Helpful ReplyEating to, around and from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Author
Rocky Enfield
Hamburger
  • Total Posts : 92
  • Joined: 2009/06/23 13:51:00
  • Location: Elkhart, IN
  • Status: offline
2017/08/16 16:42:25 (permalink)

Eating to, around and from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

My family and I recently returned from our vacation in the U.P. and I wanted to tell you about some of our more memorable meals.  Unfortunately, I do not possess the technical acumen of Buffetbuster, CTD or the rest of the many amazing posters on Roadfood so there are no photographs to accompany my story.
 
Day 1 I decided to forget the highways and take a scenic route to our first destination of Crystal Mountain Resort west of Cadillac.  I was hoping for a leisurely drive along Lake Michigan with scenic views.  What happened was I ended going through endless tiny towns and after two hours we were only forty five minutes from home and way inland from the lake.  The kids were starting to get hungry and I realized that we were just a short trip from Decatur and Laura's Little Burger Joint.  This place had been on my radar for several years but I hadn't made it yet.  Our meanderings put us in position to rectify that.  It is truly just a little shack on the side of the road.  A couple of picnic tables or eat in your car.  Walk up or drive up to order.  They were short staffed and very busy so it took quite a while for our order to come.  It was worth the wait!  The burger patties are worked just to the point of sticking together so they are still tender and juicy.  My wife declared that it may have been the best burger ever!  I had the mushroom swiss burger with a nice full slice of fresh, crispy onion and a side of excellent O rings.  Everybody left happy with our detour and even happier that Dad decided it was time to hit the highways and make up for some lost time.
 
After a stop at Crystal Mountain so the kiddos could experience the Alpine Slide we headed towards Traverse City with Moomer's Homemade Ice Cream on our minds but it was so busy that the wait was an hour long and that couldn't happen as we still had a couple of hours to go for our hotel.
 
Day 2 was a good food day.  On Mackinac Island we had lunch at The Gate House, A Grand Hotel property, we sat outside on a glorious day and enjoyed a wonderful meal.  Kathy, my wife, thoroughly enjoyed her blackened tilapia sandwich, Ian had a Trapper burger and Amelia had a Trapper chicken sandwich.  I ordered a 1/2 lb of Old Bay peel and eat shrimp.  The shrimp were large, plump and perfectly cooked.  They came with cocktail sauce, grated horseradish and a small bowl of warm water and a lemon wedge for cleaning your fingers .
 
After biking the 8.2 miles around the island my wife and daughter decided it was time for some retail therapy.  While I was sitting across the street with Ian I looked up and noticed a bakery that had on the window a painted sign saying "We serve MOOMERS Homemade ice cream"  well I took that as a sign from heaven that I was meant to have some.  I had the salted caramel chocolate and it was great!  Kathy, Ian and Amelia all loved the ice cream.
 
Back in Mackinaw City we had dinner at MaMa Mia's Pizza.  The pizza is very good (especially the crust) , the atmosphere is great but what really sets it apart is the museum upstairs.  There is a fascinating museum about the building of the Mackinac Bridge.  The restaurant and museum was founded by one of the steelworkers that built Mighty Mac.  There are hundreds of artifacts, momentos, tools and movies about the bridge.  A great way to pass the time while you are waiting for your food to be prepared.
 
Day 3 found us in Sault Ste. Marie.  We took the Soo Locks tour on the boat going through the American and Canadian locks which was fun and interesting.  When I travel I always consult Roadfood to find restaurants and also contact fellow State Farm agents in the areas I will be visiting.  One of them recommended The Antlers restaurant which was conveniently located a couple of blocks away from the boat dock in a building that has had a colorful history going back over 100 years.  The place is filled with taxidermy from all over the world including lions, bears, snakes, bison and just about everything else.  Not wanting to freak my kids out I warned them it was eclectic, without getting into details, so that they would go to it.  My daughter was horrified by the stuffed rabbit sitting on the window sill next to us as she used to have a pet rabbit.  Still the food was excellent.  We split an outstanding order of their house made onion rings that were huge!  Kathy had the Black and Blue salad.  Her steak was perfectly cooked and tender.  I ordered two appetizers for my meal - the poutine and a superb whitefish dip.  Amelia had the Buffalo chicken sandwich which was just spicy enough to make it interesting but not overpowering for her 13 year old taste buds.  Ian went with the Antler burger but upgraded to the bison.  It was a massive burger but he ate it all and loved it.  All in all a very good meal at a locally owned gem that is, in my opinion, a definite roadfood type restaurant.
 
To be continued....the best is coming up.
 
