Mackinaw City sits at the southern end of the Mackinac Bridge, the gateway to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. One of the main attractions in Mackinaw City is Colonial Michilimackinac, an important fort and meeting point during Michigan’s fur trade era. In the late 1700s, fur traders encountered Native Americans, resupplied and refueled before continuing their journey west. Today, the town plays a similar role as a meeting point for tourists when they refuel and grab a meal before visiting local attractions or heading north.
Mackinaw City menus feature regional Midwestern staples, like Great Lakes fish. You will find that most menus offer several preparations of whitefish and at least one version of pickerel and perch. Of course, the homemade pie is a highlight of many dessert menus.
Here are seven of my favorite Mackinaw City restaurants listed in random order.
1. Darrow Family Restaurant
Since 1957, Darrow’s Family Restaurant has stood on the corner of Louvingney and Jamet streets, serving comforting American cuisine. They have continued to serve a menu of home-cooked meals through four generations. They prepare their soups every day from A to Z, bake their bread and offer a wide choice of homemade pies.
Midwest-style hot sandwiches are a local favorite. As a preteen, my parents always ordered these hot sandwiches when we drove through northern Michigan. They offer hot beef, turkey, burger and meatloaf sandwiches.
What to Order at Darrow Family Restaurant
Midwestern Hot Beef Sandwich
My favorite is the slow roast beef chuck roast, thinly sliced and sandwiched between two slices of white bread. Served with mashed potatoes and stuffing next to the sandwich, then topped with sauce.
coconut cream pie
Did I mention the pie? Their coconut cream pie reminds me of what my mom made in the 1970s, with meringue and toasted coconut instead of whipped cream. So good!
Pro tip: If you are over 60 and your appetite isn’t what it used to be, they offer senior portions on their main courses. Ask the waiter for a half portion of their main courses and you’ll get $2 off.
2. Restaurant d’Audie
The Audie Restaurant serves meals from the deck opening. They have two full-service restaurants and a lounge that is open seven days a week. The first, called The Family Room, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a casual environment. The Chippewa Room serves casual fine dining in a white tablecloth atmosphere. Finally, the Welcome Lounge has a rustic Northern Michigan lodge vibe.
While I enjoyed their fresh, crunchy burgers and salads in the family room, they are known for their white fish and homemade desserts. They feature Great Lakes fish, such as whitefish, walleye and lake perch. Whitefish comes in nearly a dozen preparations – Parmesan-Crusted, New Orleans, Cajun, and Almondine, to name a few.
The Chippewa Room is decidedly more formal, and rather than burgers, you’ll find dishes like snails and baked Swiss onion soup. They receive whitefish daily from local fisheries, where boneless Great Lakes whitefish is a specialty. Additionally, the Chippewa Room’s wine list is a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner.
What to order at Audie Restaurant
They season the Barbecue Burger with their dry rub and top it with melted cheese and crispy bacon. Finally, they add Kansas City-style barbecue sauce and two crispy onion rings for a made-to-order burger.
Michigan Maple Sundae
One of my favorite desserts is the maple ice cream sundae swirled with real maple syrup, candied pecans and topped with maple caramel sauce.
Pro tip: You can take some of Audie’s restaurant home in their gift shop. Plus, they have homemade jam and locally sourced maple syrup for purchase.
Wienerlicious is easy to spot as the building houses the world’s largest sausage on its roof. I have to say, standing in front of the building in the right position to take a photo that looks like you’re eating the giant hot dog is half the fun.
What brought me to Wienerlicious is that my husband is a die-hard hot dog fan. So, with the giant hot dog on the roof, it had to be tried. The fast-food-style restaurant emphasizes hot dogs, which serve Michigan-made Koegel brand hot dogs. Koegel has been making sausages since 1916. They dress hot dogs in different ways. They have regular, foot-long, all-beef, vegetarian, corn, and kid dogs.
Named after the town, The Mackinaw is a bacon-wrapped hot dog with a cheese sauce. Other options include Coney Dog, Chicago Dog, Reuben Dog, Bratwurst, and Spicy Italian.
Plus, on the menu you’ll find waffle fries, shakes, and fountain drinks.
