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Northern Michigan Vacations: For their size, the small villages scattered throughout Northern Michigan's Chain of Lakes Region boast an impressive array of eateries, accomplished chefs, and inventive menus. Fabulous to dine at any time of year, these places are exceptional during the summer with intimate outdoor seating and dishes full of fresh, local produce.
Seafood takes center stage here—oysters from both coasts, scallops, a wicked-good New England clam chowder—but there’s also pasta, pizza, steak and other sophisticated offerings. An excellent wine list and lovely outdoor patio make this place ideal for lingering over drinks on balmy summer evenings. 151 River St., Elk Rapids, 231.264.6062, sirenhall.com.
Read a MyNorth chat with Siren Hall's chef, Michael Peterson.
It’s no stretch to say that this intimate, award-winning, French-country-inspired establishment helped pioneer fine dining in Northwest Michigan. The Rowe was founded in the early 1970s with the mission to celebrate local foods—long before the “farm to table” ethos became a movement. French cooking techniques and traditions, a menu that shifts with the seasons, and a spotlight on Michigan’s rich culinary offerings make for an unforgettable—yet still Up North casual—dining experience. A must for foodies. 6303 East Jordan Rd., Ellsworth, 231.588.7351, roweinn.com.
The Lakeview at Shanty Creek
Spectacular sunset views over Lake Bellaire is the proverbial cherry on top to dining at this upscale-casual restaurant at Shanty Creek Resort. The dinner menu focuses on flights of small plates, but does offer larger-portioned “complete plates” (rib-eye, salmon, pasta)—always with an eye toward locally procured ingredients and regional craft brews. Award-winning desserts and a great selection of creative after-dinner drinks. 5780 Shanty Creek Rd, Bellaire, 231.533.8621, shantycreek.com.
If driving out there is not in the cards, try replicating their award-winning Mac & Cheese at home!
Culinary Institute of America graduate Chef Michael Peterson trained in Paris before returning to his native Northern Michigan and opening this hip bistro near the bridge in downtown Bellaire. Elegant, seasonally inspired menu; smart wine list with many regional offerings; seating on the brick patio for outdoor dining. 213N. Bridge St., Bellaire, 231.533.5252, lulusbistro.com.
Eclectic, Bayou-inspired Pearl’s celebrates the melting-pot flavors of Cajun-Creole cuisine: fried green tomatoes, jambalaya, blackened alligator, po’ boys, étoufée, crawfish and other authentic Southern specialties. In keeping with the laissez les bon temps rouler spirit, there’s also a great selection of festive cocktails—plus an entire menu devoted just to premium single-barrel and small-batch bourbons. 617 Ames St., Elk Rapids, 231.264.0530, magnumhospitality.com/pearls.
This seasonal cafe tucked alongside a wine shop feels like a sweet European bistro, with a simple chalkboard menu, patio for dining al fresco, and dishes inspired by the region’s bounty (local farm produce; seafood from nearby John Cross fisheries). The wine list is practically endless—in addition to those listed on the menu, every bottle in the retail cellar is available for purchase with your meal, regardless of price. Reservations recommended. 23853 US-31, Charlevoix, 231.237.9300, esperancewine.com.