Wednesday, September 5, 2012

[Up North] Eating Our Way Around Little Traverse Bay

Our Up North series highlights good eats to seek out on your weekend roadtrips as you head Up North – that ambiguous, nebulous region in Michigan where everyone has, or has a friend that has, a cottage on a lake somewhere. 

My end-of-summer hiatus is over. I’ve been on vacation, roadtripping through the northern part of the Lower Peninsula and then through part of the UP. Here is a rundown of some of the places we stopped on the first portion of our trip, which took us through Bellaire, Charlevoix and Petoskey before heading through the Tunnel of Trees en route to the Mackinac Bridge.

The Tunnel of Trees

The main attraction in Bellaire was a visit to Short’s Brewing, but before we could get to the drinking, we had to get some dinner. Lulu’s Bistro came highly recommended from the innkeepers at the B&B where we were staying. 
We started with some mussels served in a tomato/fennel broth and served with olive tapenade crostini. After we finished with the mussels, we mopped up the broth with some extra bread. Good stuff.


Next up, we got the artichoke-crusted whitefish, sourced from nearby John Cross Fisheries in Charlevoix. The fish was excellent and the poached veggies were not just a throwaway component of the dish, I could have eaten another bowl of them. Turns out we got the last piece of whitefish that night as the couple dining next to us was informed that they were out a few minutes later. Our waitress explained that due to the warmer weather, the whitefish are going into deeper, colder water and the fishermen’s nets do not go down that far. I was a little skeptical – no whitefish Up North? Couldn’t be. As usual, I would be proven wrong.

Next up was a trip to Short’s. Short’s makes a couple of my favorite beers at the moment, the very hoppy Huma Lupa Licious as well as their Nicie Spicie summer wheat. I was anxious to try some of their brews that are not bottled and only available at the brewpub. I won’t go through all of them, but they were a little hit or miss. Short’s tends to try fairly unique concoctions, so naturally some of them are going to be misses.

On the way out of town the next morning, we came across the Bellaire Smokehouse. I liked the look of it, so we popped in to check it out. The storefront is behind a huge Victorian house with a smokepit around the side. Inside I found a butcher counter with fresh meat, along with tons of smoked meats, sausages and fish. The fridge was stocked with plenty of MI craft beer and wine. I was looking for whitefish, but there was no sign of it. Hmmm. We grabbed some smoked cheddar beef sticks for a roadtrip snack and headed north to Charlevoix and our lunch date with Roquette Burger Bistro.

I had just the right amount to drink the night before, which meant I was starving and ready for a good burger by the time we got to Roquette (FYI: pronounced “rocket” and only open from 11am-3pm). 

I went with the bacon jam burger with bacon jam, brie, and arugula while Mrs. T went with the breakfast burger with bacon, white cheddar, fried egg and their housemade mayo. We both ordered our burgers medium rare and they were incredibly juicy. The buns were soft and pillowy, just how I like them, but couldn’t quite hold up to the big patties and the burger became somewhat unmanageable towards the end. Roquette’s burgers come with a lot of hype and I’d say that they pretty much live up to it. I also ordered their delicious watermelon soda and helped myself to a garnish of fresh mint from the herbs growing along the side patio. I will be going back the next time I’m anywhere close to Charlevoix. 

We strolled through Petoskey, stopping at Symon’s General Store, which has a great selection of gourmet snacks, good cheese counter and extensive wine cellar. You can easily get your fill of Pure Michigan snacks and drinks here.

A few doors down is American Spoon that has jams, preserves, salsas and butters made from about every fruit grown in Michigan. All products are made in Petoskey and they have a few locations around northern Michigan and one down in Saugatuck. We picked up a jar of the mango habanero salsa to save for our camping trip in the UP. The menu at the American Spoon Café & Gelato shop next door was very tempting, but we had dinner plans at Chandler’s. 

Chandler’s is a restaurant owned by the same family that owns Symon’s. I would describe the menu as New American with some Asian influences (the menu changes frequently). We decided to eat outside on the patio behind Symon’s and I started with a regular mojito while Mrs. T got the pomegranate mojito. Both started disappearing too quickly to get a pic, but they were excellent and served with a sliver of sugar cane, which I can never resist from nibbling on after I’m done.

