Sunday, June 10, 2012

Art's Tavern

This is the ultimate "local's" dining experience on the Leelanau Peninsula!

Let me tell you about my favorite area here in Northern Michigan. When I'm in the mood to escape the hustle and bustle of Traverse City in the summer, I hit the Empire area. What do I love most about the Empire area? Well, it's got nature (the most beautiful place in America!) and I love to get outside! It's got some amazing beaches, in fact, these beaches are some of the most pristine and breathtaking in the world! It's got perfect little towns with hundreds of activity choices.

And it's got Glen Arbor! What do they have? Art's Tavern!

Whether eating inside or el fresco, Art's Tavern is the place to be!

What is this Art's Tavern, you ask? Well, ask any local and they will regale you with a tale of Art or his tavern. This place, located in the middle of Glen Arbor's picturesque downtown on idyllic M-22. Art's Tavern has been around for over 75 years. To say that Art's is a Northern Michigan mainstay is an understatement. Art's has a loyal legion of followers from both the local and visiting populations. This joint is a must visit, their t-shirts a must buy. You have not experienced Northern Michigan, let alone Glen Arbor, unless you have experienced Art's Tavern!

The decor is extremely unique at Art's, complete with a pool table that rises from the floor.

Let's get this out of the way: A common complaint with Art's is that the decently priced sandwiches do not include any sides (fries, onion rings, etc.). After one orders a sandwich, fries and a drink, there is the possibility of spending around $12 or $14 on the one plate. While that is a bit more expensive than most comparable establishments, you will certainly find that the price is well worth the product! Not only have you just noshed and supped on one of the best pub menus in the area, you've just experienced Art's Tavern, and that will give you some amazing props with the true Northern Michigan crew! Congrats!

Art's Tavern does libations well!

Now that you know the catch that many local establishments have when tourist season comes to town, let's get to the food, yo!

As you can see from picture above, Art's Tavern is home to many a wonderful brew and other libation. These choices pair well with the extensive menu of pub favorites.

The varied menu at Art's Tavern has something for everyone.

First up on that menu are the appetizers. One can spend $3-$12 on a starter, depending on your choice. Some highlights from this section include Super Clams (big and tender, battered and fried, served with cocktail sauce), Whitefish dip (savory mix of Whitefish, cream cheese, capers and spices blended together to create a unique Northern Michigan favorite, served with warm flat bread crackers), a chilled shrimp cocktail and deep fried mushrooms. Much more is available on this section, all equally as tasty!

Next are the salads. Expect to spend about $8-$10 on this section, unless you want coleslaw, that's only about $3. Art's Tavern features the usual suspects when it comes to salads with one savory exception: the crancherry salad (assorted mixed greens with a touch of red cabbage, dried cranberries, dried cherries, feta cheese, tossed with their homemade black cherry vinaigrette).

And the bar has something for everyone too!

Next, the menu offers up Art's Sandwiches. A couple of highlights here include the Whitefish burger (minced Whitefish blended with savory spices, hand pressed and grilled, served on a wheat bun with lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce), the Great Lakes Perch (deep fried perch on a fresh baked roll served with tartar sauce and lemon) and the Rachel (thinly sliced oven roasted turkey, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing, served on grilled sunflower rye). One can expect to spend anywhere from $5-$10 on a sandwich.

An Art's Tavern favorite is up next, the burgers! Burgers range from $8-$12. Highlights include a double decker Art's burger, a bleu burger and an Art's surf and turf (made with burger and smelt). Love it!

The outside bar makes for a convenient outdoors dining experience.

Dinner entrees include seafood and "from the broiler" sections, with my favorites being the crusty Whitefish (Whitefish dusted with parmesan and corn flakes, sauteed to a golden brown) and the petite ribeye. Entrees run from $13-$20.

Art's Tavern also offers a grand selection of pizzas and south of the border fare. These range from $11-$17.

Don't forget to grab an iconic Art's Tavern t-shirt!

Hungry for more? Want some Art's in the AM? Well! Luckily for you, Art's does breakfast as well! Don;t miss their ribeye and eggs, good god that's delish! There're also a huge selection of omelets and waffles/pancakes/French toast options. In my humble opinion, Art's is at its best during breakfast, but that's just me, I'm a breakfast kinda guy! And no worries, side orders are plentiful as well. The wide selection of breakfasts range from $6-$10.

Last, but certainly not least, are Art's desserts! They serve up Moomer's Ice Cream, the best ice cream in America (really, there was a vote!). This place is the place to be on a hot summer's day. Nothing helps you recover from that better than a Boston Cooler! Desserts range from $6-$7 each.

I love this place!

Why? Because, for me, Art's Tavern in Glen Arbor rounds out a trip to the Sleeping Bear Dunes or the shops of Glen Arbor or the many hidden beaches of the Leelanau Peninsula so well! It maintains that "escape" atmosphere for a bit longer. It allows you to relax in a booth, sip on some great local brews and lose yourself in conversation with friends and strangers alike. It helps that exhausted-from-the-sun feeling sink in at a comfortable pace. And when you leave, you leave happy.

The next time you're in Glen Arbor, hit up Art's Tavern! You won't be sorry!

(All photos by Brooks Vanderbush)

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