Traverse City, Michigan, has developed a reputation for being a foodie town. It’s full of great family and fine dining restaurants, pizzerias, ice cream shops, and wineries and breweries. Among the many dining options are at least two dozen unique local restaurants in Traverse City that deserve your attention.
Best Local Restaurants in Traverse City That Are Great for Families
Serving authentic Mexican dishes, Spanglish at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons is a fun casual restaurant for families. Its tacos have been voted the best around, and it touts being the only certified green restaurant in Northern Michigan. Using locally sourced ingredients, Spanglish makes quesadillas, tostadas, burritos, and more.
If you’re looking for the best burgers and fries at an affordable price, stop by Slabtown Burgers. It’s located at the corner of Spruce Street and West Front Street with a casual family atmosphere and indoor and outdoor seating. The burger joint makes fresh beef patties and fries every day. Slabtown also serves soups, salads, wraps, hot dogs, and sandwiches. Vegetarian, gluten-free, and low-carb options are available as well.
Sleder’s Family Tavern
Known for its old-fashioned and rustic interior featuring taxidermy, Sleder’s Family Tavern is located in one of the oldest saloons in Michigan. Established in 1882 in historic Slabtown, it offers a casual dining experience for families. The menu is extensive with fish, steak, burgers, Mexican dishes, fresh fries, and other sides. Before you leave, you can kiss the moose, Randolph.
J&S Hamburg Downtown
It doesn’t look like much on the outside, but J&S Hamburg Downtown is a wonderful family-friendly, old-school diner with nostalgic food. Since 1938, it’s been serving flat-top burgers, Reubens, chili, soups, hand-cranked shakes, homemade cakes, and more. The restaurant even serves breakfast items, including pancakes, French toast, biscuits and gravy, and omelets. If you want, enjoy your meal on the covered and heated patio.
Cousin Jenny’s Cornish Pasties
Because it’s a secret fan favorite, Cousin Jenny’s Cornish Pasties is one of the most underrated Traverse City restaurants. Founded in 1979, the family eatery specializes in making authentic Cornish pasties from scratch each morning. There is a variety of filling options, and the ingredients are never frozen. You can order soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and breakfast Bobbies too.
Scalawags Whitefish & Chips
When you and the kids are in the mood for fish and chips, there’s no better place than Scalawags Whitefish & Chips. All of the fish is freshly fileted with the owner’s special technique that removes the gamy taste. A variety of sandwiches, soups, and salads are included on the menu also.
Located on East Front Street since 2000, Bubba’s is another great joint for battered fish and chips. However, it’s known in Traverse City for grilling the best burgers in Northern Michigan. Using local ingredients, the restaurant makes salads, fried mac and cheese bites, tacos, and chimis as well as serves breakfast every day. After 4 p.m. on Mondays, children eat for half price.
Best Local Pizza Restaurants in Traverse City
The Filling Station Microbrewery
Just off the Traverse Area Recreation Trail, The Filling Station Microbrewery is one of the best restaurants for pizza. The family-owned business is located in a revitalized vintage train depot. The casual pub-style joint always has at least 10 craft beers that pair well with its menu of fresh salads and wood-fired flatbread pizzas. You can enjoy your meal and drink inside or on the patio.
With a laid-back atmosphere, Paesano’s Pizza strives to make the best pies in Traverse City. To that end, it makes the pizza dough from scratch and only uses the freshest ingredients possible. The gourmet twist turns out cheesy and bursting with flavor. The restaurant serves standard and deep-dish pizzas as well as breadsticks, salads, and sub sandwiches.
On East Front Street, Pangea’s Pizza is an artisan pizzeria that serves craft pies with creative toppings. It’s been using fresh ingredients and housemade pizza dough since 2006. The menu includes appetizers, salads, craft cocktails, wine, and beer too. For a panoramic view of downtown and Grand Traverse Bay, sit on its two-tier rooftop deck, which has a full bar.
Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery
At The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, you’ll find the first artisan bakery in Northern Michigan: Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery. This rustic restaurant has been making incredible wood-fired pizzas for more than 20 years. It serves fresh-baked breads, pastries, and cookies also. The special leavening technique that it uses makes the breads more nutritional and easier to digest.
Best Traverse City Restaurants for Fine Dining
PepeNero & Ballaro Wine Lounge
On the first floor of Kirkbride Hall at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, PepeNero & Ballaro Wine Lounge offers everything Italian. The restaurant side has a modern elegant atmosphere and serves authentic southern Italian dishes. The lounge side has a stylish, upscale atmosphere and serves Italian tapas or small plates. No matter which side you dine in, you can order from a wonderful selection of Old World wines and fine whiskeys and scotches.
