Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"Beer City" Means Business

Michigan Expats - News - See All News
By Doctor

The craft beer industry has been great for the state of Michigan, particularly in West Michigan and Grand Rapids which looks to defend its title “Beer City U.S.A.” this spring. Michigan breweries and beers have become internationally renowned and made parts of Michigan travel destinations for craft beer enthusiasts. The industry has become not only a great sense of pride but it also means big business.

Recently, I got to attend a panel discussion hosted by the Michigan State University Broad College of Business titled “Food and Entertainment Entrepreneurship in West Michigan” that basically focused entirely on craft beer industry, specifically on the economic and business impact.

Of course, this should have been too surprising given the make-up of the panel who each offered unique and valuable insight on the craft beer industry in West Michigan. Our panelists:

Bonnie Knutson – MSU hospitality professor at The School of Hospitality Business
Mark Sellers – Owner of BarFly Ventures including Grand Rapids Brewing Company, Hopcat, and Stella’s
Kara Wood –director of Economic Development for Grand Rapids
Dan Slate – co-founder of the Brewers Professional Alliance
John Zwarensteyn – panel moderator and president and CEO of Gemini Publications which The Grand Rapids Business Journal

It was a fun and informative panel. I learned a few things about the history and impact of the Michigan craft beer industry that are definitely worth sharing.

Why Grand Rapids/Michigan?
  • The Water: Yes, water makes a big difference and Grand Rapids has excellent high quality water for brewing beer without having to overly treat it.
  • Cheap Real Estate: Grand Rapids also had lots of affordable space available downtown. Breweries, particularly fermenting tanks require a lot space, and Grand Rapids happened to have a lot of old space available at reasonable for rates for breweries to locate here. Founder’s Brewing Company started out in the Brass Works Building because “it was the cheapest place in town.”
  • Tax Incentives: Breweries in Grand Rapids have taken advantage of state and local tax incentives and redevelopment program funds. The former Renaissance Zone tax credit program saved Founder’s $20,000 - $25,000 annually in local and state business taxes early in their business. Breweries continue to do so, Founder’s will receive a $2 million grant as part of their recently announced $26 million expansion and Arcadia Brewing Company will receive $1 million in state grants to assist their expansion in Kalamazoo.
  • Passion: Mark Sellars appropriately acknowledged the huge influence of Larry Bell who paved the way through educating and inspiring many of the home turned professional brewers in Michigan.
  • Innovation: There was no better example than the Michigan Winter Beer Festival in February of the incredible innovation currently underway in Michigan beer. All you have to do is try Bell’s Hopslam, Founder’s Kentucky Breakfast Stout, or anything from Short’s Brewing Co. (Carrot Cake beer anyone) to taste the innovation. Of course, that is if you can actually get your hands on some of the best renowned and in-demand beer in the world. It’s a stark contrast to Germany which is famous for their beer (e.g. Oktoberfest) yet strict “Purity Laws” state that only water, barley, hops, and yeast are allowed in beer production. I guess that’d be a no to using smoked Mangalitsa pig heads in the brew (seriously, it smells like bacon).

 The impact:
  • Place Making: Place making is the NOW economic buzzword (think Hansel in Zoolander – we’re so over “cool cities”). Wood used Founder’s as great example – it’s a place people congregate towards, not just for happy hour, but residents, businesses, and transit benefit from its location in downtown Grand Rapids.
  • Employment: Grand Rapids’ newest brewery and BarFly venture, the revived Grand Rapids Brewing Company, has 85 employees. After its recent expansion, Bell’s now employs roughly 250 people. The Founder’s expansion is expected to add another 50 employees. These jobs go beyond bartenders and servers; expanding breweries require engineers, administrators, and other professional employees.
  • Growth: Michigan outpaced the nationally expanding craft beer industry last year as 17 new breweries opened their doors and the state craft beer industry grew 20%.
  • Repatriates: The craft beer industry has helped promote Michigan pride has begun to help retain college graduates and lure people back home (myself included).


