This is the third time we’re visiting Traverse City and it just gets more beautiful every time. The wine, the food, the friendly people, the lakes, it all drew us back. This time we took a few side-trips, too, and I wanted to share what we did with you. Links to everything we did is at the bottom of this monster post.
On Monday we arrived in Traverse City around 5 o’clock and went up the Old Mission Peninsula for some wine tastings before they closed. We started at 2 Lads Winery because they closed at 6 and it’s always on our list of place to go. I love the modern metal building, the view over the water, the countertops with recycled metal shavings and their great wine. We shared a tasting and got a little snack plate of cheese, crackers and dark chocolate. We bought a bottle of their Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Franc.
Not far from 2 Lads is the new Bonobo Winery owned by Carter Oosterhouse and his wife Amy Smart. Remember Amy Smart? She was in Felicity (pregnant Ruby!), Varsity Blues, The Butterfly Effect and Just Friends. I think she’s still acting, but she was a pretty big deal in the early 2000’s. They married in Traverse City back in 2011 and I remember the photos I saw online were gorgeous. I was kind of hoping to see her and tell her how happy I am that “Just Friends” is on HBO Go this month.
The winery is welcoming and has little nooks where you can take your glass of wine and relax. The weather prompted us to choose the outdoor patio for some whitefish pate and wine. It was so beautiful. On the weekends, the winery has small plates, recipes by Mario Batali (who spends his summers on the Leelanau Peninsula). The whitefish pate was really, really good. You’ll see whitefish pate on many restaurant menus in Northern Michigan. It’s a creamy dip made with flakes or hunks of smoked whitefish. Mario’s recipe was probably the best I’ve ever had with large chunks of fish, lemon and capers. I think I have to recreate that recipe. That lemon blueberry tart on the chalkboard was also calling my name, but we still had dinner plans. We took home a bottle of their Riesling and unoaked Chardonnay.
There aren’t many restaurants on Old Mission Peninsula, not that downtown Traverse City is far, but it’s fun to stay on the pretty peninsula as long as possible. We usually go to Jolly Pumpkin and intended to go there again, but realized we’d never eaten at Mission Table, the slightly fancier restaurant that is right in front of Jolly Pumpkin and has a view of the West Grand Traverse Bay. It wasn’t crowded and there was patio seating so we didn’t have to stop looking at the sunset.
We started with a strawberry rhubarb mojitos and pork cheek ragout gnocchi. The gnocchi was perfectly light and fluffy while the ragout was meaty and seasoned perfectly.
For dinner, Marc ordered beef short ribs braised in Jolly Pumpkin’s Bam Noire beer with buttered onions, braised vegetables and herbed spaetzle. The meat was really tender and everything had so much flavor. I ordered the pickle-brined fried chicken with braised kale, cheddar grits and buttermilk gravy. A bite of every component of this dish had crunchy, creamy, sour and savory deliciousness. We’ll be back.
After a comfortable night at our downtown Traverse City Airbnb, we walked to Warehouse Market, which houses Blk/Mrkt Coffee. This building was not around just one year ago, but it fits right in. The whole building and especially the coffee shop is photo ready.
We ordered cold brew coffee and added a little sugar and cream ourselves. They have homemade pop tarts that they’ll warm up for you (yes, please!) and that day they had blueberry. It was such a wonderful treat while watching people walk down the street through the large, open windows.
And seriously, every corner of this coffee shop is beautiful. I loved every little thing and that cool espresso machine!! I could move in.
Just next door is Darling Botanical, a flower shop with green plants, succulents and lovely little gift things. I’ve been in a lot of shops with succulents, but this one had the best variety and even sold succulent soil by the cup! The plants and modern plant holders really made me want to collect them all. I even asked a question about my succulent at home and they were so nice to chat about it with me.
And across the hall from the coffee shop is Wood + Cloth, a beauty of a shop with bed linens, bath linens, napkins, tablecloths, furniture, the cutest baby things and clothing. It’s on the pricey side, but everything is fun to look at and touch. I found a black and white stripe dress in the sale section that was too cute to pass up.
Now we’re going to have a picture void because it was a hot, sunny day and I didn’t have my phone with me for most of it. We walked down to the waterfront to ask about stand up paddle boarding because I’ve been wanting to do it for years. Marc was skeptical, but the two cool guys at 231 Outfitters said it would be easy to set us up and we could paddle out onto the bay easily. We walked back to our Airbnb, changed and got on paddle boards. We loved it! The paddle boards were much more forgiving than we anticipated. As long as you keep your weight in the middle of the board and don’t overcorrect yourself, you’re golden. We paddled easily onto the bay while looking at the sailboats and other people in the water. After a while we turned around and realized we were no longer paddling with the current. After a good 30 minutes of steady paddling, we finally paddled out of the strong current and were making progress back. We were really proud of ourselves by the time we got back.