What to order at Wienerlicious
Chicago Footlong Hot Dog
A local favorite is the foot long sausage served on a honey bun with all the Chicago toppings, yellow mustard, onion, pickle, tomato, relish, peppers and celery salt.
Pro tip: They have vegetarian dogs on the menu, perfect for the vegetarians in your group.
4. Keyhole Bar and Grill
Open year-round, Keyhole Bar & Grill is a restaurant where the locals hang out. They get their name from their growing collection of locks and keys. Over the years, this unique collection has grown to over 25,000, which they display throughout the restaurant.
They offer an extensive menu that includes sandwiches and burgers to complement dinners. You’ll also find a section on the menu with Mexican dishes, where a favorite is a moist burrito.
What to order at Keyhole Bar & Grill
The ribs are tender with a flavorful barbecue sauce.
A specialty of the house is the electric slide, an alcoholic drink made from a variety of vodkas, juices and grenadine.
Pro tip: On Friday nights, they offer all-you-can-eat perch and ribs.
5. The Dixie Lounge
Since 1890, Dixie Saloon has stood at the end of the Old Dixie Highway, which originally ran from Florida north to Mackinaw City. Later, Interstate 75 replaced the Old Dixie Highway. Travelers celebrated road trips with a drink or meal at what was then known as Dixie Tavern. Today they call the landmark the Dixie Saloon.
Located across from the Shepler Mackinac Island ferry docks in downtown Mackinaw City, the two-story Dixie Saloon features large windows offering views of the Mackinac Bridge and the Straits of Mackinac. Open year-round, their extensive menu has something everyone in your party will enjoy.
If you wake up late and regret missing breakfast, don’t despair. The Dixie Saloon serves breakfast all day.
While they offer American comfort food in their mac and cheese, Mexican fare in their burritos, tacos, and famous ribs, their top seller is fish and chips. They serve more than a pound in an order. They use breaded cod, fry it and serve it with tartar sauce, a lemon wedge and fries.
What to order at the Dixie Saloon
Chicken Salad with Cranberries and Walnuts
The mesclun bed is topped with sweet chicken with dried cranberries. Then they add walnuts, blue cheese crumbs, apple wedges, cucumbers and tomatoes. Then the salad is topped with a raspberry vinaigrette.
Dixie Brewhouse Bratwurst
They slow cook the bratwurst in their Mackinac Island IPA, then grill it and serve it in a fluffy brioche bun. You can choose to get it Chicago style with red onion, pickle and tomato.
Pro tip: On weeknights, the Dixie Saloon offers karaoke and has live entertainment year-round on weekends.
6. Mama Mia’s pizzeria and restaurant
Mama Mia’s Pizzeria & Restaurant is a seasonal restaurant open from April to November. Although you can build your own pizza, they offer several specialty pizzas that you should consider. If you are a fan of chicken, bacon and ranch pizza, give this one a try. It starts with a ranch base, adding ground chicken, crispy bacon and a blend of cheeses for a deliciously different pizza.
Although it’s a pizzeria, try their lasagna or one of their pasta dishes. They are just as good.
What to order at the pizzeria and restaurant Mama Mia
Although they have plain garlic breadsticks, you’ll want to try them topped with cheese. They serve them with a choice of pizza sauce or ranch dressing.
Pro tip: While waiting for your pizza, head upstairs and explore the Mackinac Bridge Museum. It features exhibits that tell the story of the construction of the Mackinac Bridge.
7. Rusty Ray Brewery
Rusted Spoke Brewing Company offers 20 Michigan brewery taps, so they designed their menu to complement the beers. For example, their award-winning chili pairs beautifully with their beers. Unfortunately when I visited it was mid summer and not on the menu, but I’ve heard rave reviews.
Check out their patio seating, perfect for a summer day in Mackinaw City.
What to order at Rusted Spoke Brewing Company
BBQ short ribs
Slow-cooked with carrots, onions and garlic for tender short ribs, served with mashed potatoes and asparagus, for an extraordinary comforting dinner.
The nachos start with tortilla chips. They top it with a tangy cheddar cheese sauce, then comes the smoked pork and crispy brisket, tomatoes and onions. Finally, they add a drizzle of barbecue sauce to finish the dish.
Pro tip: Check out their current tap list on Digital Pour. It’s much easier to decide what you want.
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