What’s next?
  • More Growth: Expect more breweries to emerge as barriers to entry remain low; consumers become more educated and demand increases. The panel suggested that towns with as little as 4,000 people can support a brewpub – hello, Lowell, the Next Place to Be.
  • Support Industries: The state has allocated funds to researching hops growing in Michigan which could be another great cash crop for Michigan farmers and help lower the cost of an essential beer ingredient for Michigan brewers. Also, expect more companies like Beer City Glass to emerge providing products (e.g. pint glasses and growlers) and services for Michigan’s craft beer industry.
  • Distilleries: As the beer industry has followed the wine industry, expect micro-distilled spirits to continue to emerge in Michigan like New Holland Brewing Co. and Michigan owned Blue Nectar Tequila. Just as consumers have become more educated and expect better quality beer and wine, spirits are sure to follow suit.
  • Legal Changes: Many of Michigan’s alcohol beverage control laws (ABC laws) date back to prohibition, and are hindering the growth of the industry. Especially the current distinction of brewpubs and breweries. Brewpubs can have a liquor license and sell other beer and spirits on-site at the brewpub but cannot distribute to other bars or retailers. Breweries can distribute to other bars and retails (through a distributor) but can only serve the beer they make themselves. For example, Mark Sellars cannot sell beer he makes at HopCat down the street at Grand Rapids Brewing Company and vice versa despite the fact he owns both establishments because they are classified at brewpubs. Likewise, Michigan ABC laws prevent any one individual from having ownership in more than three breweries which is an obstacle for Sellars who owns two (HopCat & GRBC), is opening another HopCat in East Lansing, and wants to open another brewery in Lansing but to do so needs the law to be changed. Needless to say, eliminating those legal barriers are important to the growth of the industry.
  • Unique Experiences: While the craft beer market hasn’t become oversaturated, the brewpubs and breweries that continue to succeed and grow will still need to different themselves and offer unique experiences for the consumers. Expect for beer and food pairings, brewery tours, themed brewpubs, and partnerships with other industries that will help them educate new craft beer drinkers and create a special experience for those who are already craft beer enthusiasts.


Wow. That really escalated quickly. I mean that really got out of hand. Brick killed a guy with a trident, and I just wrote over 1100 words on Michigan craft beer. I hope you enjoyed it and learned something.

Please share any additional questions or comments here, on Facebook, or on Twitter @MichiganExpats.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Winter Beer Festival Hail Mary Play

Michigan Expats - Commentary - See All Commentary
By Doctor

Time was running out. The Eighth Annual Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Fest was that afternoon. I was so close. Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park was only a 20 minute drive away. Alas, no ticket.

What do you do when time’s running out and you need a miracle? You run a Hail Mary play.

It was a Pure Michigan day for a beer festival
It was a long shot, but I sent out a note on the Michigan Craft Beer Yahoo! Group Saturday morning that I was looking for one ticket.

TOUCHDOWN!

Just like Kirk Cousins to Keith Nichol, my Hail Mary came through. Less than five minutes after my call went out, I received a text from someone with an extra ticket. I went from bummed to giddy like a school boy (how many Indiana Jones references can I toss in this post?) in mere minutes. We met up in line at the festival. Thanks, Joe. Hope you had a good time.

The last minute desperation play prevented me from following all of my own Beer Festival guidelines. I may not have had time to make a pretzel necklace or have a wingman (no Goose, to my Maverick), but I still had an awesome time. How could I not? It was WINTER BEER FEST.

The Ice Guru's Winter Beer Festival Ice Bar
Featuring 74 breweries pouring over 600 different beers and 6000 craft beer enthusiasts all outside on a Michigan winter day complete with snow and temperatures in the low 30’s, it is a fun filled event. Throw in live music, ice sculptures, good food, and creative outfits and it’s definitely a Pure Michigan event that’s not to be missed.

The beer is the draw, but I also love the Winter Beer Festival because of the people you meet. The Michigan craft beer community is a filled with fun and friendly people and it’s always a pleasure to meet new people and re-connect with others at the beer festival.

I finally got to meet the gals of DrinkMichigan.org!
It was great chatting with “Ice Guru” Randy Finch who was kind enough to take my picture with his Ice Brigade team ice sculptures including an ice bar complete with ice mugs. Of course, Chaz from Schmohz was there sporting his coyote skin hat and massive flask filled with Bone Crusher Stout. Joel, NewHolland Brewing Company’s “Beer Doctor” is always fun to catch up with and did me well by recommending the MI Nightmare Sour Ale. Kevin Peil, the Founder of Tri City Brewing is one of the nicest guys in the business; it was great chatting with Kevin and Tri City’s Mon Tressor Belgian Lavender Tripel was the beer of the festival for me.

