Marquette really has it all: a stunning location, beautiful historic buildings, an active, outdoors-oriented population, a progressive character and great local eateries. The latter two qualities may be somewhat related, in the sense that residents and visitors are interested in trying new things and experiencing different cultures through cuisine. Case in point: I was impressed by the fact that there’s a Thai restaurant in Marquette, while many Michigan cities south of the bridge are without one. Yet when I mentioned this to a resident, she said playfully, “Well, there are actually three … but one good one!”

My husband and I recently had the pleasure of visiting this “college town,” one of our favorite Michigan cities. Wandering through the quaint downtown area, the bland barrage of chain restaurants found almost the world over – and indeed, right outside of Marquette’s city center – doesn’t exist. I opt for a small adventure at a locally owned eatery over the witheringly predictable fare of a chain restaurant every time, so strolling through Marquette is like being a kid in a candy store. The appeal of the home-grown establishment is much more than just the potential gamble; it’s also experiencing regional culture, supporting the community and the greater likelihood that ingredients and offerings are locally sourced.

Our first night in Marquette, we visited the Vierling Restaurant and Marquette Harbor Brewery for our second time. Whitefish was the special, and whitefish we ate, washed down with beer from their brewery. The ambiance at the Vierling is welcoming and cozy and the food and brew were delicious. I highly recommend the sampler of beers to get an in-depth taste of their offerings.

The next morning, we headed over to Dead River Coffee for fresh brew of a different sort, rather than choking down sub par campfire coffee. We were rewarded with tall mugs of rich coffee, roasted and brewed onsite and served in a funky, friendly space.

Nearby sits Marquette Baking Co., where we sampled an outrageously good Pesto Parmesan loaf. But it was bagels we were craving, so we were off to the Third Street Bagel Co. for lox bagel sandwiches adorned with capers. We enjoyed them so much, we were back the next morning for one last bite before we hit the road again, bound for home.

Not only does Marquette have an outstanding selection of local restaurants, cafés and pubs, but they also have a Food Co-op with an array of goods that rivals many boutique grocers and health food stores downstate. I couldn’t leave without picking up fish sausage from Thill’s Fish House, a six-pack of Lift Bridge Brown Ale from Keweenaw Brewing Company and some organic dark chocolate.

I’m already looking forward to my next visit to Marquette.


UP Oktoberfest: The Inaugural Event

I packed the car the night before, and we loaded up our dogs in the dark of the morning, crossing the bridge before noon. Were we crazy to drive from Southeast Michigan to the middle of the Upper Peninsula just for an afternoon of great Michigan craft beer? The thought crossed my mind a few times on the journey, but once we saw the gleaming waters of Lake Superior, we knew we wouldn’t have missed this for anything.

One of the last celebrations of the summer turned out to be one of the best. Presented by the Michigan Brewers Guild, the inaugural UP Oktoberfest in Marquette combined Michigan beer with a breathtaking location on the Lake and the unique vibe of this laid-back city.

Michigan lived up to its designation as the Great Beer State once again, with tables and taps from 25 breweries from across the state arrayed beneath two large white tents. About 1,200 craft brew lovers showed up to drink beer under the sun on the grassy field, many of them from out of town.

As one might expect, Oktoberfest-style lagers poured from at least six different breweries. Other styles represented ranged from beloved standards like IPAs and porters to less conventional brews, like the Roasted Sweet Corn Cream Ale from Right Brain Brewery, Rochester Mills’ Milkshake Stout and the smoky Chartooka Rye, a New Holland doppelbock (all of which I tried). And while I salute each brewery and all the brewers represented at this festival, a few beers did stand out for me. Oak aging took New Holland’s Mad Hatter to a new level, Founders’ Kentucky Breakfast Stout made me fall in love all over again, Dragonmead’s Final Absolution Trippel is always a favorite, and the aged Old Deceitful Barleywine from Hereford and Hops was a treat. OK, so I like big beers!

Vibrant live music, a firkin-tapping, offerings from two local restaurants, an appearance from Marquette’s mayor, hoola-hoops and a rousing Michigan beer fight song sing-along rounded out the event. I can’t imagine a more perfect day or a more spectacular venue. After such a successful first run, I hope that this event will continue to grow and add to the richness and diversity of festivals celebrating craft beer in our state.

Getting started

Autumn is fast approaching, with trees already beginning to change into their fall finery in Southeast Michigan. It’s time to savor Lake Michigan steelhead and king salmon, acorn squash and tomatoes. I’m valiantly trying to resist drinking an Ichabod from New Holland until September 22; we’ll see how long I hold out!

Published in: on September 5, 2009 at 5:29 pm  Comments (1)