Kevin and I went away for a long weekend vacation recently. We made the 7 hour drive up to Mackinac Island, Michigan for a lovely stay in the Grand Hotel. Much fun was had biking around the island, playing tennis, a little bocci ball, lounging by the pool, long walks in the garden, and dressing up in coats, ties and dresses for dinner. The old hotel has a long-standing dress code in effect after 6pm. It made getting ready for dinner an event and it was so lovely. We had some very delicious meals there but nothing to write home about. It wasn’t until we left the island and stopped in Traverse City for the night on our drive back home that I ate, quite possibly, the best fish dish in the entire world. Entire. World.
I had done a little research before we set out on our weekend getaway as to the best places to eat in Traverse City, Michigan. Kevin’s boss had a stack of the latest issues of Northern Michigan’s Magazine Traverse for reference. The magazine listed Apache Trout Grill as the best place to get brunch, best outdoor dining, and best whitefish. After checking out the reviews on TripAdvisor I was convinced this was the place we needed to go. We arrived to a full parking lot (we had to park across the street in overflow) which was a good sign to begin with. We were told the wait was an hour twenty to an hour thirty but with a cocktail bar out on the back deck by the bay we were welcome to grab a drink while we waited. What else were we going to do? Cocktails on the deck it was! We were lucky enough to grab a table right at the water’s edge and took in a spectacular view of the bay with boats bobbing and waves lapping. With an Old Fashioned in our hands, a cool breeze in the air, and the warm sun on our backs we had the most pleasant time waiting for a table ever. The picture above was taken as we waited.
When it was finally time to go inside to eat I was almost disappointed! However, we were seated in the main dining room in which the walls of windows were opened and it was like eating on a patio. Since I had read that the whitefish was the best in northern Michigan I decided that’s what I would get. I chose the pecan crusted whitefish. It was a fresh Lake Superior filet deep fried and served with Michigan cherry amaretto sauce. When my dish arrived my eyes popped from my head. The filet was larger than the plate! It gently draped over both ends and sat there in all of it’s crunchy fried goodness. The cherry sauce crowned the filet as it slowly melted down the sides of the pecan crust. To say that the meat was delicate, fresh and flavorful isn’t hitting the tip of what this dish had to offer. The fish was almost silky and the pecans added the most exquisite crunch. When I added a forkful of the cherry sauce to a bite I broke out into an audible laugh at the pure joy happening on my tastebuds. I had never tasted anything so perfectly simple and delicious in all my life. Honest to goodness, I can’t even remember what I ordered as a side dish. I know I ate it but I couldn’t tell you what it was for $100. That dinner was all about the fish. It was everything.
And I ate the whole damn thing, draping sides and all. I couldn’t get enough. I would make the 5 hour drive up there to eat it again. It was that good. I never thought a piece of fish would be on my top 3 list of the best things I have ever eaten. Fish! Who knew? Perhaps it was the unexpectedness of it or the fact that I was in a beautiful setting with the man I love or a combination of the two that made this dinner so wonderful. All I can say is, if you’re ever lucky enough to find yourself in Traverse City, Michigan get your butt over to the Apache Trout Grill and order yourself the whitefish. You won’t regret it.