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Aerial view of Traverse City, Michigan. Getty Images

16 Essential Traverse City Restaurants

Newer restaurants and a handful of long-standing favorites make for an exciting dining scene in Traverse City

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When most people venture to northern Michigan, they are going for the towering white pines, miles and miles of protected sandy shoreline, and the crackling fireside sunsets. If Traverse City is within reach, they should also take a moment for the food.

In recent years, the restaurant scene in this town at the foot of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay has quietly planted the roots of an exciting regional food scene. From a young chef who’s turning heads in an old firehouse, to a cafe that’s leaning into the owner’s Arab roots with a Palestinian rice bowl, to an organic wine shop that doubles as a restaurant on weekends, here are the restaurants that will make visitors rethink what to eat Up North.

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Eater maps are curated by editors and aim to reflect a diversity of neighborhoods, cuisines, and prices. Learn more about our editorial process.

Farm Club

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Equal parts working farm, market, restaurant, and brewery, this modern Scandinavian-inspired barn and beer garden opened in July 2020 and instantly became an area favorite. The rotating menu always features whatever’s coming out of the Loma Farm fields. Think blackened zucchini sandwich or tempura garlic scapes. Pair a meal with a house-brewed beer such as the East Coast pale made with citra and strata hops.

Taqueria TC Latino

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Judging by the line out the door, everybody knows that Mama Lu’s is the place to celebrate “Taco Tuesdays,” but a lot of visitors don’t realize that the Traverse City region is also home to a handful of traditional taquerias. Run by husband and wife Adolfo Mendez (originally from Veracruz) and Sandra Rios (whose parents were migrant workers for the area’s fruit industry), this no-frills taco shop on the corner of Zimmerman and Silver Lake roads is perfect for getting a carnitas, carne asada, or menudo fix. Taqueria TC Latino has a few small tables inside, but—without a liquor license — anyone who needs a margarita with their tacos should take it to go.

Two corn tortilla tacos in a takeout container next to a cup of bright red sauce and a cup of bright green sauce with two slices of lime.
Mixed tacos at Taqueria TC Latino.
Stacey Brugeman for Eater

Samsara Southeast Asian Cuisine

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Anyone traveling north by way of 31 or 131 should stop at Chums Corner before checking into that VRBO. Located halfway between Menards and Blain’s Farm and Fleet is some of the best southeast Asian takeout in the North. The husband and wife team behind Samsara have Cambodian and Laosian roots, and cook up family recipes using each menu item’s Thai name. Offerings include the usual suspects like pad Thai and crab rangoons, but try the larb—bright, flavorful, crisped chicken to nestle into fresh pieces of lettuce like a taco—and the addictive turmeric curry with fresh vegetables and a choice of protein.

Chicken larb appetizer in a black plastic to-go container next to a white paper rice container filled with orange carrots, green peppers, and golden tofu thats swimming in a tumeric-orange sauce.
Chicken larb and tofu Ghang Gahree from Samsara
Stacey Brugeman for Eater

Located in the old Suttons Bay firehouse, chef Adam McMarlin and his team spent lockdown refurbishing the historic space — which is now every bit as sharp as this Detroit native’s food. Look for smart, beautifully plated dishes that feature fleeting, hyper-seasonal ingredients such as ramps and edible lilac blossoms. McMarlin brings a fresh perspective to many area ingredients, like his whitefish ceviche — which is served with jalapeño, cilantro, and radish.

Trattoria Stella

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Since it opened in 2004, Trattoria Stella has been a grande dame of the Traverse City dining scene. Beloved for its house-made burrata, tender grilled octopus, and house charcuterie offerings, the restaurant is also home to one of the most thoughtful Italian wine lists in Michigan. Stella’s cavernous subterranean dining room is as romantic as it gets — but those who prefer open-air seating can order food and a bottle of wine to go, and nab one of the many outdoor tables that have been added to the greater Village at Grand Traverse Commons property.

Modern Bird

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Modern Bird, the sexy little neighborhood spot that opened in the summer of 2022, is one of the hottest reservations in town. The husband and wife team that runs it spent time at Michelin-starred kitchens in Chicago before coming North, and they’ve nailed the intersection of elevated food, in a completely approachable space. Don’t miss the cheesy bread with ranch butter, before sinking into more seasonal offerings—such as a pea pesto, mushroom, and goats cheese galette.

Hexenbelle

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When Alliance restaurant closed in September 2020, Traverse City restaurant-goers went into a period of mourning — a game-changing restaurant, gone too soon. It was a welcome salve when this beautiful business took over the space on the northeastern corner of the Warehouse Market building. Rooted in owner Christian Geoghegan’s Arab background, the Palestinian-inspired café and coffee shop serves breakfast and lunch — where dishes like shakshuka and hummus shine.

