21 of Michigan’s must-eat items for 2021

During a typical year, Michigan’s Best might eat at hundreds of restaurants, tasting and trying our way through many menus, and meeting amazing people who run fine establishments all across the state. This year was a little different, but we still had some absolutely amazing meals at some great Michigan restaurants. These are the best dishes that I tried in 2020, both during searches and on my own.

We completed two searches in 2020, Michigan’s Best Burger and Michigan’s Best Doughnut, and we visited old favorites and found lots of new gems. Typically during a search, we also end up trying other specialties during our visits, but might not get the chance to give them their due during a search. This is the chance to shine a light on some of these great dishes that I came across over the last year.

This list of 21 things to taste in 2021 compiles some of my very favorite dishes that I ate last year. It also includes some new things I’m looking forward to trying. Most are from searches, but some are ones that happened ‘off the clock’. Some are places that have appeared on previous lists of great things to eat, and I have no shame in repeating them. In a year like no other, I craved comfort and familiarity just like many of us, and went back to old favorites regularly. All are ones that I hope to revisit over the new year, especially once Michigan reopens for indoor dining, which will hopefully happen sooner rather than later.

In no particular order, these are the 21 things you should try in 2021.

Michigan's Best Burger: Nonla Burger

The crispy chicken sandwich made “Nonla way” at Nonla Burger in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Wednesday, March 4, 2020. The restaurant was a finalist for Michigan’s Best Burger. (Kendall Warner | Mlive.com) Kendall Warner | MLive.com

Nonla Burger’s Chicken Sandwich, the Nonla way

Fast casual concept Nonla Burger has been a rousing success in Kalamazoo. The all fresh, made to order menu features burgers, chicken sandwiches, hand cut fries, and creamy dreamy milkshakes. “It’s not really reinventing the wheel,” said co-owner Kyle Monk. “All walks of life can eat here and afford it.” Nonla Burger is co-owned by Natashia and Kyle Monk and Johnny and Kelly Nguyen.

The original Nonla Burger opened in 2018, while the new location, which features a drive thru window, just opened in February of 2020. We visited them on our search for Michigan’s Best Burger right after they opened the new spot.

The burgers here are great, made from fresh beef with an excellent sear, and served on sturdy buns. But do not miss the standout crispy chicken sandwich here, it’s absolutely perfect, especially if you order it up the “Nonla Way” which means it comes topped with house made pickled vegetables, fresh cilantro, and their excellent signature spicy ranch sauce. It’s juicy, crispy, and those toppings set it apart from any lame-o chicky sammy you might find a fast food joint. And joy! It’s priced pretty close to those options, so make the choice to go local the next time you are in Kzoo.

Nonla Burger

2103 S. Burdick St. Kalamazoo, MI 49001

(269) 443-2270

1700 S. Drake Rd. Suite a, Kalamazoo MI 49006

(269) 888-2499

*this location has a drive thru*


30 Michigan burgers you must try

See all the pictures from our visit to Nonla Burger in Kalamazoo.

Michigan's Best Burger

D’Angelo’s in Bay City was the Bay City/Saginaw/Midland poll winner for Michigan’s Best Burger 2020.John Gonzalez

D’Angelo’s new burgers

D’Angelo’s is one of my top Michigan restaurants of all time. I don’t say this lightly, but they’ve been on our searches for best pizza, wings, and burgers. We also highlighted them on our Michigan’s Best Day in Bay City. Needless to say, we are big fans, with good reason. I saw that owner Dave Baranowski and his life and business partner Kellie Berry were announcing some new burgers for 2021, and knew they had to be on the list.

The burgers here are massive and indulgent. They get their meat fresh daily from Jack’s Meat Market right in Bay City, and sear each burger on their flat top grill for maximum flavor. The new burgers include two from Baranowski and two from Berry.

“It’s not a competition,” Berry said. And then she clarified that “Yes it is, and all of them are great, but mine are better.” The new burgers are still a work in progress, and not all have official names yet, but they are rolling them out over the next few weeks. So far, Berry has released her two offerings, a ‘Pineapple Express’ which is their new vegan burger, and El Jefe, a Mexican inspired burger. Baranowski’s will come next, with a meatloaf burger and a country fried steak burger. I can’t wait to try them all.

This year has been even more of a struggle for D’Angelo’s than for most restaurants. In the spring of 2020, Baranowski, was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure, after a routine test. Within 36 hours, this talented chef and the backbone to D’Angelo’s, was undergoing dialysis and placed on the list for a kidney transplant. “He went from working everyday open to close, to not working at all,” Berry said. “It’s going to be a long road.” We hope that Chef Dave, and the whole crew at D’Angelo’s, will pull through.

