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)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Blue Tractor

Old Town Traverse City is the place to go for boots full of beer!
The Cuban Burger. That is all.
Just kidding, folks. We'll throw a few more syllables into this piece, but, for real; the Cuban Burger at this joint is out-freaking-standing.

A darker, more relaxing atmosphere is tailor made for convo and good times at Blue Tractor in Traverse City.
Blue Tractor is slightly removed from downtown Traverse City, located in TC's Old Town District. But, that slightly removed is just enough to allow for way too many folks to find themselves not at Blue Tractor, because, unfortunately, they never knew that it existed.
Well, it does exist and it turns out some supremely satisfying fare, as well as an outstanding selection of Michigan brews! They'll even serve you a boot full of beer, which is an ungodly amount of awesome. Beware of this glass boot, though! Filling that 32 oz mug with many of the craft beers featured on tap can be a severely mind altering experience, what with the high alcohol content and all. Whew.

Belly on up to the bar, or grab a table or booth. It's all good here at TC's Blue Tractor.
Blue Tractor serves up lunch and dinner, and they serve it up well!
The lunch menu is the perfect re-energizing force for that midtown shopping break. It starts off with....well...starters! Perfecto!
These selections run from $5-$9. I usually gravitate toward the artichoke dip ($9), the breaded green bean platter ($6 or $9) or the Tractor Twists (hand twisted bread sticks, stuffed with Monterrey Jack cheese, topped with herbed garlic butter and served with warm marinara sauce - $8).
Side note: you'll notice that Blue Tractor is not the healthiest choice in TC restaurants. But, one does not enter such a locale looking for health food. This is good food alongside great beer. 'Nuff said.
Moving on with the lunch menu!
Soups and salads come next. This section has prices ranging from $5-$10. When I'm in a soup/salad mood, I'll snag the raspberry chicken salad ($10) and the soup of the day ($5)! They're standby soup is a smoked chicken chowder ($5), which is swell, but I have something against ordering chicken or pork when dining out. I just can't do it. That is, unless that meat is part of a unique, fun salad, of course.
The menu then moves onto Tractor Pies. These be pizzas, mateys. They range from $8 for personal pizzas to $15 for pizzas to share amongst the gathered table. I usually snag the five cheese and roasted vegetables pizza for $8. Simple, elegant, cheesey. I dig it!
Next comes the Burger Board. This would be where Blue Tractor shines. These burgers range in price from $8-$9, with sliders coming in at $3 each or $11 for 5 and fries in a basket.
I'm a bit wishy-washy when it comes to the burgers at Blue Tractor. I don't really have a favorite or anything.......HA! I jest! The only burger I order here is the CUBAN! This lovely mama-jama comes topped with pit smoked pulled pork, jack cheese, housemade pickles, secret sauce and yellow mustard. The portion of the menu that announces the presence of this delightful burger starts with "Addictive. You've been warned." And it certainly is! I have seen others at my table thoroughly enjoy the other burgers on the menu, so I am sure that they are all swell as well.
Sandwiches and mac-n-cheese round out the lunch menu. Despite only having a few selections of mac-n-cheese, when one mentions Blue Tractor about town, that selection of dishes seems to be what they're most know for.
Sandwiches run $8-$9, while mac-n-cheese comes in at $9-$10. The corned beef Reuben is a lovely thing, as is the BBQ pulled pork with smoked Gouda mac-n-cheese. Yum!

Michigan made brews. The best in the world!
Onto dinner!
Starters, soups and salads, Tractor Pies, mac-n-cheese, the Burger Board, and sandwiches are all pretty much the same here, with some slight increase in prices. Sneaky!
An added section is Blue Tractor BBQ. Pulled pork, ribs, brisket and beer can chicken can all be had here, with prices ranging from $14-$22.
Desserts can be had as well, prices stick at $5 for around four selections. Try the Caramel Pecan brownie Sundae!
Blue Tractor also does some lovely take-out.