A beige stoneware dish with rice, meat, slices of cucumber, and parsley artfully decorating the top.
Palestinian rice bowl at Hexenbelle.
Heather Webber for Hexenbelle

Forrest, A Food Studio

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What started as a COVID pivot has quietly become one of the best weekend meals in Traverse City. Just a few months before the pandemic, Forrest opened for cooking classes, a business model that was quickly swallowed up by lockdown. In their place, the husband and wife team focused on the natural wine shop side of the business. As re-opening allowed, they returned to the kitchen, opening their doors on the weekends for multi-course prix fixe dinners. Meals, with dishes like ricotta agnolotti with blistered tomato, herbs, and summer truffles, include wine pairings from a highly curated list of small-production natural, organic, or biodynamic wines—any of which guests can also take home by the bottle.

Stuffed pasta with decorative ridges along the top that make them look like pinecones are swimming in broth.
Pork Rib culurgiones in pork rib brodo with micro herbs and parsley oil. 
Forrest Moline for Forrest, A Food Studio

The Good Bowl

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Those who run into town on rainy days, should run into Good Bowl for pho Saigon topped with tender beef brisket or grilled turmeric tofu, the locally-loved crispy pork ribs, or — on Sundays — their dim sum brunch. Owner Soon Hagerty and chef Tony Vu are doing more than turning out “enlightened Vietnamese food,” they are also busy giving back. Every quarter they ask guests to nominate local, national, and global charities to which the business donates a portion of sales. Charities have included the Cherryland Humane Society, Planned Parenthood, and United for Global Mental Health.

A white bowl of pho with lots of mint and sliced jalapeños.
Pho Saigon with beef brisket.
John Stocki for Good Bowl

The Little Fleet

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This collection of food trucks in downtown Traverse City remains as popular as ever, with throngs of visitors and residents alike flocking to Little Fleet for the smoked potato tacos from Happy’s Taco Shop or the pulled pork sandwich from Cordwood BBQ. In the summer, most people sit outside, but don’t miss the drinks that are being shaken inside — some of the most well-crafted cocktails in town.

The Cooks’ House

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When Traverse City chefs talk about the area restaurants they respect, Cooks’ House is almost always part of the answer. This 24-seat restaurant that’s been open for more than a decade is as on-point as it’s ever been. Dishes such as radishes prepared three ways (butter poached, pickled, and raw), salt crust baked celeriac with black garlic, or a kabocha creme brulee with bhel puri are served as part of a five- or seven-course tasting menu.

Those who prefer to spend a northern Michigan vacation never leaving the cottage should not miss stopping at Raduno for some ready-made meals before settling in. This deli-style cafe features a rotating selection of salads, vegetable sides, and daily specials, but the house-made pastas are especially impressive. Owner Janene Silverman, who lived in Piedmont for 20 years, uses stone ground organic flour to make fresh pasta—which will seriously up any pasta salad game.

Artisan Restaurant Traverse City

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When Artisan restaurant first opened in the newly renovated Delamar Hotel, there was no question that the dining room’s waterfront location, at the foot of Lake Michigan’s West Bay, was one of the best in town. Thanks to a deep bench of both front and back of the house talent, Artisan’s menu, cocktail program, and hospitality are also best in class. Chef de Cuisine Sarah Bobier, a Traverse City native, attended the Culinary Institute of American in Hyde Park and spent time working for Jean-George Vongerichten among other industry giants before returning home. Look for selections that celebrate Northern Michigan’s farmers and micro seasons. Think: grilled Benzie County asparagus, charred lemon aioli, pecorino, and cured egg yolk.

Oakwood Proper Burgers

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A once-vacant, mid-century modern building on Eighth Street now hosts some of the best burgers in town. Opened in February 2021, Oakwood offers 10 enormous burgers, including its namesake with beef, bacon, cheddar cheese, and house-made ranch stacked between a Common Good Bakery bun. Don’t miss Oakwood Proper’s garlic-parmesan fries or the hand-spun peanut butter milkshake using ingredients from a single source creamery.

Bubbie's Bagels

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New York and Los Angeles can have their bagel wars. There’s no question who is making the best bagels in northern Michigan. Named for the owner’s Jewish grandmother, Bubbie’s opened its doors in February 2020 and instantly became a beloved addition to the community. While the “Super Nova,” with scallion cream cheese, nova lox, pickled red onion, capers, and micro dill is a fan favorite — a plain bagel with one of the shop’s seasonal cream cheeses—like strawberry, ramp, or sorrel—is not to be missed.

