Northern Nosh: Where we’re eating and ordering from in TC, and why

Traverse City – We know what the rest of the world thinks of Traverse City's culinary scene: It's headed the Midwest Living's list of Five Top Food Towns two years running. listed Traverse City No. 1 of the 200 Surprising Foodie Towns it surveyed in America. And Bon Appétit says it's one of America's Five Top Foodie Towns. But what do we – TC's ravenous residents – think of this town's tasty offerings? Where to we go to indulge, to impress, to get intimate? What's missing that we want? And what's missing that we value?

Together, the TCBN and local market-research company Avenue ISR surveyed more than 200 of our readers on their TC dining habits. Here are just a few of the tasty nuggets we found:

We Eat Out. A lot.

100 percent of respondents report eating out at least once per month. On average, respondents report going out to restaurants and bars about four to five times per week, lunch being the most popular eat-out occasion. Here's the breakdown:

What Recession?

The frequency of eating out is increasing. More than 80 percent of TCBN readers said they are eating out either the same or more than they were one year ago.

The TC Restaurant Scene: Movin' on Up

The vast majority of survey takers think that the quality of Northern Michigan restaurants has improved over the last five years. A whopping 97 percent agree that the quality of restaurants has improved over the last five years; 70.4 percent of those say the improvement has been BIG. As such, 76.4 percent of the group back the claim that TC is a "legitimate, national foodie town." The holdup for those who don't believe? TC's lack of authentic ethnic food options.

"There is a Traverse City movement to become a foodie town but we lack the ethnic choices to be a true foodie town."

David Cooper, Environmental Solutions, Inc.

International Cuisine Wish List Survey says:

1) Indian

2) Italian

3) Thai

4) Mexican (many mentioned missing Taqueria Margarita)

5) Pan-Asian or Fusion

Get on the Chain, Gang

When asked "What restaurants do we need in this area?" most respondents targeted national and regional chains.

Their top picks:

1) Panera Bread

2) PF Chang's

3) Chipotle

4) Carraba's


Who are These People?

The group of 204 survey respondents was comprised of both working (76 percent) and non-working (24 percent) adults. About 81 percent of the working group work based in Grand Traverse County (81.6 percent) with the majority located in downtown Traverse City. Females made of 65.5 percent of the group; 34.5 were male. The median age: 46 to 55.

Setting the Scene

Ambiance for all occasions

Food makes the meal, but the scene can often make or break an important date, meeting or moment. We asked survey takers their favorite – and least favorite – settings for a variety of different situations. The top five responses for each:

Best Place for a Quiet Conversation

1) Trattoria Stella 10.8%

2) Amical 9.3%

3) Hanna Bistro 8.2%

4) Brew 7.7%

5) Minerva's 6.2%

Worst Place for a Quiet Conversation

1) North Peak 16.9%

2) Red Ginger 16.3%

3) Bubba's 10.2%

4) 7 Monks 9.6%

5) Union Street 4.2%

Best Place to Impress a Client or Business Associate

1) Trattoria Stella 22.1%

2) Red Ginger 21.2%

3) Amical 9.2%

4) Phil's on Front 5.5%

5) Hanna Bistro 4.1%

Best Place to Unwind After Work

1) Red Ginger 15.8%

2) 7 Monks 14.7%

3) Firefly 7.6%

4) Brew 6.0%

5) Minerva's 4.3%

Best Place for a Birthday Lunch: Top Five Mentions

1) Amical 12.9%

12) Red Ginger 7.9%

3) Trattoria Stella 6.2%

4) North Peak 5.6%

5) Poppycock's 5.1%

Service with a Smile

Wait staff that disappear when you need them, squeezes into your table's seats while taking your order, or can't tell you how anything is made … ? You won't find them here at the six restaurants respondents rated tops in wait staff service:

Survey says:

1) Red Ginger 15.4%

2) Trattoria Stella 14.9%

3) Amical 12.8%

4) The Bay Leaf 4.6%

5) Firefly, North Peak (Tie) 3.6%

Best Bartenders

1) Red Ginger 19.9%

2) 7 Monks 10.9%

3) Trattoria Stella 5.8%

4) Firefly, Minerva's, North Peak (Tie) 5.1%

Eating In, Gourmet Style

Nearly 50 percent of our survey takers indicated that the businesses for which they work picks up catered lunches or other meals some of the time. For these folks, overall quality is the primary concern. After quality, variety: in salads and soups, vegetarian and other healthy options. Also of high importance is convenience. Is it easy to place an order? Is the turnaround quick? Does the venue offer delivery? We can assume the following spots hit all the marks; they ranked the most popular for take-out and catering:

Their top picks:

1) Centre Street Cafe

2) Grandview Catering

3) Mary's Kitchen Port

4) Chef's Inn

5) Rolling Farms Cafe


20 percent of respondents consider themselves local libation die-hards who always choose local when dining out: 17 percent are beer drinkers; 19 percent are wine drinkers.

Local and … or Organic?

Half of all respondents said that locally sourced food is extremely or very important in deciding where to eat; only15 percent said the same about certified organic food.

The love extends to local beer and wine: 92 of wine drinkers choose local wine at least part of the time; 97% of beer drinkers choose locally produced brews at least some of the time.