Some are specialties for an acquired Michigan palate (cotton candy Faygo, anyone?), while others are simply strange (muskrat casserole). Here are 13 unique foods you can find across the mitten.
MICHIGAN—Michigan culture is defined in many ways. It’s made up of Great Lakes life, wearing shorts in the winter, saying “ope” as you squeeze by someone at the grocery store.
But it also is made up of some one-of-a-kind foods—Michigan has a plethora of great options, some specific to our regions, such as pasties and all of our Michigan-made potato chips. Others are traditions that seem absurd now but are rooted into the regional history in parts of Michigan, like muskrat casserole.
We’ve grabbed a few of our favorite unique Michigan-made foods—including some strange concoctions only the adventurous would dare to try. Whether you’re looking for a main course of bizarre or just want to get your feet wet with some different but less outrageous snacks, we’ve got a list you’ll be sure to remember.
A Meat-Lover’s Paradise
Muskrat Casserole (Yes, that’s still a thing)
On the list of things you can eat in Michigan that don’t sound real is muskrat casserole, but ‘Ganders may find it surprising that in parts of southeast Michigan, muskrat casserole is a real treat during Lent.
In fact, eating Michigan’s “four-legged fish” is a tradition in the southeastern part of the state. In an interview with Hour Detroit, Bud Willis, a cook who makes the muskrat dinner at Wyandotte’s Trinity Lutheran Church, detailed how he goes about preparing the dinner.
Muskrat dinners are usually served on paper plates alongside mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, and sauerkraut. It’s flavor? Comparable to duck, Willis said.
Mallie’s Giant Burgers
Ever feel so hungry you could eat a 10-pound burger? How about a 2-pound taco? Well, if that’s the case, Mallie’s Sports Grill and Bar is the place for you.
The eatery opened in 2005 and since then has become well known for its ginormous menu items. They’ve set records in 2008 and 2011 for the size of their burgers, and after their record was broken reclaimed the record with a more than 1,700-pound burger.
While you can’t just show up and try their 1,700-pound burger, you can try the 10-pound burger and see if you can finish the entire thing. If you do in less than an hour, you get $100!
Up in northern Michigan, there’s a mysterious thing called the Cudighi sandwich. Not sure how to say that? Yeah, we’re not sure, either. But according to some, regardless of how you pronounce it, it’s a campfire staple.
The Cudighi originates from Italy and is essentially season and spiced meat with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce in sandwich form. And while it started across the pond, it’s now predominantly found in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
According to most online recipes, a Cudighi includes some curry powder, nutmeg, vegetable stock, and other ingredients.
There are several recipes available online, and they all vary slightly from recipe to recipe.
Great Lakes Catch
When you live in a state surrounded on three sides by beautiful, freshwater lakes, it’s likely you’ll have a plethora of fish options at the dinner table. That is the case in Michigan.
But perhaps none of these fish entrees and dishes are more Michigan than whitefish, which can be found on just about every restaurant menu as you travel farther north in the state. And boy, do they get creative with it. You can find whitefish served after being smoked, grilled, or even in bite form.
Part of its allure, too, is that it’s a versatile option, as far as fish go. It’s not uncommon to order an appetizer of chips and whitefish dip or a spread. At Carlson’s Fisher in Leland, fresh whitefish is caught and smoked outside their back door. Add a dollop of white wine and red onion and you’ve got a fantastic fish dip side. Smoked whitefish mixed with honey mustard sauce and naan bread makes for a great dip at Apache Trout Grill in Traverse City.
Green Dot Stables’ mystery meats
If you’re up for a little of the unknown when it comes to dinner, you might want to try Green Dot Stables in Detroit. While perusing the restaurant menu, you might come across an item labeled “Mystery Meat.”
Of course, you can ask your server what the mystery meat item for the week is, but where’s the fun in that? Some recent items they’ve listed as their mystery meat item include roasted boar leg, braised rabbit, and ostrich Marrakech.
Who knows what the Stables might have when you visit?
Birch Run Tony’s Does Bacon Right
Got bacon? The Birch Run Tony’s sure does. In fact, it isn’t unusual for someone who orders a side of bacon at the restaurant to get a second plate full of bacon.
So, if you’re driving up (or down) I-75 and through the heart of Michigan, stop when you get to the Birch Run exit and grab a pound of bacon. And don’t just take our word for it. Read some of these reviews left on review sites regarding the massive bacon plates served at this location:
“You will not be disappointed. The portions are massive and a pound of bacon or more for $6 that’s a deal. It’s the semi thick cut not the dinky ones you get at most restaurants. Pepsi products.”
“A pound of bacon on my BLT, yes please…”
So, yeah, it sounds like the Birch Run Tony’s does bacon right.
The Lighter Side: Snacks and Goodies Unique to Us
Coney Paczkis on Fat Tuesday
I’m sure there’s a large populous in Michigan that thinks they should get the day off from work for Fat Tuesday—or maybe the day after, considering they may want an extra long nap after stuffing themselves full of jelly-filled pastries.
And while cherry and apple pastries are delicious, sometimes you just have to get weird. That’s where the Coney Paczkis come in.
With deep roots in Michigan, the coney seems like the proper choice when customizing a Paczki. You can usually get your own Coney Paczki at the American Coney Island at 114 W. Lafayette in Detroit.
You can’t talk about “Up North” cuisine without mentioning pasties, a staple in Michigan life. But the pasties we usually eat are savory meat pies filled with veggies and whatever else your heart desires.
But did you know you can have pasties for dinner and then dessert, as well? Uh, yum.
Take Muldoon’s Pasties in Munising, for example. You could go there for a chicken or beef pasty, and then top things off with a dessert pasty. They offer apple pasties or the flavor of the day pasties—usually blueberry or cherry.
Great Lakes Potato Chip Co. Purple chips
Remember those purple chips distributed by Great Lakes Potato Chip Co. in 2019? Apparently, they were developed in partnership with the Michigan State University potato program, with the first batch coming from Iott Farms in Kalkaska.
And why were they purple? Researchers cross-bred potatoes to develop the blackberry potato, which looks just like a normal potato, but purple, almost resembling a beet.
The chips are seasonal and when they are sold, they sell out fast.
Favorite Faygo Flavor?
Do you have a favorite flavor of Faygo? If you don’t, that’s okay. There are so many, and they’re all good!
The company has had some interesting flavors since it started in the early 1900s. There are the staples—Rock & Rye, Moon Mist, and Gold—and then there are the oddities. Take, for example, Cotton Candy Faygo. Out of all the flavors, this one seems to rile folks up the most.
If that’s not peculiar enough for you, check out their other options (there are more than 50). What’s the weirdest flavor you’ve seen?
Better Made Potato Chips Better Make Chocolate Potato Chips
Finishing off our list of unique Michigan foods is a brand you may know but a flavor especially for hometown fans: chocolate-covered Better Made potato chips.
Better Made, of course, is a Michigan company, making chips out of Detroit since the 1930s. In addition to your typical chip flavors like lightly salted, barbecue, and others, Better Made is known for its pork rinds, cheese curls, and cheese puffs.
While those are all delicious options, is it really worth it to choose something different when chocolate is an option?
Better Made’s chocolate potato chips are usually sold seasonally, launching in the later months of the year. But with a fantastic sweet and salty combination, can we petition the company to offer the chips year-round, please?