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
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.

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.


  1. Just to update you, The Soul Hole recently has closed.

  2. That's a bummer. I'm glad I got to go there while it was still open. Thanks for letting us know.

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