This is another post of my visit to the Traverse City, MI area. Now I’m only here for a couple of days and I will be doing lots of traveling around Northwest Michigan so breakfast is going to be super important! Well, breakfast is super important anyway, but there are lots of things that I want to see in the area and I’m going to need some fuel to keep my body going (of course, I could try to burn off some of my, um, stored “energy reserves”). But I’m on vacation, and when I’m on vacation, I likes me a nice breakfast. Judging by my pattern, I usually get an omelette if I get a chance (is it one “t” or two cuz I’ve seen both). But if I’m going on a long, long road trip, my travel foods of choice are chicharonnes and pecan logs, including a stop at the first roadside Chick-Fil-A I see. It is a small miracle that I can make it to my destination on a diet like that!
But I digress. . . I love going to diners and local eateries on trips. There’s always a good chance to experience some local flavor at a diner! And I stumbled across a great one in Elk Rapids, MI. This town wasn’t on my travel itinerary but I’m glad I stopped, because I happened upon the charming Harbor Cafe. It’s a nice, small, and modest restaurant with a black awning to help shelter patrons. Of course there is a “harbor” theme, which makes sense since Elk Rapids is right on the water with Grand Traverse Bay on the west and Elk Lake on the east. Plus, you can boat up to it! The outdoor seating was tempting, but it is autumn here in the northern reaches of Michigan, and it’s not exactly warm outside. You can expect some traditional diner fare, but with their own twist!
We got a couple of their omelette specials (all their specials were written on a large chalkboard which dominated the wall next to the kitchen) — the Corned Beef Hash omelette and the Reuben. Both were outstanding! The Corned Beef Hash came with some sautéed peppers,onions, and Swiss cheese, while the Reuben came with all the usual fixin’s that the sandwich has, including the Thousand Island Dressing. It is easy to see why this place is a favorite in the community. Everything was cooked perfectly; the hash didn’t overpower the omelette and the flavors of the Reuben really worked together which shocked me a bit. Never thought sauerkraut would taste good in an omelette! And the friendly staff recommended another local product that I should try and I was again pleasantly surprised. It was called Wild Bill’s Root Beer from local company Northwoods Soda. Such a distinctive and delicious flavor, unlike any other root beer that I’ve tried. I find it difficult to describe, but if you ever come across it, I definitely recommend it. You can check the link to see where it’s available. I have to come back soon to try some of the burgers and the Blueberry and Cream Stuffed French Toast!
On the way out, I noticed a little shop that people were literally running towards. Not knowing what the big draw was, I had to stop and investigate. Just out of arm’s reach from the Harbor Cafe is another small, unassuming, modest establishment hiding the absolute best pumpkin donuts I’ve ever had. Welcome to the Elk Rapids Sweet Shop (check them out on Facebook)! I am craving some of those donuts right now! The ones that you’d find at some of the larger chain stores and big box groceries are weirdly dense and coat the inside of your mouth with some sticky conglomeration of undercooked flavors. The donuts from here were light, fluffy, flavorful pillows of pumpkiny goodness. I swear I’ve never had anything like them, and I’ve eaten lots of donuts, hence the extra “energy reserves” There aren’t any pictures of my donuts because, let’s face it — I just can’t control myself sometimes! I had selected the glazed pumpkin donuts; there were also iced and cinnamon-sugar versions. If you check out their Facebook page you can see that they offer a wide selection of other baked goods and pastries including pies, breads, and packzis (hopefully y’all know what those are, but I can explain on Fat Tuesday). I wish I had more time to sample more of what they have to offer. All the more reason to come back!
So if you’re ever in the area, stop by give these two places a try. You won’t regret it. And check out the rest of town, if you get a chance. I was visiting at the end of the season, so a lot of the places had already closed up for winter. I look forward to coming back, hopefully when the weather is warmer, although I have been known to drive up to Sault Ste. Marie in a snow storm. . . but that’s another story. . .