What Michigan city features a Michigan-themed bar, an upscale bistro featuring French and Japanese fusion, and a popular brewery with a stunning outdoor deck?
If you guessed Traverse City, Saugatuck, or somewhere in Southeast Michigan, you’d be mistaken. You may be surprised to find out that these popular dining and drinking destinations are all available in Ludington, Michigan.
Nestled on the shore of majestic Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Pere Marquette River sits Ludington. Over the last few years, it has caught the attention of visitors for more than its world-class beaches. Located less than two hours away from Grand Rapids, unique bars and restaurants are adding to the appeal of this small harbor town.
We have enjoyed trips to numerous spots along the lakeshore like Holland, Grand Haven, Muskegon, Pentwater, and Manistee. Ludington was missing and, based on its up-and-coming food and drink scene and beautiful setting, it was an obvious destination for us to visit and write about.
Follow along as we spotlight some of our favorite spots in Ludington.
Jamesport Brewing Company
Being proud supporters of Michigan breweries, we were excited to visit Jamesport Brewing Company, Ludington’s only brewery.
Jamesport opened in March 2000 and has been brewing long before the craft beer trend of today. Jamesport’s motto, “Helping Michigan’s economy, one beer at a time,” seems fitting for a brewpub that’s been a cornerstone of the Ludington community for so long.
Just a short walk south on James Street from downtown Ludington’s main strip, Jamesport features an expansive taproom with plenty of bar seating, plus additional dining room seating and a beautiful outdoor deck. To get the full experience, we opted to belly-up to the bar for a few pints and some grub.
The Carr Creek IPA, featuring hops from Mason County, was well-balanced and delightfully hoppy. At 6.4% ABV, it was very drinkable and refreshing. We also tried the JBC IPA, a brewery staple that was a delight for IPA hounds like us.
While we gravitate towards IPAs, Jamesport Brewing Company also brews a Hefeweizen, Weizenbock, Brown Ale, Altbier, and Apricot Wheat to name a few.
As you might expect, the beer sampling made us work up quite an appetite. We opted for the perch dinner featuring fresh pieces of fish that were fried to perfection. The helping was generous, making it the perfect entrée to share.
Come here for: Good brews, outdoor deck seating, and casual dining with friends and family.
The Mitten Bar
The Mitten Bar sits in downtown Ludington and is connected to Barley & Rye and Sportsman’s Irish Pub. Regarded by Food & Wine Magazine as one of the best beer bars in the country, The Mitten Bar features beer brewed in Michigan only (sorry Bud Light fans).
If you’re a fan of Michigan beer, you’re in for a treat. During our visit, brews from Short’s, Founders, Perrin, Greenbush, New Holland, and Sietsema Orchards were on tap to name a few. We ordered pints of Founders All Day IPA, Sietsema Hopped Up Hard Cider, and Short’s Ale la Reverend.
If cocktails are more your speed, The Mitten Bar carries Michigan-made spirits from the likes of Ugly Dog Distillery, Valentine Distilling, Grand Traverse Distillery and more. Speaking of cocktails, the bar even uses Michigan’s own McClure’s pickles for their Bloody Marys. Talk about sticking to a theme!
Oh, and Michigan wine is available, too.
For a bar to be truly great, charm and ambience play a considerable role. Light fixtures made with growlers from Michigan breweries add an ambient glow to the bar’s surroundings. Tables made from empty barrels and Michigan-made artwork continue the theme throughout the establishment.
Although there are a few flat-screens for watching the latest sporting events, catching up with friends and neighbors is what The Mitten Bar is all about. During our visit, the bar served as a gathering point for folks to relax and enjoy each other’s company. There’s even a stage to enjoy live music from local acts and beyond.
Come here for: Meeting up with friends while enjoying Michigan beer, wine, and spirits.
Barley & Rye
Under the same ownership as The Mitten Bar, Barley & Rye features a healthy selection of whiskey as you might gather from the name. In addition to boasting the largest collection of whiskey and scotch in the area, the bar offers beer from lawnmower-class to world-class. Miller High Life? Check. Bell’s Two Hearted? Check.
Barley & Rye’s interior is tastefully done, featuring rich wood finishes and exposed beams. Ambiance-wise, it’s a step up from its counterpart.
A modest-sized bar anchors the space, while indoor table seating and a cozy Biergarten-style patio offer additional space for patrons to enjoy a drink or two. The flexibility to enjoy the outdoors on a nice day or sit inside and catch a Tiger’s game make Barley & Rye a great place to unwind.
While we split our time between sitting at the bar and on the patio, the outdoor seating was our favorite. A few cold brews accompanied us as we relaxed at a picnic table under the blue Northern Michigan sky.
Both Barley & Rye and The Mitten Bar offered a limited menu of Mexican-inspired fare if you need a bite to eat, although dining is not the focus of these establishments. While we didn’t sample the food, a patron sitting next to us ordered a burrito stuffed with fresh ingredients that looked absolutely delicious.
Come here for: Whiskey, a pint, and the outdoor patio.
Blu Moon Bistro
Anything but ordinary, the Blu Moon Bistro bills itself as a bistro featuring French and Japanese fusion cuisine, along with some darn good cocktails. While this concept isn’t exactly what you’d expect in Northern Michigan, it’s a unique addition to the area and has caught the attention from the likes of Under the Radar Michigan and others.
Because the weather was so nice, we had to take advantage of the Blu Moon’s rooftop deck. Featuring plenty of seating and a full bar, the deck was an excellent place to sip a drink, enjoy some eats, and relax.
While we didn’t stay for dinner service, we enjoyed an immensely delicious appetizer, the Ojibwa Smoked Whitefish Dip. Being fans of whitefish dip, we’ve tried it from many different restaurants during our adventures throughout the Michigan. Blu Moon’s is the best we’ve tasted, hands down. This delightful dip was served with house made corn tortilla chips, warm pita bread, and raw veggies.
On our next journey to Ludington, we’ll be sure to have a proper meal at Blu Moon. In the meantime, grab a beer or cocktail and give their menu a try for yourself.
Come here for: Rooftop seating, happy hour, unique eats, and drinks.
While lodging is not the focus of the Michigan Restaurants & Bars website, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our accommodations at the Summer’s Inn. The newly remodeled motel-style inn is located a mere three blocks from downtown Ludington, providing walkable access to the great food and drink destinations we’ve talked about in this story.
What sets the Summer’s Inn apart from a typical hotel are the friendly owners Keith and Suzette. Upon our arrival, we were greeted with smiles and given recommendations for what to do in Ludington based on our interests. Even during the booking process over the phone, Suzette was a pleasure to work with.
There were plenty of perks like a daily communal happy hour featuring Michigan wines for tasting. The complimentary made-to-order breakfast we were served the next morning was nothing short of amazing. The property also featured cozy cabanas and retreat areas for enjoying a drink, chatting with company, taking an afternoon snooze, or reading a good book.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Ludington, the Summer’s Inn gets our stamp of approval.
Come here for: Lodging with a friendly staff and great perks like happy hour wine tastings.
A Great Place to Explore
From its sandy beaches to its formidable dining and drinking options, Ludington is a great place to explore. We hope this spotlight inspires you to visit the places we’ve written about. To see all the city has to offer when planning your trip, we recommend visiting the Pure Ludington website.
Hopefully we’ll run into you on our next trip!