Apache Trout Grill: Good Food, Good Views and Good Service
The Apache Trout Grill is decorated like an upscale log cabin. There are lots of wildlife photos, natural decorations and soft lighting. The tables have white linens, but are by no means extravagant or posh. It can be both casual or romantic depending on what you're looking for. The staff was young but attentive, with good knowledge not only of the menu and drinks, but also of the area.
The restaurant has a large wall of windows on the water side. Although the sun may set on the opposite side, it still provides a nice view of city across the water as the dusk sets in.
Favorite Dish: The menu and daily specials do favor seafood and fish. The trout was fantastic, as was the lobster bisque. We sampled quite a few things and they were all very good.
We did not try them, but the menu also does have steaks, pastas and chicken for those who do not want fish.
- Food and Dining
- Business Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Omelette Shoppe: Homecooking and local's ambiance
If you like home cooking and a relaxed local's ambiance, then this is probably the place. Walking around the day before, I spotted this place but didn't give it much thought since it was in the late afternoon and the lights were off.
But after asking a few locals while out and about, and also by asking some of the hotel staff who were noticably well fed, the consensus for a good breakfast place was thus identified - the Omelette Shoppe.
Its a no frills place, with a local feel and depending on the hour, may be littered with regulars. It serves mainly breakfasts, but a few more lunch items like soups and sandwiches.
The food was good, but the jovial attitude of the staff and the friendly gestures like filling a paper coffee cup to-go without being asked shows the nature of the place.
Favorite Dish: The eggs Benedict, the crab cakes, the skillets were all good. We all shared each other's and had a hard time deciding which was best. From the other tables, the pancakes and waffles looked good too, but we were too full to even think about it.
- Food and Dining
Bardons: Ice Cream!
After trying Moomer's at two locations (and being disappointed in both), our last night brought us to Bardon's Wonder Freeze Ice Cream stand. As you pass it on Front street outside the downtown area, it doesn't look like more than your run of the mill DQ type of place. However, it is definitely worth a stop. For one - they have both soft serve and hard ice creams here, so that pleases everyone. The kids tried the soft serve chocolate and were happy - I went with a scoop of cherry ice cream - it was wonderful...full of flavors and cherries. Prices are relatively inexpensive as well.
There is a small bench on the Front street side of the stand, but there is plenty of seating on the opposite side of the stand. Be sure to just sit and savor. Get's my vote over Moomer's for sure!
Blue Tractor: Tasty pizza
The last night of our trip, we decided to not hang out at another Brewpub, but went to what pretty much amounts as just a regular pub. One of the first things Blue Tractor has going for it, is that there is ample parking, including a parking garage right behind it. When you come in from the rear, you do have to walk all the way to the front of the restaurant in order to get seated.
The waitress we had was pretty friendly and extremely knowledgeable about the beer selection (they have about 50 different beers from around the area.) In the middle of the restaurant is a large bar area - the traditional dining area sort of surrounds the bar. The lighting is a little on the dark side, but not too awful.
There are plenty of options to choose from, but we decided to go with pizza. The pizza is "deep-dish", but what that means here is that the dough is fairly puffy - it's not a real heavy deep dish dough, and many people will easily be able to handle the nine-inch version. We tried the "Big-Pig", which was loaded with four types of pork meats. Excellent flavor - a great pizza, and another great option in Traverse City.
Bubbas: Best burgers in town
Located on the eastern end of the Front street area, Bubba's doesn't look like much on the outside. On the inside, it's got a bar feel to it - there is a large bar that runs along the side of the place. There isn't a ton of seating - but the food comes fairly quickly. We were seated quickly right around noon, but it was pretty apparent that we just beat the lunch rush, as the line at the door filled in quickly behind us. Our server was very friendly, and recommended the burgers - he proclaimed them to have won an award for the past 6 years. Having a ringing endorsement like that - we scanned the various varieties to try, and I landed on the Smokehouse burger - bacon, provolone, and a BBQ/Ranch sauce. When it came, I must say, I can see why this place gets the accolades - the burger is spectacular. Full of flavor.
