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Great Lakes and Better Food: The Best Things to Eat in Michigan

Find out where you can go to sample some of the Great Lake State's quintessential eats.

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What to Eat in the Mitten

The state of Michigan can call dibs on a variety of native foods, including Traverse City-grown cherries, a bounty of crisp apples and a smattering of Great Lakes fish. But the “mitten” — so called for its mitten-like shape — is also known for putting its own twists on familiar food, including Detroit-style pizza, double-baked rye bread and Mackinac Island fudge. All this and more make Michigan a state with specialties worth sampling, from fingertip to wrist, or from the upper peninsula down to the heart of Detroit.

Illustration by Hello Neighbor Designs

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Detroit-Style Pizza

The Sicilian-style square pizza that is making waves across the nation started in Detroit. In the mid-1940s Buddy’s Pizza started making the pie at their original downtown Detroit location, eventually expanding to locations across the state. The deep-dish pizza dough made daily is double-stretched, resulting in a thick yet airy square, topped with Wisconsin brick cheese and a drizzle of sauce. Although a ton of toppings are available, the classic one is pepperoni that’s tucked underneath the cheese to keep the meaty flavor without any charring.

Photo courtesy of Buddy's Pizza

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Come July, Traverse City, Michigan, turns into all cherries, all the time. This “Cherry Capital of the World” holds a national festival in honor of the fruit every summer with a week full of events celebrating the ruby-red fruit. Over 75 percent of the nation’s tart-cherry crop comes from the state of Michigan. Plenty of you-pick farms surround the area, but for a chance to sample just about anything you could imagine putting cherries in, stop at Cherry Republic, which offers cherry barbecue sauce, cherry coffee, cherry sausage, hot cherry salsa and much more.

Photo courtesy of Pure Michigan

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Cider and Doughnuts

Apple cider is a big fall treat for Michiganders, and come fall, it’s often pressed and served right on-site at a cider mill. In the quaint town of Franklin, the seasonal Franklin Cider Mill (open from Labor Day until around Thanksgiving) presses and bottles cider on-site with a viewing window for visitors. The mill turns 120 bushels of apples into cider during each pressing, which makes quite a sight. It wouldn’t be a traditional visit without ordering freshly fried cinnamon doughnuts to pair with the cider — and breaking off just a small piece to feed the patiently waiting ducks in the stream.

Photo courtesy of Dane Gussin

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