People are always surprised that I love visiting Michigan - because apparently most people are wusses who can't handle real winter. That's probably in part due to the fact that they have no idea what culinary gems lie in the heart of Northern Michigan. As the daughter of a Michigander, I've visited the pinky of the "Mitten" enough times to know it like the back of my hand (pun intended?).

Traverse City has been growing in popularity recently, due in part to the outbreak of fantastic eats cropping up in downtown and the surrounding areas. Not all of the restaurants on this list are right in Traverse City but I promise they are well worth the extra-driving. As an added bonus you can explore some of the smaller lakeside towns that charming and quaint. Without further ado, let the list begin. Don't blame me if you up and move to Michigan after you've tried the food. 

1. Red Ginger

Let's start with a bang, shall we? I know what you're thinking. Sushi? In Michigan? But if Denver, CO can produce world-class sushi (I'm looking at you, Sushi Den) then so can Michigan. Red Ginger is packed every Friday night and boasts an extensive menu filled with innovative takes on classic rolls as well as other Asian-inspired cuisine. 

2. Georgina's

Another spot conveniently located right in downtown Traverse, Georgina's, has food that has haunted my dreams for weeks afterwards. Their Pad Thai was arguably one of the best things I've ever eaten in my entire life and it took all of my might not to get three orders to-go when I left. Their menu is a fusion of Latin and Asian dishes, which is a combination that wouldn't seem to go well together... but does. Tacos + sushi = what dreams are made of. If you aren't able to make it to Georgina's any time soon, try this healthy take on Pad Thai to hold you over. 

3. Market 22

As we venture father north, we come across this diamond in the rough that most people probably stumble upon by accident. Smack dab in the middle of nowhere, right alongside M-22 (the highway that runs through parts of Northern Michigan), you'll find the best Detroit-style pizza ever. I seriously think this pizza is better than anything you'd find at whatever restaurant they invented Detroit-style at. With house-cured meats and signature crispy edges, their pizzas melt your heart like they melt cheese. 

4. Martha's Leelanau Table

Back south towards Traverse City it's a necessity to stop at Martha's, a quaint restaurant in the town of Sutton's Bay. Located in a converted house, it only seats about 25 people and is one of the coziest places I've ever been. Their menu isn't full of outrageous fusion foods, just fun and interesting takes on the classics served with delightful ambiance. 

5. Grand Traverse Pie Company

Finally, the best part of the meal: dessert. With two locations in Traverse City, the Grand Traverse Pie Company has enough delectable goodies to give someone a whole mouth full of cavities (no regrets, honestly). Their Mission Cherry Pie is quintessential Michigan but if that's not your thing, they've got apple, blueberry, pumpkin and other seasonal flavors. If you aren't a pie person (but really, who ISN'T a pie person?) they've got cookies and "real" food - but where's the fun in that? 

If you're ever wary about braving the winters of Michigan, just think of all the good food you'll be able to eat while you're there. I promise, it's worth it. While you're there, make sure to grab some smoked whitefish dip at Burritt's Market and eat an extra slice of pie, just because.