Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Tall Ship Manitou

The Tall Ship Manitou is one of Traverse City's most unique dining and drinking experiences.
(After a way too long hiatus, one that consisted of still eating at and loving all of our area's awesome joints, I am back! Let's get this thing up and going again!)

One condition that any local of the Grand Traverse Region suffers from, whether they know if or not, is Proximitus Notus Waterus, also known as the "we're HOW FAR from a beach??" syndrome. 

You see, here in Traverse City, and throughout its surrounding towns and villages, one is always a short walk or drive from some glorious beach. When that TC local is removed from this area and plopped into the middle of, say, Iowa, the mind tends to be blown at how far away one can truly be from swimmable, open water.

See the Grand Traverse Region in a whole new way!

Knowing that, you'll understand the love that every local, and most visitors, to this area has for the lakes and rivers that run through our state. And, you know what they say! "When in Rome!"

Traverse City's West Bay is this ship's playground.

Well, you can't get much more Traverse City than drinking craft beer on a boat. But, the Tall Ship Company's Manitou is much more than just "a boat."

Tall Ship Manitou is a replica of an 1800’s “coasting” cargo schooner, similar to those that sailed the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean. Specifically designed for passenger service, her hull was constructed in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1983 and finished by Vermont carpenters on Lake Champlain. With a 59 passenger capacity, there is plenty of space for sitting and moving around the decks while under sail. Her overall length of 114 feet, beam of 21 feet, and displacement of nearly 100 tons ensures a comfortable, relaxing motion, soothing to both landlubbers and “old salts” alike.
Great for families! Kids get to steer!

This cruise through Traverse City's West Bay is fun and freeing! Do be warned that, while this ship is a pleasure boat, it is also one that can take on the bay's various moods, as I found out during our recent cruise when a mighty wind began to blow and we were soon keeling at a most impressive rate. This would be when the wind really catches the sails and pushes the ship along at an impress clip, whilst also causing it to lean at what could be an alarming angle to the not so seasoned.

The Manitou has many various options for the curious sailor when it comes to specialty cruises. Do you like live music with your craft beer? Well, the Manitou features "Entertainment Nights" every Wednesday evening through July and August, featuring Song of the Lakes, a grand and much loved local band whose music comes from this nautical life.

How about ice cream? Again, the Manitou has you covered with a Moomer's Ice Cream themed sail. Moomer's is America's favorite ice cream and is made right here in Traverse City!

How about wine? When you come to the Grand Traverse Region, you must try the wine! And Manitou has you covered there as well, with a Wine Tasting Cruise featuring Mediterranean cuisine provided by local favorite eatery Silver Swan.

Craft beer on the bay! No other way!

For our 2 hour cruise, we chose a simple pleasure cruise, a loop around Traverse City's West Bay. On this cruise, you were free to move about the ship and explore, kids could steer a bit, you could help the crew hoist the sails (a real workout, that! I loved it!), and more! Once cruising, the aboard bar kicked into service. Our cruise featured a beer from Petoskey Brewing Company, one from Bell's Brewery, and a cider from Starcut Ciders. Various small, packaged snacks were also available for purchase. The brews were inexpensive, $4-$5 for a good size pour, and for a couple of dollars more, you could snag a glass pint emblazoned with the Tall Ship Company's logo.

For the longer sails, and the bed and breakfast option, there's an amazing dining room and kitchen aboard.

Our cruise was amazing, there's nothing quite like kicking back on the deck of a schooner with a local beer in your hand, watching Traverse City, the Old Mission Peninsula, and Leelanau Peninsula pass by.

But, this particular ship offers one more option for cruising - the "bed and breakfast" sail. This sail consists of cruising around the bay, then securing at the dock for the overnight bit, where you'll sleep in one of the on board cabins (there's room for 20 guests!) or, weather permitting, you'll be able to sleep under the stars on the deck. 

Bright and open, despite being below decks.