We started with their tomato salad – straightforward and mighty tasty.

Next up were the pork spare ribs, glazed with a hoisin bbq sauce and topped with a slaw of pineapple and shallots. These were incredible, perfectly tender and nicely charred on the outside. The bright slaw provided a great contrast to the fatty ribs. I was ready for the whole half slab.

Next up was the duck breast served over a soy & sesame slaw. The duck was on the rare side of medium rare, but the skin was seared well. All in all, a great meal, though there was not as much focus on Michigan-sourced products as I would have guessed.

After dinner, we strolled through the park and made our way to Mitchell Street Pub, which I declared on twitter that night to have the world’s best jukebox. I think I still stand by this even in my soberer state. The bar is full of northern kitsch, including a massive moose head behind the bar and peanut shells all over the floor. If it were anywhere else, it’d feel a little lame and contrived, but up here, it is the perfect spot to grab a seat at the bar, have a couple brews and listen to the salty locals at the bar.

We initially tried to go to the Mitchell Street Pub on Sunday, but it is apparently closed on Sundays, so we headed over to City Park Grill. Dating back to 1875, the City Park Grill has a long history including prohibition raids, a favorite hangout of Ernest Hemingway during his northern Michigan summers, and the bizarre story of one of its former owners, Frank Fochtman. 

Fochtman took over the business in 1897 when it was called Grille Cafe and when Prohibition was established in 1917, he built underground tunnels to a nearby hotel to export alcohol. Legend has it that Fochtman later hung himself in the basement of the building. To commemorate Frank, Short’s released a Hangin’ Frank ale, but had to re-brand it as ControversiALE due to some controversy over the label. City Park Grill still calls it the Hangin’ Frank ale and I figured I had no choice but to order one up. 

The next day, we biked around Little Traverse Bay and made a pitstop at Tom’s Mom’s Cookies in Harbor Springs to energize for our trip back to Petoskey.

On our way out of town the next morning, we stopped at Toski Sands Market for some of their famous whitefish spread. Toski Sands is a great grocery with a fantastic meat counter, with everything from local perch to La Quercia guanciale. We loaded up on grub for our camping trip and grabbed bread and some breakfast pastries at the nearby Crooked Tree Breadworks. 

top of the muffin to you

As I made my way to the cooler, our vacation hit its first major roadblock – there was a sign taped to the refrigerator door, where the whitefish spread should have been, explaining the whitefish shortage problem. I was momentarily devastated but I had it on good authority that a small general store further north in Good Hart had excellent whitefish spread as well.
We continued north through the Tunnel of Trees towards the small village of Good Hart where I would get my whitefish spread.

The general store in Good Hart did have a deli counter in back and a solid selection of any last minute snacks or supplies you might need for your beach or camping trip. But they did not have any of the whitefish spread I was looking for. My smoked whitefish search would have to continue on to the UP. So onward we went.

Lulu’s Bistro
213 N. Bridge St.
Bellaire, MI
Short’s Brewpub
121 N. Bridge St.
Bellaire, MI

Bellaire Smokehouse
508 N. Bridge St.
Bellaire, MI

Roquette Burger Bistro
103 Park Ave.
Charlevoix, MI

Symon’s General Store
401 E Lake St
Petoskey, MI

American Spoon
411 E Lake St.
Petoskey, MI

Chandler’s Restaurant
215 Howard St
Petoskey, MI

Mitchell Street Pub
426 E. Mitchell Street
Petoskey, MI

City Park Grill
423 E Lake St.
Petoskey, MI

Toski Sands Market
2294 Petoskey Harbor Springs Rd (M-119)
Petoskey, MI

Crooked Tree Breadworks
2264 Petoskey Harbor Springs Rd (M-119)
Petoskey, MI

Good Hart General Store
1075 North Lake Shore Drive (M-119)
Good Hart, MI,_Welcome.html

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tony,
    My name is Jane and I'm with Dwellable.
    I was looking for blogs about Petoskey to share on our site and I came across your post...If you're open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
    Hope to hear from you soon!