“What are you known for?” is easily one of the most common questions you’ll hear from a group of journalists in a restaurant. Who wants to eat something they can have anywhere when there’s all sorts of new things to try? Corned beef on potato pancakes, lobster stuffed lobster, Ecuadorian humitas and cherry pie so good it will make you weep with joy. These are just a few of the things we had on our cross Mitten trip in Michigan. Our group started in Detroit, then traveled west, hitting Ann Arbor, Lansing, and finally Grand Rapids.
If you thought Michigan was just cherries and apples, you’re about to be blown away by the options available when it comes to what to eat in Michigan. (But keep those cherries and apples around, you’re going to want pie when we’re done.)
Maccabee’s at Midtown – Detroit 1 of 8
Maccabee's at Midown was located in a really cool art deco building with spectacular ceilings and amazingly detailed facade. The designers of the restaurant did a spectacular job of keeping the interior of the restaurant looking true to the original period and the food was good, but heavy. We all found ourselves wishing we would have shared, their signature sandwiches are served on potato pancakes (which may have a lot to do with how filling the food was.) The house-made corned beef was delicious.
Find out more about Maccabee's at Midtown here.
The Whitney – Detroit 2 of 8
This was just about the fanciest old mansion I have ever been in. History dripped from every wall, including the brass lamps above the fireplace that had been installed by Thomas Edison himself. The food was extravagant (lobster stuffed lobster, anyone?). It certainly wasn't a place to bring children, but it was an amazing experience. From the panic room located at the head of our table to the mural of murderous toddlers, this is one restaurant you will never find anywhere else.
Be sure to get the tour from Tony and have him make you a cocktail. He's kind of a big deal.
Find out more about The Whitney here. (P.S. It's haunted!)
Lena – Ann Arbor 3 of 8
This won out as most everyone's favorite restaurant by the end of the trip. The food was fresh, flavorful, and different from every other restaurant I've been to. Chef Gabriel took traditional recipes from South America that many Americans are completely unaware of and made them not only beautiful, but delicious. I wasn't sure of what I was eating half the time (they just kept bringing food!), but I can tell you it was all good.
When you go, the Ecuadorian humitas (pictured bottom right), the agua fresca, and Spanish yapingacho are all musts.
Find out more about Lena here.
Frida Batidos – Ann Arbor 4 of 8
After filling up on all sorts of South American foods, we headed around the corner to Frida Baditos, a little place that specializes in Cuban street food. We went straight for dessert here, trying all of their batidos, or Cuban milkshakes, and churros. They were all delicious, but let's just have a moment of silence for the coconut batido. I had two. You can add rum, but really there's no sense as you'll be drunk on pure happiness alone.
Find out more about Frida Batidos here.
Red Haven – Lansing 5 of 8
I LOVED the idea behind this restaurant born of a food truck - the idea is farm to table, with most everything coming from less than 45 miles away. The ambiance was lovely, the staff were great, but the food was — well. It wasn't my favorite. I got over it because we were supporting local farmers, but there wasn't really anything I'd go back for. (Sorry.) The menu was vague, leading people to (hopefully) try things they wouldn't otherwise try.
Find out more about Red Haven here.
The Green Well -Grand Rapids 6 of 8
The Green Well is one of those restaurants you wish were in your neighborhood. The food is fresh and comforting (also a farm to table philosophy) and their mac-and-cheese could probably solve many of the world's emotional problems. The restaurant doubles as a local art gallery with its own server/curator. Eat here. You won't be sad.
Find out more about The Green Well here.
Reserve – Grand Rapids 7 of 8
This restaurant was right across the street from our hotel and specialized in sort of modern French cuisine with a specialty in charcuterie and wine. (I am happy to report that the smell of various strong and stinky cheeses greets you almost immediately). It would be a great place to go for just meat, cheese, and wine without dedicating to an entire dinner. (Dinner was still delicious though).
Find out more about Reserve here.
Sweetie-licious Pies – Grand Rapids 8 of 8
This was our last official stop, the brand spanking new Downtown Market in Grand Rapids. While the market was full of a dozen local places to get delicious food, this pie. THIS PIE. It is even better tasting than it looks. I really could have just eaten pie the whole entire trip and been happy (possibly diabetic as well, but happy).
The pies originally hail from DeWitt, Michigan and once the owner, Linda, realized how many people were driving to get her pies, she decided to open a shop a little closer to more people.
I'm not even a pie person.
Find out more about Sweetie-licious pies here.
Find more of Casey’s writing on her blog moosh in indy or her Babble Voices site Shutterlovely. She’s also available on twitter, facebook, flickr and Instagram. If you can’t find her any of those places? Check the couch, she’s probably taking a nap.