In the morning, a fresh cup of coffee will be waiting, as will a full, scratch made breakfast from the ship's kitchen, which holds a massive wood burning stove. If I heard the captain right at the conclusion of our voyage, they also offer multi-day overnight stays up and down the coast.

A huge wood burning stove is ready to rock!

One does not get much closer to Traverse City perfection than this! Seeing TC from a whole new angle, one that many will never see because they just won't bother to climb on board. Do not be one of them! Get aboard this boat for a 2 hour cruise, or for a few nights. Great brews, views, and dining await!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Spanglish of Traverse City

Spanglish inhabits the former home of the Underground Cheesecake Company on the grounds of the Village at Grand Traverse Commons.

First and foremost, I apologize for the absence! I am back, traversing this wonderful area with my little family, eating outstanding food, taking pics and blogging about it here. My goal is 1-2 restaurants per month, so do continue to check back often!

Anyway! Onto the fun stuff. The above picture may be a bit familiar to those of you who have read through this blog a time or two. There's a very good reason for that. This building that now houses Spanglish once housed the Underground Cheesecake Company.  For those of you that love cheesecake, have no fear, the cheesecake brilliance is now located in the building directly behind this one. 

The interior is small, but, since takeout is an option, this won't matter at all!

Now that I've put your no-cheesecake-induced panic attack to rest, let's discuss this Spanglish, shall we? I've noticed that the blog on Osorio's continues to be the most read blog on my little site. Obviously, you folks enjoy authentic Central American fare. Well, here at Spanglish, you get just that!

The bean dip is the best in town!

A brilliant native chef and his equally brilliant wife have put together a little bit of Mexican heaven. right on the grounds of the Grand Traverse Commons here in Traverse City. Together with their team, they are putting out some of the very best Mexican food available in the region today!

Outstanding, simple creations flow from this Traverse City kitchen.

Their tag line is "A Fresh Tradition." And that is exactly what they are. Their offerings are simple and traditional. They know what they are good at and they produce that excellence daily. Since their opening, their small restaurant has become a hub for hungry locals and visitors alike. In fact, the one sure thing that I used in Central America to find excellent food can be seen here at Spanglish everyday. That thing is the line of folks who live in and work at the Grand Traverse Commons seeking their daily fix of Spanglish. When the true locals love it enough to stand in line, especially when there are so many other options available to them, you know that it has got to be good. 

And it is!

Spanglish is quickly becoming an institution within the Traverse City dining scene.

Let's talk about food!

To begin with, from 9-11AM, they serve an outstanding breakfast burrito, consisting of eggs, queso cheese, potatoes, salsa roja, sour cream and your choice of Michigan pork sausage or a veggie option, which includes onion, poblano, sweet corn and bell pepper. All for only $5.50.

Before we continue, you should know that all of their ingredients are locally sourced. Awesome.

Now, for $9 you can snag 3 tacos. These are corn tortillas topped with shredded cabbage, salsa verde, chopped onion, cilantro and feta cheese. You can choose roasted pork,, braised beef, grilled chicken or the veggie option.

If you're a burrito lover, check out the Big Daddy for $9. This thing really is BIG. It consists of refried beans, rice, salsa verde, shredded cabbage, onions, cilantro and feta with your choice of Carnitas roasted pork, barbacoa beef, chicken or veggie.

One of the most purchased items here are the Tamales. You can snag one for $3. The options here are Carnitas and Tomatillo - consisting of roasted pork with a tomatillo sauce, chicken and guajillo - consisting of chicken with a mild red chili sauce, Three Sisters - consisting of butternut squash, corn, beans, and red bell pepper, and the New World - consisting of zucchini, roasted tomatoes, potatoes, onions and pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds). These things rock!

They also offer Quesadillas and Tostadas, both very tasty! 

Sides offered include beans, rice, hot sauce, chips and salsa and more. The sides range in price from 50 cents to $5. Pretty decent pricing! In fact, nothing on the menu tops $9.