The Filling Station gals rocked it out in Pink wigs
Having grown up in Traverse City, I had to check in with Russ and the Right Brain Brewery team who represented with the CEO Stout and Steve the Imperial Brown. This was the first Winter Beer Fest for The Filling Station Microbrewery which impressed on my visit last fall. They came in style with all the gals sporting matching pink wigs and Amanda celebrating a birthday and had as much fun as any brewery at the festival.

Speaking of beer lovin’ girls, I finally got to meet the gals behind DrinkMichigan.org after years of conversing on social media. It was also good to catch up with Andrew from MittenBrew.com after meeting him earlier this month at the Pistons Craft Beer Night.

I didn’t go through the entire beer list prior to the festival, so I basically ended up going with the flow of the festival which was a lot of fun and I still managed to discover plenty of new and interesting brews. I won’t delve into all of them here, but I will highlight my top three beers from the festival:
  • Death to Flying Things Bourbon Imperial Stout – The MittenBrewing Company: There were a lot of bourbon barrel aged beers served up yesterday and I definitely tried my share, but this entry from the new Grand Rapids brewery stood out and earns this spot. It also deserves recognition for having an awesome name.
  • Mayan Midnight Chocolate Stout – 57 Brewpub: I’m not sure how many patrons sought out the booth of this new small Greenville brewpub, but those that did were rewarded this delicious smooth hot chocolate flavored milk stout. It was the surprise of the festival for me and it’s only heightened my need to make a trip up to Greenville.
  • Mon Tressor Belgian Lavender Tripel – Tri City Brewing: As I mentioned above, this was my beer of the day. On a day I spent drinking mostly bourbon barrel aged stouts, this unique lavender infused Belgian Tripel blew me away.
Be safe. Always have a designated driver.
My Hail Mary paid off Saturday and had an awesome day with fellow Michigan craft beer enthusiasts. Congrats to the Michigan Brewers Guild and Fifth Third Ballpark for another fantastic festival. 

Were you there? What were your favorite beers? Best outfits? Let us know.

See more festival photos on Google + or on Facebook. And follow us on Twitter @MichiganExpats

Friday, February 22, 2013

DIY Michigan Beer Fest

Michigan Expats - Commentary - See All Commentary
By Doctor

Probably not going to be you tomorrow.
The Eighth Annual Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Fest is tomorrow at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park, MI (home of the Tigers Class A affiliate White Caps just north of Grand Rapids). Now, I don’t have tickets to tomorrow’s Winter Beer Fest (admitted disappointment), but this blog is intended for Michigan Expats so most of you probably don’t have tickets either. However it is an awesome event highlighting one of Michigan’s booming markets, craft beer, and an excellent opportunity to talk about the industry (and drive blog traffic).

This was going to be a post on the Top Ten beers I would like to seek out at the festival tomorrow. I replaced that idea as soon as I started looking at the list (635 beers!) and realized that it isn’t much fun to come out with a festival beer bucket list when I’m not even going to the festival. Instead I’m going to write again on the great Michigan beers available outside of Michigan that Expats can seek out and enjoy their own Michigan Beer Fest/Party. Don't worry, there's Winter Beer Fest links at the bottom.
  • Arcadia Ales (Battle Creek): Arcadia Ales are available across the Mid-West. Whitsun is primed to surpass Oberon as the unofficial beer of Michigan summer. Also check out Sky High Rye and the Cocoa Locoa Stout. Distributors list.
  • Atwater Brewery (Detroit): I really enjoy the Vanilla Java Porter, but keep an eye out for the Grand Circus IPA now available in cans. For something different, try the VooDoo Vator Doppelbock. Find it near you.
  • Bell’s Brewery (Kalamazoo): Bell’s does IPA’s as well as anyone. You may have to beg, borrow, and steal to get your hands on Hopslam outside of the Mitten, but it’s worth it for one of Michigan’s most hype beers. Of course, Two Hearted IPA is pretty damn good too if you miss out on Hopslam. Oh yeah, the 2013 Oberon release is less than a month away. Bell’s offers a Beer Finder to help you track down their beer and they also host events across the country which allows you to try some of their specialty brews.
  • Brewery Vivant (Grand Rapids): Congratulations, Chi-Towners, Beer City USA’s unique Belgium style brewery is now available in the Windy City. Seek out Farmhand, a French Style Farmhouse Ale, and go from there. Events.
  • Founders Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids): I cannot emphasize to you enough to become best-buddies with your local beer store/distributor to have them knock down doors to get you a bottle of the soon-to-be released Kentucky Breakfast Stout. This past week, beer enthusiasts crashed a server to buy tickets to have the opportunity to purchase a limited quantity. Is it that good? Pretty much. Their Porter and Breakfast Stout are also fantastic and may be easier to find.  Be sure to check out if Founders is going to be at an event near you.
  • New Holland Brewing Co. (Holland): If you try one beer from NHBC, it must be the Dragons Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout. Fortunately, it is brewed year round and readily available. If NHBC released Dragons Milk on a limited basis, it would be just as hyped and in demand as Founders KBS and Bell’s Hopslam. Not into hoppy or heavy beers, go with the Full Circle, a refreshing and session kolsch-style. Beer Finder and Events page.