Cuban Burger and a local brew. This is the recipe for a perfect evening out amongst friends!
I really enjoy this joint. It's one of a few restaurants throughout Traverse City that is consistently good. It is also one of MANY restaurants throughout Traverse City that has an amazing atmosphere for good times and conversation. This is a grand place to meet up, nosh on tasty fare, sling a few amazing brews and simply enjoy this life.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Underground Cheesecake Company

No matter the season, this place is pleasin'!

PLEASE NOTE that the Cheesecake factory has moved into Building 50 at the Village at Grand Traverse Commons and has vastly expanded their options! Check them out! The building in the above photo is now inhabited by Spanglish.

Brace yourselves, this one is pure indulgence! Welcome to the Underground Cheesecake Company in Traverse City!

This little joint sits behind the old state hospital (otherwise known as the Grand Traverse Commons). If I'm not mistaken, the building that this dessert lover's heaven occupies is the former laundry facility for the hospital. As you may have noticed, this is not the first eatery that I have featured from the grounds of the Grand Traverse Commons, nor will it be the last. If you are coming to Traverse City, you need to spend a few hours exploring (and eating) here!

The selection of sweets can be overwhelming at first. No worries, you'll recover.

Anyway, now that we have that tid-bit out of the way, let's get to the food!

I'll begin by saying that this is an excellent little lunch stop, of that there is no doubt. They do some excellent sandwiches, ranging in price from $7-$9 (try the vegetarian roasted butternut squash and balsamic onion grilled cheese. Whoa!), a couple of very nice salads, and a small choice of yummy soups whipped up daily. So, yes, lunch can be had here, along with some refreshing drinks and lunch sides (chips, etc.).

But, who are we kidding here? We all know why you're about to wander through these doors. Let's talk cheesecake, shall we?

A small dining area offers you the option to eat in at the Underground Cheesecake Company.

As stated, the Underground Cheesecake Company is a sweet lover's delight. Single serving desserts are priced as follows: brownies - $3.50; cookies - .90-$2.25; cheesecake - $4.25; scones - $3.50. They also have many miscellaneous items available daily, be sure to check that out!

If you're in the market for some gourmet brownies, you're in luck! The always featured flavors are Decadent Double Fudge, Turtle, Creme de Menthe, Peanut Butter and German Chocolate. More flavors may be featured on a day by day basis. If you're looking for a 1/4 sheet of brownies, that'll cost you $35.

Specialty cakes and desserts is the next section that may be of interest to the sugar starved diner. These selections may or may not be available for single serving purchase, one never knows what specific items will be up for single serving grabs. Whole cake/specialty dessert prices range from $20-$37. Favorites of this rather large section include the Black Bottom Cake, Strawberry Torte, Chocolate Raspberry Torte, Fresh Fruit Tart, Pumpkin Cake Roll and the Red Velvet Cake Roll. If you're feeling like a "regular" cake, that can be had as well, just let them know what you're looking for.

Crystalized Ginger. Wowza.

Now, to the cheesey meat of this blog. Cheesecakes are the stars of the show here. If you're throwing a beach party, a boat gathering, a park suare, or a porch gathering, one of these cakes will certainly liven up your event and leave your guests in awe!

Cheesecakes are priced as follows: 9" - $32 (12-16 servings); 6" - $21 (4-6 servings); 12" - $65 (30-35 servings).

Highlights of the HUGE cheesecake menu include the Amaretto Cream, the Caramelized Bourbon Snap, the Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle, the Chocolate Malt, the Cookies and Cream, the Dutch Apple Crumb, the English Toffee Crunch, the Lemon Drop, the Madagascar Vanilla Bean, the Orange Sherbert, the Pomegranate Splash, the Pralines and Cream, the Real Key Lime, the Red Velvet, the Strawberries and Cream, the Vanilla Cappuccino and the White Chocolate Raspberry Swirl.

And that's only a few of the many selections available!

Something for the hiking trail (located just outside of the Underground Cheesecake Company's door)?

How would the Underground Cheesecake Company fit into a lovely Traverse City afternoon? Quite easily. For me, I'll snag a late lunch downtown, hit these folks up for some amazing dessert, then stroll next door and sup the wine at Left Foot Charley! Sounds like a perfect afternoon to me!

(All photos by Brooks Vanderbush)