After paddle boarding, we stopped in at 7 Monks for some air conditioning and some beer. I didn’t have my ID on me, so I couldn’t order any alcoholic beverages, but I did order sriracha maple wings and chorizo nachos. Just try and stop me. 7 Monks Tap Room has tons of beer on tap and great food. We stayed for a while and chatted with the staff.
We went back to our Airbnb to shower and change and relax a little more before heading back downtown. I wanted to go straight to American Spoon for their preserves. They are made from 90% Michigan produce and their jams and preserves aren’t too sweet. They let you sample everything. I bought the Damson plum preserves, sour cherry preserves and stone fruit conserve. I am currently enjoying every spoonful of the Damson plum preserves.
We weren’t super hungry that night, but it was such a beautiful summer night and The Franklin has a great upstairs patio. We went for drinks and I highly recommend the Just Stop Talking cocktail. It was the best drink I had on vacation. It has Koval single barrel rye, angostura bitters, lemon juice, house made orgeat and egg white. SO GOOD.
We also tried a light salad of little gem lettuce, avocado, cucumber, shrimp and blue crab with a tarragon dressing. And because we were so proud of our light salad eating, we ordered dessert. I had the Tres Leches cake and Marc had a browned butter citrus cake. Both were pretty good.
The next morning, we thought we should have a hearty breakfast before going wine tasting on the Leelanau Peninsula. The Towne Plaza was a short walk from our Airbnb and they have a large patio out front that Marc admired many times while we walked around. We started with Bloody Marys because VACATION.
Marc ordered the porcetta with sauerkraut and subbed in their slaw for the fries. He absolutely loved his meal and I really enjoyed my bite. I probably should have ordered the steel cut oats, but I ordered the smoked salmon eggs benedict. Does anybody order the oats or is it solely there to make me feel bad about myself? The smoked salmon cakes were light and had poached eggs with smoked fontina cream on top. A bib wedge with vinaigrette and crisp potatoes also came with breakfast. Everything was truly fantastic. It’s nice that they’re open at 9:30 during the week for breakfast and that we got to play “guess the hostess’ accent” while we waited for our breakfast. Marc guessed German, while I guessed Italian or Greek, using the context clues of her dark hair and eyes. We’ll never know who won.
Verterra is my favorite winery in the area. It’s located in charming Leland, a short drive up the Leelanau peninsula, and I like almost every wine they make. The people in the tasting room are always knowledgable and friendly. They have a nice selection of hard ciders to try or take home by the growler or bottle, too. I still remember last year while wine tasting here, a tan, older guy in his bathing suit and tank top walked in and filled up his growler with cider to enjoy on his boat #lifegoals.
We bought a case of wine here and stocked up on the chaos red, 2013 pinot grigio, so many I can’t remember them all. Plus a bottle of their blackberry and peach cider for taking to Marc’s uncle’s cabin for labor day. We walked around and saw the waterfall and boats. Later in the week, we found out there’s a great new coffee shop in Leland called Blue Boat Coffee. Next time!
We were passing through Sutton’s Bay on our way up the peninsula for more wine tasting and I made Marc stop at Little Bee’s for gelato. Kate from Hola Jalapeño highly recommended it last year and it was closed on the one day we were in Sutton’s Bay. There was basically NO WAY I was going to miss this gelato again. Jennifer greeted us and I told her how I had been looking forward to her gelato for a whole year. I got the spumoni mix of pistachio, chocolate and tart cherry gelato. It was incredible!! Marc got the cherry Italian ice with vanilla gelato and I was so busy chatting away with Jennifer that I didn’t get a bite, major sad face. But he said it was amazing. So if you find yourself in Sutton’s Bay or anywhere near it, go visit Little Bee’s as soon as possible. Thanks, Kate!
The gal at Verterra recommended we make the little trek further north to Good Neighbor Organic for wine and cider in Northport. Gray skies had moved in and the wind was really blowing when we arrived. It’s amazing how different the weather is just a few miles north. We met one of the owners, a friendly guy that lives on the property with his family and his partner, who also lives there with his family. He poured a bunch of tastes of their wine and cider. They had a watermelon basil sangria on tap that was wonderful, but only available by the growler. He also had a coffee hard cider which tasted like a coffee bean. It tasted earthy and green and unlike anything I’ve ever had before. I loved their labels, too.