Open since 2004, Trattoria Stella at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons is run by Executive Chef Myles Anton, who has been a semifinalist of the James Beard Award five times. With such brilliance in the kitchen, you don’t want to miss his daily changing menu of housemade pasta, breads, desserts, and more. He focuses on using sustainable, local ingredients in all of his dishes. On top of that, the restaurant has an innovative wine selection from Italy, the Leelanau Peninsula, and Old Mission.
If you’re in the mood for the exotic flavors of Asia, we highly recommend Red Ginger on East Front Street in downtown Traverse City. Executive Chef Dan Marsh and wife Pam opened the upscale restaurant in 2007 to celebrate the allure and excitement of Asian cuisine. Using locally sourced ingredients, they serve fusion dishes, small plates, and sushi. It’s a great spot for sipping signature cocktails as well.
The Cooks’ House
In an underrated space near downtown, The Cooks’ House is a small restaurant that celebrates Northern Michigan agriculture and artisan foods. The interior features modern paintings from local artists, and the tables are prepared with quality crystal and white linens. The menu consists of simple and complex dishes using seasonal ingredients.
For some of the best seafood in Traverse Bay, get a table at Boathouse Restaurant. The cottage decor pairs well with the views of the docks and Grand Traverse Bay from every seat. Aside from seafood, the menu includes steak and lamb with fresh vegetables. The restaurant serves Sunday brunch and cocktails by the fireplace too.
Best Restaurants in Traverse City for Ice Cream & Desserts
Moomers Homemade Ice Cream
Scooping more than 160 flavors, Moomers Homemade Ice Cream gives fresh ice cream a whole new meaning. The shop is located on a family-operated dairy farm and serves traditional scoops in cones and more. At least 20 flavors are available every day, and the family can make any flavor of any menu item. You can even order ice cream cakes for special occasions.
Grand Traverse Pie Company
Anyone with a sweet tooth will think that Grand Traverse Pie Company is a paradise, and it’s the perfect stop for dessert. The first shop opened in 1996 on West Front Street. Then, the company opened a second location downtown on North Park Street. The cafe serves a classic menu of breakfast items, sandwiches, soups, salads, and potpies. However, the main attraction is the assortment of pies, cookies, brownies, muffins, turnovers, cakes, and much more.
Milk & Honey
Similarly, Milk & Honey is one of the great Traverse City restaurants to visit, but the dessert items are most popular. The cafe serves freshly made deli sandwiches and salads, and it has an awesome coffee bar. The ice cream, though, is made fresh in the creamery, and sugar-free and vegan flavors are available. You can even order any flavor that you want.
Following the dream of Head Chef Sarah Steele, Sweet Tartlette in downtown Traverse City offers a wide array of tasty treats. The confections range from caramels to truffles, and the cookies range from the traditional to French macarons. There are plenty of tarts, pastries, and cakes on the menu as well.
Best Traverse City Wineries & Breweries With Great Food
Left Foot Charley
Rooted in Northern Michigan, Left Foot Charley at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons is more than just a single vineyard and winery. It’s a collection of vineyards from all around, taking advantage of the diverse soil and microclimates in the area. As a result, it might have the largest selection of cider and wine in Traverse City. You can try samples of this collection in the tasting room. During events, you can enjoy wine and food pairings with live music.
Offering a unique experience, Chateau Chantal combines the vineyard and winery experience with that of a bed-and-breakfast. The surrounding landscape features beaches, trails, and breathtaking views. It offers cellar and VIP tours, various wine-tasting opportunities, and wine dinners. The wine dinners include a multicourse meal with fresh ingredients. In August, you can enjoy a free evening of jazz at sunset.
The Workshop Brewing Company
Brewing fine craft beers, The Workshop Brewing Company is another underrated restaurant in Traverse City. Its mission is to “sustain nature, build community, and honor craft.” On this menu, you’ll find traditional beers and delicious sandwiches and soups made with locally sourced ingredients. Also, there’s live entertainment almost every day.
Rare Bird Brewpub
Located in a restored red brick building in downtown Traverse City, Rare Bird Brewpub makes its own beers and serves others from Michigan and other parts of the world. Cider, wine, and spirits are available too. With a mission to offer an unparalleled dining and drinking experience, the food menu features burgers, sandwiches, salads, soups, and tacos. There are even gluten-free and vegan options.
Explore More of Traverse City
Clearly, Traverse City restaurants are a dream come true for foodies. Check our list of the best places to get breakfast in Traverse City and then learn about all the unique things to do in Traverse City. You’ll find free and cheap things to do with kids in Traverse City and more, including a list of the best Traverse City vineyards and wineries.