The Midwest isn’t always the first place we think of for quality cuisine. However, one small Michigan hamlet, set just below the Grand Traverse Bay, has been slowly rising to foodie fame.
It’s become a tourist hotspot in recent years for its small-town charm and natural wonders as well, but its dining destinations often get top billing. Traverse City is full of fantastic flavors ranging from tacos to a good old fashion Michigan brewery. Here are our favorite Traverse City restaurants to try!
The Best Traverse City Restaurants
Farm Club is a celebration of local land, honest food, and community and easily one of the best Traverse City restaurants. The space is in a renovated barn with modern minimalist decor inspired by Scandinavian style. It’s more than just an eatery as it wears many hats including farm, brewery, bakery, and marketplace. There’s plenty of outdoor space to appreciate the lush landscape.
The menu features whatever fresh produce is available, cooking up healthy and hearty plates that sound way more simple than they are. If you order a meal called Sausage, you will find a pasture-raised pork sausage on freshly baked bread with field greens, carefully caramelized sweet peppers and onions, parmesan, and handmade spicy pepper relish in front of you.
As far as we’re concerned every hour is taco time, and there’s no better place to celebrate than at Mama Lu’s. The Steak Tacos are delectable and the Panza Tacos, made with braised pork belly, spiced apple butter, pomegranate salad, and pistachio crunch, are a real surprise showstopper.
The atmosphere is cozy and colorful, just right for making us want to order one of their mouthwatering margarita flavors. There can be quite the wait here but it’s always worth your while to patiently persist. Word to the wise, be sure to always get the pineapple habanero sauce on top, you won’t regret it.
Set in an old firehouse just outside of the city, Wren offers a menu designed entirely around sustainably sourced local ingredients. The result is creative fares that are always changing, even throughout the course of a day. Each plate is picture perfect, always Insta-worthy and almost too good to eat. The ambiance is rustic and simple.
You’ll find handmade pastas with rare ingredients like ramps or lilacs. Whether you order the Cassoulet or the Walleye, it’s sure to be something special. It’s a superb space to save room for something sweet, especially if it’s the pot de butterscotch creme, where the pot is a reused jar for a bit of added kitsch.
Fire Fly Restaurant
Fire Fly is an eclectic eatery tucked away in Traverse City. Known for good food and good times, they tend to cook to the beat of their own drum. They have plenty of creative cocktails and craft beers on deck to help enhance their already enjoyable atmosphere with a modern and clean aesthetic.
A bit of everything for everyone, you’ll find burgers, steaks, stir frys, and sushi dominating the menu here. They have some of the best rolls in the city, such as the Soy Chino. It’s Chinese and American inspired, and it’s always fun to get a few small plates to share here.
Trattoria Stella is a long-time favorite of Traverse City serving up authentic Italian eats. Visiting here is one of the best things to do in Traverse City in the evening! The underground dining room provides a warmly lit and intimate ambiance of archways and exposed brick. The house made burrata and charcuterie program are delectable ways to begin any meal here.
For the more adventurous diners there are some delicacies on the menu, such as veal brain and foie gras pate. For mains any of the from scratch pastas are sure to tantalize your taste buds. They offer one of the best ranges of wine varietals in the area, so be sure to pair a glass or bottle with your plate.
The Good Bowl
This traditional and casual Vietnamese restaurant is churning out good bowls in more ways than one. They donate one dollar of every bowl sold to the charity of their choosing! What’s tastier than a steaming bowl of Pho with a side of community support? Also it’s a relatively cheap eat. Price combined with flavor definitely makes this one of the best restaurants in Traverse City.
There are traditional and modern takes on all the Southeast Asian Classics, from Bahn Mis to Dim Sum. They also offer specialty cocktails like the Don’t You Lychee Me and the Mighty Mekong Mule, as well as local and international beers and wines. There are vegan and gluten free options as well.
The Cooks’ House
For fine dining in Traverse City, the Cooks’ House is always the best bet. It’s been creating culinary masterpieces for over a decade. Presentation is a plus here and the decor is tasteful without being pretentious, with white linens and large paintings from local artists.
Many dishes have a decidedly French influence but are always creative takes. The menu is made by honoring fresh and foraged ingredients of the region and making them shine, for a fabulous farm-to-fork experience. Choose from a three course, five course, or seven course tasting menu that include divine dishes such as Gamellie Pasta and Roasted Pork Belly.
This is one of the more expensive and fancy Traverse City restaurants, best to visit if you are having a romantic weekend evening in Michigan.
Oakwood Proper Burgers
Oakwood serves the best burgers in the city. It’s located in a mid-century modern building, and the space is refreshing with a trendy vibe that’s not over the top. The garage door wall that opens up onto the cute patio is an added amenity for all. There are six mouthwatering meat patty creations to choose from, and even with a small menu it can be super hard to decide.
The La Montana Burger and the Proper Burger are two of the fan favorites, both on Old Mission Bakery buns. They’re all made with sustainable and hormone-free Michigan craft beef straight from Moraine Park Farms. The garlic parmesan fries are a must and if you have enough room the hand spun milkshakes made with MOOville ice cream are heavenly.
For the most important meal of the day, Sugar-2-Salt fulfills all our breakfast dreams. The food is seasonally driven and locally sourced. It’s located in the Village in Grand Traverse Commons. They serve up pretty plates and dishes that are always a fun twist on the traditional choices for morning meals.
Who would have thought about trying Tartare for breakfast? However, served with duck egg yolk, pickled veggies, purple basil pesto, and charred focaccia you can sign us up. The porridge is surprisingly magical, and we highly recommend the spent grain pancakes and chicken and waffles. The ambiance is comfortable and inviting, making it a great space for gathering.
