We are lucky to live in a foodie town with a decent number of amazing restaurants for our population-size. In fact, Traverse City has been recognized nation-wide for its restaurant scene. Granted, we don’t live in a big city where you can try new places just by hopping on your trusty public transportation and getting off a few stops down the route. Hold up, strike that. Enter BATA and Nonna’s, the signature restaurant at The Homestead Resort.
Our crew pulled up the weekday schedule of the Village Loop running out to Glen Arbor and figured out that we could hop on the 5:30 bus at Hall Street and get off 45 minutes later at The Homestead, where Nonna’s can be found nestled in “the Village”. With reservations at 6:15 we had two hours plus to enjoy some good conversation, an amazing five-course meal, and a drink or two (priorities people) before catching the last bus back to Traverse City at 8:34. Check out a quick video of our ride on the new and updated BATA below.
As for the restaurant, it’s not every restaurant that is worth putting in a little extra effort to visit (although riding a bus while singing along to our favorite tunes with a super fun driver on the way home isn’t much effort if you ask me). But Nonna’s is worth every effort and then some.
We were wowed by Chef John Piombo’s creations. By special request, he fed us a pescatarian tasting. The chef started us off with grilled calamari with taggiasche olives, capers, and basil, (yum, especially enjoyed with a nice bubbly). Following was a deliciously refreshing arugula salad with a pistachio vinaigrette, stuffed lobster tail prepared in a unique Italian manner, and mushroom risotto with truffles (my personal favorite and chef’s specialty). You might think our stomachs couldn’t hold much more, but we went ahead and dug into a main course of barramundi with a side of roasted squash. To feel extra glutenous we enjoyed some chocolate mousse with raspberries for dessert accompanied by Chef’s homemade limoncello.
Nonna’s motto is simple, unpretentious, good, and they don’t disappoint. Chef John brings the skills he learned from his years living in Genoa, Italy with his Spanish mother and Italian father to the kitchen and his life-long interest in cooking shines through.
The wine list is extensive, impressive, and local wines are well represented. We went out of region however, and ordered up bottles of both the Clos du Val Pinot Noir & the Rombauer Cabernet Sauvignon. Both wines stood well on their own, but also complimented our Mediterranean-style meal wonderfully.
Add stellar service, plenty of cozy private dining areas with natural stone fireplaces , and a change of scenery, and Nonna’s is a must visit. For us it instantly became a must return.
Full disclosure: Chef John is not only an awesome chef he is also my daughter’s soccer coach where he has to deal with a lot of this. Check out some photos of him in action here and here. In fact, all the girls got their own personal visit to the restaurant after the season. It’s never been so easy to get clean plates out of 12 8 and 9-year-olds.
Click on the thumbnails below for more photos.
Welcome to our first edition of Dinner and a Movie, a series in which we offer our suggestions on evening pairings of great local eateries and theaters. Disclosure: it is merely for lack of creativity that we are using the name “Dinner and a Movie”, not because of any intention to recreate the awkward, ill-fated TBS series. That said, our first entry is right here in Traverse City.
Dinner: Our initial plan had been to try Georgina’s restaurant before heading to the movies; however when we were offered a tiny two-top for our party of three we decided the grass was greener, the space more spacious, and the liquor license more existent across the street where The Little Fleet was having its opening night. If you haven’t heard about Little Fleet, consider yourself informed, meaning now there’s no excuse not to go. None. Seriously, you should go there (like now). This spot is going to quickly become a favorite among all foodies and those who think a Northern Michigan dinner is best taken in with good company and a side of fresh air. The Little Fleet gets its name from the fleet of food trucks that will be parked out front underneath the string lights and next to plenty of outdoor seating. Inside you’ll find a full bar, much more seating, a minimalist decor that includes garage-style doors that open for all the fresh air you could want, and wait for it…$3 draft Miller High Lifes. There’s also ample bicycle parking available.
Food truck options on-site that night included Anchor Station (delicious food with a Southern flare), EZ Cheesy (swanky grilled cheeses!!), and Roaming Harvest (emphasis on local food). Two additional trucks, Pigs Eating Ribs (self-explanatory) and the Dragon Wagon (Red Ginger’s Asian-inspired truck), will fill out the fleet. But, having heard awesome things about the Asian/Latin fusion food served at Georgina’s and the chef serving it up, we still put in our order there (Mahi tacos and Chicken Pad Thai) and fifteen minutes later, mid-drink, ran over to pick it up. Yum. Will definitely return for a sit-down meal at Georgina’s to take advantage of the chef’s table visits and personalized dishes.
