.
Tasty tidbits: Yoopers stand sharply divided on ketchup or butter as the pasty's consummate condiment (never gravy). Speaking of Yoopers, that term comes from the abbreviation of Upper Peninsula (UP, pronounced as two letters) plus -er, creating an affectionate name for folks living there.
Amish Baked Goods from Mio
More than 100 years ago, Old Order Amish settled in Mio to clear and farm the land dotted with stumps left over from loggers. Farmhouses now dot the area along the AuSable River. About 2 miles off M-72 sits The Bakery, a one-room clapboard house next to a farm. A creaky screen door opens to floor-to-ceiling shelves jeweled with just-from-the-oven breads, cookies and rolls. A variety of pies claims a full rack.
Try them at: The Bakery.
Tasty tidbit: Don't be surprised if you find the bakery unattended-the owners often trust patrons to drop cash into a bucket on the counter.
Apples from Fennville
Every year, 800 family-owned orchards yield 25 million bushels, making apples Michigan's top fruit crop. Tart, heirloom varieties such as Northern Spy fuel the hard cider boom, while sweet and snappy Honeycrisps taste best straight from the branch at U-pick orchards along the southwest Lake Michigan coast.
Tasty tidbit: Paula Red, a late-summer through early-to-mid-fall fruit known for its tart flavor, was discovered in Sparta, Michigan, in the 1960s. The original grower named the apple after his wife, Pauline.
Whitefish from Sault Ste. Marie
Lake Superior's clean, cold depths are home to huge schools of whitefish. Beer-battered and flash-fried, whitefish's flaky fillets are a menu staple at restaurants and roadhouses across the Upper Peninsula.
Tasty tidbit: Smoked whitefish, a Yooper delicacy, is worth the drive to the roadside smoke shack Gustafson's in Brevort.
Trenary Toast from Trenary
This rock-hard breakfast confection, brought to the area by Finnish immigrants in the late 1880s, is twice-baked. The crunchy cinnamon-and-sugar-coated slices have centuries-old roots and hold up to repeated dunkings in coffee.
Try it at: Trenary Home Bakery.
Tasty tidbit: Lumberjacks would make a hearty breakfast cereal by busting up Trenary Toast and mixing it with hot milk.
Detroit-Style Pizza from Detroit
Motor City's mark on the pizza world comes as an airy, Sicilian-style, square-pan crust supporting an inverted set of toppings: cheese, then a drizzle of sauce on top. The pie's 90-degree angles and crunchy caramelized edges debuted in 1946 at Buddy's Pizza in Detroit, and can now be scarfed at the restaurant's outposts throughout the city and surrounding suburbs.
Try it at: Buddy's Pizza.
Tasty tidbit: Legend has it that the father of Detroit pizza, Gus Guerra, baked his first pies in steel utility trays lifted from a local auto assembly line.
Craft Beer from Grand Rapids
Beer-lovers sip suds at more than 330 independent breweries across Michigan, making it one of the nation's top spots for craft beer. With 40-plus breweries in its metro, Grand Rapids is the beating heart of Michigan's beer scene. Board a van with companies like Grand Rapids Beer Tours for full-immersion tours along the Beer City Ale Trail.
Tasty tidbit: After wins from a national USA Today contest and the Beer City USA poll, Grand Rapids adopted the moniker "Beer City."
Walleye from Tawas/Oscoda
Hosting professional tournaments and hundreds of charter boats, Lake Huron's Saginaw Bay boasts one of the nation's most productive walleye fisheries. With fish stocks at record levels, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has expanded the daily catch rate from five to eight fish per person, which means full coolers and all-you-can-eat fish fries.
Try it at: Calypso Charters partners with Wiltse's Brew Pub and Family Restaurant in the Catch and Cook program, where charter fishing clients deliver their fresh catch to a participating restaurant for the chef to prepare just for them.
Tasty tidbit: Charters from Tawas and Oscoda target the bay's trophy trifecta: walleye, lake trout and steelhead.
Wine from Old Mission Peninsula
The wine business booms in the north on the peninsula near Traverse City, where hillside vineyards and cherry orchards alternate with stunning vistas of Grand Traverse Bay. Running the spectrum from quaint schoolhouse tasting rooms to grandiose Tuscan-inspired estates, 10 boutique wineries populate the peninsula, specializing in cool-climate grapes like Riesling and Cabernet Franc.
Try it at: Any winery along the Old Mission Peninsula Wine Trail.
Tasty tidbit: Local operators, such as Grand Traverse Tours, offer luxury van service to stops along the wine trail.