Craving a bite? From Cosmik Fries to Ghost Pizza to Hippie Hash, Michigan has amazing dining experiences waiting for your summer travel.
MICHIGAN—Experiencing Michigan means experiencing our unique foods that are always evolving.
Here’s a blend of 24 old favorites and new trends in Michigan’s culinary landscape that will help you experience the best the Mitten State has to offer in 2021.
1. Cornish Pasties at the Keweenaw Pasty Trail (Keweenaw Peninsula)
The pasty (pronounced PASS-tee) is a folded pocket pie with savory fillings, usually meats and/or vegetables. The pasty originally came from Cornwall, England. It became the signature food of the Upper Peninsula in the 19th century when copper miners needed an on-the-go meal. Yoopers all have different ideas for how the “best” pasty is made, whether this is the maker itself, or just debating carrots or rutabaga as the better filling.
Though there are many pasty shops in the Upper Peninsula, you can make like celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and focus on the beauty of the Keweenaw Peninsula on the Lake Superior coast. Ramsay, famous for “Hell’s Kitchen” and other cooking reality shows, is scheduled to feature the Keweenaw Peninsula and its culinary treasures on his new show “Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted.” The episode, expected to air on National Geographic on July 25, will feature local chef James Rigato of the Mabel Gray restaurant in Hazel Park accompanying Ramsay to the Keweenaw area on a culinary journey – and the Yooper delicacy of pasties will most certainly be involved.
You don’t need to wait for the episode to tour the Keweenaw Peninsula, since the Keweenaw Convention and Visitors Bureau already has the Keweenaw Pasty Trail Challenge. The challenge involves touring 13 pasty shops in the middle of copper country, taking a photo at each one, and uploading the photo to Instagram with the hashtag #KeweenawPastyTrail.
Read more about the Keweenaw Pasty Trail here.
2. Chicken from Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth (Frankenmuth)
730 S Main St, Frankenmuth, MI 48734
Just off the beaten path of I-75 is the town of Frankenmuth, famous primarily for two things: Christmas and family-style chicken dinners. Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth has been serving chicken off Main Street since 1928. Zehnder’s was honored with an America’s Classics Award by the James Beard Foundation in 2020. Between Zehnder’s and the similar Bavarian Inn, the Zehnder family serves over 850 tons of chicken per year.
Chickens are parboiled, cut into 10 pieces, and fried with a light breading. The dinners are served with mashed potatoes, buttered noodles, vegetables, and cranberry relish. Both restaurants serve the trademark meal with only minor differences. The biggest difference is in the atmosphere—Zehnder’s emulates Colonial America after being remodeled in the likeness of George Washington’s Mount Vernon home, while the Bavarian Inn aligns with the German heritage of the rest of Frankenmuth.
Read more about Zehnder’s here.
3. Olive Burger from Weston’s Kewpee Burger Sandwich Shoppe (Lansing)
118 S Washington Square, Lansing, MI 48933
The olive burger is a variety of hamburger found only in Michigan, featuring a beef patty topped with chopped olives. Olive brine is also usually a part of the burger. Although a version of the olive burger can be found in several Michigan locations, the most traditional version is at Weston’s Kewpee Burger Sandwich Shoppe, the second-oldest family-owned restaurant in Lansing. The olive burger’s origins are debated, but it most likely originated from a chain of restaurants called Kewpee Hamburgers, first founded in 1923. Kewpee Hamburgers was one of the first known hamburger fast-food restaurant chains.
The olive burger at Weston’s Kewpee Burger Sandwich Shoppe is likely the closest to the 1920s original. Owner Autumn Weston uses a secret recipe for olive sauce originally written by her great-grandmother almost a century ago. In 2020, Weston and her family recipe olive burger won the Judge’s Choice Award at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s Burger Bash, a Miami food festival hosted by the Food Network.
Read more about Weston’s Kewpee Burger here.
4. Reuben Sandwich from Zingerman’s Delicatessen (Ann Arbor)
422 Detroit St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
The classic “number two” Reuben Sandwich at Zingerman’s Deli is an integral part of Ann Arbor culture. The sandwich is layered with a generous portion of quality corned beef on grilled Jewish rye bread, and topped with Swiss Emmental cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing.