After enjoying some delicious chow and good beer, it was movie time…
Movie: The State Theatre was just named by The Motion Picture Association of America one of the top ten movie theaters in the world…yes, in the WORLD. Besides some of the reasons stated about what makes the State so awesome (25-cent matinees, special events, and admission-free screenings when the temperature is over 100 degrees and during spring break), my biggest accolade is the movie choices. Every time I catch a film here I can trust, even knowing nothing about it, that I will walk out having enjoyed myself and feeling like my perspective on life is a little broader. The State is conveniently located on Front Street and is walk-able from so many of our downtown restaurants. The seats are super comfy and the volunteer staff always friendly. On top of all that, the State has done, and continues to do, so much for our community and our downtown area, that we love supporting it.
Film: Showing at the State was the film, “Before Midnight”. It is the third movie in my favorite series of all time: the “Before” series by Richard Linklater with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. As with the other two films, this movie offers something very simple, conversation; this time it is conversation on love, marriage, and long-term commitment. We witness the characters struggle with the same issues many of us have struggled with; and if the conversation doesn’t strike a chord with you, then please consider visiting us in this place we call reality.
In all seriousness though; this whole evening (The Little Fleet and Before Midnight at the State) comes highly recommended. Check it out folks.
It’s restaurant week in Traverse City. Nearly 30 restaurants, including almost all of our contributors’ favorites, will be offering a 3-course meal for $25 through this Saturday, March 2nd. The first restaurant week occurred in New York City in 1992 and was the brainchild of Joe Baum and Tim Zagat (yes the Zagat of Zagat’s survey) as a courtesy to the 15,000 reporters that had flooded the city to cover Bill Clinton’s political convention. Lucky for us, the idea has now spread across the country and to Traverse City. It even occurs without 15,000 reporters hanging out in our city. Don’t get lax though, we still recommend a reservation!
Last we checked there were only seven days in a week and still only one dinner per day. So,
we thought we’d give you our insight into narrowing down the choices:
It’s tough to pick from all the places participating in Restaurant Week. I think maybe one year my goal will be to visit all 30, but I’d need the week off from work to do so and somebody to carry me from place to place. Since I’ll probably only get away from the office a couple times this week I need to make my stops count. 7 Monks & Towne Plaza stick out right away. 7 Monks is easy because I’ll likely end up there anyways at least one night this week – so why not get a 3-course meal for $25 while there? The menu looks great and you can’t find better beer offerings north of Grand Rapids. My picks would be the Bamberg Onion, scallops, & dessert.
Towne Plaza is another place I routinely end up, mostly because of their commitment to local meats, and additionally because most of that meat is pork. They also offer a decent drink menu as well, and that combo keeps me coming in. The Restaurant Week menu looks solid, with the exception of the lack of a dessert (I unapologetically have a massive sweet tooth). But, you can never have enough pork so I’d pick the Rilette Cakes, fingerling potatoes, & pulled pork in puff.
I read through the menus and found four of the nearly 30 participating restaurants had vegetarian meals listed. Doesn’t seem like a lot, but I guess there aren’t a lot of veg-heads around these parts. Gold stars go to Red Ginger with an Indian curry that sounds to die for, Trattoria Stella with an apple and ricotta filled tortelli (what isn’t to die for at Stella’s), Cambria Suites (what?) with a vegetarian paella, and Om with their normal veggie entrees.
Poppycock’s also states they will whip something up for vegetarians. They usually have amazing vegetarian dishes; however seems a bit unfair to make vegetarians guess what they’ll be eating for dinner, no?
In addition, I should note that Phil’s on Front is offering your choice of 3 courses off their regular menus for $25. You can find eggplant lasagna and a penna pomodoro for entrees. Point for Phil’s for having two veggie choices and on top of that…if you’re anything like my dad (who is always looking for a bargain)…Phil’s can’t be beat due to the fact that you can order any of their entrees, even the one for $26 (in which case they will pay you $1back to eat a first and third course). That just blows my Dad’s mind.
I have heard great things about the “house” restaurants – Cook’s House and The Boathouse. Making my restaurant week decision by declaring 2013 the Year of the House seemed less arbitrary than ini mini miny moe and less overwhelming than trying to choose from the near 30 menus of the restaurateurs who have put Traverse City on the map as a foodie town. Looking forward to trying a relative newcomer to the scene with Cook’s House and revisiting a long-time establishment of Old Mission with Boathouse.