Insider tip: D’Angelo’s has the most extensive vegan menu in the Bay City area, and it includes vegan wings made out of cauliflower, Impossible burgers, and some pretty tight ‘fish’ tacos.


1305 Columbus Ave.

Bay City, MI 48708



How 3 Bay City restaurants are leaning on each other, giving back

These are the 10 best burgers in Michigan.

Michigan’s Best Pizza: Our top 12 choices revealed

The ultimate guide to Michigan’s Best Chicken Wings

How to spend a Michigan’s Best Day in Bay City

Michigan's Best Burger

The chili cheese fries at Corky’s Drive-In in Allegan. Thick cut fries, a sweet and meaty chili, and shredded cheddar cheese make for a tasty snack.

Corky’s Drive-In’s chili cheese fries

Corky’s is housed in a former A&W Root Beer stand that was originally built in 1947, and serves up the classic drive-in cuisine that just never gets old. Linda and Randy Mankin bought the business in 1988, and have been running this charming, tidy little place ever since. It’s a seasonal spot, and will be reopening for the 2021 season sometime in the first few weeks of March.

We stopped by last spring on our search for Michigan’s Best Burger, and were impressed with their simple, but fresh burgers. Craving something other than a burger? We highly recommend the chili dogs here, or the chili cheese fries. The chili is made from a recipe from Great Grandma Elsinger, the original owner, and has never changed. It’s a slightly sweet chili, nice and tight, with just a hint of a kick. On top of the dog, it holds its own. Ladle over the perfectly crispy fries and sprinkled with a hint of cheese, and those chili cheese fries are on a whole new level.

Plan a trip this spring, and pull into one of the fourteen spots Corky’s has. You’ll be served with a smile by one of the employees here, many of whom have had family working here for generations.

Corky’s Drive-In

1299 Lincoln Rd

Allegan, Michigan 49010-8011

(269) 673-4555


Cash only, please.

30 Michigan burgers you must try.

21 of Michigan's must-eat items for 2021

The Porchetta sandwich at Albion Malleable Brewing is absolutely fantastic, right on up there with their award winning burgers.

Albion Malleable Brewing Company’s Porchetta sandwich

We obviously fell in love with Malleable’s burgers this year, we ended up naming them the best in Michigan. A newer brewery, they’ve been open for just 2 1/2 years. The burgers here are truly incredible, everything is made fresh in house, from the proprietary blend of beef they grind in house from whole cuts of brisket, sirloin and chuck, to the freshly baked buns that these little beauties nestle on.

During our visit we tried a few other of their offerings, including a delicious fried chicken sandwich. The absolute stand out however was the porchetta sandwich, something that you don’t find many places, and one that will transport you right to Italy. They, of course, make the porchetta right in house, taking a pork belly and wrapping it around a seasoned pork loin, then slow roasting it to tender perfection with a lovely caramelized edge. They then thinly shave the pork and pile it high on one of those house made buns. A hint of fresh arugula, and some salty shaved parmesan add just the right flavor to finish this spectacular monument.

Insider tip: owner Ben Wade just brewed up a special Triple, that just might be one of the best beers he’s made yet. It’s a big one, coming in at 10.9%. “I’m really excited about this batch,” Wade said.

Albion Malleable Brewing Company

420 S. Superior St.

Albion, Michigan 49224



These are the 10 best burgers in Michigan.

Winning Michigan’s Best Burger instills community pride.

Amy’s Top 10 Beers of 2020

21 of Michigan's must-eat items for 2021

Peepo’s Subs and Shawarma in Taylor offers up the fabulous Afrikano in multiple iterations.Courtesy Photo, used with permission.

Peepo’s Subs and Shawarma-The Afrikano

We originally visited Peepo’s during our hunt for Michigan’s Best sub sandwich, and it’s become a regular stop for me and my family when we head back home Downriver. This little strip mall shop in Taylor is famous for their “Afrikano” filling, which can be made with chicken, beef, crispy chicken, shrimp or falafel.

The super, duper secret seasoning is also complimented by a proprietary cooking technique that no one is allowed to witness. Like no one. I’ve tried, and co-owner Mahmoud Elhassan kicked me right out of the kitchen. He owns the restaurant with his brother-in-law Ali ElRomh. Elhassan is almost always on site, and usually is cooking up his ultra fresh, extra flavorful food.