Though the Zingerman’s brand has since expanded, it started in 1982 as a revival of the Jewish delicatessen serving up gourmet sandwiches. Since then, Food and Wine Magazine named Zingerman’s Deli as one of “America’s Best Delis,” the only deli from Michigan to receive the honor. Even former president Barack Obama couldn’t help but try the corned beef classic during a visit in 2014.
Read more about Zingerman’s here.
5. Coney Dog from American Coney Island or Lafayette Coney Island (Detroit)
114 and 118 W Lafayette Blvd, Detroit, MI 48226
It’s hard to talk about Michigan’s food culture without mentioning the Coney dog and Coney Island restaurants. The Coney dog, the “Detroit style” hot dog, is a beef frankfurter with a steamed bun, covered in a beanless meat chili and topped with diced white onions and yellow mustard. Michigan’s Coney Islands are the product of Greek immigrants.
The origin story of Detroit’s two most famous Coney Islands is a century-old contest between two Greek immigrant brothers: Gust Keros, who opened American Coney Island in 1917, and his brother William Keros, who opened Lafayette Coney Island next door in 1924. Though the restaurants are no longer owned by the Keros family, the debate of which Coney dog is better continues to this day. Food Wars and Man v. Food have both featured the two feuding restaurants. Preferences for which is better are highly personal, but it’s worth it to try both Detroit originals.
Read more about American Coney Island here.
6. Ghost Pizza from Amar Pizza (Hamtramck)
12195 Joseph Campau Ave, Hamtramck, MI 48212
Fusion cuisine can be hit or miss, but it’s hard to go wrong with this marriage of Detroit-Style square pizza with Bengali spices. Featured on Bizarre Foods, the Ghost Pizza is a specialty pizza with trademark sauce jam-packed with ghost pepper spiciness, with chicken, red onions, and cilantro on top.
This pizza is not for the faint of heart, as ghost peppers are notoriously hot peppers. With quality ingredients and sauces made in house, Amar Pizza is the perfect kitchen to go to if you can take the heat.
Read more about Amar Pizza here.
7. Wet Burrito from Beltline Bar (Grand Rapids)
16 28th St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49548
This West Michigan style burrito was voted the best in Michigan by Food & Wine Magazine. The Beltline Bar has served over five million wet burritos since opening in 1953. The bar and its trademark burrito were featured on Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food.”
The north-of-the-border adaptation on the Tex-Mex favorite features locally-sourced seasoned ground beef. It is complimented by refried beans, shredded lettuce, and diced tomato, and finished with a coating of red enchilada sauce and melted Colby cheese. A tasty piece of West Michigan heaven.
Read more about Beltline Bar here.
8. Detroit-Style Pizza from Buddy’s Pizza (Detroit)
17125 Conant St, Detroit, MI 48212
Detroit’s iconic pizza is a descendent of Sicilian-style pizza, but cooked in a deep rectangular dish. This original idea came from Gus Guerra in 1946, when he owned the bar that would eventually become Buddy’s Pizza. One story is the pans that would start the Detroit-Style trend originally were used for spare parts in a factory.
Today, Buddy’s Pizza still serves up the iconic square pizza with the buttery crust in several locations, but the Conant Street location is the original. The Daily Meal ranked Buddy’s Pizza as #6 on a list of the 101 Best Pizzas in America. If you want to try the best of the best of Detroit-Style pizza… Buddy’s is the place to go.
Read more about Buddy’s Pizza here.
9. Hot Sammie from Eureka Eatery (Monroe)
3080 N Monroe St, Monroe, MI 48162
The spicy chicken craze has come to metro Detroit. Eureka Eatery debuted their Nashville-style hot chicken sandwich in 2020, and the sandwich is definitely trending among foodies.
Located in a gas station, Eureka Eatery formerly sold Mediterranean food before owner Kenny Sharrak found a new calling. The Hot Sammie features cage-free chicken with no antibiotics. The sandwich can be ordered in one of seven levels of spice, ranging from “Country” to “Inferno.”