 
#1
Greymo
Filet Mignon
  • Total Posts : 4124
  • Joined: 2005/11/30 08:54:00
  • Location: Marriottsville, MD
  • Status: offline
Re: Eating to, around and from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan 2017/08/16 18:19:41 (permalink)
Sounds like a wonderful trip so far...................the food sounds very good!
#2
ScreamingChicken
Sirloin
  • Total Posts : 8006
  • Joined: 2004/11/05 14:36:00
  • Location: Stoughton, WI
  • Status: offline
Re: Eating to, around and from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan 2017/08/16 18:56:04 (permalink)
Great start, Rocky!
#3
ChiTownDiner
Filet Mignon
  • Total Posts : 4729
  • Joined: 2006/07/09 10:58:00
  • Location: Westmont, IL
  • Status: offline
Re: Eating to, around and from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan 2017/08/16 19:04:44 (permalink)
Good stuff Rocky!  I was close to Laura's and had a chance but opted for a different option...perhaps I need another trip.  Your one included photo, the guy with the thumbs up looks strangely familiar...ChiBears15
#4
Rocky Enfield
Hamburger
  • Total Posts : 92
  • Joined: 2009/06/23 13:51:00
  • Location: Elkhart, IN
  • Status: offline
Re: Eating to, around and from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan 2017/08/18 11:31:18 (permalink)
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.
 
Rocky Enfield
 
 
#5
ChiTownDiner
Filet Mignon
  • Total Posts : 4729
  • Joined: 2006/07/09 10:58:00
  • Location: Westmont, IL
  • Status: offline
Re: Eating to, around and from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan 2017/08/18 11:59:18 (permalink)
Great narration Rocky...lots of good stops.  A trip your family will remember for a long a time.  I am curious...how many bears and what do they put out to attract them?  Also, what keeps the bears from coming around the front to the parking lot?  
#6
ScreamingChicken
Sirloin
  • Total Posts : 8006
  • Joined: 2004/11/05 14:36:00
  • Location: Stoughton, WI
  • Status: offline
Re: Eating to, around and from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan 2017/08/19 09:38:17 (permalink)
I like the White Pines segment...it sounds like an interesting place!  At The Fish House were Amelia's chicken strips prepared at the same level as the whitefish?
 
Those State Farm agents sure were helpful.  Seems like they'd make good neighbors.
#7
ann peeples
Porterhouse
  • Total Posts : 10305
  • Joined: 2006/05/21 06:45:00
  • Location: West Allis, Wisconsin
  • Status: offline
Re: Eating to, around and from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan 2017/08/19 14:59:49 (permalink)
Nice!!
#8
Rocky Enfield
Hamburger
  • Total Posts : 92
  • Joined: 2009/06/23 13:51:00
  • Location: Elkhart, IN
  • Status: offline
Re: Eating to, around and from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan 2017/08/21 09:42:45 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby ChiTownDiner 2017/08/21 10:24:41
ChiTownDiner
Great narration Rocky...lots of good stops.  A trip your family will remember for a long a time.  I am curious...how many bears and what do they put out to attract them?  Also, what keeps the bears from coming around the front to the parking lot?  


There was a pile of scraps that apparently the restaurant puts out on a daily basis.  There were 2 bears while we were there and nothing is to stop the bears from coming to the parking lot except, I assume, the bears have learned that the scrap heap is where the food is.
 
I asked if I could go around the building to take photographs of the bears eating but was advised that would not be a good idea.  Upon reflection I decided they were probably right because if I scared the bears away there might have been an ugly crowd scene and the lynching of a Hoosier. 
#9
Rocky Enfield
Hamburger
  • Total Posts : 92
  • Joined: 2009/06/23 13:51:00
  • Location: Elkhart, IN
  • Status: offline
Re: Eating to, around and from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan 2017/08/21 09:46:14 (permalink)
ScreamingChicken
I like the White Pines segment...it sounds like an interesting place!  At The Fish House were Amelia's chicken strips prepared at the same level as the whitefish?
 
Those State Farm agents sure were helpful.  Seems like they'd make good neighbors.


The chicken strips were normal out of the box frozen variety.  My daughter is a chicken strip connoisseur and she liked them.  By connoisseur I mean she eats them at 75% of her meals when we dine out.  Much to my dismay I might add.
#10
Rocky Enfield
Hamburger
  • Total Posts : 92
  • Joined: 2009/06/23 13:51:00
  • Location: Elkhart, IN
  • Status: offline
Re: Eating to, around and from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan 2017/08/21 10:09:19 (permalink)
In my haste to tell you about dining with the bears at the Konetka I forgot to mention several non food stops.
 
Just a few miles east of Marquette is Lakenenland.  It is a free sculpture park that a local artist by the name of Lakenen has assembled.  He has all sorts of fantastic sculptures that he has assembled from scrap metal and other bits and pieces that he has collected.  Some are 25+ feet tall and some are only a couple feet tall. 
 
Most are whimsical and fun but a few have political themes.  You can walk or drive through.  As it was damp and dreary we drove and discussed the various art pieces as a family.  A really neat place and you certainly can't beat the price.
 
We also visited Munising Falls and Pictured Rocks National Seashore both were a lot of fun and stunningly beautiful.  The kiddos were able swim and play in Lake Superior and that made for a very enjoyable day.
 
Lake of the Clouds and the Porcupine Mountains are a great place to visit and commune with nature.  We hiked to several different falls, along creeks, through the mountains and along a historical path with markers telling the history of mining in the area.  It was very interesting and we even could see an abandoned mine across the creek (covered with fencing to keep people out).
 
The very last activity we had was floating on inner tubes down the Aus Sable River in Roscommon, Mi in the Lower Peninsula.  It a was fun and relaxing way to end our trip before driving home.
 
Rocky Enfield
#11
Jump to:
© 2017 APG vNext Commercial Version 5.5