You can enjoy the Africano any which way, from on a sub, over rice, on a salad or on fries. My favorite combo is the chicken Africano on a salad, with a side of their house made creamy, garlicky hummus. Dig in, with a fork or a piece of pita bread, and enjoy the rash of spices.

When I stopped in back in the spring, Elhassan had transformed the interior to be safer for pickups, installing plexiglass and more walls around the kitchen. “2020 had made the restaurant industry become very weird,” he said this week. “We come to work to just survive, pay our bills and our employees.We count on our customers to make it through. We tried our best not to cut hours for employees so they won’t lose their job, because they have families too.”

Pro tip: be sure to order one of their fresh fruit smoothies, they are some of the best looking drinks in all of Michigan.

Peepo’s Subs and Shawarma

10890 Beech Daly Rd

Taylor, MI 48180

(313) 299-9992


Michigan’s Best Sub: a closer look at 52 of Michigan’s Best

Schlenker's Sandwich Shop in search for Michigan's Best Burger

Onion rings are put in a basket at Schlenker’s Sandwich Shop in Jackson in the search for Michigan’s Best Burger on Friday, March 6, 2020. Schlenker’s Sandwich Shop was one of three stops in the Jackson area in the search.J. Scott Park | MLive.com

Schlenker’s onion rings

Jackson is one of the greatest foodie towns in all of Michigan. I don’t mean fancy food, to be clear. I mean solid, well made dishes, served in unpretentious and sometimes riotously fun settings, and served up by the friendliest people. If you haven’t been to Jackson, put it on your list for 2021, and eat your way through town.

There are just 16 stools here, ringed around a horseshoe shaped counter. Grab one, and watch the magic unfold. The staff bustles around, and you can watch the cooks in the back, building burgers. Schlenker’s new owners Nick and Tina Fuller bought the legendary spot in 2018, and promptly switched back to buying fresh meat daily from local A+A market. Schlenker’s has been serving Jackson since 1927.

Burgers are delicious here, that meat is so good it doesn’t even get any additional seasoning. You can order them up single, double, triple or quad, and it being Jackson, we actually watched a guy take down a quad during our visit. He announced to the room “tighten up, don’t lighten up!” with a hearty laugh as he finished.

We tried the onion rings on the side of our burger, and they are lovely, with a great crunch, and just enough onion without being too much to handle.

You can call your order in ahead of time, and either pop in, or roll through the drive in at Schlenker’s. Way better than any fast food, this is Jackson style dining at its finest.

Schlenker’s Sandwich Shop

1104 E Ganson St

Jackson, MI 49201

(517) 783-1667


These are Michigan’s greatest burgers of all time

Schlenker’s gets new owners, switches back to original beef

30 Michigan burgers you must try

21 of Michigan's must-eat items for 2021

Terra GR has offered ‘pop-up’ menus throughout 2020, offering different items every week to taste and enjoy. This was a delicious lobster roll they had this summer.

Terra GR’s pop up menus

Eating local took on a whole new meaning this year, and the restaurant I probably ordered take out from the most was Terra GR, since not only is it right by my house and I can just walk there, they also make awesome food, and sell wine by the bottle. Everything you need just a short jaunt away. But when you regularly order from a place, you can start to get tired of the same dishes. That is why I absolutely love what Terra started to do during the first shutdown, and continued with the second. They offer weekly ‘pop up’ meals, that change every week. Chef de Cuisine Ryan McClure is one talented dude, and these menus allow him to get extra creative, try out new recipes, and explore different cuisines.

Each menu tends to follow a theme, with 4 to 5 dishes offered that are not normally on the regular menu. Terra has offered a huge variety of menus, including things like Korean food, Italian, rice and grain bowls, a tour of Europe, and a whole menu devoted to sandwiches. It’s exciting to see what might be on offer each week, and what new things we’ll get to try.

They did a New England style menu back in the summer, which we picked up and enjoyed picnic style outside on a sunny evening by the river. It was so good, but this lobster roll was over the top. Huge chunks of poached lobster with just a touch of homemade mayo, a bit of lemon and sprinkle of chives, all nestled into a lightly buttered and toasted split top bun. An absolute taste of summer.

Stop by their Facebook page to see what they’ll be making each week.

Terra GR Restaurant

1429 Lake Dr SE

Grand Rapids, MI 49506

(616) 301-0998


Local Eats: New bagel shop Terra Bagels opens in Eastown

21 of Michigan's must-eat items for 2021

Mi Pueblo in Detroit offers a full menu of enchiladas, tacos, gorditas, tortas, and tostadas. You can’t visit without getting one of their over the top botanas.