The downside here is the kids menu. My son ordered a burger, my daughter a taco. Both were very small, and neither kid was overly impressed. Wish they would put just a tad more effort into that.
Also, we had another waitress (not our server) who we felt was pushing us to get out - recall there was a good size line at this point - she scooped up a few plates without asking if we were done - when my daughter put down her fork on the plate, she spun around and grabbed that one too :( A little bit of a detraction at the end of the lunch.
Overall, this is a great place for a modest meal.
North Peak Brewery: Better beer, much better food
After the disappointing brewery experience the night before, I was hoping for something a little better the following evening. We arrived here right around 5:30 and were seated promptly. While many were eating outside, we were seated in the clean inside dining room, right off from the bar. Our waitress appeared promptly for a drink order - that night it was to be a delicious raspberry ale. Things were once again off to a good start. Once again, I was scanning the menu when the special of the day piqued my interest - I went with the fried perch platter and sweet potato fries. The kids settled on burgers and pizza. When the food arrived, I was relieved to see that this was going to be a good meal - the perch was tasty, the fries were great. I tried the kids pizza, which also was pretty decent. At a younger time in life, I would have tried a second beer as well, but I decided to hold back a little room as opposed to stuffing myself. Everything was good - the food arrived quickly. Highly recommended.
Moomers: Ice Cream Time
OK - so another little vice of mine is good ice cream. And all the reviews pointed to Moomers being the bees knees. So, after our dinner, we piled into the car and headed off to the farm and ice cream stand.
The setting is kind of cool - there are several tables outside which back up to the farm - we even got to see one of the cows roaming the pasture.
At first blush, I was very excited to see the roughly two dozen or so varieties of homemade ice cream - several which were cherry based. I selected a cup of Amaretto Cherry, while my son picked something blue (due to the color) and adventurous daughter went with chocolate.
As is often the case, the food simply couldn't live up to the hype. Sure, I had a lot of cherries in my ice cream, but it was severely lacking in much flavor. The base ice cream just didn't cut it.
We would try this again the following night at a local sweet shop near the hotel, but even though we all tried something else, we had the same problem - ice cream that sounded and looked better than it tasted.
Sorry to say that our visit here was a disappointment.
Mackinaw Brewing Co.: Got this one out of the way early
With a trip to Traverse City on the docket, I looked at many of the brewery options in the area that were available. There are many - my main goals were to (a) find a place that welcomes kids and (b) served decent beer. In reading many of the reviews, Mackinaw is labeled as a tourist trap of a place - but it seemed to meet my first two criteria, so off we went.
Getting a seat in the early dinner hours in mid August was not a problem - we were seated quickly, and got to pour over the fairly expansive menu. I was heading towards fish or a fish sandwich, when the waitress mentioned the special of the day was a slow-roasted brisket with a baked sweet potato. So I changed my order to that.
Start with the kids - they each had a corn dog and fries and were happy as clams. I went with a cherry lager (this was a recurring option) which was very tasty - good cherry to beer ratio. Unfortunately, the rest of the meal was kid of "meh." The brisket has a little flavor, but was also a little dry. The sweet potato and veggies were OK. Overall, not bad, but left me second guessing whether I should have trusted my first instinct instead.
The atmosphere is decent - the front area is a bar, while the back area is more of a traditional sit down place. The wait staff seemed friendly and efficient. I liked the surrounding area of Front street - lots of places to wander around to and let your food settle.
In the end, the beer was decent, but the dinner was less impressive. I probably would try somewhere else on a return trip to town.
Phils on Front: Different Dishes Daily
Long and narrow with a specialty gourmet chocolate "lounge" and counter in the front.
Felt very comfortable eating there as a solo female traveler.
Favorite Dish: The restaurant changes it's menu daily based on available (and mostly local) ingredients. No GM items.
