Foodie Finds: Best Place to Eat Near Sleeping Bear Dunes

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Jul 06, 2017 / 0 comments

Sleeping Bear Dunes - voted the most beautiful place in the US! And it is definitely worth the title - we've written extensively about this gorgeous place, since it is almost in our own backyard.

But let's say you're heading to Sleeping Bear Dunes, along Michigan's Sunset Coast, and either want to fuel up before climbing the dunes, or fuel and hydrate afterwards. Where to go? Never fear - foodie finds is here!

Best Place to eat near Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan

Just south of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park is the small town of Empire. It's got a cute downtown, an incredible chocolate shop (Grocer's Daughter), and the best meatball sub I've ever had outside of my own kitchen.

Empire, Michigan

So you're driving in Empire and looking for this great sub shop - don't blink. Empire is small! It's a small, unassuming building with triangular doorways (it shares the building with a coffeeshop). Pull into the parking lot - you've arrived at Empire Village Inn. It is a bar, but families are definitely welcome there.

This particular day a few weeks ago, we were meeting a group of friends for a beach day at Empire Beach (which is wonderful!). So we wanted to fuel up early before hitting the beach and diving into the waves. Empire Village Inn was perfect for us.

They don't have a huge menu, but you can tell that every item on the 2-page spread is made with thoughtfulness and care. We were immediately drawn to the hot submarine sandwiches (my husband is a sub connoisseur). Our daughter got the pizza sub with bacon and sausage, Ed got the Philly steak sub (no cheese, allergic), and I ordered the meatball sub.

Empire Village Inn serves Northwoods sodas, a local institution (try their rootbeer!). Our friendly waitress was quick with the refills and quite patient with our questions. And, they have tots.

And then.

The Subs Arrived.

Oh. My. Take a look...

Bacon Sub - Empire Village Inn

Philly Sub, Empire Village Inn

Best Meatball Sub, EVER. Empire Village Inn
Indeed. Our daughter says about her bacon sub, "That was the most bacon I've ever had at any restaurant, ever. It was delicious!"

Ed loved his sub (you can hear his comments in this video).

And the meatball sub? Incredible. Crispy bread, hot sauce, gooey cheese, and large, flavorful meatballs. Best. Meatball. Sub. Ever. NOTE! This is so sad. O The Places We Go let me know that the Empire Village Inn doesn't make meatball subs any more. She said that they enjoyed the "Pre-Existing Condition, a sandwich concoction consisting of prime rib, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, to name a few. " Click her link above for photos - they also ordered the pizza!

We've heard their pizza is fabulous - but I think I've found my go-to menu item, thank you.

Empire Village Inn
11601 S Lacore Rd  Empire, MI 49630
(231) 326-5101

Empire Village Inn Menus, since I couldn't find them online:

Empire VIllage Inn Menu

Empire VIllage Inn Menu

Empire VIllage Inn Menu

Empire VIllage Inn Menu

Empire Village Inn Menu


More Sleeping Bear Dunes goodness:

Five Favorite Places for Kids on the Sunset Coast, Michigan

Fall Weekend at Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Ten Places Not to Miss at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Top 10 Beach Towns on Michigan's Sunset Coast

New Beautiful Sleeping Bear Dunes Book

June Book Review of the Month: Michigan State & National Parks



Have you eaten near Sleeping Bear Dunes? What's your favorite spot?