Tacqueria Mi Pueblo’s Botana

Mi Pueblo is usually a bustling, lively restaurant, full of people enjoying enchiladas and tacos, while a mariachi band wanders around adding to the party. They are still busy, but it’s with people ordering take-out, which they have set up in an efficient manner. We called in our order on our way to Detroit, and everything was perfectly packaged and ready to go by the time we pulled up.

Botanas are one of the greatest appetizers ever, in my humble opinion. They are usually huge,and loaded with all sorts of fun things to eat. Mi Pueblo’s is one I come back for over and over, because it’s just not messing around. Thick crunchy chips are showered with a ton of melted cheese, and a generous amount of spiced beef. It’s all the fresh ingredients that sets this botana apart from a humble pile of nachos. Mi Pueblo adds fresh white onion, ripe chunked tomatoes, crunchy green peppers and creamy avocados. Pickled jalapenos finish this, you can drizzle some of Mi Pueblo’s salsa on when you get home.

Pro tip: order up the enchiladas mole to go with your botana, they are some of the best anywhere.

Taqueria Mi Pueblo

7278 Dix St

Detroit, MI 48209

(313) 841-3315


These are Michigan’s Best Mexican restaurants

21 of Michigan's must-eat items for 2021

Mr. Scrib’s Pizza in Muskegon is a local favorite, bordering on an obsession.

Mr. Scrib’s pizza

Mr. Scrib’s is a Muskegon area institution, and a nominee for Michigan’s Best pizza. It’s not normally on my radar, but this year due to the incessant posting of their pizzas on my friend Chef Jimmy Hill’s Facebook, I stopped and grabbed some pizzas multiple times this year. I know understand his obsession. These are thin crust pizzas, with toppings and cheese spread all the way to the edge, a nice crackle to the crust, just the right amount of grease, and best of all, Mr. Srib’s does the ‘party cut’ which just makes eating a whole Mr. Scrib’s even easier.

I called in my order and stopped by the Apple Avenue location to pick it up about 45 minutes later. It was a hot August afternoon, and as I got out of my car I gasped in astonishment. There had to be 40 people standing out in the sun, in a socially distanced line that snaked all around the parking lot. It moved quickly, and the pizza was great. In fact, I had to sneak a piece or two on the way home.

And that is exactly what my buddy does too. Hill grew up in Muskegon, and every time he’s in town he MUST have a Mr. Scrib’s. He’s been enjoying Mr. Scrib’s since he was a kid, and Laketon location was the only option in his neighborhood that he could walk to. “Then it became the place to go after team practice and high school sporting events,” he said. What makes them so good? “I think it’s the sauce and the thinness of the crust,” he said. “The fact that the toppings on it spread out to the very ends of the pizza crust, is a plus. The sausage is the best I’ve ever tasted, but all the toppings are fresh and well portioned on the pizza.”

“I go back to Muskegon about once a month,” Hill said. “I get one for the road, it never makes it back to Lansing, it’s usually gone somewhere around Nunica but always before Grand Rapids. No matter where I go, I always come back home to Mr. Scrib’s.”

Pizza by Mr. Scrib’s

6826 E Apple Ave

Muskegon, MI 49344


317 N Beacon Blvd

Grand Haven, MI 49417

(616) 846-5555

565 E Laketon Ave

Muskegon, MI 49442

(231) 722-6164

1251 Witham Rd

North Muskegon, MI 49445

(231) 744-4888


Each Michigan’s Best pizza nominee is special and here’s why

21 of Michigan's must-eat items for 2021

Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids is known for their hand cut fries. These are both meaty and crispy, and served with an garlic aioli sauce for dipping.

Brewery Vivant’s hand cut pomme frites

When restaurants got to reopen this summer, I promptly took a stroll up to Brewery Vivant. French fries are one of those dishes that really just doesn’t do well as a take out item, as those little potatoes typically steam up in the to-go containers, and then need to take a quick trip to the oven or air fryer in order to restore them to their crispy glory.

In addition to their Belgian inspired beers, Vivant is known for their pomme frites, which are hand cut french fries from locally sourced potatoes. The perfect thickness, these little guys are crispy on the outside, with a lovely, creamy interior. Showered in salt and pepper, they just get better after a dunk in the house made garlic aioli. It’s one of those dishes that is very, very hard to stop eating. So don’t. In fact, order up another one when you are about half way through the first batch and just keep on that pomme frites fry train.