Crocodile Palace

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Three classically-trained chefs in a thumbprint-size space turning out some of the best Sichuan takeout this side of San Francisco’s Dragon Gate? You betcha. Together with Ryan Corbin, brothers Michael and Patrick Evans—who worked for many years in esteemed kitchens in the other City by the Bay—opened Crocodile Palace in January and have been flooded with online orders from chef-types ever since. Friends on the West Coast ship this trio specialty ingredients such as dried scallop and true Sichuan peppercorns. Don’t miss the mapo tofu, which includes Michigan-made tofu, fermented black beans, and Sichuan chili oil.

Farm Club

Equal parts working farm, market, restaurant, and brewery, this modern Scandinavian-inspired barn and beer garden opened in July 2020 and instantly became an area favorite. The rotating menu always features whatever’s coming out of the Loma Farm fields. Think blackened zucchini sandwich or tempura garlic scapes. Pair a meal with a house-brewed beer such as the East Coast pale made with citra and strata hops.

Taqueria TC Latino

Judging by the line out the door, everybody knows that Mama Lu’s is the place to celebrate “Taco Tuesdays,” but a lot of visitors don’t realize that the Traverse City region is also home to a handful of traditional taquerias. Run by husband and wife Adolfo Mendez (originally from Veracruz) and Sandra Rios (whose parents were migrant workers for the area’s fruit industry), this no-frills taco shop on the corner of Zimmerman and Silver Lake roads is perfect for getting a carnitas, carne asada, or menudo fix. Taqueria TC Latino has a few small tables inside, but—without a liquor license — anyone who needs a margarita with their tacos should take it to go.

Two corn tortilla tacos in a takeout container next to a cup of bright red sauce and a cup of bright green sauce with two slices of lime.
Mixed tacos at Taqueria TC Latino.
Stacey Brugeman for Eater

Samsara Southeast Asian Cuisine

Anyone traveling north by way of 31 or 131 should stop at Chums Corner before checking into that VRBO. Located halfway between Menards and Blain’s Farm and Fleet is some of the best southeast Asian takeout in the North. The husband and wife team behind Samsara have Cambodian and Laosian roots, and cook up family recipes using each menu item’s Thai name. Offerings include the usual suspects like pad Thai and crab rangoons, but try the larb—bright, flavorful, crisped chicken to nestle into fresh pieces of lettuce like a taco—and the addictive turmeric curry with fresh vegetables and a choice of protein.

Chicken larb appetizer in a black plastic to-go container next to a white paper rice container filled with orange carrots, green peppers, and golden tofu thats swimming in a tumeric-orange sauce.
Chicken larb and tofu Ghang Gahree from Samsara
Stacey Brugeman for Eater

Wren

Located in the old Suttons Bay firehouse, chef Adam McMarlin and his team spent lockdown refurbishing the historic space — which is now every bit as sharp as this Detroit native’s food. Look for smart, beautifully plated dishes that feature fleeting, hyper-seasonal ingredients such as ramps and edible lilac blossoms. McMarlin brings a fresh perspective to many area ingredients, like his whitefish ceviche — which is served with jalapeño, cilantro, and radish.

Trattoria Stella

Since it opened in 2004, Trattoria Stella has been a grande dame of the Traverse City dining scene. Beloved for its house-made burrata, tender grilled octopus, and house charcuterie offerings, the restaurant is also home to one of the most thoughtful Italian wine lists in Michigan. Stella’s cavernous subterranean dining room is as romantic as it gets — but those who prefer open-air seating can order food and a bottle of wine to go, and nab one of the many outdoor tables that have been added to the greater Village at Grand Traverse Commons property.

Modern Bird

Modern Bird, the sexy little neighborhood spot that opened in the summer of 2022, is one of the hottest reservations in town. The husband and wife team that runs it spent time at Michelin-starred kitchens in Chicago before coming North, and they’ve nailed the intersection of elevated food, in a completely approachable space. Don’t miss the cheesy bread with ranch butter, before sinking into more seasonal offerings—such as a pea pesto, mushroom, and goats cheese galette.

Hexenbelle

When Alliance restaurant closed in September 2020, Traverse City restaurant-goers went into a period of mourning — a game-changing restaurant, gone too soon. It was a welcome salve when this beautiful business took over the space on the northeastern corner of the Warehouse Market building. Rooted in owner Christian Geoghegan’s Arab background, the Palestinian-inspired café and coffee shop serves breakfast and lunch — where dishes like shakshuka and hummus shine.

A beige stoneware dish with rice, meat, slices of cucumber, and parsley artfully decorating the top.
Palestinian rice bowl at Hexenbelle.
Heather Webber for Hexenbelle

Forrest, A Food Studio

What started as a COVID pivot has quietly become one of the best weekend meals in Traverse City. Just a few months before the pandemic, Forrest opened for cooking classes, a business model that was quickly swallowed up by lockdown. In their place, the husband and wife team focused on the natural wine shop side of the business. As re-opening allowed, they returned to the kitchen, opening their doors on the weekends for multi-course prix fixe dinners. Meals, with dishes like ricotta agnolotti with blistered tomato, herbs, and summer truffles, include wine pairings from a highly curated list of small-production natural, organic, or biodynamic wines—any of which guests can also take home by the bottle.