Read more about Eureka! Eatery here.
10. Chipati from Pizza Bob’s (Ann Arbor)
800 S State St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
A mainstay for University of Michigan students since the 1970s, a Chipati is a unique creation of salad stuffed into a wheat-flour-based bread resembling a pita, served with a special Chipati sauce. It originated from Pizza Bob’s, an Ann Arbor restaurant that had many owners and incarnations over its five decade history.
Although other restaurants in the area have added the Chipati to their menu, it originated from Pizza Bob’s—and you can even buy the sauce!
Read more about Pizza Bob’s here.
11. Cosmik Fries from HopCat (Grand Rapids)
25 Ionia Ave., Grand Rapids, MI 49503
The gastropub chain HopCat is infamous for these beer-battered french fries with cracked black pepper. Originally and controversially known as “crack fries” for the cracked pepper and addictive quality, HopCat changed the name in 2019 to reflect founder Mark Gray’s love for Frank Zappa. They are now known as Cosmik Fries after Zappa’s song “Cosmik Debris.”
Food Network listed HopCat’s famous fries on their list of “America’s 10 Best French Fries.” They are the perfect companion for any Michigan-made craft beer, but Gray recommends Huma Luma Licious from Short’s Brewery.
Read more about HopCat here.
12. Hot Mess from Daddy Pete’s BBQ (Grand Rapids)
2921 Eastern Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49508
Grand Rapids restaurateurs Cory and Tarra Davis have made a thrilling new addition to Michigan’s culinary scene—a plant-based BBQ sundae. This quickly became their food truck specialty, but you can still order it in the restaurant.
Although it’s only available on Saturdays, the Hot Mess is a BBQ sundae with either pork, chicken, or brisket layered with baked beans, mac and cheese, and topped with coleslaw. The best part? The Hot Mess can also be made 100% vegan with smoked jackfruit and vegan alternatives.
Read more about Daddy Pete’s BBQ here.
13. Lake Superior Walleye from Cooks’ House (Traverse City)
115 Wellington St, Traverse City, MI 49686
The Great Lakes are famous for freshwater fish, and it’s hard to go wrong with the walleye from the Cooks’ House. Although walleye has a unique taste, it is not overly “fishy” and has few bones, making it a well-rounded choice for many diners.
As one of celebrity chef and restaurateur Mario Batali’s favorite Michigan restaurants, the Cooks’ House prizes itself on using local sustainable foods. During the summer months, the Cooks’ House uses almost 100% local products. The chef team of Patterson and Blakeslee explore Michigan’s regional cuisine by paying close attention to their ingredients to create true farm-to-fork dining experiences.
Read more about Cooks’ House here.
14. Zip Sauce at Andiamo (Detroit)
400 Renaissance Center A-03, Detroit, MI 48243
The savory condiment known as Zip Sauce is served in steakhouses all over Detroit, and Andiamo’s is a great place to try it. Zip Sauce’s origins go back to 1939, when Detroit restauranteur Mario Lelli was competing with other Italian restaurants on Woodward Avenue; Zip Sauce caught on in popularity and helped Lelli’s stand above the crowd. Today, the Motor City trademark sauce is usually made from butter and Worcestershire sauce and served as both a glaze and a dipping sauce.
Zip Sauce is made a little differently in every kitchen and every dish, and Andiamo is no exception. At Andiamo, the Zip Sauce accompanies the Filet Mignon and the Veal Tenderloin. Not a meat-eater? Andiamo’s also serves their signature Zip Sauce with Portabella Mushrooms. Andiamo is an award-winning Italian restaurant, with several awards for Best of Detroit 2021. Though Andiamo has several restaurants in metro Detroit and beyond, the Detroit Riverfront location featured in the General Motors Renaissance Center is the most iconic. If you can’t make it to Andiamo’s, the official recipe for their Zip Sauce is available online so you can make it at home.
Read more about Andiamo here.
