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Foodie Finds: The Definitive Guide to Where to Eat in Port Austin, Michigan

Brianna Krueger's picture
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One would think that a town located on the shoreline of Lake Huron would have restaurants upon restaurants serving up fresh fish. This is not true for Port Austin, Michigan. (Although many do have all you can eat fish at least one night a week.) The small town (downtown is less than 1/4 of a mile long) offers a variety of food and restaurants that are sure to please any taste buds. (And as a picky eater, I would know.)

 

Every summer, tourists flood the town to relax on the beach, play in the water, and if you’re like my family, grill lakeside. My family spends two weeks of our summer up here, as we have for over fifty years and three generations. My great-grandparents lived 17 miles away in Bad Axe (in the center of the thumb), before deciding that they needed lakefront property along Lake Huron.  Although that wasn’t necessarily their choice – my great-uncle Paul loved the town and was caught multiple times trespassing on private lakefront property. So to avoid trouble, they bought a lake house in Port Austin, where my family and other tourists decide to make the most of summer.

 

And some of the enjoyments of summer come from the restaurants that make up the town. Many restaurants have become favorites of mine. So much so, that I can’t miss a single summer without eating at them. After all, you like them for a reason.

 

However, that’s also a downfall. When you spend all your time at the same restaurants, you miss out on the others. But to partially quote Forrest Gump, vacation is "like a box of chocolate, you never know what you're going to get." And this past vacation was unlike any we'd had, because we not only went to our favorites, but we went to every restaurant to (coincidentally to my – and your - benefit) create a guide about where to eat in Port Austin, Michigan.*

 

Sportsman's Inn

This was a restaurant that I can't ever recall stepping foot in before summer 2012, but has now become one of those we will make sure to visit every year. From the outside, it looks like a plain bar, and inside the place looks like a family-oriented restaurant and ordinary…but the food is not ordinary. Homemade pizza with buttered crust. Brew City Cheese Stix with perfectly melted cheese. Big, juicy burgers. Is your mouth watering yet? The menu offers a little bit of everything but is made with a little something extra to give it that flair (again, buttered crust!!!). Oh, a $2.50 alcoholic iced berry drink - can't beat that in most big cities.

Recommended: Brew City Cheese Stix, Pizza, French Dip

$$ $10-15 per entree

(989) 738-7520
8708 Lake St

 

Sportsman's Inn on Urbanspoon

 

Sportsman's Inn

 

Sportsman's Inn

 

 

Lighthouse Cafe

You better wake up early if you want a seat at this small, always-crowded restaurant. Wait times can extend close to an hour, especially for large groups. The family-run restaurant knows how to serve up a wicked breakfast (and lunch) menu. Eggs, meats, potatoes, and toast - oh my! You can create your combination for less than $6.99. It can't get better than that. Except when you mention that the toast is homemade, and the plate of food is bigger than your head to keep you full and satisfied all day long. The Lighthouse is the only place you should bother for breakfast (unless the wait is exceedingly long, specifically on Saturdays during the Farmer's 
Market - then it is okay to go elsewhere).

Recommended: The Lighthouse Special, Omelets

$ Under $10 per entree

(989) 739-5239
44 Spring St
website: thelighthouse-cafe.com/

 

Lighthouse Cafe on Urbanspoon

 

Lighthouse Cafe

 

 

The Stock Pot

If the Lighthouse Cafe is too crowded for breakfast, the Stock Pot is the next best place to go. You'll be amazed by the speedy & friendly service. One minute you'll be ordering, and the next you'll be eating. The Stock Pot has fast food restaurant speed, but has homemade-from-scratch food that makes this place a great stop for your stomach. Don't forget cash, as the Stock Pot does not accept credit.

Recommended: Grilled Cinnamon Rolls, Chicken Noodle Soup

$ Under $10 per entree

(989) 738-7111
8714 Lake St

 

Stock Pot on Urbanspoon

 

Stockpot

 

 

Lake Street Emporium

(Also known as Finan's, for those long-time tourists.) Sit down at the Emporium's counter and be prepared to be served up classic diner foods alongside fresh-made deli sandwiches. Subway and classic diners may be cheaper, but the Emporium's food is freshly made-to-order so you don't have worry if that sliced turkey is from last week Also, don't forget to check out the shop while you're there. Nothing like food and a souvenir.

Recommended: Turkey & Cheese, Deep Fried Macaroni

$ Under $10 per entree

(989) 738-8412
8687 Lake St

 

Lake Street Emporium

 

Lake Street Emporium

 

 

The Bank 1884

A registered landmark, The Bank was converted into a restaurant in 1984 after being abandoned for 25 years after being established in, you guessed it, 1884. With many parts of the real bank still standing (notice pieces of wood in the middle of the brick to help keep the layers even) the Bank offers a unique dining experience. How many restaurants do you know that use dumbwaiters to cart the meals from kitchen to second floor? Enjoy your delicious meal of bread, salad or soup, entree, and dessert. Oh, and the impressive wine list.