Srtongly recommend anything with fresh morel mushrooms when they are in season!!
I ordered a simple undressed salad and two appetizers and every item was prepared perfectly.
Service was just a little less than perfect.
However, Phil actually personally stops at each table to "check" on satisfaction
- Food and Dining
- Business Travel
Red Ginger: Happy Hour and People Watching
Located on Front Street, next to the great State Theatre, Red Ginger has a super Happy Hour that is appreciated all week long! Ademame Beans and Lettuce Wraps, accompanied by their famous martinis (my favorite might be the Blood Orange, if I were to choose).
Favorite Dish: The Lettuce Wraps get my vote!
Red Mesa Grill: Bright Red Exterior, Delicious Interior
I'm usually skeptical about restaurants with bright exteriors. Experience has taught me that the brighter the outside, it is usually compensating for deficiencies on the inside. Red Mesa Grill proved me wrong.
I went there as a last dinner in Traverse City after a conference, and the place honestly astonished me. The menu was extensive, much more than typical burritos and tacos (even though that is what I opted for in the end). It ran the range of Latin food, including churrasco and other non-Mexican options. The restaurant was also in the middle of a tasting tour of Latin America, with a specials menu that included regional selections from Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, and Peru. I was impressed.
Starting on the table, the salsa was homemade, as well as guacamole. I went for the pulled pork burrito, which came stuffed into a soft flour tortilla with refried beans (beans that had a bite to them, and didn't taste like they came from a can) and smothered in tomatillo sauce and a melting cheese. Alongside was a thick crema, and small bites of rice and more beans. The food was fresh, flavorful, and had a good edge to it all. My only nitpick was a little over-reliance on lime, in the food and guacamole.
The atmosphere was lively, a lot of big tables for families and parties. A bit loud, but not so much that you couldn't have a conversation at modest levels. Complimenting their menu was a large drink selection, including an impressive number of tequila bottles. I went for a mojito, which was made with real mint and sugar. It felt a little light on the alcohol, and again there was a bit much lime, but it was refreshing overall.
I left impressed with the restaurant, it was a great experience that I would recommend to all.
- Business Travel
- Food and Dining
- Family Travel
Higher Grounds Trading Co. Coffee bar & roastery: Good Coffee and Lots of Ambience
I was in the mood for some coffee, so we stopped at Higher Grounds Trading Company, which is a coffee bar and roastery. Higher Grounds is located in Building #53 in The Village Grand Traverse Commons and shares a building with a winery.
They advertise their coffee as "100% fair trade, organic, and shade grown." The coffee is grown by small-scale farming cooperatives in:
If you order a cup of coffee "to go", you take your drink with you a ceramic mug of coffee that has been donated. The reason? Because Higher Grounds not only supports fair trade wages, they also encourage environmental responsibility.
Favorite Dish: I ordered a Mocha coffee to be drunk there [outside on the picnic table.] The woman who waited on us was quite interesting and knowledgeable. She told us so much about this project and pointed us toward a large window where you could watch the coffee beans being roasted.
The coffee drink was delicious, and the place was bright and comfortable. I especially liked the jukebox in the corner See photo #2.
If you have the opportunity, stop by The Village Grand Traverse Commons to relax and enjoy a fair trade cup/mug of coffee. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.
- Road Trip
- Food and Dining
- Women's Travel
The Underground Cheesecake Company: Unique location with Delightful Desserts
While visiting The Village in Traverse City, Michigan, Mickey and I decided to share a piece of cheesecake in the famed, local The Underground Cheesecake Company. First off, we were impressed with the building itself [see photo #2]. Like all of the "out buildings" at The Village, this small yellow building is an original that has been renovated to bring it up to code.
This unique business started with two local women who started their business in the basement of a home, and that is why it is named The undergroud Cheesecake Company! Their business spread by word of mouth because they sold their products at all civic and charitable events. The business expanded so much that they decided they needed a new location [above ground]. That was more than 20 years ago, and the business is still growing.