More Beer Fest Links
NHBC Elvis and I had fun last year.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Craft Beer Night at The Palace

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By Doctor

It’s NBA All-Star weekend which I understand may not mean much to many of our readers, but it does provide a lead for me to recap my experience at The Palace for the Pistons victory over the San Antonio Spurs last week and the craft beer event.

It was my first Pistons game at the Palace since Joe Dumars, Isaiah Thomas, and Dennis Rodman were on the roster Friday night. I’ve seen more Pistons games at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. then I have on their home court in Auburn Hills. It’s not that I wasn’t a Pistons fan growing up, but living on the West side of the Mitten, we didn’t go to a lot of sporting events in Detroit. We went to more sporting events in East Lansing to watch the Spartans; my dad had Spartan football season tickets growing up.

I was excited to hear that I won tickets to last Friday’s Pistons game against the Spurs via MittenBrew.com. Why was MittenBrew giving away Pistons tickets, you ask? Well, the Pistons were hosting craft beer night in Club 300, that’s why. Therefore thank you to MittenBrew and the Pistons for the tickets, and on to game night.

The "birds eye" view from Club 300 
Tickets included entrance into Club 300 in the Palace, food, and ten tickets for the beer tasting (2 once pours). Club 300 is about as far away from the action on the court you can get in The Palace, but it is a cool place to take in an event at The Palace. It is bookended by a couple of bars, features couches and big screen TV’s, and high top tables to eat and watch the game action.

It was even better since the area was well stocked for the Craft Beer Event. No, not all of the beers were Michigan beers, but that’s OK. Life and beer does exist outside of Michigan. It was a solid and diverse beer and cider line-up regardless of your familiarity of craft beer. Of the ten brews selected, I had three stand outs:
  • North Peak Brewing Company Diabolical IPA – Don’t drink this Traverse City brew enough. Good and hoppy.
  • Leininkugel’s Big Eddy Stout – Favorite of the night, I was really impressed with this full-body stout.
  • Vandermill’s Totally Roasted Hard Cider – This was the surprise of the night. I’ve never had a cider with such a complex flavor profile. Made in Spring Lake, MI, I’m going to be seeking this out.
The Game
No, the Pistons are not very good. They are a young deal trying to recover from bad drafts (Darko, Carlos Delfino, other guys you can’t name) and bad contracts (Charlie Villanueva and smartly traded Ben Gordon and Tayshaun Prince). The good news is that recent picks Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, and Andre Drummnond (out 4-6 weeks) are all solid NBA players with upside that can form a solid core going forward (particularly Drummond).

It didn’t matter Friday night. The Pistons played arguably their best game of the season winning 119-109. It wasn't that close as the Pistons couldn’t miss (52% from the field/46% from 3), and the Spurs were without Tim Duncan or Manu Ginobili. Charlie Villanueva even played well, scoring over 20 points and grabbing a handful of rebounds. I even got to boo Stephen Jackson at The Palace (Jackson and Ron Artest a.k.a. Metta World Peace will always be booed at The Palace - brawl video below the jump).

Overall it was a great night at The Palace although the Tone Loc half-time concert show was disappointing. Good beer, food, great club atmosphere, and a big Pistons victory. I’ll be sure not to let another 20 years pass before my next Pistons game at the Palace.

(click down to watch the Malice at the Palace video)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A New Podcast is born.

 

MichiganExpats – Culture – See All Culture

By Mr. Sig

 

Download this MP3 - (Right Click)

That’s right, everyone.  After nearly a year, I finally got back to the podcast.  You can listen to it below and, of course, it is on iTunes.

If you don’t want to listen to me blabber, we have a great lineup including the ever-entertaining Electric Six and a couple of artists with very interesting stories.

