Dining on local cuisine is a great way to take a deep dive into the history and culture of a place. In Michigan, that means biting into a warm, savory pasty.
A pasty (PASS-TEE) is a handheld meat pie that resembles a turnover. Traditional Upper Peninsula pasties are made with a shortcrust dough filled with ground beef along with vegetables, usually some combination of rutabaga, potato, and carrot. The filling varies depending on who makes it. Sometimes pork is used in place of ground beef or there’s a mixture of both.
Cornish miners who immigrated to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the 19th century brought the pasty with them from Great Britain. Working deep in Michigan’s copper mines, they needed something hearty but simple for lunch. Pasties with their sturdy crust travel well, so they made a good addition to the miners’ lunch pails. All wrapped up in one neat little package, they were easy to eat in the rough conditions in the mine.
Today the pasty is comfort food that connects Michiganders, especially residents of the Upper Peninsula, to their past. The many visitors who come to the Upper Peninsula every year to enjoy the lakes and forests also indulge in the famous pasties. Here are some day trips you can take from the Petoskey area to try a pasty for yourself and see some beautiful scenery along the way.
The Mackinaw Pastie and Cookie Co. is easy to find with its location just off I-75 right before the Mackinac Bridge in Mackinaw City. Yes, it should be spelled “pasty.” The original owners took a little liberty with the spelling to stand out from the crowd. They started serving up pasties in 1964. The business has changed hands a few times over the years, but it’s remained a staple in this popular tourist town that serves as the gateway to the Upper Peninsula. Hunt’s offers traditional pasties as well as chicken, vegetable, and breakfast pasties. They also have a variety of side dishes and gourmet cookies.
During your visit to Mackinaw City, you’ll be right on the shores of the Straits of Mackinac. You can get up close to the base of the Mackinac Bridge, see Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, and visit colonial Fort Michilimackinac. Downtown you’ll find many local shops to browse. You can also catch a ferry over to Mackinac Island from there.
Lehto’s Pasties is just across the Mackinac Bridge in St. Ignace on U.S. 2. They’ve been in business since 1947, and they’re one of the most popular pasty shops in the Upper Peninsula. On most summer days you’re sure to find quite a few cars in their parking lot, many with out-of-state license plates. Their menu also includes the traditional beef pasty as well as a veggie and chicken pasty. If you get a hankering for a Lehto’s pasty when you’re not in St. Ignace, they’ll ship them to you during the cooler months.
On your way to Lehto’s, you can stop at Bridge View Park where you get a great view of the entire Mackinac Bridge out in the Straits. You’ll also go by The Mystery Spot, a kitschy tourist attraction that’s a must-see if you’re a true fan of the Upper Peninsula. If you want an incredible view of the Lake Michigan shoreline, you can’t do much better than the drive along U.S. 2 west of St. Ignace. Much of the road hugs the beach. There are spots where you can park and walk along the sand. The Cut River Bridge is a popular stop on this route. It’s a roadside park with scenic trails that go down to Lake Michigan.
Millie’s on Main is a homestyle pub on Mackinac Island. They have a beef pasty on the menu that comes with gravy. Serving gravy with a pasty is controversial. A lot of native Yoopers prefer their pasties plain or with ketchup. Some people like the extra flavor gravy adds. Either way, it’s still a pasty that you’re eating on Mackinac Island; that’s a major bucket list experience. So have the gravy. Don’t have the gravy. But do enjoy your time on Mackinac Island where horses replace automobiles and graceful Victorian homes line the streets. You can visit the unique shops and boutiques downtown, ride your bike around the island, or just take in the views of the water.
Muldoon’s is on M-28 in Munising along Lake Superior. They have both hot and frozen pasties, so you can have one on the spot and take some home for later. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is in Munising. The Pictured Rocks are colorful sandstone cliffs along the Lake Superior shoreline. You’ll definitely want to take a look at these natural wonders while you’re in Munising. There are also endless opportunities for outdoor adventure there with hiking trails, lake kayaking, and even shipwreck boat tours. Fuel up on a pasty at Muldoon’s before heading out for your adventure.
The Three Season’s Cafe is located in Manistique. It’s a local diner that’s popular with visitors to the area. If you’re looking for home cooking away from home, you’ll find it here. Their beef pasty is made from scratch and well-loved by customers.
After you fill up on pasties head north of Manistique where you’ll find Kitch-iti-kipi, a natural spring inside Palm Brook State Park. Kitch-iti-kipi isn’t just a regular spring. The spring forms a large pool of water that’s 40 feet deep and always 45 degrees. The water is a gorgeous emerald green color, but perfectly clear. When you look into the water you see large fish swimming on the bottom as well as petrified trees. Visitors take a hand-operated cable raft out into the middle of the pond.