15. Hippie Hash from The Fleetwood Diner (Ann Arbor and Lansing)
300 S Ashley St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 and 2211 S Cedar St, Lansing, MI 48910
When residents of Michigan’s biggest college towns need the comfort of diner food at any hour of the day or night, the most popular choice has to be Fleetwood’s Hippie Hash. The signature dish is made by layering homemade hash browns with green peppers, onions, tomatoes, broccoli, and mushrooms, then finishing with feta cheese.
The Fleetwood was built in 1949 as the Dagwood Diner, Ann Arbor’s first sidewalk cafe. Eventually, after being branded as the Fleetwood Diner, the restaurant’s second location opened in Lansing. No matter what you may be up to late at night, Hippie Hash is always a great culinary option for these 24 hour diners.
Read more about The Fleetwood Diner here.
16. Union Mac & Cheese from Clarkston Union Bar & Kitchen (Clarkston)
54 S Main St, Village of Clarkston, MI 48346
Michigan native Kid Rock is fond of this “most macked” Mac & Cheese from the Clarkston Union Bar & Kitchen, a restaurant in a renovated 1840s church. Featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” Union Mac & Cheese is made from bechamel sauce and a selection of cheeses from Detroit’s Eastern Market, including a Michigan-made Pinconning cheese.
The trademark caramelized crust is a blend of parmesan cheese and Panko bread crumbs. Married couple Curt Catello and Ann Stevenson opened the restaurant in 1995 and it has been a family restaurant ever since. Look for the church pews that still function as restaurant seating!
Read more about Clarkston Union here.
17. Paczki Pierogi at Polish Village Cafe (Hamtramck)
2990 Yemans St, Hamtramck, MI 48212
Paczki (pronounced POONCH-kee) are traditional Polish donuts consumed by Michiganders in celebration of Fat Tuesday. These pastries consist of deep-fried dough filled with fruit fillings and dusted with sugar. For 2021, Polish Village Cafe owner Carolyn Wietrcykowski brainstormed a new spin on an old Hamtramck favorite: the Paczki Pierogi. Pierogi, another Polish delicacy, are filled dumplings.
The paczki pierogi is currently served in orders of three at the cafe, in both raspberry and boston creme flavors. Though the new trend just started this year, hopefully it will catch on as a new tradition.
Read more about the Polish Village Cafe here.
18. Shakes at M Street Baking Co. (Howell)
117 N Michigan Ave, Howell, MI 48843
If you’ve ever been to any Michigan establishment selling Boston Coolers, you know folks in the Mitten are passionate about their milkshake creations. Looking at the shake varieties from M Street Baking Co., you’d believe it.
Nancy Mazaris and her two daughters Emily and Stephanie brainstormed a pink shake loaded with candy in honor of Howell’s annual Pink Party event for breast cancer awareness. They turned the winning idea into a family-owned bakery in 2015. Now, the bakery is pushing hundreds of milkshakes out the door every day, with five permanent milkshake flavors, but plenty of seasonal varieties.
Read more about M Street Baking Co. here.
19. Cherries Moobilee Ice Cream from Moomers (Traverse City)
7263 N Long Lake Rd, Traverse City, MI 49685
Traverse City is renowned as the “Cherry Capital,” but one of the best uses of the area’s primary crop is the legendary Cherries Moobilee ice cream from Moomers, an ice cream shop on the Plummer family’s dairy farm. Cherries Moobilee is the signature ice cream flavor of Moomers, made from both sweet cherries and tart cherries, with a swirl of chocolate fudge and added chunks of homemade brownies.
The cherry concoction became popular after Moomers won the Best Scoops Contest hosted by Good Morning America. The Good Morning America team picked Moomers over hundreds of other ice cream shops across the country. Moomers truly exemplifies the farm to table process—with ice cream! Even President Biden had to try the Traverse City staple during a visit in July 2021–after the U.S. senators from Michigan called it the “best place in the world.”
Read more about Moomers here.
20. Superman Ice Cream Cheesecake from Cynthia’s Edible Arts (Sterling Heights)
Superman ice cream is a triple-flavored ice cream traditionally made by combining the flavors and colors of lemon, strawberry, and Blue Moon. It’s also a Michigan favorite, which is why this ice cream cheesecake went viral online as soon as baker Cythia Yousif started making it.
