Pocket Full o’ Funk: Top 10 Joints in Old Town Saginaw #MittenTrip

Pocket Full o’ Funk: Top 10 Joints in Old Town Saginaw #MittenTrip

We all know that some of our favorite Michigan cities have little areas that are private cities unto themselves. Microcosms where the art scene thrives and hipsters roll strong. Detroit has, among several, Midtown. Plymouth has Old Village. Grand Rapids has Eastown. And Saginaw, friends… Saginaw has Old Town.

If, like me, you tend to gravitate toward these places, you know almost immediately when you’ve entered Old Town, despite never having been there before. Along with the stunning graffiti and funky-colored buildings, there is a vibe that rushes at you; one that says, “We may be little, but we’re loud. Don’t count us out.” While downtown is still bustling in its own way, vacant spaces and austere conditions hint at hard times. Old Town, however, is nearly bursting with life. While there are vacancies, there are just as many signs letting you know of one more [insert awesome business here] “coming soon.”

Street Art in Old Town Saginaw - #MittenTrip
Alleyway street art in Old Town Saginaw. Photo by Cassie Lovall

In the few blocks between Michigan Avenue and N. Hamilton Street, there is enough to keep anyone occupied for an entire day. After spending a weekend scoping out the scene and talking to the locals, here are my top ten recommendations:

Food
1. Fralia’s cafe/restaurant – Order the #9 sandwich, “The Mozzarella,” and thank me later
2. Pasong’s Asian cuisine – I didn’t get a chance to go, but it was heavily recommended by an Old Town employee, and the smells alone confirmed the insight
3. Jake’s Old City Grill – Fantastic pasta; good portions; amazing orange creamsicle cheesecake!

Old Town Saginaw - The Awesome Mitten - #MittenTrip
Orange creamsicle cheesecake at Jake’s Old City Grill. Photo by Cassie Lovall

Microbrews
1. Mac’s Bar – Huge selection of Michigan taps
2. Hamilton Street Pub – Again, highly recommended by locals; great beer, food, and live music!
3. Oracle Brewing Company – Slated to open by late summer/early fall

Coffee/Specialty Drinks
1. Red Eye Coffeehouse – Great drinks, glass-bottled Faygo, killer atmosphere
2. One Love Smoothie & Juice Bar – Brand new and already beloved by the townies

Shopping/Entertainment
1. Little House and Adomaitis Antiques – Great local trinkets, low prices, friendly and quirky staff
2. Lawn Chair Film Festival – Seasonal Sunday night films projected onto the side of a building two doors down from Red Eye. A local favorite!

Old Town Saginaw - The Awesome Mitten - #MittenTrip
Lawn Chair Film Festival Site in Old Town. Photo by Cassie Lovall

These are the lucky few that caught my eye, but there are plenty of others to check out, including an upcoming craft distillery that’s all the buzz, and a quaint old fashioned drug store/ice cream parlor!

Street Art in Saginaw - #MittenTrip - Saginaw - The Awesome Mitten
Functional Street Art! Folks are dedicated to making the city a place people want to be. Photo by Cassie Lovall.

The best part is that, while some hipster hotspots can feel exclusive and isolating, Old Town doesn’t even come close to that. It’s remarkably easy to slip in unnoticed by the tattooed locals and just…enjoy the scene (and that street art, for cryin’ out loud!). Old Town has it all. What’s more, people don’t tend to come to cities just to see these little pockets of fun(k) – but rather stumble into them unwittingly – so it’s relatively quiet too, making it that much easier to feel relaxed and at home.

Saginaw’s Old Town is filled to the brim with folks engaged in a heartfelt effort to make the city a place people want to be, and I applaud them for their efforts. I can’t wait to go back for round two!

Have a favorite spot in Old Town Saginaw? Tell us about it!

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Like many Michiganders, I have found myself continually drawn back to our great state after various explorations elsewhere (Virginia for graduate school, offshore Rhode Island for work). I just can't seem to stay away from all the awesome that the mitten has to offer. I am a proud Michigan State Spartan (Go Green!), and a nerd, plain and simple. I'm trained as a marine biologist, and have a soft spot for invertebrates (pun intended?). I love to read, bake, laugh, read, do yoga, camp, drink craft beer, and read. I'm happiest exploring the outdoors - especially the coasts of our Great Lakes! Come outside with me.