As always, if you have song suggestions, send them to michiganexpats@gmail.com or mention it to us on twitter @michiganexpats.

It’s a Shame – The Spinners

Californication – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Naked Pictures (Of Your Mother) – Electric Six

Shake it Baby – John Lee Hooker

I’ve Got to Use My Imagination – Gladys Knight & The Pips

Convoy – Rev. Righttime and the First Cousins of Funk

Sugar Man - Sixto Rodriguez

When My Love Hands Come Down – The Ruffin Brothers

Friday, February 8, 2013

Winter Beer Fest Preppers

Michigan Expats - Commentary - See All Commentary
By Doctor

It's February in Michigan which means that 1) there's snow on the ground and 2) it's the perfect time to gather in large groups and drink Michigan craft beer. Yes, the Traverse City Winter Microbrew and Music Festival is tomorrow, and the Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Fest is now only two weeks away. 

Both are well organized, fun events, featuring dozens of Michigan breweries, but it is important to properly prepared in order to maximize your experience. Therefore, here is the official 2013 Michigan Expats Winter Beer Fest Preppers Guide (updated from the 2012 version).

1. Transportation - It's a beer festival, so you'll be drinking. Arrange for someone to drop you off and pick you up after the festival. Being safe is priority number 1.

2. Arrive Early - The smart ones are the Brewers Guild Enthusiast Members and those who purchase the VIP tickets to the Traverse Festival which grant them entrance an hour before general admission. There's a lot of beer to sample and the lines can get long. If you're craft beer hardcore, that first hour with shorter lines are worth it.

3. Food/Petzel Necklaces - Be sure to have a good meal base before the festival. You'll want to sample a lot of beer and no one recommends this on an empty stomach. Make a Petzel Necklace - simply string pretzels on a string and tie it around your neck providing an easily accessible tasty snack while you're waiting in line and drinking beer. These festivals also have great food vendors. Support the vendors and treat yourself to some of the delicious food.

4. Water - The festivals run for five hours and feature hundreds of beers. It's a marathon. Just as important as food will be (see above), so is staying hydrated. However, since one hand will already be occupied by beer and you don't want to carry around a water bottle all day, fill up a CamelPack with water. I did this last year for the Winter Beer Fest and it worked extremely well. Along with helping hydration this also has the probable secondary benefits of 1) being a conversation starter and 2) that there's the slight (read: likely) chance that later in the festival I'll try and convince one of the pourers/brewers to fill out the CamelPack with beer (this unfortunately did not happen last year).
Coyote skin hat keep Chaz warm

5. Tactleneck - OK, I stole that from the world's most dangerous spy, Sterling Archer, but it's going to be cold out there folks. "What do you think this is, Miami Beach." "Not hardly." It's February in Michigan, so that base layer Under Armour cold gear mock turtleneck is essential although I'm going with Spartan green instead of black or slightly darker black. Patti at I'm a Beer Hound even recommends an extra pair of socks in case you step in slush: "Look out for that first step. It's a doozy." Momma Needs a Beer also has specific tips for the ladies at the festival. I'm not sure about the socks, but I may stick an extra hat and gloves in my parka in case of wet heavy snow or tragic beer spillage.

6. Attack Plan - With hundreds of beers on tap, and no federal agency telling you which beers you can and can't drink, one is left make their own game plan. Yes, you'll be walking around and can see what most of the breweries have on tap, but it can be easy to miss a particular brewery or beer. Especially with certain breweries tapping special beers at specific times. Both festivals post site-maps ahead of time, and with a little effort you can find the lists of beers the breweries will have available. Make a victory attack plan, rifling through the beer lists and trying to come up with a somewhat just less than reasonable goal of beers to target Saturday.

With Kim from Mount Pleasant Brewing Co.
7. Meet the Brewers - What I love about the TC and Brewers Guild festivals is that the breweries supply their own staff and the brewers are also in attendance. This provides an excellent opportunity to learn about beer and breweries that you're not familiar with or don't visit that often. These are entrepreneurial individuals with great passion for their breweries and their beers. The beer's right there. Let them tell you about it while you enjoy it.

8. Wingman - Han and Chewie, BBQ Bob and Joppie, Maverick and Goose, and Jay and Silent Bob. Quintessential wing men and partners that help each other make good decisions or make bad decisions epic, but definitely help make the stories better and clearer the next day.