Recommended: Filet Mignon, Prime Rib

$$$ $15-25 per entree

(989) 738-5353
8646 Lake St
website: thebank1884.com/

 

Bank 1884 on Urbanspoon

 

Bank 1884

 

Bank 1884

 

 

Joe's Pizzeria: American and Italian Cuisine

Famous for its pizza, but it also has a menu of other delicious items, including a meatball sub that will take you two meals to finish. Caution: extreme amount of cheese on the pizza may cause heart attack. Loaded plentifully, the cheese dangles as you pull it onto your plate. You'll probably eat this pizza with a knife and fork because the cheese weighs it down so much. Joe's pizza is a never-miss highlight when we visit Port Austin. But check your wallet and make sure you have cash, as the place is also cash only.

Recommended: Pizza, Spaghetti & Meatballs

$$ $10-15 per entree

(989) 738-8711
8725 Lake Street

 

Joe's Pizzeria American & Itln on Urbanspoon

 

Joe's Pizzeria

 

Joe's Pizzeria

 

 

Corley's Thumb Restaurant- NOW CLOSED

From the outside, this restaurant looks like it belongs on a deserted highway road for truckers. Ignore that feeling and embrace the sign that's always by the edge of the road, stating 'sliders - $1.00'…you will not regret that slider. The meat is so fresh and juicy, you don't even need cheese, ketchup, or other condiments, because the flavor is so potent. One bite and you'll be hooked, wanting to return the following day for more…like I did.

Recommended: Sliders

$ Under $10 per entree

(989) 738-8611
283 E Spring St

 

Corley's Thumb Restaurant on Urbanspoon

 

Corely's sliders

 

 

Fireside Inn

One of the closest places you'll come to finding a real bar is Fireside. As in, it’s one of the few establishments open past 10PM. But if you're not in the mood for a beer, Fireside Inn is great for food and games, too, which makes it perfect for a family outing. From pizza to subs to Mexican inspired dishes, Fireside is sure to satisfy. However, depending on the crowd or lack thereof, they may shut down the bar and close up early.

Recommended: Chicken Parmesan Sandwich, Baked Potato Skins

$$ $10-15 per entree

(989) 738-8232
1146 Port Austin Rd

 

Fireside Inn on Urbanspoon

 

Fireside Inn

 

Fireside Inn

 

 

Captain Morgan’s Grindstone Bar & Grill

Sit lakeside or pool-table-side at the Grindstone Bar & Grill while you enjoy live entertainment in the relaxed atmosphere. Offering Mexican, seafood, Italian, and burgers, you're sure to find something at to enjoy at this establishment that also rents cabins and fishing charters. A bit out of the downtown area, you'll want to be careful while driving - deer have a knack for loving country roads.

Recommended: Chicken Tender Basket, Burger

$$ $10-15 per entree

(989) 738-7665
3337 Pointe Aux Barques Rd

 

Captain Margan's Grindstone on Urbanspoon

 

Captain Morgan’s Grindstone Bar & Grill

 

Captain Morgan’s Grindstone Bar & Grill

 

 

 

The Landing Tavern

Skip the food, go for the bar. The food you'll be able to live without (and you could probably get the same cheeseburger at any fast food restaurant) but the bar, open till 2 - the latest in Port Austin, is stocked with everything you'll ever want. The bartenders are skilled, able to make shots that taste delicious and fit your budgetary needs. Five shots for $15 - you can't beat that in most city bars, so you'll get more alcohol for your money.

$ Under $10 per entree 

(989) 738-9750
8724 Lake Street

 

Landing Tavern of Port Austin on Urbanspoon

 

The Landing Tavern

 

The Landing Tavern

 

 

Grindstone General Store

Although the restaurants listed aren't in order, I saved the best for last. Grindstone is the big kahuna of ice cream. Don't bother going anywhere else, because in one visit you will fall head over ice cream scoop in love. Big scoops, cheap prices, great selection of all your favorite ice cream flavors and then some - you couldn't ask for more. And literally you won't; a single scoop, sometimes even a baby scoop, on a waffle cone is more than enough ice cream to satisfy. Oh, and it's less than $3.00. You can't beat out the King of Ice Cream.

Recommendation: Everything.

$ Under $10 per entree 

(989) 738-6410
3206 Copeland Rd

 

 

Grindstone General Store

 

Grindstone General Store

 

 

 

So now the question is, which one will you try first?

*Please note that the article is based on the town’s peak season of summer.

 

 

Brianna Krueger is the Chief Editor at Wandering Educators.

 

 

 

 

Comments

Julie Royce's picture

Port Austin Restaurants

The restaurant guide was like a trip home for me.  Some of the restaurants have changed, or at least changed names, but I was immediately homesick for The Bank restaurant because of its ties to history. Port Austin is a charming town in Michigan's Thumb and anyone who gets to spend some quality vacation time there is fortunate.  A home on the lake?  A piece of heaven.  As I read the article I was wondering if the Garfield Inn and the Farm Restaurant are still there or if they have fallen victim to the times?  It's been way too long since I've made the visit, but reading about Port Austin has convinced me to put in on my list of places to spend a day when we return to Lexington (another small Thumb resort) next summer.

Brianna Krueger's picture

The Garfield Inn did close,

The Garfield Inn did close, I want to say in 2010? The Farm is still there, but it was the one place that we didn't have time for. Can only eat out so much during a vacation.

You should definitely visit, but I'll warn you that the water level has gone down quite a bit.  Between August and the beginning of October it went down a foot! I'm crossing my finger for lots of rain and snow to bring it back up.

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