How to Summer: 3 Michigan Road Trips for Food Lovers

From the west side to the U.P., here’s a food-loving couple’s itinerary for some of the best food and drinks in the state.

WDET’s “How to Summer” is a season-long series that offers insider tips and advice from social media and listeners on how to maximize the season. This week we bring you some food road trip intel from Peanut Butter + Bacon, aka Caroline Fernandez and Ryan McGlynn.

The couple behind Peanut Butter + Bacon, aka Caroline Fernandez and Ryan McGlynn, live by the mantra “Work To Live. Live to Travel. Travel to Eat.” and they chronicle their love of food and travel on their blog and Instagram.

Courtesy of Caroline Fernandez
Courtesy of Caroline Fernandez

As a couple who loves food, it’s not a surprise that Caroline Fernandez and Ryan McGlynn connected over a meal. The two met in November 2018 through a wallyball league. They were both new to the league and played on different teams. There was a league dinner, and McGlynn was running late so as Fernandez’s friend was leaving, he was entering the restaurant.

“As the Daughtry song goes, Ryan ‘found an empty seat sitting next to me, and he asked my name,’” Fernandez recalls. “The seat next to me just happened to be the only empty seat at the table. He asked my name, we started talking, and it turned out we both had a passion for food, sports, and travel. We went out to brunch shortly after (Dime Store…I’ll always remember), and the rest, as they say, is history.”

During their vacation in Peru in May 2019, they came up with idea to do a blog where they could share their passion for food, travel and adventure with a wider audience, but it wasn’t until a trip to West Virginia when they figured out the vision and purpose of Peanut Butter + Bacon.

They set up a website and social media accounts, and initially they wanted to capture their adventures and “cooking battles” as well as highlight Michigan cuisine. Since launching the platform, Peanut Butter + Bacon has evolved to promote small, local businesses and other food bloggers.

“We’ve met so many wonderful people in industry because of it, and we’re hoping to continue to use the blog to help out the industry.” — Caroline Fernandez, Peanut Butter + Bacon

“We’ve met so many wonderful people in industry because of it, and we’re hoping to continue to use the blog to help out the industry,” Fernandez says.

By day, Fernandez works as a structural durability engineer at Rivian (Electric Vehicles) and McGlynn works as a key account manager for a tier one manufacturer out of Chicago.

“We love our day jobs but we have a bigger passion for food and travel,” Fernandez says, adding to her, “food and eating is a universal language. You can understand who a person is and what they are trying to convey through their cooking. It is a big reason why we want to promote local chefs along with their food — it’s so everyone can understand the passion and hard work that they put into their meals.” As for the travel part of their philosophy, Fernandez says it “opens up our culinary world. We travel to different places to learn about their culture and experience foods we never knew existed — for example, we will never forget our experiences in the Amazon because it was the first time we had cow hearts … we would have never known how good they are if it wasn’t for that trip!”

This week, the Royal Oak couple kicks off WDET’s “How to Summer” series with their suggestions on three food-focused Michigan road trips, from a chicken sandwich worth the nearly 200-mile-plus drive from Detroit to hidden gems (truly, as evidenced by a gas station with some killer whitefish) in the U.P.

West Side: A Chicken Sandwich Worth the Drive

Peanut Butter + Bacon’s top pick for our favorite road trip restaurant destination must be The Southerner, located right along the banks of the Kalamazoo River in cozy Saugatuck, Michigan. If there is any sandwich worth driving for in the state, it’s the Chicken Biscuit Sandwich here. Partner this delicious creation with a side of Anson Mills Grit & some Home-Made B & B Pickles.

While in the area, fuel up at Madcap Coffee in Grand Rapids and Odd Side Ales in Holland.

Traverse City: Wings, Beer and Coffee

During our visit to TC last summer, we stopped at Rare Bird Brewpub for the vast selection of 30-plus taps from around Michigan, including a delicious mix of their own creations. But it was the food that truly made this spot a can’t-miss destination. Our picks are the Otto’s Farm chicken wings, Valley View Farms pork belly nachos and the impeccably delicious and dangerous fried cheese curds.

If you are in the mood for a coffee while in TC, there is only one place to stop and that is, BLK MRKT. This chic-modern cafe offers a variety of in-house roasted coffee along with some sweet and savory baked goods.

Upper Peninsula: Top-Notch Food in Unexpected Places

We took a trip up to Munising with some friends last year to kayak and hike the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. During our visit, we stumbled upon this hidden gem named EJ’s Dine or Dash, serving out wild-caught Lake Superior smoked whitefish burgers and fried jalapeno pierogis. Truly a match made in heaven.

Whenever you visit the land north of the bridge, it’s imperative to seek out a pasty or two. There are plenty of local spots claiming to have the best version of these Cornish “meat pies” but we are confident you will find few better than the ones at Muldoons Pasties & Gift Shop on the M-28 in Munising. We suggest grabbing an original beef pasty while you are in town and six for the road, like we did.

About 25 minutes after you cross the Mackinaw bridge heading west along US-2, you will come across a Sunoco gas station. Don’t drive too fast or you will miss it. Stop here! Seriously! Fill up the gas tank if you must but absolutely go inside. This is the home to some of the best smoked whitefish you will find anywhere: Gustafson’s Smoked Fish.

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  • Dorothy Hernandez
    Dorothy Hernandez is Digital Editor for 101.9 WDET, creating digital editorial content. Her love of radio began when she had a radio show in college when she and her roommate played '80s music in the middle of the night.