Slabtown Cafe & Burgers in Traverse City offers indoor and outdoor seating along with a delicious variety of burgers and more. Available and hours are Monday-Saturday, 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. The outdoor patio is a lovely place to enjoy one of Slabtown’s famous malts or a soda from the local Northwoods Soda Company.
Not many residents of Traverse City may know how this town got its name. In the 1800’s, French Traders called Traverse City “La Grande Traverse” due to the long crossing they had to make across the bay by canoe. Walking into Slabtown Cafe & Burgers, I was expecting merely a wonderful hamburger experience. Instead, I stumbled upon this lovely bit of history along with much more.
Located on Front Street, near The Grand Traverse Commons, this part of town was once home to lumber mill workers. These workers would use “slabs” of extra lumber from the mills to put their homes together. Decorated throughout Slabtown Cafe are photographs of former Slabtown residents and what their homes looked like. Many of these photos were donated from Traverse City’s Historical Society. There are also fascinating photos of Traverse City with tidbits of historical information portraying how life in this town used to be. For example, in 1897, the speed limit for horses was 8 mph on Front Street, but could go a swift 12 mph on Union Street. Accompanying these facts from Traverse City’s history, there are photographs of places such as Munson Medical Center (known then as Munson Hospital) in 1946 and old pictures of various marinas along the bay.
When opening in 2009, Jeff Pownall (the owner of Slabtown Cafe) was as nervous as any new business owner would be. However, nerves proved to be unnecessary: “We went through 700 pounds of beef and 1,000 pounds of potatoes in six days,” he reports. Not only is this restaurant famous for its ginormous menu of hamburgers and thick french fries, but it also has an abundance of other items for enjoyment. Hotdogs, wraps, and other sandwiches are an option if you get tired of all 16 of their hamburgers. There is even a veggie black-bean burger for the vegetarians out there. Soups, salads, and onion rings are also available as add ons along with the freshly cut fries.
Frequent customers comment that the Big Blue Burger is “one of the best, greasy hamburgers in Michigan.” The mark of any good hamburger restaurant is the grease factor, as surely everyone knows. On my visit there, I had gotten my hamburger to-go, and indeed, the grease had leaked through the bag onto my car seat by the time I got home. Two thumbs up.
~Jennifer Hamilton, feature writer