Need more of these lovely fries in your life? Try the poutine which comes topped with braised meat, cheese curds and pickled onions.

Brewery Vivant

925 Cherry St SE

Grand Rapids, MI 49506

(616) 719-1604


Beer of the Week: Take a trip to the tropics with this offering from Brewery Vivant.

Brewery Vivant owners prepare to launch new Kentwood brewery

21 of Michigan's must-eat items for 2021

Crispy fried brussels sprouts come laced with double smoked bacon crumbles at O’s Pub and Grill in Auburn.

O’s Pub and Grill’s fried Brussels sprouts

Why yes, yes I would love to try your fried Brussels sprouts, I said to O’s Pub and Grill owner Marc Owczarzak during our visit on our search for Michigan’s Best Burger. He brought them out, and holy wow.

This sometimes maligned vegetable gets transformed into an absolute delight at O’s. I mean anything fried is almost always good, and here these little green golf balls come out with crispy edged leafs, while still retaining their fresh, slightly cabbage-y flavor on the inside. The addition of double smoked bacon adds a welcome meatiness. Health food this may not be, but delicious they are.

This attention to detail and quality is what really sets this small town gem apart. They hand grind the beef for the burgers from whole cuts creating a proprietary blend of black angus chuck roasts, brisket and short ribs. Toppings for the burgers include things like house made tomato jam, fresh fried onion strings, and their very own Firecracker sauce. We named them one of Michigan’s Best Burgers, they may also have Michigan’s Best Sprouts.

O’s Pub and Grill

123 E Midland St

Auburn, MI 48611

(989) 266-3148


These are the 10 best burgers in Michigan

Michigan’s Best Steakhouse

21 of Michigan's must-eat items for 2021

Louie’s Trophy House in Kalamazoo offers award winning chili, by the bowl or the cup.

Louie’s Trophy House’s chili

During the search for Michigan’s Best Doughnut in the fall of 2020, it became increasingly important to make that we got some protein in to offset all of the sugary treats we were trying. We arrived in Kalamazoo with a little bit of extra time before we headed over to legendary Sweetwater’s to taste about 30 doughnuts. I begged John to please stop so I could eat something solid, and we both said let’s go to Louie’s.

A classic, old school, well loved bar in Kalamazoo, Louie’s is low key in a good way, with lots of craft beer to choose from, and classic pub food. I knew right away what I was going to get. Louie’s chili. In January of last year, John and I were judges for the Kalamazoo chili festival, and Louie’s took the people’s choice award against 43 competitors. Their chili is nice and meaty, with ground beef and a scattering of beans. It comes drenched with cheddar cheese, and onions, which I skipped because I didn’t want to ruin my doughnut tasting palate. It hit the spot, and gave me the energy to continue on our search. Thank you Louie’s for keeping this girl going.

Louie’s Trophy House

629 Walbridge St

Kalamazoo, MI 49007

(269) 385-9359


Annual Kalamazoo Chili Cook Off

21 of Michigan's must-eat items for 2021

Bone Daddy’s BBQ was named Michigan’s Best and continues to make incredible smoked meats.

Bone Daddy’s BBQ-everything

Anytime we are in Midland, we make a point to stop by Bone Daddy’s, sometimes to eat, and sometimes just to say hi to owner Bill Wall, who has become a good friend since we named them Michigan’s Best Barbecue in 2018. The restaurant is in a new, larger location. We paid him a visit this fall, and got platters of his amazing food to enjoy while we caught up.

I like to refer to Wall as “the wizard of smoke”, and he continues to live up to his name. Brisket shows up with a perfect smoke ring, and crusty exterior coated in Wall’s special dry rub. You can get it thick or thin sliced. The thick cut eats almost like a steak, with a great beefiness to it, and a nice hit of smoke, while the thin is a bit more robust, with more spice to it. The award-winning ribs continue to impress, and are exactly what a great rib should be: meat that flakes off, but with just enough chew, a laquered bark, and a gorgeous smoke ring. Pork is tender, juicy and perfect for running through Wall’s proprietary sauce. He just has one, and you can buy it by the bottle, which we recommend to have a bit of Bone Daddy’s at home.

“I love Michigan, period,” Wall told us when we visited him on our search. “We have an advantage over other regions because of the variety of smoking woods here. Barbecue places should be proud to say that they are doing ‘Michigan style’.”

