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Mama Lu’s Taco Shop
Photograph: Mama Lu’s Taco Shop

The best restaurants in Traverse City

From tamale joints to pasta emporiums, the best restaurants in Traverse City make the town a diverse culinary landscape to explore

Written by
Blair Hopkins
Brock Wilbur

The vast array of natural resources at hand in Northern Michigan has fostered a deep appreciation for locally-sourced fare. 'Foraged' isn’t just an industry buzzword at the best restaurants in Traverse City: the local food scene is season-driven and revolves around getting creative with basics. Nearly every menu boasts something root-based and basically all desserts make outstanding use of cherries. The area is renowned for its cherries, after all – Traverse City is home to the National Cherry Festival, which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Planning a visit? Check out our list of the best things to do in town and browse through the following collection of best restaurants in Traverse City. Make sure to dine at them all. Yes, all

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Michigan

Best restaurants in Traverse City

Chefs Eric Patterson and Jen Blakeslee earned their stripes under Michelin-starred chef Andre Rochat before coming home to provide sustainable, locally-sourced delicacies to Patterson’s hometown. The menu is exquisitely cultivated with a French influence: favorites include the oyster mushroom soup and braised rabbit. The establishment’s decor, like it’s menu, is intimate, tasteful and unpretentious. Make your reservations ahead of time, since capacity at The Cook’s House is capped at 26 people, and seats are in high demand.


Widely recognized for offering the most perfect brunch you will ever have (fighting words, we know), Sugar-2-Salt offers unique, vegetarian-friendly crowd pleasers like root vegetable waffles. They don’t skimp on the meat, either, with seasonally driven specialties like beef tartare topped with a duck egg yolk. Open at 7am, Sugar-2-Salt is an excellent start to the day for travelers making their way over for a walking tour of the Commons.



Traverse City is famous for its cherries and you can’t have a cherry town without a bevy of fine pies. This downtown bakery boasts nearly a dozen varieties of the classic American dessert, from tart and sweet to sugar-free and ganache-filled, and all using the regional Montmorency breed. For those inclined toward other local flavors, the bakery also offers crumbles of Michigan Rubel blueberry, Northern Spy apple and an outstanding strawberry rhubarb. 


Open since 1882, Sleder’s is the area’s oldest continuously-operating tavern. Aside from its charming and vibrant history, Sleder's is also home to an excellent assortment of sandwiches and bar food classics with delicious Midwestern twists (read: loads of cheese). The vibe is casual and homey and the decor historic, with old-school wooden booths and a host of taxidermied moose heads adorning the walls. 


Housemade tagliatelle, rigatoni and gnocchi are the specialties at this airy downtown delicatessen. The menu also offers several fresh salads and picnic-perfect sandwiches to choose from. The inside is spacious with plentiful seating and a casual countenance, but the close walk to Boardman Lake makes Raduno an excellent pitstop for those on the go.


You can get an authentic taste of Texas while in Michigan thanks to chef John Larson, who named this taco spot after his El Paso-based great-grandmother Lu. The best thing about this modern and stylish taqueria is the taco kit, which can feed five to seven people with an assortment of meats, salsas, veg, chips and more. Don't want to have to build your own food? Opt for the ready-made tacos and other Mexican street food items, then wash it down with a mango margarita or sangria.


The Little Fleet started as a bar with a courtyard that hosted the occasional food truck. It has since grown into a bustling corner with a half-dozen trucks of all kinds, from BBQ to tacos, which you'll find on site all summer long, between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It’s also a full-time home to Milkweed, which has a rotating street-food inspired menu. 


Inventive breakfast specialties have kept this lively local chain going for more than four decades. With two locations (one downtown and one next to the Grand Traverse County Civic Center), The Omelette Shoppe has had breakfast fans well-covered since 1975. In addition to their famous variety of omelettes, like the goat cheese with wild mushrooms, bacon and chives, it's also known for its pecan rolls and cinnamon rolls. 



The owners of Osorio combine two regions of excellent Mexican cuisine – Baja and Oaxaca – to bring diners somehing differnt in an area best known for heavy, French-influenced cuisine. The restaurant makes the best mole in the Midwest, and the tamales are worth the trek up to the north part of town.


10. Mission Table

Temporarily closed 

Mission Table is housed in a beautiful, circa-1880 mansion located on the northwestern shore of the Grand Traverse Bay. The establishment believes strongly in a farm-to-table tradition, exclusively partnering with local vendors on its extensive food, beer and award-winning wine menus. The lore doesn’t end at tales of satiated stomachs, though: It’s also believed that the restaurant is haunted. 


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