You can even take home some of their salsa or layered bean dip (one of my favorites!).

And, of course, they offer a bit of sweet as well. This is in the form of a Polvorone - an orange zest shortbread cookie for $1.50.

These cookies hit the spot for sure!

There really is nothing quite like an authentic experience, brought to you by folks who truly love their art! At Spanglish, you will find just that!

(All photos by Brooks Vanderbush)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Left Foot Charley

Left Foot Charley hosts a perfect summer patio.
Wine and beer. You'll find that Traverse City is chock full of amazing, local selections of both. The entirety of the Grand Traverse Region has become synonymous with excellent wines, beers and food, all sourced from local farms and farmers. Indeed, many of the regions wines and brews have become national and international sensations, taking gold medals at worldwide competitions.
In short, when you're in TC, you need to sample some of the drink as well as some of the food! A great place to start that sampling is Left Foot Charley, a thoroughly Traverse City winery that focuses on excellent vintage, yummy bites and the perfect atmosphere for those who love what Traverse City is all about.
And yes, we have returned, once again, to the fabulous Village at the Grand Traverse Commons (the old state hospital grounds).

Wine. It's their business!
Left Foot Charley inhabits the old laundry house on the state hospital grounds. They are one of the only tasting rooms within walking distance of downtown Traverse City, making them an incredibly popular stop. In fact, Northern Natural Cider House and Left Foot Charley are the only two bonafide tasting rooms in the downtown region. If you're looking for other tasting rooms, you need to hit the peninsulas.

Want to have a look in the back? Just ask! Perhaps they'll let you in!
I'm a huge fan of the wines served here. My current favorite is a lovely mix of Riesling and Gewurtztraminer - not too sweet, not too dry, juuuuuust right. I dig it for sure!
While their wine list does change with the seasons, some remain static, so, if you see a wine that you hope to try on the list of suggestions that I am about to provide, it may or may not be there when you visit. No worries though, you're certain to find something outstanding no matter your taste!

Row after row of bottles await your purchase at Left Foot Charley in Traverse City.
The wine! During my recent visit, I sampled quite a few of their vinos. Here are a few of my favorites:
The Pinot Gris - not light nor easily understood, a great sip and savor.
Murmur - This thing changes year to year, always fun, a yummy dry wine, perfect for almost any occasion.
Hard Apple Ciders - Yeah, these are becoming all the rage in the region and, when done correctly, they can be incredibly diverse and tasty. Give them a try here, see what you think!
Obviously, there are many more flavors to sample. One can spend an entire afternoon losing themselves in the various bottles available here.

Not feeling the patio? No worries, the atmosphere inside is equally swell.
The food! While Left Foot Charley is certainly not the place to go if you're hoping for a huge meal with your wine, they do serve up some very satisfying grub. This menu, as well, is often changing, so take the following suggestions as an example of what you will find at Left Foot Charley.
First off, every Thursday K2 Edibles takes over the kitchen and offers a different international flavor. For $15 you can snag a glass of wine or hard cider and sample some fine thing from across the globe. When I visited, they were featuring a Polish theme.
If that sort of thing really isn't your bag of chips, as they say, no worries, there are other ways to nosh here. Take, for example, the Ploughman's Lunch. This is Finocchiona and Chorizo with Boss Mouse Swiss, 18 month Beemster and Blue Cheese served with Pleasonton Bakery's Golden Wheat Bread, Mike's Mustard, seasonal chutney and McClure's Pickles. All this local goodness for $12.
Another fun selection would be the Fish and Chips. For only $5 you can score some smoked Whitefish pate and Kettle Chips served with McClure's Pickles.
There are a few other selections as well, and a few daily specials. These dishes usually run from $3-$13 each.

