Hello fellow foodies! This will be the first of many (I hope) travel food guides. Nothing is more frustrating for me, as a gluten-free eater, than arriving in a city and having no clue where to eat. Those of you who know me, know that I plan all of my trips around where I can eat. I love trying new things! This comes with its own set of challenges when you’re someone who is gluten-free and likes to eat on the healthy side of things. I spent the weekend in Traverse City, a beautiful city located on Lake Michigan. It’s only a 3 hour drive from Sault Ste. Marie! I’ve been here a few times and had decided that this time I was going to do some research, and ensure we had an amazing food experience. Traverse City did not disappoint!
Saturday Morning Breakfast-Espresso Bay
I am not a breakfast eater. I never have been, but I try to get something light in when we travel just in case lunch ends up being later than usual. I started the morning with a Kind bar and a banana. We made our way over to our favourite coffee shop, Espresso Bay. We were pleasantly surprised to find they now carry some delicious gluten-free products by Third Coast. I had the lemon morning muffin…it was huge! I hate half of it with my chai tea latte, and saved the rest for later. This homey cafe offers a large menu of hot and cold drinks, and they also serve gelato ice-cream.
What I ordered: Peanut Pad Thai
You MUST visit Georgiana’s when you are in Traverse City. It’s a Cuban/Latin/Asian fusion restaurant with a ton of gluten-free options. The wait staff are very knowledgable, and made suggestions as to what I should order. I chose the peanut Pad Thai. The picture does not do the size of the serving justice. I added shrimp to the dish and was so glad I did. The flavour combination was creamy peanut meets asian spice! The restaurant itself has a cool vibe that sets you at ease as soon as you enter.
What I ordered: Panza and Pollo Tacos. Chips and Salsa (ONLY 2$)
This is our #1 pick! Mamalu’s is a small restaurant located in the heart of downtown Traverse City. The place was busy so we sat up at the bar. The bartender was lovely and assured me that most of the menu could be made gluten-free. We started with chips and salsa. They brought us two unique salsas that were absolutely delicious. We ordered the pork and chicken tacos. The taco shells were 100% corn and made in-house. The combination of flavours elevated a common bar food to a fine dining mouthwatering experience. This was the cheapest restaurant we ate at the whole weekend, but was also our favourite! Win-win!
What I ordered: Proscutto Frittata
As I said before, I’m not a breakfast eater. Dan, my husband, NEVER misses breakfast. It’s also one of his favourite meals to eat out. Sunday morning we headed for Amical. It’s a quaint European-style restaurant. They had a display of amazing baked goods that made me wish I wasn’t gluten-free. I order the proccuto Frittata. It had a very fresh pesto sauce that made the entire dish. I was not a fan of the layer of cheese on top and scraped most of it off, but the dish itself tasted like a pizza. You really can’t go wrong with pizza for breakfast.
What I had: Veggie Tostatas, Tomato Spinach Swiss Soup, Warm Mushroom Artichoke Salad.
We hit up poppycocks for lunch. The staff were very friendly and once again had a clear understanding of my gluten-free needs. The menu was clearly marked and made my selection easy. We decided to start with an appetizer of tostadas. The tostadas had black beans, sweet potatoes, guacamole, and cilantro on top. They came with a side of pico de gallo that tasted fresh and homemade. For my meal I decided to do a soup/salad combo. I ordered their famous tomato mozzarella soup and the warm mushroom artichoke salad. The soup was a chunky combination of tomato, mozzarella, and onion. It was a small bowl, but ended up being the perfect amount. The salad was bursting with flavour, especially the kale! The entire meal screamed comfort food.
Snack-Espresso Bay (Again :))
Later that afternoon we headed back to Espresso Bay where I indulged in a latte. I have coffee only once every 2 weeks or so during the spring, so this was a treat! Espresso Bay carries every milk you can think of, so I had my latte made with almond milk. It was perfect. I also picked up a chocolate chip cookie by Third Coast. It was crunchy on the outside with a melt-in-your-mouth center. I highly recommend stopping in at Espresso Bay when you’ve had a busy day and just need a few minutes to wind down.
Dinner-Taproot Cider House
What I had: Taproot Nachos, Phat Viren Pizza
I stumbled across Taproot when I was researching where we would eat dinner. It was going to be our last night in the city and I did NOT want to waste it. Taproots earth to table menu immediately drew me in! Their menu says “Focused on gmo-free, organic, local and happy, free range livestock.” I had to try it! Being a cider house, almost everything on their menu had apples on it. Dan really had to go outside his comfort zone for this meal. We decided to share the taproot nachos and the Phat Viren pizza. The nachos were non-gmo blue corn chips topped with mozzarella and fresh spring greens. I added the black bean burger on top. Dan didn’t hear me when I ordered it and commented on how good the “meat” was. I think I need to order when he’s not listening more often. He was right, the black bean burger brought an earthy satisfying taste to what is usually common bar food. The fresh spring greens took it even a step further with a tinge of bitterness. Overall the flavour combinations were something I had never had while being one of the best dishes we had during the trip. The Phat Viren pizza had house-made cherry bbq sauce, gorgonzola, michigan apples, pulled pork, and mozzarella. They make their regular and gluten-free crusts in house! I took my first bite and wasn’t sure what to think, it didn’t taste like any pizza I had had before. By my third bite I had let go of my preconceived pizza flavours and really enjoyed how the unorthodox combination of meat and fruit made this a very savoury pizza. I would order it again. If you enjoy ciders, Taproot will be the place to go. They have a huge cider menu with a variety of flavours I had never heard of. Many of them are locally made.
In summary, Traverse City is Foodie Heaven. It has the variety of the big city with the quaint friendly behaviours of a small town. There is something for everyone. I highly recommend stepping outside your comfort zone and trying food combinations you are unsure of. Let me know what you find!
Eat your veggies 😉