They are well known for their "Cheesecake on a Stick" which is a chocolate covered frozen dessert, and it can be eaten by holding it in your hand/s. The flavors include Traditional with Pecans, Peanut Butter, Cherry, Chocolate, and Mint Chocolate Chip. They are also famous for their Original Bitesize Cheesecake.
Favorite Dish: Mickey and I had a difficult time making a decision as to which flavor we wanted to share. Finally, we decided on Turtle Sundae Cheesecake. Wow, what a great choice. It has a chocolate cookie crust and is topped with a traditional style cheesecake. Then it is baked in a swirl of creamy caramel and crunchy toasted pecans. It is delivered topped with more caramel, pecans, and a drizzle of chocolate!
We had to admit that it is one of the best cheese cakes that we've tasted.
- Women's Travel
- Food and Dining
Boondocks: Nice Bar and Outdoor Patio
On the last day of our trip, on our way out of the region, we stopped at an attractive restaurant/bar called Boondocks in Glen Arbor, Michigan.
We were impressed with the looks of the inside as well as the outside. There were many flat-screen TV's inside and a big screen outside. There is free music and a HUGE gazebo-looking stage in the yard [for performances and dancing, I assume].
We asked to be seated on the patio because there were tables with umbrellas that shaded you while you ate.
Service was not swift, but our waitress was pleasant and kind. We only wanted sandwiches and a soft drink, but, I must say, this place looked as though it would be a great place for beers and other alcoholic beverages.
Favorite Dish: The menu was extensive with sandwiches, wraps, soups, salads, entrees. I ordered an Italian sub sandwich and a soft drink. I did not order fries because I'm not a potato eater. My sandwich was huge, and since we were on our way home, I could not take a "doggie bag" so, unfortunately, I had to leave half of it. Mickey had a similar dilemma. Chips did come with the sandwich. We felt that the food was good and agreed that the service was slow.
Since I returned home, I have read reviews of the restaurant and was surprised at how many people mentioned slow service, and they also did not like the food, mostly because of the high prices. It's a vacation area so I was not surprised about the prices. Hopefully, this relatively new restaurant/bar will heed the reviews and make some changes.
- Beer Tasting
- Food and Dining
The Bluebird Restaurant & Bar, Leland, MI: Local Landmark
While visiting Leland, Michigan, we decided to eat lunch at a local landmark called The Bluebird Restaurant & Bar. There is a flower garden that stretches along the bank of the Leland River behind the dining room. This restaurant has been around since 1927 when it was a small sandwich and soda shop, and over the years, it has grown into a full service restaurant and bar. This place serves both the locals and the tourist. The third generation of the Telgards are operating the restaurant today.
Evidently, the Michigan whitefish is what the Bluebird is remembered for once people have left. Seafood, steaks, pasta, and daily specials are also well liked. Each dinner includes a salad from a salad bar. Famous for their homemade desserts and pastries, some visit just for dessert. Most asked for are the famous cinnamon rolls made by Leone Telgard.
The Bluebird is also known for their award-winning Ethnic Dinner and their Sunday Brunch.
Note: the restaurant is closed the month of November.
The huge bar area has its own menu, and that is the area that Mickey and I ate in on the beautiful afternoon that we visited.
Favorite Dish: When we ate in the bar area, the menu consisted of lots of appetizers, many fish platters, sandwiches [hot and cold], wraps, baskets, salads, soups, and pizza after 5:00 p.m.
Mickey and I shared a BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich served on a Kaiser roll for $5.95. We each ordered a cup of soup for $1.95 each bowl. Mine was a very good chicken vegetable soup, and Mickey's was a potato cheese soup. We both agreed that the soups were delicious; however, we were not too thrilled with the Pulled Pork which seemed a bit dry with a mediocre sauce.
I would recommend eating at the Bluebird Restaurant and Bar; good service, ambience, and decent food with lots of choices.
- Women's Travel
- Food and Dining
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