Day 4 was a fun filled day. We took off from the Soo and drove to the Lower Tahquamenon Falls where we rented a boat and hiked the island and at these falls you are able to walk right into the falls and play. it was misting the whole time and we got soaked but who cares when you walking around in the water. The next stop, 4 miles away, was the Upper Tahquamenon Falls. The Upper Falls is the largest falls east of the Mississippi with the exception of Niagara. After that we went to Oswald's Bear Ranch where we were able to have our picture taken with a bear cub and pet it (just don't get your hand near the mouth) and feed the other bears. It was fun and interesting to watch the bears.
By now it was getting late in the afternoon and I had already picked out the restaurant we were going to eat at. I had previously spoken to the State Farm agent in Newberry and she told me I had to go to The Fish House a 1/4 mile outside of Paradise, Mi for the "best whitefish in the UP!". When we pulled up to the nondescript restaurant at 3:30 the parking lot was full and the place was packed. My secret little tip was not so secret!
We have all heard the overused expression "Farm to Table", well this is "Lake to Table". Brown Fisheries owns The Fish House. Brown Fisheries is the commercial fishing operation that catches the whitefish in the morning than brings the catch to the restaurant where the fish are expertly cleaned, filleted and then right before serving lightly battered and deep fried. When they run out they close the doors because they only serve fresh whitefish, never frozen. BTW they do not accept credit cards.
The wait staff were friendly and justifiably proud of their product. I chose the 3 piece with baked potato (instead of fries), a ramekin of fresh coleslaw, and a surprisingly good garlic dill pickle spear. Kathy had the 2 piece with fries, Ian had the whitefish and tiger prawn combo and Amelia (much to the waitress' dismay) ordered chicken strips.
More then a week after eating this meal I am having a hard time finding the words to adequately describe how glorious this fish was. As I had mentioned it is lightly battered but the batter was still crispy, it was not even close to being greasy and so fresh it is almost like catching your own shore lunch. The whitefish was pure white and flaky. It was so good that Amelia actually liked it when she sampled mine
. The Fish House is the quintessential Roadfood establishment. Locally owned, no frills and GREAT food! This was easily the best meal of the trip and I would recommend to anyone if you ever go to the UP to make sure The Fish House is at the top of your list of places to eat.
Day 5 was not a great food day except for the fact I picked up 2 pasties at Jean Kay's in Marquette to eat for lunch the next day. We purchased the original recipe (with rutabagas). I lived in England for 3 years while in the USAF and have had my share of Cornish Pasties and I can tell you that this would stand up to any I had in England. Using his grandmother's recipe the owner puts out a great product. So good that eating it cold and a day old at our picnic in the Porcupine Mountains it was still a really good pasty that we all enjoyed. I can only imagine it coming out fresh and hot.
Day 6 we stopped at The Coach Light restaurant (another recommendation from a State Farm person) for our fill of hearty, rib sticking breakfasts. The kids and I all enjoyed 1/2 orders of a skillet with our choice of egg, hash browns, sausage and biscuit with gravy. My wife had French toast with sausage. The was a good solid breakfast and a welcome change from the free hotel breakfasts that we had been having. I also order a side of cudighi sausage. This is a regional thing in the UP and it is a patty of Italian sausage. It was spicy and flavorful and I liked but just not sure it justifies the $5 price tag for a single piece of sausage.
That evening we had a most unusual dining experience. During our travels I met a guy who told me about a restaurant near our next destination where bears came and ate outside the restaurant every evening. At our hotel I confirmed it and was told it was in White Pines, Mi. "Go over the bridge, turn right at the next street, go about 6 miles and at the top of the hill you will find a flashing light, turn right and you are in White Pines." We followed the directions and came to the flashing light with an abandoned gas station on the corner. After turning right we saw a weird complex to our left that advertised a bowling alley and motel. Surely this could not be the place. We drove through White Pines which consisted of a couple of churches, a school and a few dozen houses.
We found nothing resembling a restaurant so we drove back to the weird complex. As we pulled in another couple pulled in driving one of many, many pick ups in the lot. I asked them if this was the place where the bears ate at night and they assured me it was. This place was all encompassing with a bar, motel, bowling alley, convenience store, gift shop and the restaurant (it is possible I may have missed something). It is the Konetka. It just so happens that we came on the 2nd Friday of the month which is seafood buffet night. The place was packed. Imagine my surprise when I approached the waitress station was asked if I had a reservation
! I don't know if it always like that or if we were just lucky to hit on seafood buffet night but, we did not have a reservation. I was told I could either take what they had or wait for a window side table (at which you can view the bears). We took what they had (A folding table have on the dance floor and half in the bar). We still could peak around the corner and see the bears happily munching on their scrap heap. We all decided that the buffet was more then we needed and just had various sandwiches and burgers with fries and they were all solid. The definite highlight of this adventure was watching the bears.
Day 7 we started heading back and decided to use the "southern" route along highway 2. There were two highlights for this part of the trip. The first one was a non-food related highlight. We went to Kitch-iti-kipi (The Big Spring) Park a very cool place that you really have to see to believe.
The food related stop was a Roadfood reviewed gas station with food. It is Gustafson's Smoked Fish and Beef Jerkey. Wow is this stuff good. I purchased the smoked fish dip, a hunk of smoked salmon and 5 of their beef slim jims. Everything was excellent and made a fine meal in our hotel room after travel for 9 1/2 hours. The dip was a little spicy for my wife's palette but I loved it. The salmon was expertly smoked and the "slim jims" were really good with the whole family loving them. I must confess that one of them was being split up and consumed before we even got out of the parking lot.
So these are the highlights of our 1900 mile adventure to the UP and back. I left out the ordinary meals and concentrated on places that I would recommend or would go to again. If you ever travel in the UP (it is beautiful) it would suggest these stops and I hope that you enjoy your adventure as much as we did.