Five Bites and Sips of Northern Michigan

Staff Writer
A look into some of the food gems in Mackinac Island and Petoskey
Katie Reinhard

The Mackinac Bridge connects Mackinac City to Mackinac Island.

Off of the northern tip of Michigan’s mitten sits a quaint little island, Mackinac Island, first discovered by Great Lakes American Indians and settled in 1670 by Europeans. Today it remains one of the state’s largest tourist spots, bringing in ferry-loads of people daily (as well as their bikes; vehicle use is prohibited). There are plenty of hotels, cottages, and attractions to see, but there’s also a myriad of food places to hit up when you’re out on the island. Petoskey, Michigan, about 40 minutes away from Mackinac, also houses plenty of shops, restaurants, and a brewery and winery. We managed to get a small sampling of what they have to offer, but there’s always more digging that can be done, and more delicious food to be found.

Mackinac Island:
J.L. Beanery: Right on the water on is J L Beanery, a small, quaint coffee shop. Their bagels don't compare to New York, of course (chewy, had to be toasted), but we were told by family members that the coffee was better there than the only Starbucks on the island. The iced coffee was really flavorful and they had tons to choose from, like coconut. We had some of the oatmeal which was thick and creamy, almost savory, but had strong cinnamon and apple flavors. We sat outside, but it was probably for the best because the scent of their homemade cookies took over the inside.

Pink Pony: The Pink Pony (a bar and restaurant that’s actually very pink), offers a spot on the main street of Mackinac Island to eat right near where the ferry lets off. They have a lot to offer on their menu, like their Famous Pink Pony Burger, plenty of whitefish options like the whitefish dip with cream cheese and garlic, and a patty melt with Gruyere, caramelized onions, and Dijon mustard. We had the whitefish tacos on flour tortillas with cilantro cabbage, lime chipotle vinaigrette, and avocado aioli, which was excellent on the hot day. We also had the honey apple Brie flatbread that was topped with pecans, which was a little sweet (we all decided it could serve better as a dessert than an appetizer), but anything with brie is a win in our book.

Murdicks Fudge: Of course we couldn’t leave Mackinac Island without getting their most well known souvenir, fudge, and there were plenty of places to choose from between Joann’s Fudge, Ryba’s Fudge, and Murdicks Fudge. Murdick’s claims to be the first “candy kitchen” on the island, opened in 1887 by Henry Murdock, so we decided that would be a true sample. The turtle, chocolate fudge with walnuts, caramel, and chocolate chips was very good, and the peanut butter chocolate chip was great, although a few more chocolate chips wouldn’t have hurt because it tasted more like just peanut butter and less peanut butter chocolate chip. Their salt-water taffy was great, and you can watch the fudge being made and cut.

Petoskey:
Roast and Toast: On the main drag of downtown Petoskey, Roast and Toast fresh roasts all of their coffee on site and offers some of the most unique coffee and fruit drinks around, as well as a creative food menu. From drinks like the Yorker, half and half and iced coffee with peppermint and chocolate sauce, and the “shot in the dark,” you can find something sweet or a little more intense. We sampled the black and creamy, iced coffee and chai with some half and half, and it was really flavorful, not too sweet and you could taste the coffee even though chai is usually pretty overwhelming. They offer frozen granitas, French sodas, smoothies, and for breakfast and lunch, breakfast egg wraps, tons of club sandwiches, chicken gyros, and pancakes. For dinner they have chicken potpie, black bean enchiladas, and ranch pizza with chicken, ranch dressing, broccoli, and mozzarella on a thin crust.

City Park Grill: For lunch we stopped at City Park Grill where you can find some great American pub food, like a handful of specialty burgers, sandwiches, and whitefish specials. The Greek burger with lettuce, tomato, and cucumber dill yogurt was a little salty but still good, and served with mustard and celery coleslaw which was a really great alternative to fries (although they are a substitute option). The Reuben was also good on sourdough bread, and they have a huge alcohol list with tons of local beers like a Belgian-style ale, the Horny Monk (yes, that's its actual name).

To cap it all off, we also got a Vosges Haut Chocolat Mo's Dark Bar from Symons General Store in Petoskey. We grabbed the 62% dark chocolate bar with hickory smoked uncured bacon and alderwood smoked salt, because why not eat chocolate with bacon? Mackinac Island and Petoskey are home to some great food spots, and this is just a mere sample of everything they have to offer.

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