Traverse City had a breakout year in terms of culinary diversity. From Mexican street food to Lebanese cuisine, and everything in between, the newest kids on the block are contributing to an already exciting food and drink scene.
We recently explored six new destinations in Traverse City we think you should try. Check them out, then let us know what you think.
Olives & Wine Craft House
Wine and Lebanese cuisine? Yes, please.
Olives & Wine at 201 E. Front Street is our version of an adult playground. Self-serve wine machines featuring over 50 hand-selected wines, craft cocktails, and authentic Lebanese cuisine with a local flare had us swooning from the start. While the concept may seem a bit foreign to the area, owner Ari Mokdad pulls it off gracefully.
Upon entering Olives & Wine, you have the option to load a pre-paid card at the self-serve wine machines lining the wall. If wine isn’t your thing, explore a solid list of craft cocktails, including a whimsical cocktail made with beets, aptly titled I Eat Beets.
To pair with your beverage of choice, Olives & Wine offers a modern take on Lebanese cuisine. The Curried Butternut Squash with Hummus, one of the specials the evening we were there, was easily our favorite dish during our entire Traverse City trip. The baked Kibbe was phenomenal, too. The menu is in a constant state of change, so there will likely be something new for you to explore during your visit.
Chatting with Ari and Chef Jessica Korson was the icing on the cake. It always warms our hearts when owners are so welcoming and all around awesome. The passion for creating memorable food, drinks, and experiences was evident, which is why Olives & Wine is one of our favorite restaurants of 2016.
Take yourself out back for a beer and slider lashing.
Situated outdoors behind the Blue Tractor on Union Street, The Shed is a beer garden with craft brews on tap and sliders to satisfy your appetite. Designed with socializing in mind, picnic tables line the premises for patrons to gather over a few pints. Live entertainment, cornhole, and theme parties add to the communal vibe.
It’s easy to work up and appetite drinking beer and having a good time, so a variety of sliders are available for snacking. Beef Brisket, Buffalo Chicken, and Marinated Mushroom are only a few of the sliders on the menu.
The Shed is closed for the 2016 season, so be sure to check them out when they re-open in 2017.
In a castle not so far away…
You don’t have to travel to a far off land to enjoy a glass of wine in a castle, you just need to visit Mari Vineyards on Traverse City’s Old Mission Peninsula. Okay, so it’s not actually a castle, but it will remind you of one. The views are worthy of royalty to boot.
We really enjoyed Mari’s Rosé and we’ve heard good things about their other offerings. Old Mission Peninsula is home to a powerhouse of wineries; Mari Vineyards fits right in.
It’s taco time in Traverse City!
Legitimately delicious tacos in Traverse City? You better believe it.
Named after the grandmother of Co-Owner and Executive Chef John Larson, Mama Lu’s adds some flavor to downtown Traverse City with tantalizing tacos and street food like their signature Elote street corn. Tacos like Panza (pork belly), Al Pastor, and Pescado (fish) pair with beautifully crafted cocktails and margaritas. There’s even a Champagne Margarita featuring Sex, a sparkling rosé from M. Lawrence.
To say the dining space at Mama Lu’s was intimate would be an understatement. You’ll probably find yourself waiting for a table if you visit during dinner time, so plan accordingly. It will be worth the wait.
West End Tavern
Views of West Grand Traverse Bay with food to match.
When we reviewed the Apache Trout Grill early in 2016, we were excited to learn of the anticipated West End Tavern one mile up the road. Since opening, the restaurant has garnered mixed reviews, but we were blown away during our experience.
For starters, West End Tavern offers stunning views of the water whether you’re dining indoors or on the outdoor deck. To pair with your Pure Michigan view, you’ll find scratch-made cuisine ranging from pizzas and homemade soups to grilled steaks and fish.
You may have noticed that we love a good fish sandwich. The Walleye Sandwich was one of the best we’ve ever had, complete with Dijon mayo, dill coleslaw, and pickles. The accompanying fries were cut in-house and perfectly crisp. Make sure to get their signature dipping sauce for an exceptional fry experience.
The Cream of Chicken En Croute and Grilled Shrimp Skewers were wonderful, too. We cannot wait to explore more of West End Tavern’s menu when we return.
This isn’t the ramen you ate in college.
Adding to the dining diversity on Traverse City’s Front Street, Gaijin serves Japanese comfort food for lunch and dinner. Founded by Simon Joseph, owner of the popular Harvest restaurant, Gaijin hangs their hat on serving bowls of Ramen for locals and tourists alike.
During our visit to Gaijin, we went with the Duck Shoyu (duck broth, chashu, soy egg, green onion) and Tonkotsu (pork bone broth, miso, chashu, soy egg, bean sprouts) bowls. The warm noodles and broth hit the spot on a crisp Fall day. The pork belly (chashu) in both bowls was some of the best we’ve ever had.
Ramen isn’t the only thing you’ll find on Gaijin’s menu. Rice Bowls, Bao Buns, Gyoza (potstickers) and more can be enjoyed. Check them out for a taste of the East in the Midwest.