Bone Daddy’s BBQ

1900 S Saginaw Rd

Midland, MI 48640

(989) 496-2266


These are the 10 best barbecue restaurants in Michigan.

Michigan’s Best BBQ is humbled and committed to serving great ‘cue.

Sweet Treat of the Week: Bone Daddy’s BBQ shows the secret to their dry rub

21 of Michigan's must-eat items for 2021

North Branch Bakery in North Branch was one of our picks for Michigan’s Best Doughnut. They also make a mean Ho Ho cake.

North Branch Bakery’s Ho Ho cake

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure if this little sweet gem is called a Ho Ho cake or not. I tried calling North Branch Bakery owner Sandy Czaczkowski to confirm the name, but couldn’t reach her. This chocolate covered cake, with a sweet cream filling is like a Hostess cake on steriods. It’s fantastic, just like the doughnuts here at this little bakery, which is the heart and soul of the community.

“I’ve always baked and cooked,” Czaczkowski told us. “And I’ve lived here my whole life. Every day is different at the bakery.” She’s owned it for 27 years now, and as soon as you walk in the door, you’ll feel like a regular.

It’s a tight little spot. You’ll be grabbing your doughnuts to go, and the kitchen isn’t much bigger. Which really caught us by surprise when Czaczkowskii told us that they make over 12,000 paczki every year out of the small space. Even on a regular day, the racks and racks of baked goods are constantly getting moved around in order to gain access to the fryer, or the oven, or the cooler. Manager Julie Pettibone keeps everything in order like the pro that she is. Imagine a very well-orchestrated dance, and you’ll be able to see the kitchen in action at North Branch.

North Branch Bakery

4098 Huron St.

North Branch, MI 48461

(810) 688-2757


These are the best doughnuts in Michigan.

21 of Michigan's must-eat items for 2021

Cantonese Gourmet South in Flint makes incredible fresh food, in portions and at prices you won’t believe.

Cantonese Gourmet South’s Kung Pao Chicken

The best meals are those that are shared with friends, and 2020 saw a marked decrease of the opportunity to break bread with others. A bright spot for me was a socially distanced, outdoor meal with a few MLive coworkers this fall in Flint.

We ordered up some Chinese food from Cantonese Gourmet South upon the recommendation of MLive photographer and Flint resident Jake May. He told us that it was really good, very generous and super cheap. He wasn’t exaggerating. As I carried the food to the car, I thought my arms were going to break. These bags were heavy. I mean really heavy. We set up tables outside on the driveway, snuggled into some blankets, and opened up our meals.

The portions at Cantonese are huge. My Kung Pao was literally overflowing onto the table as I dug into big chunks of white chicken breast, huge strips of green pepper and onion, a smattering of crunchy peanuts all coated in a rich brown sauce. It was awesome, fresh, and filling. It was literally at least three meals for me. Pretty much everything on the menu is under $10. An absolutely fantastic deal and find in Flint.

Cantonese Gourmet South

3205 Saginaw St

Flint, MI 48503

(810) 233-5431


21 of Michigan's must-eat items for 2021

DJ’s Bakery in Ann Arbor was one of our top picks for Michigan’s Best Doughnut. Surprise, surprise, they also have an absolutely fantastic pretzel bun that comes stuffed with ham and cheese.

Dj’s Bakery’s ham and cheese pretzel bun

Need a grab and go breakfast or snack when you are in Ann Arbor? Head straight to DJ’s Bakery, where they not only make fantastic doughnuts, they also make soft pretzels to die for, and one super special stuffed one that is divine.

We fell in love with owner Kim Yam during our search for Michigan’s Best Doughnut when this plucky, bubbly lady who immigrated from Cambodia, referred to herself as “sweet potato” because of her last name. We’d say it might also be because of her profession, or her deliciously infectious personality. She and her husband, and head baker, Saing Yam have owned this bakery for close to two years, but both have been bakers for years.

Kim brought out her famous pretzels to try, and they are top of the line. She said many people will order them by the dozen for U of M tailgates. She also brought out her ham and cheese stuffed pretzel, and we gobbled it down. Tender golden pretzel dough gets wrapped around salty ham and cheddar cheese. You can order these cold, or they are ready to grab and go hot, with the cheese melted and oozing.

DJ’s Bakery

3031 Packard St

Ann Arbor, MI 48108

(734) 369-2068


These are the best doughnuts in Michigan.

21 of Michigan's must-eat items for 2021

Crust-a baking company- in Fenton was named Michigan’s Best Bakery. Who knew they also had a killer chicken sandwich and some stellar house made potato chips?