There's no pretentiousness attached to the wine here!
This wine lunch thing is a grand way to spend an afternoon in Traverse City. Left Foot Charley is the ideal spot for such a thing. It has served as meeting spot, after work kickback, first date (or 1,000th date) locale and more since it first began operating around 2004. During the summer time, there really is nothing better than a good glass of wine, a perfect patio and Oscar worthy conversation.....unless, of course, you're doing all that with a good glass of beer, for that is equally as good!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Green House Cafe

Green House Cafe in downtown Traverse City is where those in the know go for great breakfast and lunch fare.
Ahh, downtown Traverse City in the Spring! Thoughts turn to fresh, crisp fare that satisfies and energizes, am I right? Well, if you're downtown Traverse City, and on foot, that means that you're a bit too far from Centre Street Cafe to enjoy their amazing offerings. So, I'd suggest one of downtown's best breakfast and lunch spots - Green House Cafe!

DO NOT miss the muffins!
This place has long been a favorite of the downtown wanderer, the lunch hour rusher, the casual meeting....ers, basically everybody loves this joint!
Why do they love it? The answer to that is both simple and delicious! The food!

Whether you're seated inside or out on the sidewalk watching the world go by, the atmosphere is uniquely TC.
That's right, nothing more, nothing less. The food here is always outstanding, especially so if you're in the mood for a lunch or breakfast that will leave you completely satisfied, but still able to continue shopping, beaching, movie-going, etc. without that "good lord, I'm going to burst" feel.

Keep an eye on this board! Amazing things happen here.
Speaking of breakfast, let's dive right in, shall we?
We start with a section entitled simply "Basic Breakfast." But, as you'll soon discover, there's not too much Basic about Green House Cafe.
The Basic selections run from $4-$6. They include things like biscuits and sausage gravy, granola/fruit/yogurt, pancakes, French toast, etc. This section is perfect for the wayward traveller on a budget or the person with simple tastes.
We next see "Omelettes". These range in price from $8-$9. Some fun combinations can be had here. My favorite is the asparagus and Swiss omelette for $8. Yum!
We move onto the House Specialties next. These range from $8-$11. My preferred house specialty breakfast is the Eggs Neptune for $11. This would be poached eggs on top of two crab cakes smothered with hollandaise sauce, served with hash browns or fresh fruit. This hits me in the sweet spot every time!
After house specialties comes Sides, Kids and Beverages. The sides consist mostly of the usual suspects and the kids menu is affordable (ranging from $2-$5) and full of selection. 

Amazing things happen here as well!
Jumping into what is most likely their most popular reason for existing now - lunch.
Please note that house specials, features and the chalk board are constantly changing. This includes the homemade soup selections. However, their freaking amazing French onion soup is almost always available. For $8, you can take a trip to soup heaven!
Salads here are fresh and tasty, they range in price from $6-$11 and there are a few yummy options to take advantage of to kick your salad up a notch.
Burgers come next. These range in price from $8-$10. My favorite slab is the crab burger, described simply as "our homemade recipe." Delish!
After burgers comes sandwiches. This is the menu that I usually utilize when I visit their downtown Traverse City location. The prices in this section range from $8-$10. The best selection here, in my humble opinion, is the shrimp salad sandwich. This thing is $10 and comes on a croissant. I dig it VERY much!

Green House Cafe compliments downtown Traverse City style to a "T"!
When most locals think of Green House Cafe in Traverse City, they picture the muffin bar. So, as my closing thought, if you go here for only one thing, let it be one of their outstanding (and HUGE) muffins! Lemon Poppy, chocolate chip, pineapple coconut, pumpkin and many more. Yeah, you can't forget to snag a muffin.
Downtown Traverse City is jam packed full of eateries that seem to have their own perfect niche. Green House Cafe is no different. Whether you're doing a bit of take-out for the beach or boat, or you're dining in with friends or family, this place is certain to scratch whatever culinary itch you may have!
(All photos by Brooks Vanderbush)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Shameless Self Promotion! Yay!