I guess I have 8 main tips, a few more than last year. I hope the guide helps and that everyone has a great time at the festivals. Please let us know if you're going and what your favorite breweries and beers are at each event. We're also still looking for tickets to both festivals, so if you've got extra drop us a line.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Talking Traverse City

Michigan Expats - Commentary - See All Commentary
By Doctor

I grew up in Traverse City: going to the beach on East and West Grand Traverse Bay; skiing at Mt. Holiday; biking along the VASA and TART Trails and up and down the peninsula; and of course, spending hours and hours each July at Cherry Festival functions. Even though my family moved “South” to the Grand Rapids area fifteen years ago, due to the many memories and friends and family that reside there, Traverse City remains near and dear to me and I still consider it home. 

Therefore, that February is National Cherry Month and that Traverse City is the Cherry Capital of the World combined with that this week is also Traverse City Beer Week which culminates in the Winter Microbrew and Music Festival on Saturday that I have enough to justify talking about Traverse City. If that wasn't enough February Traverse awesomeness, Traverse City is also hosting a Winter Comedy Festival this month featuring Jeff Garlin, Colin Quinn, and others. Put it all together, it's a great month to head Up North to Traverse City, but then again, when is it not.

Last year was very difficult for Michigan farmers, especially cherry farmers, so National Cherry Month gives us excellent reason to be hopeful and optimistic that 2013 will be a bounce back year for fruit farmers and offer a bountiful harvest of cherries for the Traverse region whose economy and identify is closely tied to the delicious fruit. Just typing this makes me hungry for my next slice(s) of Cherry Crumb pie from the Grand Traverse Pie Company and the Sara Lee cherry sundae which is an annual Cherry Festival tradition for thousands. Fortunately, I have some Cherry Republic cherry salsa and cherry pepper jelly to carry me over for a bit. And yes, both GT Pie and Cherry Republic have online stores and deliver.


The Filling Station
ON TO THE BEER
There’s much to celebrate at the Traverse City Beer Week and more places. Two breweries (The Filling Station and Brewery Ferment) opened in Traverse City last year and another, Right Brain Brewery, moved into a new larger facility. In November, I was fortunate to visit each of the new breweries, and I’m still working to figure out if I can swing a trip to Traverse yet this week for the events and festival. (My TC Food & Brew Recap, Part I & Part II).

 I attended the Festival last year and had a fantastic time. The brewery line-up this year once again is top flight and there are still tickets available for those who missed out on the sold out Michigan Winter Beer FestivalPorterhouse Productions does an excellent job organizing and promoting the festival and coordinates the fantastic Beer Week that kicked off this weekend. Seriously, check out this beer week event line-up.

There are presently still tickets available and if you’re looking for a first class Northern Michigan food, beer, and hospitality package, check out the weekend package my buddies, The Grillin’ Guys, have put together with Leelanau Sands Casino and Resort featuring lodging and transportation to and from the Resort and the beer festival (VIP tickets included). Yes, we proudly plug our friend’s Michigan businesses here at Michigan Expats.

FOOD
Traverse City is not only known for its beaches, beer, and cherries, but it has an excellent food scene as well that has received a lot of national attention as a "foodie haven." I may not be a famous chef, but I can share a few personal favorite spots to check out.

  • Soul Hole – I sought out this eatery last time I was in Traverse and was not disappointed. Yes, you can now find delicious southern style food in Northern Michigan: BBQ ribs, southern fried chicken, gumbo, and fantastic cornbread. Limited seating gives it a hometown hole-in-the-wall feeling. They don’t serve alcohol, but that’s not a problem since Brewery Ferment is just a few spots down across the street and they don’t serve food. It’s a win win.
  • Red Mesa Grill – A family favorite spot across from East Bay featuring in-house made chips and salsa and the region’s best tequila selection. I personally recommend Michigan owned, Blue Nectar.
  • Burgers – Of course, few things go as well with beer as a hearty greasy burger. Don’s Drive In is a pure Americana Traverse City institution with its 50’s d├ęcor and while it is a tourist stop, the burgers and onion rings are worth the trip. For a more local feel, pop into Brady’s Bar downtown which is a local dive, but the burgers made with beef from Maxbauer’s Meat Market next door are excellent. 

Definitely plan to come hungry and thirsty next time you’re in Traverse. Park along or near Front Street and spend a couple hours walking in and out of the many great small local shops and pop in for coffee, desserts, food, or a drink along the way. 

What's your favorite Traverse City event, brewery, or restaurant? We want to hear from you.