Kid-Friendly Foods to Try in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Culinary Spelunker's picture

Stretching far enough that on some nights the Aurora Borealis dance in the sky, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula seems like a world apart—literally. The 5-mile long Mackinac Bridge links the U.P. to the rest of Michigan. The U.P. is bordered by Lake Superior along its northern coast, Wisconsin to the southwest, Lake Michigan to the south and east, and Lake Huron touching the eastern reaches.

Yoopers, as those from the U.P. like to call themselves, tend to be a laid back, yet earnest crowd with a quirky sense of humor. Case in point, they’re know to call visitors “trolls” since they come from below the bridge. Perhaps some of their strong sense of place comes from a legacy of miners coming from across the world and making the U.P. their home despite harsh conditions, including winters that can dump upwards of 120 inches of snow or more.

Marquette, MI. From Kid-Friendly Foods to Try in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

While thousands of immigrants came to the area starting in 1844 to work the mines after the discovery of iron ore, they brought with them their cultural traditions—including foods that have become specialties in the region. Here are just four foods you need to try while visiting the U.P.


Pronounced past—ee, these meat turnovers have become a Yooper favorite thanks to Cornish miners. The thin dough that resembles a soft, pliable piecrust holds within it ground beef, diced potatoes, onions, and sometimes other vegetables like carrots. When I asked a local about pasties she told me no one makes them from scratch—“too much work”—but you can find them readily available at restaurants. Her suggestion was an unassuming party store/grocer called Cal’s Party Store in Marquette

Pasties. From Kid-Friendly Foods to Try in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula




You can thank Italian miners for cudighi. The pork sausage that’s spiced with cinnamon, allspice, cloves, garlic, and nutmeg is often patted into patty served on a hoagie roll. I’d head to Ralph’s Italian Deli for your cudighi fix.


Thimbleberry jam

Larger, softer, and flatter than their raspberry cousins, thimbleberries grow wild along the roadsides in the U.P. The berries don’t travel well, which is one reason why you won’t find them available at your local grocers as you do with raspberries. Yoopers make thimbleberries into jam that you can find and purchase throughout the region.


Donckers Caramels

Serving candy since 1896, Donckers is a must-stop in Marquette, the U.P.’s largest city and the home to Northern Michigan University. Donckers offers meals on the upper floor (and a stunning view of the harbor). But the main floor is where you’ll find the sweet stuff. The smooth caramels are dunked in either milk or dark chocolate before receiving a dusting of chunky sea salt. I’m not normally a caramel fan but I could have easily downed a whole box of Donckers variety with one of their thick milk shakes on the side.

Donckers Restaurant (and caramels). Upper Peninsula, MI




Kristen J. Gough is the Global Cuisines & Kids Editor for Wandering Educators. She shares her family's adventurous food experiences--and recipes--at


All photos courtesy and copyright Kristen J. Gough