Stuffed pasta with decorative ridges along the top that make them look like pinecones are swimming in broth.
Pork Rib culurgiones in pork rib brodo with micro herbs and parsley oil. 
Forrest Moline for Forrest, A Food Studio

The Good Bowl

Those who run into town on rainy days, should run into Good Bowl for pho Saigon topped with tender beef brisket or grilled turmeric tofu, the locally-loved crispy pork ribs, or — on Sundays — their dim sum brunch. Owner Soon Hagerty and chef Tony Vu are doing more than turning out “enlightened Vietnamese food,” they are also busy giving back. Every quarter they ask guests to nominate local, national, and global charities to which the business donates a portion of sales. Charities have included the Cherryland Humane Society, Planned Parenthood, and United for Global Mental Health.

A white bowl of pho with lots of mint and sliced jalapeños.
Pho Saigon with beef brisket.
John Stocki for Good Bowl

The Little Fleet

This collection of food trucks in downtown Traverse City remains as popular as ever, with throngs of visitors and residents alike flocking to Little Fleet for the smoked potato tacos from Happy’s Taco Shop or the pulled pork sandwich from Cordwood BBQ. In the summer, most people sit outside, but don’t miss the drinks that are being shaken inside — some of the most well-crafted cocktails in town.

The Cooks’ House

When Traverse City chefs talk about the area restaurants they respect, Cooks’ House is almost always part of the answer. This 24-seat restaurant that’s been open for more than a decade is as on-point as it’s ever been. Dishes such as radishes prepared three ways (butter poached, pickled, and raw), salt crust baked celeriac with black garlic, or a kabocha creme brulee with bhel puri are served as part of a five- or seven-course tasting menu.

Raduno

Those who prefer to spend a northern Michigan vacation never leaving the cottage should not miss stopping at Raduno for some ready-made meals before settling in. This deli-style cafe features a rotating selection of salads, vegetable sides, and daily specials, but the house-made pastas are especially impressive. Owner Janene Silverman, who lived in Piedmont for 20 years, uses stone ground organic flour to make fresh pasta—which will seriously up any pasta salad game.

Artisan Restaurant Traverse City

When Artisan restaurant first opened in the newly renovated Delamar Hotel, there was no question that the dining room’s waterfront location, at the foot of Lake Michigan’s West Bay, was one of the best in town. Thanks to a deep bench of both front and back of the house talent, Artisan’s menu, cocktail program, and hospitality are also best in class. Chef de Cuisine Sarah Bobier, a Traverse City native, attended the Culinary Institute of American in Hyde Park and spent time working for Jean-George Vongerichten among other industry giants before returning home. Look for selections that celebrate Northern Michigan’s farmers and micro seasons. Think: grilled Benzie County asparagus, charred lemon aioli, pecorino, and cured egg yolk.

Oakwood Proper Burgers

A once-vacant, mid-century modern building on Eighth Street now hosts some of the best burgers in town. Opened in February 2021, Oakwood offers 10 enormous burgers, including its namesake with beef, bacon, cheddar cheese, and house-made ranch stacked between a Common Good Bakery bun. Don’t miss Oakwood Proper’s garlic-parmesan fries or the hand-spun peanut butter milkshake using ingredients from a single source creamery.

Bubbie's Bagels

New York and Los Angeles can have their bagel wars. There’s no question who is making the best bagels in northern Michigan. Named for the owner’s Jewish grandmother, Bubbie’s opened its doors in February 2020 and instantly became a beloved addition to the community. While the “Super Nova,” with scallion cream cheese, nova lox, pickled red onion, capers, and micro dill is a fan favorite — a plain bagel with one of the shop’s seasonal cream cheeses—like strawberry, ramp, or sorrel—is not to be missed.

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Crocodile Palace

Three classically-trained chefs in a thumbprint-size space turning out some of the best Sichuan takeout this side of San Francisco’s Dragon Gate? You betcha. Together with Ryan Corbin, brothers Michael and Patrick Evans—who worked for many years in esteemed kitchens in the other City by the Bay—opened Crocodile Palace in January and have been flooded with online orders from chef-types ever since. Friends on the West Coast ship this trio specialty ingredients such as dried scallop and true Sichuan peppercorns. Don’t miss the mapo tofu, which includes Michigan-made tofu, fermented black beans, and Sichuan chili oil.

Related Maps