Much like my penchant for picking the same menu items at restaurants, I likewise seem to do the same thing when it comes to Restaurant Week. My perennial favorites are The Cooks’ House and Trattoria Stella. I’ve been a big fan of The Cooks’ House since they opened their doors to the public on Front Street in 2008. They’ve since moved a short half-block away on Wellington Street and now offer a great selection of wine to accompany their amazing entrees. Eric Patterson and Jennifer Blakeslee come up with some of the most amazingly simple, yet complex-flavored dishes featuring local and sustainable ingredients. From their RW week menu I’d have to go roasted carrot soup, ribs w/ bone marrow mashed potatoes, and then honey cake.
Trattoria Stella features a great atmosphere along with what I consider some of the best food in the region. Whether you’re looking for a great glass of wine or just some appetizers, I’ve never been disappointed with a meal here. Their menu frequently offers a wide array of locally-sourced ingredients with an international-inspired flavor palette. I’m often torn between choosing from their many creative dishes, so Restaurant Week is a great opportunity to try a few of them. I should also note that they have one of the best old-fashioned cocktails around. From their menu I’d select the lobster zuppa, gnocchetti w/ pork shoulder, and torta.
While these are my favorites from past years, I’d love to check out Patisserie Amie/Chez Peres and The Towne Plaza.
I decided to try and pick places that are kid friendly, but my two favorite places from the list were Poppycock’s & Amical. In fact, Poppycock’s is my favorite place to eat. So that’s where I would head. But if you do decide to take the whole family out during Restaurant Week, North Peak would be a good option. I really like their wings, roasted chicken, and fish & chips (another tip – kids eat free on Sunday, so we go there a lot!).
A few parting thoughts/suggestions:
– Let us know your thoughts in the comment section after sampling some of the menus.
– Reservations are highly suggested.
– Don’t forget to tip your server.
– Eat often.
Every year at about this time in late winter I find myself feeling good-old Catholic guilt because the only reason I remembered Lent was starting is because I saw the BK Big Fish on the Burger King drive-thru menu. Burger King makes every attempt to profit on the fact that the only meat Catholics eat on Fridays is fish. And after the guilt I start to feel anxious about what I need to “give up” this year for Lent (another Catholic Lenten tradition) and how I need to attend church more often but then I remember – Lent means
sacrifice penitence Friday Fish Fries.
My friend Michele and I decided to take a drive in search of the best Fish Fry Northern Michigan has to offer. We decided to stay in Benzie County, since there are plenty of under-the-radar places to be discovered in the small little towns along 31. First stop, Dinghy’s Restaurant and Bar in Frankfort. Dinghy’s will fill up your tummy without depleting your wallet. A little history about Dinghy’s, which has been in business for 19 years: Dinghy’s became popular [and still is] for its meats that they smoke fresh in their own smoker using local hardwoods. Steve Christian has been owner of Dinghy’s for the past 14 years. Customers come from far and wide to enjoy the experience there. During the early years, they started serving only BBQ ribs and pulled pork sandwiches. The nautical theme highlights the history of the ferry boat fleet that steamed through the channels of Frankfort harbor. The old car-ferry signs hang from the ceiling in the restaurant.
About the fish:
Our adventure actually took place on a Sunday, not Friday. But I’m pretty sure you can actually eat fish fries any day of the week. We decided to try the fish sliders [which only cost $6.95] & they didn’t disappoint. The sliders are lightly breaded and deep fried to golden brown and served on a mini roll. They come topped with fresh cut lettuce, tartar sauce, and pickles. A great, light snack or lunch. If the sliders are this delish, we’ll definitely be back for the Friday Night Fish Fry!
Next stop: The Cold Creek Inn, located in the Village of Beulah, on the beautiful Crystal Lake. This restaurant is well known for their perch and planked whitefish, cooked on a seasoned maple plank. All of the ingredients used in their dishes are homemade. Michele and I split the dusted perch. We were impressed by the fresh flavor the fish offered with such a light batter. It seemed a bit healthier with a wonderful taste.
