Traverse City is known as a foodie town and indeed it is. Throughout our 5-month workamping experience we tried to sample as many different restaurants as possible. In much the same way that I cataloged various wines and vineyards in previous blogs yet left it up to you to visit, taste, and determine your favorites, let me share several eating establishments in the same manner. Specifically, in the Traverse City area, we enjoyed the following:
Pepenero – Located in the Grand Traverse Commons – Building 50 – this Italian restaurant was one of our first stops in May when we arrived in Empire. The specific location is a former state hospital that has been totally repurposed and now houses dining options along with shopping and professional businesses, in addition to residential housing. Pepenero is small and intimate and the food was delicious!
Cherry Republic – great for a quick sandwich or you could just stay for awhile and munch on all the free samples. The original is located in Glen Arbor and there is also one on Front Street in Traverse City.
Grand Traverse Pie Company – Rated #1 by TripAdvisor, it’s all about the pie! You name it, they bake it! We also went several times for breakfast which was ok, but again, it’s all about the pie!
Frenchies Famous – What a discovery this was! We were in Walmart as I was trying to get contact lenses, and in conversation with the doctor there, he shared that Frenchies was his favorite breakfast place. What a gem! French-pressed coffee and perhaps the most unusual – and delicious – breakfast entrees ever!
Poppycock and Bubba’s – Two other Front Street restaurants we tried. Poppycock has lots of specialty martinis and Bubba’s is typical bar food.
Pangeas – I think I’ve shared our ongoing quest to find good pizza wherever we travel. Being from NJ we tend to be what we call “pizza snobs” because let’s face it – there’s no better pizza than in NJ and NY! Well, we found delicious pizza here and it’s worth it just to hit the restroom – never seen anything like it!
Now, that’s what we experienced in Traverse City, but we also frequented several restaurants closer to Indigo Bluffs in both Empire and Glen Arbor. Boonedock’s is a very popular restaurant in Glen Arbor with a large outdoor seating area and entertainment almost daily throughout the summer – a gold mine for sure. We also tried lunch at Good Harbor Grill, known for their use of local ingredients and homemade soups and breads. Perhaps the best restaurant in our immediate area is Funistrata, an Italian trattoria in the little village of Burdickville. During the summer months, it’s not unusual to have to call two weeks in advance for reservations. In fact, we were there over the July 4th weekend and I heard a gentleman make his reservation for Labor Day! The staff was extemely pleasant and when we told our server we were from NJ she said, “Oh, next time, be sure to request the Mafia table!” as she pointed to a table situated where your backs are to the wall! The website sums it up best – “Casual setting – elegant taste.”
By now you’re most likely thinking, “Where does the tale of two taverns come in?” Well, in the village of Empire you will find Joe’s Friendly Tavern and in Glen Arbor, you have Art’s Tavern. Throughout the summer, we recommended both places to guests at the campground and all summer long we listened to people come back and share which eating establishment they thought was better. Bundle all of these perceptions with our own (as we frequented both taverns on a regular basis), and the result is “the best of the best!” Here is how things played out!
- Best Full Breakfast – Equal (Although we never tried Art’s stuffed hash browns)
- Best Breakfast Sandwich – Art’s
- Best Coffee – Art’s (I like my coffee scorching hot and that’s what it is!)
- Best Beer Selection – Both have a great selection of local brews, but Joe’s makes their own Summer Shanty – Oh, and they make their own root beer!
- Best Burger -Art’s
- Best Club Sandwich – Joe’s
- Best Veggie Burger – Equal
- Best Whitefish Sandwich – Equal (Although Art’s was out of it one night!)
- Best T-shirt – Both great but we bought Joe’s.
- Best Tots – Equal – How can you screw up tater tots! I just found it interesting that they were so popular here – more so than french fries! It’s all about the tots!
So… again, we encourage you to try all of these places and more when you find yourself in Northern Michigan. When I went back to proofread, I thought, wow, we dined out a lot, but remember, we were workamping over four months and I just can’t cook every day!!