What To Eat in Michigan
Really, there are two Michigans: the Upper Peninsula, which is home to the savory meat pie known as a pasty (say pass-tee), as well as to superb Lake Superior seafood, and the southern part of the state, aka “mitten” (shapewise), where you’ll find drop-dead delicious pies made from locally grown cherries and apples. The University of Michigan’s presence makes Ann Arbor an eater’s paradise, from world-class sliders to worldly foreign fare to bakeries and delis that are second-to-none.
The pasty (say pass-tee, not pay-stee) began as a portable stew – meat and vegetables sealed inside a pastry crust -- that Cornish miners used to carry with them for lunch. Long after the mines closed, it remains a popular dish in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where families from Cornwall settled. Traditionally, pasties are filled with beef or beef and pork with chunks of potato, rutabaga and onion, but today you will encounter gourmet pasties filled with steak, pizza pasties with pepperoni and mozzarella, Reuben pasties, chicken pasties, even vegetarian pasties for meat-phobes and breakfast pasties filled with eggs and sausage.
The Michigan cherries used for pies are tart, but because they boom with fruit flavor, they are the ideal filling. A ratio of 5 (cups of cherries) to 1 (cup of sugar) piled into a leaf lard crust yields one of the great pies in the nation. Served warm and a la mode: even better!
Whitefish is a freshwater jewel that tastes especially right near the shore of Lake Superior. Baked or pan-fried, it has soft, creamy flesh that delivers a toasty-sweet, outdoorsy flavor completely unlike ocean fish.
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Cousin Jenny’s is a modern Traverse City, Michigan cafeteria that serves old-fashioned (and newfangled) pasties for both breakfast and lunch.
Crossroads is a spacious tavern that has a full menu and serves three meals a day. House specialty: a one-pound pasty, one of the Upper Peninsula's best.
Jean-Kay's is a small Marquette restaurant & take-out specializing in Michigan Upper-Peninsula pasties, made fresh daily using steak and suet.
The Cherry Hut is a Michigan restaurant serving some of the best cherry pie anywhere-- sweet and a little tart, with flaky crust that adds a savory note.
Toni's is a cheerful small-town cafe in that bakes beautiful breads and pastries and serves one of the best old-fashioned pasties in northern Michigan.
Zingerman's of Ann Arbor is one of America's great delicatessens, serving terrific sandwiches made of world-class ingredients on Zingerman's-baked bread.
Lawry's of Ishpeming has set high standards for Upper Peninsula pasties since the mid-20th century. It is a humble place that is a Michigan best bet.
Run by monks in the northernmost reaches of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the Jampot offers breads, cookies, rum-soaked cake and a spectacular selection of jams.
Upper Peninsula pasties at Irontown in Negaunee, Michigan, are made in classic versions as well as vegetarian, vegan & gluten-free. Dessert: fruit turnovers!