This quiet beach town is building a steady buzz—and not just in July, when you might spot summer resident Mario Batali finding inspiration at the National Cherry Festival or stars swooning over cherry crumble pies at the Traverse City Film Festival, organized by documentary filmmaker and local resident Michael Moore. Destination diners are now flocking to the Midwest's northern foodie frontier year-round to discover dishes that are homegrown and rustic yet at the same time worldly and sophisticated.
"It's like Napa Valley in the 1970s," explains chef Eric Patterson, who moved to Traverse City in 2008 from Las Vegas' Michelin-starred Andre's with co-chef Jennifer Blakeslee. Their restaurant, The Cooks' House (try the poached duck egg with prosciutto, nasturtium leaves, and dried cherries), seats just 25 in a converted clapboard house. But, as he says, "With area wines winning international awards and the artisan food scene taking off, we knew we'd arrived at the beginning of something big."
Bike 15 miles to Suttons Bay along the Leelanau Trail, and you'll pass rolling dunes, pine cottages, and farmstands stacked with cherries and sand-grown tomatoes. A 5-mile ride up the Old Mission Peninsula leads to 2 Lads Winery for hilltop bay views with a crisp rosé of Cabernet Franc.
For uncommon dining, head to The Village Commons, Traverse City's gourmet complex. You'll find Left Foot Charley blending the next acclaimed Island View Vineyard Pinot Blanc, Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery baking crusty sourdough from organic Michigan-grown grains, and Trattoria Stella chef Myles Anton earning his next James Beard nomination.