Greetings folks! I have some awesome and faithful readers on this blog. You guys obviously love Northern Michigan and are pretty interested in what it has to offer. To that end, I invite you to Like my Journalistic self's Facebook Page. This page will keep you up to date on all of the happenings, goings-on and the like in the Grand Traverse Region, as well as every article I write! Yippee, right?? Also, the minute that I throw a post up onto this blog, I'll put it on my Facebook page for you to click and enjoy! BRILLIANT!

Additionally, as you'll see when you click on the above link, I am a "freelancer". This means that I am always interested in hearing about any needs that your publication may have, foodie or otherwise. Just hit me up on my page or at!

OK, enough of that. Get back to reading about awesome restaurants here in Traverse City and beyond!!! Happy eating!!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pearl's New Orleans Kitchen

Across from the Elk Rapids golf course is a little bit of Cajun in Elk Rapids.
Alligator. Shrimp Po' Boy. Hot sauce galore. Yeah, this is the North's own little bit of Cajun. And we love it so! Welcome to Pearl's New Orleans Kitchen.

There's a lot going on with the walls inside of Pearl's.
At Pearl's in Elk Rapids, you'll find a little bit of everything. Literally. Check out the wall decor! This place is dripping, nay, swimming, in memorabilia. Yet, it seems to accomplish exactly what it has set out to accomplish; that being an inviting atmosphere reminiscent of Cajun culture, but uniquely local and welcoming as well.
Whether or not you're a fan of this form of decor will matter not once your plate is set down in front of you. These guys know good food! Let's get to it!

The decor is overwhelming, but in a good way. No worries.
Pearl's is famous for their Po' Boy and a Pint Wednesdays, wherein you can snag a Po' Boy and a pint for $8.99. I love it!
The menu starts out right, there's no doubt about that! The very first thing you'll see is the varied selection of featured mix drinks at Pearl's. These things run from $5-$9. My twin favorites have always been the Oyster Shooter (a freshly shucked oyster, jalapeno steeped vodka and cocktail sauce for $4.99) and the the Hurricane (a 23.5 oz cocktail served tall glass with dark rum, light rum and fruit juices for $9). The Hurricane takes me back to Key West sunsets.....ahhhhhhh.
For me, if I'm not snagging a Po' Boy, I'm usually tempted to make a meal out of a few appetizers. These dishes run from $7-$23. Highlights include a dozen oysters on the half shell for $23, Huckleberry Quail for $8, crawfish cakes for $8, blackened Alligator for $8, and oysters Rockefeller for $16. Many other options are available if you're not a fan of my favs, no worries.

Pearl's manages to capture that perfect neighborhood feel that so many other joints miss.
Onto everyone's favorite......Soups and Salads! Yay hipsters! All jokes aside, Gumbo Ya Ya is a serious bit of delicious. This is house made with chunks of chicken and spicy Andouille sausage, finished with rice. This dish is $4 for a cup and $5 for a bowl. Crawfish and corn chowder (same price) is always my go-to soup here. The salads range from $6-$20. The selection of salads is quite nice, if you're a greens lover, check them out!
Heading into the entrees, these things run from $14-$24. A lot of selection here. My favorites are as follows (listen close, for I have EXCELLENT taste): Pearl's Etouffee for $17. This is a sauce with onions, bell peppers, celery, garlic, cayenne pepper and more, served over dirty rice. You can pair this with garlic crawfish, blackened shrimp, Andouille Tasso or a combination. Your choice!
I also thoroughly enjoy the Whitefish Florentine for $19. This is Charlevoix's Cross Fisheries whitefish baked with Pearl's shallot sauce, served on a bed of garlic spinach with red beans and rice.
A third personal highlight is Doctor John's Garlic Delmonico for $24. This is a 12 oz cut seasoned with Voodoo spices and pan seared, finished with roasted garlic butter and smok'in tobacco onions. It is served with cheddar mashed potatoes, andouille milk gravy and fresh veggies.