Crust’s Pretzel Sandwich

We named Crust in Fenton Michigan’s Best Bakery in 2018, and always love to come back for a visit. Whether it is to pop in for a six pack of flaky cinnamon rolls, or to grab a loaf of their fabulous bread, like the Saskatoon, a hearty loaf that comes crusted with seeds, it is worth the few extra minutes it might take out of our day to get incredible baked goods.

Since opening in 2012, owners Chad and Mary Beth Brennan, Mark Hamel and Mike Green have expanded the operation just a bit, in both space as well as what they offer. They now offer a full restaurant on site, using their baked goods in entrees for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A full bar is available as well in normal times, as is a gelato bar. Yet even with all these extras, “Crust is still a bakery first and foremost, using traditional, authentic small batch recipes,” Chad told us during our visit in 2018.

This fall I got to try one of their artisan sandwiches for the first time. The Pretzel sandwich features hand-carved turkey, Vermont cheddar, barbecue sauce, red onions, applewood-smoked bacon on a fresh grilled pretzel roll. It is served with extra crunchy house chips, and is rich, thick, indulgent, hearty and unbelievably tasty. You can order it up for take out, and have a taste of Michigan’s Best.

Crust-a baking company

104 W Caroline St

Fenton, MI 48430

(810) 629-8882


Michigan’s Best Bakery: our top ten revealed

Michigan’s Best Bakery is Crust-a baking company in Fenton

21 of Michigan's must-eat items for 2021

El Globo in Grand Rapids offers some of the best birria tacos anywhere. Served with a warm and flavorful broth to dip in, the crunchy tacos are filled with tender shredded goat meat. Squeeze some limes over the top and you have perfection.

El Globo Restaurant’s birria tacos

One of the finest meals I’ve had in all of 2020 was the birria tacos I picked up from Grand Rapids restaurant El Globo. These tacos are kind of trendy right now, and for good reason. They are mouth watering good, and I will be a regular consumer of them in 2021.

What is a birria taco? It is based on a deeply flavorful braised goat meat, that is unctuous and rich. Deep fried corn tortillas get stuffed with this mixture, and topped with melted white cheese. Served up crispy and hot, the tacos get served with a side of consommé broth for dipping.

The version at El Globo are exemplary. I squeezed a bit of fresh lime over mine, and everything instantly came alive. Roasted jalapeno and fresh sliced radishes brighten what could be overwhelming rich and intense. Paired up with homemade refried beans that are super creamy, and well done rice, this is a dish that will be on my regular rotation in the new year.

El Globo Restaurant

2019 Division Ave S

Grand Rapids, MI 49507

(616) 734-6869


Looking for birria tacos near you? Here are 41 must-visit Mexican restaurants in Michigan

21 of Michigan's must-eat items for 2021

Otsego Resort in Gaylord is now open to the public. Stop by the Duck Blind Grille for a top notch wedge salad, smothered in blue cheese dressing.

Otsego Resort-Duck Blind Grille Wedge Salad

I got to visit and ski at Ostego Resort for the very first time in 2020, when we shot our Michigan’s Best Day in Gaylord there. This formerly private club dates back to 1939, and recently opened its doors to the public. The resort, which was the first to bring the spirit of the alps to Gaylord, boasts 30 ski trails and five lifts mazing through 136 acres. It also has a tubing hill, where we ended the day in a pile of laughs and very wet clothes.

We headed to the Duck Blind to warm up and fuel up. The Wedge Salad is a personal favorite of mine, because when it is done well, it can be truly great. This one is excellent, mostly because they do not scrimp on the toppings, which is key. Crispy juicy iceberg lettuce gets topped with cherry tomatoes, and a bit of grated egg. Creamy dressing is drizzled over the top, but the real stunner is the piles of stanky blue cheese that the Duck Blind showers on this salad. If you like to bring on the funk like I do, this is a salad for you.

Otsego Resort-Duck Blind Grille

696 M-32

Gaylord, MI 49735

(989) 732-5181


Michigan’s Best Day in Gaylord

Michigan's Best Burger

The burgers at Wagon Wheel are delicious and topped with all sorts of creative ingredients.

Burgers from Wagon Wheel American Grill

I was going to put the Wagon Wheel’s absolutely smashing potato and bacon bites on my list (think homemade tater tots to the ninth degree) but when I reached out to owner Chopper Schrauben he said they are currently overhauling their menu. I can’t blame them, 2020 was absolutely brutal, not just on restaurants, but on bowling alleys as well. The Wagon Wheel is both, and is a huge part of the Portland community, offering not just regular league play, but also after school programs for pretty much most of the kids in the area.

