Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sleder's Family Tavern

A true Traverse City legend, Sleder's Family Tavern.

 Have you ever kissed a Moose? Well, in Traverse City you can!

That’s right, folks! Not only does this town celebrate Cherries and movies, one of its most enduring traditions is kissing a gigantic, stuffed Moose head to the sound of a clanging bell! Welcome to Sleder’s Family Tavern.

Traverse City's own neighborhood pub is a hit with locals and visitors alike.
At Sleder’s, you’ll find that ever elusive “home-town” bar atmosphere. It’s got all of the necessary ingredients, to be sure. It has been around forever (130+ years, to be exact); its décor is a perfect match for the local pub, all the way down to the ancient and massive cash register behind the bar, and its food is exactly what one would expect from a family tavern (in a good way, of course).

To kiss the Sleder's moose or to not kiss the Sleder's moose.....

As mentioned, the major tradition within this establishment is kissing a giant Moose head’s nose. Upon the completion of the kiss, the bartender will ring a massive bell, certain to rattle your senses for a moment or two. They even have “I kissed the moose” t-shirts. My advice……French kiss the Moose. Do I mean with tounge? No, I do not mean that. I mean trendy French kiss the Moose……and by that I mean kiss AT the Moose, much like trendy French ladies do….lean in, come close, make the kissing noise, but do NOT make contact with its nose. Trust me on this. Do not actually kiss the Moose. Or any of the other many stuffed creatures that line the walls at Sleder’s Family Tavern.

Nobody does "bar food" better than Sleder's Family Tavern in Traverse City.

Now that we’ve gotten the whole “do not kiss the Moose” thing out of the way, let’s move on to the fun stuff! I haven’t gotten to use this little word in a while….here we go….so excited…..


Nothing goes with good food better than good drinks! 

Being a “tavern,” Sleder’s obviously has a bar, a very nice bar! The mixed drinks at this joint are just as good as any other bar in Traverse City. And, again, as with any other joint in TC worth visiting, Sleder’s has a nice little selection of local brews. Right Brain Brewery, one of my favorite Traverse City breweries, always has a beer or two on tap, Founders showcases some wares here as well. Mount Pleasant Brewing Company, Schmoz and Samuel Adams round out an impressive little list of craft brewers, one that is dominated by Michigan’s most popular craft brewery, Bell's. In the summer months, it is a requirement of any self respecting bar, tavern or eatery that patrons must be seen to be drinking from a glass mug, complete with dark golden contents and a slice of orange, at least once during their stay within said establishment or they are to be thrown out.

I admit that I am lying a bit with that statement. Basically, do not miss Bell's Oberon. Simple as that.

Choose between Sleder's bar or their "formal" dining room that oozes history.

From the amazing local brews and the yummy mixed drinks, we move on to the food.

Are you a fan of tavern fare? Then you will be a fan of Sleder’s!

The Sleder’s menu consists of some old tavern favorites, as well as a few surprises.

A seasoned steak salad tops the salad menu, surrounded by seven other leafy selections. Three different burritos and a “Super Nachos” round out a Mexican section of the menu, followed up by a “Just For Kids” section, consisting of kiddie favorites like grilled cheese, a burger, shrimp basket, chicken fingers and so on. The kid menu includes a soft drink, French fries, entrée and an ice cream treat, all for $5.95! A good deal by any standard!

Gotta love Michigan beer!

Continuing on with our journey around the Sleder’s menu, we arrive at the sandwiches. A whitefish or lake perch sandwich tops my list of favorites, followed up by a Westside turkey, which consists of grilled turkey, swiss cheese and coleslaw or cottage cheese (as a side) on your choice of bread; a truly refreshing afternoon treat! 10 sandwich options make up this section of the menu, priced between $7.95-$9.50.

Yup, Michigan beer!

Moving on, Sleder’s claim to fame are its burgers. The Buffalo burger (made with fresh, local Buffalo meat) is incredibly popular. Buffalo meat is a flavor filled bit of carne. Order it medium or medium rare for the very best flavor experience! The bleu bacon burger and mushroom burger are also quite popular. Six burgers make up the burger selection, priced from $7.95-$11.95 for the half pound Buffalo burger (it’s worth it!).

The dinner selections would be where Sleder’s Family Tavern begins to stray away from usual tavern fare. A pacific cod dinner, smelt basket (my favorite at this joint), New York Strip, Slabtown ribs plate and a cherry barbequed chicken up the ante a bit at Sleder’s. These dinners and their counterparts on the menu are priced from $12.95-$18.95. On Fridays, you can snag the “all you can eat” fish and smelt combo for $13.95. It comes complete with fries and your choice of coleslaw or cottage cheese. I love that little dish.

Finally, the break away from ordinary pub munchies is made complete with Sleder’s starters menu. Offered on this menu are things like deep fried cauliflower, baked brie and a spicy buffalo shrimp basket.

Buy the "I kissed the Moose" shirt....just don't actually kiss the Moose.

This 130 year old establishment oozes history and charm. Yet, even with its storied past, strange traditions and classically Traverse City menu, many miss out on Sleder’s Family Tavern. Is the food here the best in Traverse City? No. Are the drinks the most amazing? No. But, what Sleder’s does offer is a true bit of local TC, open to all, with some great edibles, superb local brews (and a few non-local favorites) and a perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the crowds and experience a bit of old world Traverse City, all that within an absolutely perfect neighborhood (can you tell I’m a bit biased? Yup, I totally am. I live in Slabtown, the place that Sleder’s calls home, and it is, without a doubt, Disney perfect…….with a bit of sexy thrown in!).

(All photos by Brooks Vanderbush)

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