They had a vintage fridge that looked like a Smeg, but he said they bought it online for $100 and painted it green. It’s a charming place. We took home some peach cider, Vintner’s reserve, Ciderye and O Doce, their white port.
On our way back through Sutton’s Bay, we were getting hungry for dinner and tried to get into Martha’s Leelanau Table, but they were full that Wednesday night. No worries, though, we loved our meal at 9 Bean Rows last year and looked forward to another meal there. We started with bubbling raclette cheese over potatoes and it was seriously delicious.
We also ordered the lamb loin served with falafel, yogurt and heirloom tomatoes and loved it. Check out those crosshatch grill marks!
And maybe the best part was this fresh fruit dessert. The peach was poached in Michigan riesling and served with whipped, creamy mascarpone.
We drove back to Traverse City after dinner and walked by the water. They have a charming theater in an old building right on the water if you want to catch a movie.
We couldn’t leave out a trip to the Village at Grand Traverse Commons after we spent so much time there last year and loved every minute. We stopped at our favorite coffee shop from last year, Uncommon Grounds.
We both had lavender lattes, hot for him and cold for me. It was rainy, so we slowly enjoyed our coffee while watching the rain come down. We talked a little with the barista, Stephen, whom we met last year and he was competing in the latte art throw down later that night at Blk/Mrkt Coffee. We were thinking of going, but then we decided we should cheer on Stephen.
We had lunch at Trattoria Stella, which is one of the best restaurants in the area. Getting lunch there is a more budget-friendly way to enjoy their spectacular food. I had the Ligurian flatbread which had cheese, spinach, broccoli, red cabbage and peppers in a sweet vinegar reduction. It was delicious. The weirdest sounding dishes always end up being the best things I’ve ever tasted at Trattoria Stella.
We also picked up some bakery treats at Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery for later.
There was a light sprinkle of rain on and off that day, so we thought maybe we’d head to Right Brain Brewery for a beer and to hang out. They have board games and a dart board which we enjoyed on a rainy day in 2010. As we started to walk in that direction, though, we ran into my friend’s mom, Sue! We all looked at each other in disbelief because it was such a strange, but happy coincidence. We were right by The Franklin, so we went to the bar to enjoy a drink together. Sue and her husband live in Holland, where I’m from, but are good friends with Marc’s parents from when they lived in the Detroit area, so we credit them with us meeting. She’s the cutest!
After a few hours chatting with Sue, it was time to walk over to Blk/Mrkt Coffee for the latte art throwdown! I was debating whether this was the most hipster thing we’ve ever done, but it was for a good cause. Everyone could donate what they liked and all proceeds went toward LaFem, a women’s empowerment feminist organization that is helping the coffee farming communities use better farming techniques to combat La Roya (aka coffee leaf rust, a devastating disease of the coffee plant), as well as implementing crop diversification for food security. Many of Traverse City’s local businesses create these fun community events and many support a good cause.
We met some really nice people, including Kent, who works at Blue Boat Coffee in Leland. It’s funny how the coffee world is kind of small or maybe it’s just that way in Michigan. I saw someone wearing a JP’s Coffee t-shirt, which is a coffee shop in my hometown of Holland. Stephen didn’t win, but we had a lot of fun.
And I got to drinking one of the winning macchiatos!
On our last day in Traverse City, before heading further north, we went out for breakfast. My friend Lori has been telling me to go to Patisserie Amie for years. Not having stayed in downtown Traverse City plus Marc not being a breakfast person has contributed to this phenomenon. However, we finally went and she was so right. I had a strawberry and nutella crepe with the most magical cream on top. Honestly, does anyone know how to make thick whipped cream like that? It’s almost like room temperature whipped ice cream. The crepe with that cream was seriously one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. Our waiter was really, really nice and when we expressed a little concern as to the small size of our table proportionate to the size of breakfast we were about to have, he made sure to clear things we didn’t need and was really attentive. The best service we had all vacation. Marc had escargot and a French dip and he loved them both.
It was time for us head north toward Marc’s uncle’s cabin on six mile lake. I had read good things about Harbor Springs and Petosky and a stretch of road called the tunnel of trees from The Fresh Exchange, so we drove up to Harbor Springs and explored a little bit.
Harbor Springs is a beautiful lake town, but more expensive than your average Michigan destination. Huzza is a beautifully curated store that is fun to roam around in, but pricey. I fell in love with a matte white serving bowl that was $450. I didn’t get it, but I’ll be dreaming about it for a while.