A fully, FULLY stocked bar. Always a good thing!
For many folks, the po' boys make this place. Luckily for them, that's the next menu section!
These outstanding sandwiches range in price from $9-$12. Some personal favs include the fried shrimp po' boy for $10, the blackened catfish po'boy for $10 and the corn fried whitefish muffuletta for $12. Yum!
Desserts are $6. And fun! I can never resist the bananas foster. Wowza.

Great food, great drink, great service. Pearl's gets it!
Happy hour runs seven days a week from 3pm-6pm where you can snag $1 off your favorite drink and a $2.99 appetizer.
I dig this place. True, it's not in Traverse City, but it's a great place to meet up with friends who yet remain in Elk Rapids. The atmosphere is truly neighborhood and the food/drink are always completely satisfying. If you're pondering a trip north of Traverse City, give Pearl's a try!
(All photos by Brooks Vanderbush)

Friday, March 29, 2013


Grand coffee and delicious beer. That's what awaits you here!
The novice Traverse City-ite can be excused for passing Brew by on their search for good food paired with outstanding local beer. But, beware, once you have finished reading this, you are no longer excused from such poppycock as that!

Brew's atmosphere is very modern city, complete with that laid back TC style.
The fact of the matter is that while Brew does turn out an incredibly tasty cup of coffee and immensely satisfying breakfast offerings, they also live up to their motto of "Morning, Noon and Night" quite well.
Whether you're looking for a refreshing pick-me-up by way of this nation's favorite warm beverage or a hearty lunch/dinner complete with a unique and Delicious local beer, this is the place for you!

Don't forget to check out the daily sweets and treats!
Brew is a unique establishment, nestled in amongst many of the other unique restaurants of downtown Traverse City. For those who think that it's simply a coffee joint, it's pretty easy to pass by, despite its front and center downtown location. But, once you enter, you find an eatery catering to the slightly healthier appetite. What does that mean? Well! Let's peruse their menus, shall we?

If you can, grab a window seat. Grand people watching, that!
We'll start with "Morning".
Breakfast options run from $3-$8, depending on the size of your appetite. If I'm very hungry, I'll snag the Breakfast Brewrito. This concoction is egg, bacon, spinach, tomato, red pepper and pepper jack cheese, all for $7.95.
If you're not starving, skip the bagel choices and snag the oatmeal with brown sugar. This is $3 and you can add cherries, pecans or raisins for a measly 25 cents more.

The beer here is creative, fun and tasty!
"Noon and Night" come next.
The sandwiches at this place are where my sweet spot lies. There's nothing better than a good sandwich alongside a lovely local brew!
The sandwiches range in price from $8-$9. My favorite is the North Park for $8. This is a ham, mozzarella, red pepper, lettuce, tomato, basil and balsamic vinaigrette creation. As with all of the other sandwich choices, you can have this thing hot, cold or served as a wrap.
Another favorite on the sandwich menu are the BBQ pork sliders for $9. These are served on cornbread with apple IPA slaw. Yum!

Brew in Traverse City. They have it all!
Next come some tasty salad choices. These range in price from $8-$9 as well.
My salad of choice is the Julius Caesar for $8. This is fresh romaine lettuce tossed with asiago cheese and herbed chicken breast and topped with house Caesar. Fun!

Breakfast, lunch or dinner, TC's Brew is the place to be!
As should be expected at these sorts of downtown joints, the menu is constantly in flux. A few items are static, but there will be changes. Soups change daily as do the awesome locally made sweets selections. Prices seem to stay within the same basic ranges, however.

This one is hard to miss, right off of Traverse City's Front Street.
The atmosphere here is grand. The view from the front tables of downtown is highly desirable, to say the least. People watching here is excellent. And the, they come up with some grand combinations!
This is big city downtown light dining, to be sure. Step into Brew and you might as well be in Chicago. From lively folks in the A.M. to live music in the P.M., Brew has it all and is well worth the venture in! Besides.....who amongst us doesn't require an afternoon brew?
(All photos by Brooks Vanderbush)