So, instead of the potato bites, I’m all in on their burgers. They are truly top notch, juicy, loaded with quality toppings while not being too sloppy. The kitchen crew hand wraps each one in paper to facilitate easier eating. The Wagon Wheel Special has been a 50 year favorite, it comes topped with ham and American cheese. The Pizza Burger is another long term best seller, and comes topped with a tangy tomato sauce and melted mozzarella cheese. My favorite might have been the mushroom burger, which gets topped with sauteed mushrooms and Swiss cheese, it’s pretty much perfect.

In addition to burgers, I recommend the Cobb salad, which is super fresh and garnished with tons of fun things, like bacon, hard boiled egg, tomato, and blue cheese. They also have a wood fired pizza oven here, and kicks out thin crust pizzas and calzones to order.

Wagon Wheel American Grill

7888 E Grand River Ave

Portland, MI 48875

(517) 647-4989


30 Michigan burgers you have to try

Michigan’s Best Bowling Alleys

Mac's Meats

Mac’s Meats owner Matt Gale shows off one of his 32 kinds of brats that he makes daily at his shop in Rothbury.

Brats from Mac’s Meats & Country Roads Bakery

Home to what surely must be the biggest doughnuts in the state, Mac’s Meats & Country Roads Bakery is frying up some of Michigan’s Best. Pop into this charming country market, and prepare to be amazed not just by what is in the bakery case, but also by an astounding amount of delicious brats, house-cured bacon, smoked pork chops, prepared meals and more.

32 different flavors of brats are available to purchase here, so there is no way I could pick just one. They offer pork, beef, and chicken based brats. You can go traditional, like a regular brat, cheddar cheese brat, or kielbasa or Italian sausage. Or venture into the more interesting offerings like shrimp scampi, chili cheese dog, or asagio and wild rice pilaaf chicken sausage. They even have the U.P. speciality, cudighi.

Owner Matt Gale is happy to share his tips on how to cook his brats, and let me tell you, they work. For any of his chicken brats, he said the best way to cook them was to place the shrink-wrapped package directly into a pan of cool water. Do not puncture it. Bring it up to a gentle boil, and let it cook for 12 minutes. The brats will be fully cooked after this, but you can then grill or pan fry them for ultimate caramelization, while maintaining peak moisture.

Mac’s Meats & Country Roads Bakery

6261 S Oceana Dr

Rothbury, MI 49452

(231) 861-2711



Closed Sunday and Monday, Tuesday through Friday 8:30 to 5:00, Saturday 8:30 to 1:00.

32 flavors of brats, doughnuts the size of your head, can be found at this Michigan gem.

These are the best doughnuts in Michigan.

Heading to deer camp? Here’s where to find the best eats along the way.

Michigan's Best Doughnut: a baker's dozen

A jelly doughnut from Meyer’s Hometown Bakery & Beanery.

More Michigan’s Best:

These are Michigan’s greatest burgers of all time

These are the 10 best burgers in Michigan

30 Michigan burgers you must try

These 10 restaurants make Michigan’s Best Chili

30 delicious chilis to spoon up all winter long

Ultimate UP road trip

All of Michigan’s Best in one spot

These are Michigan’s Most Iconic Restaurants

These are Michigan’s Best Waterfront Restaurants

Gonzo Amy Kitch-Iti-Kipi

John Gonzalez and Amy Sherman of Michigan’s Best meet up with a park ranger at Kitch-iti-kipi, Michigan’s largest freshwater spring, located at Palms Book State Park in Manistique in the Upper Peninsula.John Gonzalez

Follow our Michigan’s Best adventures on social media:

@mlivemibest on Twitter

@mlivemibest on Instagram

Facebook at MLiveMIBest.

Join in by using the hashtags #mibest

In addition:

Amy Sherman is on Twitter @amyonthetrail, as well as Facebook and Instagram @amyonthetrail.

John Gonzalez is on Twitter @michigangonzo, as well as Facebook and Instagram @MichiganGonzo.

Next Post

Oyster Bay’s LaFavorita, exactly where one particular can uncover every thing Italian | Herald Neighborhood Newspapers

There is no want to fly to Italy to delight in what the state is recognized for — the food stuff. LaFavorita High-quality Food items Sector Spot in Oyster Bay has almost everything just one may require to cook or eat a premade delightful Italian food. The offerings, and there […]