We saw some huge yachts and sailboats docked in Harbor Springs. Marc is fascinated by boats and it was fun to walk around and see the variety that were docked there.
We then drove from Harbor Springs up to Cross Village through the tunnel of trees. It’s a very winding, narrow road, but beautiful trees line the path and make for a really pretty drive. After our little drive, we made our way to Petosky to see the water and have a little gelato. We visited the American Spoon Cafe in Petosky where they have gelato in the front and a restaurant area in the back that I’ve heard great things about, but the restaurant portion didn’t seem to be serving food at that time.
We walked down to the water for a better look at more boats, more water and more pretty overcast skies in Petosky.
Friday Night-Monday Morning
Marc’s aunt and uncle invited us to spend labor day weekend with them in Ellsworth, about an hour north of Traverse City. We spent Friday night through Monday morning there and it was really relaxing. The internet service on our phones was gone as soon as we turned down their road, freeing us from distraction.
We spent the weekend tubing, paddle boating and kayaking on six mile lake. Marc’s uncle made us breakfast and dinner every night, which was such a nice treat.
Lots of metro Detroiters have lake cottages “up north” and the traffic on holidays is notoriously horrendous. Instead of sitting in traffic, I suggested heading back to Traverse City for the day and driving back later in the evening. Marc wanted to be on our way, but we both knew sitting in traffic would be frustrating.
We went to one of our favorite spots in Traverse City, Right Brain Brewery. They have a huge space with board games, darts, video games and of course, excellent beer. The original location was started behind a salon and the new location continues that tradition with Salon Saloon in front of the brewery. And how cool is a braid bar? I would love to get my hair braided for a night out or a special occasion. Maybe next time Megan and Erica?
I recommend getting a flight because they have unusual flavors and all are worth trying. I was excited that they had my favorite Schrute Farms Beet Saison on tap, again. I am not really a beer drinker, but Right Brain always has a few beers that I really enjoy.
We weren’t hungry when we arrived, but as we sat and sipped at the bar while facing a white board of waffle sandwich options, my need for one grew exponentially. They make the waffles with their Northern Hawk Owl beer (beer waffles!) and they have both sweet and savory options. You can also get a burger waffle. I ordered the fluffer nutter waffle with hazelnut butter they make with their CEO Stout. Our bar neighbors complimented me on my order and suggested I get a half pint of CEO Stout to sip with my waffle sandwich. What a snack.
So there it is! Our Traverse City/Ellsworth/Petosky/Harbor Springs trip. Check out the links below for websites and Twitter or Instagram accounts.
Mission Table 13512 Peninsula Drive Traverse City, MI
7 Monks 128 South Union Street Traverse City, MI @7Monks
The Towne Plaza 202 E. State St. Traverse City, MI
The Franklin 160 E. Front St. Traverse City, MI
Patisserie Amie 237 Lake Ave #200 Traverse City, MI
Pleasanton Bakery 811 Cottage View Drive Traverse City, MI
Trattoria Stella 1200 West 11th Street Traverse City, MI
9 Bean Rows Cafe 303 St. Joseph Street Suttons Bay, MI @9beanrows
Little Bee’s Italian Ice 309 North St. Joseph Street Suttons Bay, MI
2 Lads Winery 16985 Smokey Hollow Road Traverse City, MI @2LadsWinery
Bonobo Winery 12011 Center Street Traverse City, MI @BonoboWinery
L. Mawby 4519 S. Elm Valley Road Suttons Bay, MI @mibubbly
Good Neighbor Organic 9825 W. Engles Road Northport, MI
7 Monks 128 South Union Street Traverse City, MI @7Monks
Right Brain Brewery 225 East 16th Street Traverse City, MI @rightbrainbrew
Blk/Mrkt Coffee 144 Hall Street Traverse City, MI @blkmrktcoffee
Higher Grounds Coffee 806 Red Drive #150 Traverse City, MI @highergroundstc
Blue Boat Coffee 106 N. Main Street Leland, MI @blueboatcoffee
Stand Up Paddle Boarding 221 W. Grandview Parkway Traverse City, MI
Bijou By the Bay Theatre 181 E. Grandview Parkway Traverse City, MI
Darling Botanical 144 Hall Street Traverse City, MI @darlingbotanical
Wood + Cloth 144 Hall Street Traverse City, MI @woodandcloth
American Spoon 230 E. Front Street Traverse City, MI @americanspoon
Traverse City Visitor’s Center 101 W. Grandview Parkway Traverse City, MI (clean bathrooms, super friendly volunteers, brochures and maps)