Sleder’s Family Tavern
This eatery has been an institution in the area since it first opened in 1882! It’s the oldest continually operated restaurant in the state, and feels like home as soon as you walk in the door. It’s furnished with large wooden booths, a mahogany bar, and some mounted animals adorning the walls. Kissing the moose for luck has become a beloved tradition over the years.
Over a century of history sits in the pleasantly preserved facade, consistently feeding the hungry masses of Traverse City elevated Midwest comfort foods. There’s plenty of sandwiches, burgers, fry baskets, and seafood to choose from on the extensive fromage forward menu. Check out the On the Porch concert series for a real old fashioned good time.
Poppycocks is just the place for upscale new American fares. The super seasonal menu is influenced by Mediterranean flavors and offers many gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan options. Some savory highlights include the Lamb Meatballs, Lentil Dahl Curry, and Seafood Stew. They’ve been operating in Traverse City since 1989 and are often the go-to for a special night out on the town.
Sometimes they even host live jazz concerts for an extra bit of ambiance. It’s generally an unassuming setting, which makes the food stand out even more. The cocktail program here is perfect, focusing on fresh and unique libations that showcase local fruits and herbs. They also have a list of wines from the region and plenty of craft beers from the city on tap.
Pangea’s creates craft pizza pies with creative toppings for an all around artisan experience. It’s set right downtown, and has been stone firing up this gourmet grub for over 15 years. They make the dough and sauce all in-house, and the toppings are always fresh and fun.
One of the highlights is their rooftop deck for dining! This outdoor space is stunning for enjoying your meal al fresco. It overlooks all of Front Street and has a full bar. You can even soak up some sweeping views of Lake Michigan in parts. The aptly named Crowd Pleaser Pie and the Loaded Potato Pie are truly special slice selections here.
This tiny smokehouse is well worth a visit in Traverse City. Every meat is carefully cooked and hand crafted over wood fired smokers for hours until spectacularly succulent. These authentic eats are some of the best in the state.
It’s a relaxed local haunt with counter service and a small patio to enjoy. Try their famous BBQ Sundae for a bit of every fixing with your choice of meat. The beef brisket and pulled pork are delicious in sandwich form or as a plate.
For the most scenic seat in the city, the Boathouse boasts stunning vistas over Grand Traverse Bay, set right on the docks. The atmosphere has a nautical cottage feel and is very cute and cozy, perfect for a nice outdoor fall day in Michigan. The menu is stacked with some of the best seafood around, all fresh and sourced sustainably.
Indulge in Oysters Rockefeller, Yellowfin Tuna Tartare, or Smoked Whitefish Pate for a meal you won’t soon forget. Don’t fret if fish isn’t your favorite, there are other meats available, like lamb rack or kobe beef. It’s easily one of the best Traverse City restaurants for a dreamy waterfront sunset.
Bubba’s is a laidback gem for casual comfort food in Traverse City. They serve breakfast all day, for those times when eggs benedict for dinner is just essential. The Fried Mac and Cheese Bites have become a cult classic over the past couple decades here.
They provide plenty of options, from salads to sandwiches to burgers to burritos. There are always several beers on tap for every taste preference. It’s a great place to treat yourself to some fun and some really good food.
For eclectic European eats, Amical is always on point. It has a scenic setting downtown, looking out over the West Grand Traverse Bay. Sit outside to soak up the views or get cozy in the warm and intimate interior with an open kitchen.
The dishes rotate frequently but you’ll find a few fantastic staples, such as a House Gnocchi and a Duck Confit. On the weekends they host one of the most beautiful brunches in the city. Amical is a delightful bistro for enjoying an elegant bite.
In every new destination it’s important to know where the best sandwiches are, for an easy lunch, a grab and go option, or even a romantic picnic scenario. This is Falgarelli’s Market for us in Traverse City. It’s modeled off of the authentic old world Italian style.
They have a little bit of everything, from prepared pastas to gourmet meats and cheeses to desserts made fresh daily. Make your own charcuterie board and pair it with the perfect bottle of wine from their vast selection. Of course, ordering from the extensive sandwich menu is always a great call, especially if it’s the Mobster.
You may not think a diner as one of the best Traverse City restaurants, but don’t let looks deceive you. Don’s Drive-In is a classic carhop serving up the delicious diner plates we all know and love. Dating back to 1958, this iconic American fixture still maintains all the retro charm of its original opening.
Any meal ordered comes with a heaping side of nostalgia, complete with vinyl red booths, jukeboxes, and neon signs. The real hand dipped milkshakes are masterful. The Coney Dog is a real regional treat, and the Patty Melt is perfection on a plate.
The Little Fleet
The Little Fleet is less of a restaurant and more of a collection of food trucks set right downtown in the summer months. It’s a famous fixture, with a hip and happening flair. The outside seating is first come first serve and there’s an impressive indoor bar on-site as well.
The roster includes Happy’s Taco Shop, Cordwood BBQ, Good on Wheels, Traverse City Pizza Company, Glendale Ave., and the Big Squeeze. It’s a great way to get a real taste of the foodie scene and spirit of Traverse City.
The Jolly Pumpkin may be a Traverse City brewery first, but the elevated pub grub is reason enough to go all on its own. The fact that you can wash down these delicious dishes with craft drafts is certainly a bonus. It’s a bit off the beaten path, surrounded by verdant forest.
Exposed beams and a fireplace give the place a cozy tavern feel. The Mac and Cheese as a main is mouthwatering and the ribs are just as delectable. There are sandwiches, artisan pizzas, and enough scrumptious snacks to make up a meal like truffle fries and nachos.
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