We highly recommend stopping by the Cold Creek Inn. What sets it apart from the other stops for us is the atmosphere. Yes, it’s a more remote place that looks like it only lets in locals, but the bartenders there are always so friendly as are the patrons. Numerous stops there, we always end up chatting it up with a patron. [Also, PBR is on tap…along with local selections like a Right Brain Brewery seasonal] The wings will rival the best you’ve had anywhere in town- with a sweet/hot garlic sauce. The bomb.
Off the beaten path we found our way to Karlin Inn, located in the small town of Karlin, just past Interlochen. This family owned restaurant has all you can eat fish on Friday and Saturday nights! The Karlin Inn is very quaint with the friendliest down home service you can imagine. The price is reasonable and the portions are plentiful.
About a mile and a half from Interlochen Corners is the Hofbrau. The Hofbrau has been part of the rich history of Grand Traverse and Benzie counties for over 75 years. The all-you-can-eat Friday fish fry is Ice Atlantic Cod, beer battered, fried, and served with fries & slaw, all for $12.99. A great deal we will be hitting up one of these wintry Friday evenings.
The Jolly Pumpkin out on Old Mission Peninsula also does an outstanding perch dinner. The perch served at this restaurant are giant and served in heaping piles! Definitely a dinner for when you have an appetite. Again, the batter was light and crisp and the fish was beautifully cooked.
If you have a major hankerin’ for a Friday Night all-you-can-eat fish fry, all of these places will not disappoint and are full of character and Northern Michigan charm.
For this particular post, we thought we’d share some perspective from a few of our Northern Swag contributors. After all, aren’t three opinions better than one?
I love pork. I love its greasy, fatty awesomeness. There have been periods of time in my life when I abstained from meat consumption and each of those times ended with a pork smorgasbord. Towne Plaza’s menu is what I would describe as pork-centric. It’s actually shocking that I didn’t eat there sooner than I did, but as a general rule I try not to consume 10,000 calories in a single sitting, so I waited until I was physically forced to go eat lunch there by my boss, Kim.
All of the pigs are purchased locally, from a farm in Cadillac, and prepped in the back of the restaurant, which is impressive. My lunch did not disappoint. I had the BLT; seared pork belly, aioli, tomato, micro greens, on a baguette. I added fried eggs for $2, bringing the total for my sandwich to $13. Certainly on the pricier side, but worth every penny.
I had dinner at Towne Plaza recently as well and ordered the quinoa salad, which included; beets, cucumber, red onion, chevre, almonds, lemon, & olive oil. Also delicious, certainly on the healthier side, and at $9, not overly priced.
There is no draft beer on tap as of yet, a situation I hope is remedied soon. The bottle selection is a little on the boring side, but since they always seem to have 1 or 2 bottles of Short’s, I don’t have to go thirsty (yes, that is a picture of my beer I had during lunchtime, be jealous). I can’t personally speak to the wine and spirits offered.
Also worth noting, they serve breakfast until 2pm, which is awesome.
When I heard the restaurant replacing Stonehouse Bread on Cass and State (less than a block from my office) was a pork place, I started to doubt the lucky powers of my tofu rabbit foot. For the past twenty years my diet has varied between either vegetarian or pescatarian, and I should come clean and admit to owning a t-shirt featuring an adorable pig with the quote “Please don’t eat me. I love you”.
I was going to start my statement by saying I love pork, but Brian beat me to the punch. But I do. Sometime I think in my head of all the delicious dishes and cuts of meat you can derive our porky friends (queue Bubba’s voice from Forest Gump talking about shrimp.)
It took me a little while to finally get myself down to Towne Plaza, but it hasn’t disappointed since. It’s actually one of my favorite breakfast places now. Easy to get to, plenty of parking (especially behind the building) and much more bang for the buck. My favorite breakfast items are the Eggs Benedict and the Smoke Salmon. Both are equally delicious and $12 for a generous sized portion of food. My family loves having breakfast on the large outdoor patio in the summer, and I’m already eagerly anticipating next spring when we can do so again.
I find that you can make lunch or dinner as affordable or expensive as you’d like. While they do have entree offerings that can be upwards of $20-30 a plate, you can also mix and match a delicious selection of salads and appetizers. On this particular visit, I enjoyed a potato salad special and plenty of escargot for $17.
I should note that I love the fact that it’s just a block down from the newly opened Om Cafe. In fact, I was even able to get a vegan friend of mine to come to Towne Plaza, and he enjoyed a couple dishes that were prepared for him in a vegan fashion. See, equal opportunity for everyone.