Michigan: Ann Arbor, Traverse City and the Upper Peninsula

Following our stay in Pittsburgh (you can read about it here) , we woke up early and got on the road heading towards Ann Arbor. Along the way, we decided to make a stop at an old favorite, Tony Packo’s Cafe in Toledo.

Tony Packo’s is a unique spot that highlights the simple (yet delicious) hot dog. The specialty of the house is the Hungarian dog (topped with mustard, onions and special hot dog sauce) as well as Chicken Paprikash. We arrived just as they opened their doors, but they weren’t too surprised that we wanted to grab a breakfast dog. Aside from the Hungarian specialties, Tony Packo’s has what must be the world’s largest collection of autographed Hot Dog buns. They don’t play favorites with political parties- proudly displaying the Obama/Biden buns right next to Trump/Pences’.

While I didn’t indulge, I can attest that the food smelled pretty terrific. My husband’s opinion? Make a detour if you are in the vicinity.

Continuing on to Ann Arbor, we knew our first stop had to be Zingerman’s. There is no question that the folks at Zingerman’s are marketing geniuses. When you peruse their catalog, their descriptions literally make your mouth water. When we asked for restaurant suggestions in Ann Arbor, no exaggeration, everyone said we had to give the famous deli a try. There is currently a complicated ordering system in place due to Covid- minimizing contact with others. You order online and then get on line to pick up your food. After navigating all of this, we found ourselves a spot in the corner of the tented area to enjoy our meal.

I decided to order a Greek Salad along with a house made gluten free brownie. My husband on the other hand went with #27, Pat & Dick’s Honeymooner which consisted of smoked turkey, melted muenster cheese and spicy honey mustard on house made Challah bread. Perhaps because I am a New Yorker and used to superb deli, or maybe because our expectations were set so high, we were left scratching our heads after our meal. Not only was the food was mediocre (at best) but it was ridiculously expensive. Some may say we ordered the wrong thing, but this was a Disney-fied version of Deli. The descriptions sounded great, but there was no substance behind the fluff.

If it were up to us, we would advise- skip it.

Next stop on our agenda was the University of Michigan Campus. Although we have friends and family who are proud Alumni, neither of us had ever had the opportunity to visit before. The setting is spectacular, I can only imagine how bustling it must be when school is in session.

Following our tour of campus we checked in to our hotel, The Residence Inn Downtown. The location wasn’t too bad, it was in the former Bus Station, but it was so unremarkable I forgot to take any photos. The parking was a couple of blocks away, and there was no valet, which was a bit irksome. We did have a large corner suite, so our dog was happy… but thats about it.

We walked all around the town and got a good sense for it. The students are so fortunate that there are so many food options and diversions in such close proximity to Campus. We opted to go the Asian (Korean in this case) route once again for dinner, and ordered take out from Tomukun. We walked back to campus with our food and had a picnic.

My husband loved the Korean Wings which were incredibly crunchy and the Dweji Bulgogi (Pork). We also got some Spring Rolls with Tofu as well as Dolsot Bibimbop (Tofu). The food was very very good, and the portions were huge! We barely made a dent in our dinner after our full day of eating, so we donated our leftovers to a fellow we met on the way home who was clearly down on his luck. Ann Arbor has a pretty large share of homeless in town which is upsetting.

The breakfast at The Residence Inn wasn’t too tempting, so we drove out of Ann Arbor to the lovely town of Brighton where we had heard that the Brighton Coffeehouse and Theater had terrific coffee and pastries. This spot did not disappoint. The coffee was hot and strong, and best of all they had amazing gluten free raspberry chocolate chip muffins. A worthwhile stop! We continued on our way towards Traverse City, which we were very excited about.

Before we drove into Traverse City itself, we made a detour to Farm Club, 7 miles outside of town. Many seem to arrive here by bike, which seems like a fun way to work up one’s appetite. Part brewery, part farmstand, and part restaurant, Farm Club is absolutely worth a detour. There were tables set up outside, but it was pretty full so we decided to get our food to go. My husband had the Field Pesto Pasta with sausage, garlic and pecorino, while I had house-made grits with marinated eggplant and zucchini. This meal was outstanding! Our lunch was just perfect. If you are in the area- go!

Traverse City, a gorgeous enclave on Lake Michigan is a really popular summer destination, as witnessed by the crowds and traffic. When we did our research, we were excited to see that there was a new luxury hotel in TC, one we were familiar with from our hometown of Southport, CT., The Delamar . The Delamar Hotel group is a small chain of high-end hotels based in Connecticut. While the location of the Traverse City Delamar is excellent, the facility itself is a recently repurposed Holiday Inn, and it still has some renovations to be completed before this hotel can really be considered a luxury resort. I am sure if we return in a year or two, the management will have a great property on their hands.

We spent several hours exploring Traverse City, and we can see why it is such a popular destination, it is such a charming town.

During our exploration of town, we discovered a gathering of Food Trucks called The Little Fleet. The Trucks formed a circle around a small dining area which was mobbed all afternoon into the evening. We knew it had to be good, and it didn’t disappoint. The Bao and Brussels Sprouts from Good on Wheels were fantastic, and the Deconstructed Veggie Burrito and Smoked and Potato and Cheese Taco may have been one of my best meals of the trip.

We dined at a picnic table on the grounds of the Delamar overlooking Lake Michigan while the sun was setting, which was pretty magical.

The following day we scouted out another great coffee spot, Cuppa Joe and continued North on our way to Wisconsin. We were headed to the top of Lake Michigan, the Upper Peninsula, and then on to Green Bay. There was the option of the Ferry across the lake, but we had heard the drive up and over the lake was not to be missed.

On the way out of town we passed Wienerlicious, a spot that looked like it was sure to be a winner, but alas, it was not yet open. We later learned that it has been a Hot Dog haven since 1916, we will have to plan another visit!

Our day of eating revolved around Gustafson’s , famous for their smoked freshly caught lake fish. Located in the back of a gas station, people come from far and wide to enjoy this delicacy. The smokers were going in full force when we arrived, and we decided on some smoked whitefish as well as some smoked lake trout. The fish were delicately smokey, and tasty beyond words. Our dog was the lucky recipient if the fish head, so we were all happy. Gustafson’s has been a destination since 1978, and we could see why. Absolutely worth a stop!

There were some other treats we couldn’t resist for the ride- Cheese Curds and a chocolate coated Fudge Pastie. We were happy and satiated until we reached Green Bay!

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