unique local traverse city restaurants

24 Best Unique Local Restaurants in Traverse City

Traverse City, Michigan, has developed a reputation for being a foodie town. Eating is one of the best things to do in Traverse City, as it’s full of great family-friendly 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.

Enjoy the best breakfast in Traverse City at Grand Traverse Pie Company
photo via Grand Traverse Pie Company

Best Local Restaurants in Traverse City That Are Great for Families

If you’re wondering where to eat in Traverse City with kids, here are the best family-friendly Traverse City restaurants…

Spanglish

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.

Slabtown Burgers

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.

Bubba’s

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.

Unique Local Traverse City Restaurant: Scalawags Whitefish
Scalawags Whitefish // photo credit

Best Local Pizza Restaurants in Traverse City

Want to grab a pizza in Traverse City? Here are some of our favorite local Traverse City restaurants that feature pizza on their menus…

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.

Paesano’s Pizza

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.

Pangea’s Pizza

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.

Unique Local Traverse City Restaurant: The Filling Station Microbrewery
The Filling Station Microbrewery // photo credit

Best Traverse City Restaurants for Fine Dining

If you’re looking for a fine dining restaurant in Traverse City, we recommend trying one of these for amazing Traverse City food and drinks…

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.

Trattoria Stella

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.

Red Ginger

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.

Boathouse Restaurant

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.

Unique Local Traverse City Restaurant: The Cooks' House
The Cooks’ House // photo credit

Best Restaurants in Traverse City for Ice Cream & Desserts

If you’re looking to feed your sweet tooth, these Traverse City ice cream shops and restaurants are sure to fill your appetite…

Moomers Homemade Ice Cream

Scooping more than 160 flavors, Moomers Homemade Ice Cream shop in Traverse City 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.

Sweet Tartlette

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.

Unique Local Traverse City Restaurant: Moomers Ice Cream
Moomers Ice Cream // photo credit

Best Traverse City Wineries & Breweries With Great Food

There are some amazing Traverse City wineries and breweries in Traverse City that serve more than drinks. Here are some of our favorite wineries & breweries to grab delicious Traverse City 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.

Chateau Chantal

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.

Unique Local Traverse City Restaurant: Rare Bird Brewpub
Rare Bird Brewpub // photo credit

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.

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2 Comments

  1. Millie & Pepper, an extraordinary creperie in downtown Traverse City, should absolutely be on your restaurant list. It is a hidden gem with food that is unforgettable and adictive.

    1. We will have to try it out our next time in town. Thanks for the recommendation, Matt!

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