My Favorite Restaurants & Coffee Shops in Traverse City
Traverse City is one of those towns small enough to feel like a hidden gem, but large enough to offer a variety of eclectic and high-quality restaurants and coffee shops. As one of our go-to Michigan towns to visit, I wanted to share a few of my favorite places. This list is by no means exhaustive of what Traverse City has to offer, but here is a selection of places I would love to go again. Nate and I try to visit this beautiful town at least once a year, so I plan to add to this list in the future.
Nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, Traverse City boasts beautiful white sand beaches, paved bike paths, and some of the most scenic country drives in the state. When visiting, I have stayed in a hotel, camped, rented an Airbnb, and even stayed with a local friend. The growing downtown is home to a variety of specialty boutiques, craft coffees shops, and modern local restaurants. Keep in mind, during the summer months, Traverse City can get a bit crowded. Book your stay at a local campground or Airbnb early, or schedule your trip in the off-season.
My favorite traverse city restaurants
Mama Lu's Taco Shop
Mama Lu's Taco Shop is a quirky restaurant on the main drag in Traverse City. My mother-in-law and I went here last spring and thoroughly enjoyed our meal. The service, quality and flavor of the food, and the atmosphere were exactly what we were hoping for. While most people order tacos, we opted to try the chicken nachos. SO GOOD. This was one of those meals where we just kept exclaiming about how delicious the food was. We also tried their Aqua Fresca (fresh fruit juice for $3, with unlimited refills!) and I must say, it was the most refreshing beverage I have had in a long time. However, if you’re pregnant and plan on going for a walk after supper (with no bathrooms in sight), maybe don’t abuse the free refills offer! ;)
Patisserie Amie will leave you dreaming about the food and scheming as to when you can come back. Both times I have been here, I've ordered the Peasant Omelet. This is not your ordinary omelet though. This is a rich, frittata-style omelet with ham, raclette, and potatoes. As much as I'd like to try something else on their menu, I just can't. The flavors in this dish are seriously heavenly. So exquisite that I slowed down to savor each bite. While the wait for a table may be long on the weekend, I promise you, it's worth it. Come early, enjoy a cup of coffee and a pastry while you wait, and make sure you save room for Pets De Nonne (French Beignets). Every time I visit Traverse City, this is on my must-visit list.
The Town Plaza
All I have to say about The Town Plaza is get the pancakes. Sadly, I didn't get a picture, but these pancakes are on a different level. My friend, Sarah, who doesn't even like pancakes, tried them and was more than impressed. I had read the Yelp reviews and opted to order the traditional pancakes and fresh fruit from the à la carte menu. The Town Plaza menu had a lot of other interesting dishes - especially if you're looking for something a bit more savory. Just be sure to get a side order of pancakes - you'll thank me later. ;)
My favorite Traverse City Coffee Shops
If I lived in Traverse City, I think BLK MRKT would be my go-to coffee spot. While the list of drink offerings is limited and the footprint of the shop isn't that large, what it lacks it size, it makes up for in character and quality. The coffee and espresso shine on their own without hiding behind fancy-schmancy syrups. And their baked goods? They will make you quit your diet on the spot. See that molasses cookie? It was seriously the size of my face. Should you be interested in finding a quiet place to work, read a book, or catch up with a friend, this is one of those coffee shops that will put a smile on your face the whole time you're there. - The only negative I found was the parking situation. I could only find metered parking, and if you're staying for more than an hour or so, that can be a hassle.
Higher Grounds Coffee
A bit out of the way, Higher Grounds Coffee is located in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. I must say, I am mentioning this coffee shop only for the quality of the coffee. The flavors are smooth, fresh, and robust. Truthfully, I was not overly impressed with the service and found a few details of my experience annoying. However, they roast all of their beans on-site, so you better believe you're getting a fresh cup of jo.
The annoying thing? You can only have a hot beverage, no iced drinks are offered, and you better believe it will feel like the baristas are looking down their noses at you for even suggesting such a non-purist idea. Oh, and don't come here if you're in a rush and looking for a coffee to go. My mother-in-law and I were on our way out of town, and I was hoping to enjoy an (iced) drink on our drive. No such luck. They don't believe in throw-away cups. So, if you're insistent on taking your coffee with you, they will offer to let you keep one of their donated mugs. While a cute and environmentally-friendly idea in theory, I didn't find it super practical.
If you have time to sit on their patio and enjoy a fresh cup of coffee though, this is a neat place to do it! Better yet, explore The Commons and try out one of the nearby specialty restaurants. The Commons is one place I hope to explore more in the future.
Breakaway Coffee is an excellent choice if you're looking for a quiet place to enjoy a quality cup of coffee and don't want to deal with downtown parking. Feeling a bit hungry? They are known for their breakfast burritos. As an added perk, the staff was friendly and didn't mind me setting up shop for a couple of hours to get some work done.
When you're downtown Traverse City and hoping to find a place to rest your weary feet, grab a quick bite to eat, and a good cup of coffee, you should visit Brew. Located in the historic Opera building, the aesthetic is cozy and a bit moody. Given their comfortable and ample seating options, you won't be in a hurry to leave.
Traverse City is truly a town I could see myself living in. Nate and I daydream about what it would be like to have access to the Grand Traverse Bay on a daily basis and the option to dine at unique restaurants regularly. Have you ever been to Traverse City? If so, what are your go-to places to grab a bite to eat or a strong cup of coffee? Share in the comments!