More people of Finnish descent live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula than anywhere other than Finland, so it is hardly affectation that the menu of the Suomi Home Bakery & Restaurant lists dishes in Finnish with English subtitles.
You can get familiar lounas lautanen (plate lunch) and rice pudding or banana cream pie for jalkiruoat (dessert), but we recommend aamiainen (breakfast – served all day), for which nisu bread, perfumed with cardamom, is made into Finnish French toast, and pannukakku is the star attraction. Described as Finnish pancake, pannukakku puts us in mind of a crustless egg custard pie – sweet, creamy, fundamental. One large cake, about a half-inch thick, is baked in a glass tray and served in sunny yellow 4×4-inch squares along with warm raspberry sauce. The sauce is wonderful, but we used it on nisu toast, unwilling to modify the unimprovable pancake.
In some ways, Suomi is a classic American town cafe, where locals come to share morning coffee and regulars are well-known by the staff. But in addition to the unusual food, the chatter lets you know you are someplace different. On our first visit one morning, it took a while to realize that cross-table conversations in the spacious dining area actually were in English rather than some Scandinavian language. It was the dialect known as Yooper, from U.P. (Upper Peninsula), a curiously musical blend that sounds Finnish and German and a bit Canadian and is especially strong northwest of Marquette.
The bill of fare at this handsome place, decorated with vintage photographs of copper country history, is not all that exotic. You can get bacon and eggs for breakfast (better yet, sausage and eggs; the dense, herby sausage links are made across the Keweenaw Waterway in Hancock) and hamburgers and ordinary sandwiches at lunch. And of course you can have a pasty filled with rugged clumps of beef and little irregular nuggets of potato and rutabaga. For Finnish finish, end a meal with a bowl of cooked, cooled dried fruit known as visku vellia.