The Superman Ice Cream Cheesecake is an explosion of color and flavor. Though the price tag is steep at $50 for a full cake, the labor that goes into the cheesecake is worth it. Yousif describes the creation process as taking about six hours and requiring multiple layers. Currently, this colorful confection is only available for pickup or delivery within short distances. Ale Mary’s in Royal Oak is a local restaurant that also sells the trademark ice cream cheesecake.
21. Michigan Maple Walnut Fudge at Original Murdick’s Fudge (Mackinac Island)
7363 Main St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757
Mackinac Island’s trademark fudge is definitely the centerpiece of Michigan’s culinary experiences, with plenty of visitors traveling to the island every year to indulge in the local confectionary. One of 13 fudge shops on the island, Murdick’s Fudge started in 1887 when the Murdick family moved to Mackinac Island to work on canvas awnings at the then-new Grand Hotel.
Although chocolate fudge is the most popular fudge flavor at Murdick’s, it’s worth it to try the Michigan Maple Walnut Fudge, as recommended by Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine. This variety features maple syrup straight from the Upper Peninsula complimented by walnuts. Maple syrup is likely Michigan’s oldest agricultural product, as well as the earliest harvested. Murdick’s Michigan Maple Walnut Fudge is surely one of the best ways to enjoy two Michigan products in one!
Read more about Murdick’s here.
22. Saltwater Taffy at Sayklly’s Candies (Escanaba)
1304 Ludington Street, Escanaba, Michigan 49829
Sayklly’s homemade taffy is an Upper Peninsula tradition going back over 100 years. The original Sayklly was Joseph Sayklly, a Lebanese immigrant who started making his own candy in 1906. At the time, saltwater taffy was a popular candy trend out of Atlantic City. The sale of Joseph’s hand-pulled taffy helped Sayklly’s become a local landmark that would eventually expand to include other candies and souvenirs.
Today, Joseph Sayklly’s descendants run the business, but they still use his recipe. The taffy comes in 9 assorted flavors of anise, orange, cherry, mint, vanilla, maple, grape, chocolate, and banana. Make sure to also try their Yooper Bars!
Read more about Sayklly’s here.
23. Beer-Infused Truffles at Mokoya Inc. (Grand Rapids)
638 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Grand Rapids, otherwise known as Beer City U.S.A., is chock-full of gastro pubs and breweries selling their own beers. Mokoya decided to do something extra with it, by putting some of these famous beers into chocolate treats.
The Beer Flight truffle box includes truffles and caramels created from signature Michigan brews, including porters from Founders and Elk Brewing. Mokoya’s chocolate is fair-trade and confections are handmade in-house.
Read more about Mokoya here.
24. Craft Beer from Bell’s Brewery (Kalamazoo)
Brewery – 8938 Krum Ave, Comstock, MI 49053
Eccentric Cafe – 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Michigan is known for a wide variety of craft breweries, but Bell’s Brewery is the oldest one and one of the most prolific. Shortly after graduating Kalamazoo College, founder Larry Bell started brewing beer out of a 15-gallon soup pot in 1985, and the rest was history. Bell’s celebrates all things eccentric, and this is reflected in its unique names.
The most well-known beer from Bell’s is the Two-Hearted Ale, named for the two “hearts” of English malt and Wisconsin grown hops. In addition to its wide availability on tap all over Michigan, the Two-Hearted Ale was rated the #1 Beer in America in 2017 by the American Homebrewers Association. Additional beers include Oberon, a seasonal wheat ale, Hopslam Ale, a double IPA, Flamingo Fruit Fight, a gose-style ale, and No, Yeah, a Midwest-inspired golden ale. There’s a little something for everyone at Bell’s, no matter how eccentric you may be.
Read more about Bell’s Brewery here.
Missed any of your favorites? Drop a line to Managing Editor Jessica Strachan for a chance to beincluded: JessicaStrachan@couriernewsroom.com.