Gustafson’s is not a restaurant, but a gas station and party store with delicious food that is oh-so-ready-to-eat. Even with your eyes closed, you’ll find it as you cruise along the shore road (we don’t recommend driving this way) because a sugar maple haze from a quartet of smoldering smokers outside clouds the air with the unbelievably appetizing smell of whitefish, trout, menominee, chub, and salmon turning gorgeous shades of gold. Inside, coolers are arrayed with the firm-fleshed beauties, which you buy by the piece, wrapped in butcher’s paper. Utensils and plates are unnecessary; it’s a pleasure to use one’s fingers to pick flavorful chunks of fish straight from the paper in which they’re wrapped.
Beef jerky is another smokehouse specialty of the Gustafson family, who marinate strips of top round for a day-and-a-half, then slow-smoke them over maple for six hours. Jerky is made with a traditional smoky-sweet taste, Cajun-spiced, or barbecue flavored.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula lends itself to waterside picnics. A few chaws of jerky, a moist hunk or two of freshly smoked freshwater fish, a fifty-cent stack of saltine crackers, a bag of cheese curds, and a beer, plus the scenic beauty of Lake Michigan’s northern shore: what’s better than that?