Live Like A Local – A South Haven Guide To Culinary Delights

Greetings, fellow food enthusiasts! Nestled along the picturesque shores of Lake Michigan lies South Haven, a town as renowned for its scenic beauty and charming downtown as it is for its delectable culinary offerings. As a lifelong local and unabashed foodie, I’ve embarked on many a gastronomic adventure in our little slice of heaven. Today, I invite you to join me on a journey through the flavors that make South Haven a must-visit for every palate.

A Historic Bite
Onion Rings | Clementine’s

First up on our tour is Clementine’s, housed in a building that whispers tales from its past life as an old bank. But the real treasure here? Their hand-dipped onion rings, served on a wooden peg by the inch. Choose between 6 or 12 inches, but know this: with approximately nine miles of these crispy delights served yearly, paired with their house-made ranch, you’re starting your culinary journey with a local legend.

Crispy, Crunchy Heaven
Fried Chicken | Kitchen 527

No foodie’s quest is complete without the soul-satisfying crunch of perfectly fried chicken. Kitchen 527, nestled cozily in downtown South Haven, offers just that. Whether you opt for half or a whole chicken, each bite promises a seasoned, crunchy, and utterly divine experience. And the variety of sides? The perfect companions to your chicken indulgence.

Award-Winning Chili
White Chicken Chili | The Lodge

“The Lodge: where the locals go” — and for good reason. Tucked away outside of town, this cozy spot has clinched the chili competition at South Haven’s Ice Breaker festival three years running. Their white chicken chili, slightly spicy and irresistibly comforting, is served with warm, deep-fried saltines that rival the chili in deliciousness.

Family Style Comfort
Authentic Lasagna | Maria’s Taste Of Italy

Maria’s serves up more than just food; it serves stories woven into each layer of its lasagna. Tender pasta, meaty layers, a slightly sweet sauce, and creamy cheeses come together in a dish that feels like a hug from an Italian grandmother. Don’t forget to save room for a slice of cheesecake, the perfect sweet ending.

A Must Go Depot
The Edmund Fitzgerald Sandwich | South Haven Depot

Housed in an old depot train station, The Depot offers takeout that transforms a simple meal into an extraordinary experience. The Edmund Fitzgerald sandwich, featuring house-roasted wagyu beef, Hook’s 1-yr cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce, and house-made horsey sauce on toasted sourdough bread, is a standout. But it’s not just about the food; The Depot also boasts an impressive selection of craft beer, wine, and liquor, catering to all tastes. Whether you’re a beer aficionado, a wine enthusiast, or someone who appreciates a fine spirit, there’s something here to complement your meal perfectly. Local Secret: You can spend the night in a Caboose train for a unique South Haven lodging experience.

Wing Cravings
3BB Michigan Cherry Wings | Three Blondes Brewing

Owned by three local sisters, Three Blondes Brewing is where large wings meet innovative flavor in the form of Michigan Cherry BBQ sauce. Paired with a Boom Boom Betty blonde ale, and perhaps enjoyed in one of their winter-friendly Blonde Domes, these wings are a flavorful testament to local ingenuity.

A Seafood Lover’s Brunch
Crab Cake Benedict | Phoenix Street on Broadway

After a venue upgrade to accommodate more visitors, Phoenix Street Cafe continues to wow with dishes like their crab cake benedict. Paired with crispy potatoes and perhaps a bloody mary or mimosa, it’s a brunch that elevates the classic to new heights.

Hidden Gem For Authentic
Quesabirria Tacos | El Paraiso Taqueria

El Paraiso Taqueria’s facade may be unassuming, but inside lies a treasure trove of traditional Mexican cuisine. The quesabirria tacos, with their perfect mix of flavor, crispiness, dipping sauce and homemade Verde, are a highlight. And the convenience of a drive-through window makes it easy to enjoy these gems on the go.

Cuisine With A Story
Potato Pancakes | Taste

At Taste, not only does the food speak of heritage and heart, but the story of its owners — a local couple who turned their meeting place into their dream — adds a layer of warmth to every dish. Overlooking the Black River Harbor, their potato pancakes are a nod to Chef Joel’s heritage. This vegan dish is served with apple chutney, sour cream, and chive oil. Pair it with an Elderflower Breeze martini for a truly unforgettable meal.

Summer Sweets And Soulful Delights
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake | Fruit Street Kitchen

The Fruit Street Kitchen food truck, a hidden gem next to Elkenburg Park, not only brings summer sweetness to life with their moist pineapple upside-down cake but also serves up an array of soul food that’s hard to find elsewhere. Among their unique offerings, the smothered turkey knuckles stand out as a must-try for anyone looking for an authentic taste of soul food. This dish, alongside their other non-traditional items, showcases the local owners’ dedication to diversity and flavor. Open only in the summer, the demand for their distinctive dishes encouraged the owners to expand, opening a sit-down restaurant 20 miles from South Haven in Lawrence, Michigan. Whether you’re there for the sweet treats or the soul food, Fruit Street Kitchen offers an unforgettable culinary experience.

Tantalizing Tastes of Winter

Whether you’re planning a culinary-focused getaway or stopping for a sip. Winter is the best time of year to enjoy the delicious dishes and craft beverages of the region. And the best part? You get to avoid the crowds.

There’s no better way to warm up after a long wintry day than with a Michigan-made craft beverage. If beer is what you’re craving, try out Saugatuck Brewing CompanyGuardian Brewing CompanyWaypost Brewing Co., and the Mitten Brewing Company. Hard cider fans will appreciate a visit to Virtue Cider or Crane’s Pie Pantry Restaurant & Winery.

To experience our region’s wine varietals, check out Crane’sModales Wines, the nearby Fenn Valley Vineyards & Winery, or its Fenn Valley Tasting Room in downtown Saugatuck. And, for award-winning, handcrafted spirits, be sure to stop by the Coppercraft Distillery Tasting Room and the New Holland Brewing Tasting Room.

A must-experience culinary destination, as noted in Condé Nast Traveler’s “20 Best Places to Go in 2020,” Saugatuck/Douglas is a foodie favorite. Tempt your taste buds with a stop at Pennyroyal Café and Provisions for fresh farm-to-table seasonal dishes or Coast 236 for approachable, coastal-inspired fare.  For casually elegant dining combined with the region’s best live music, try Wicks Park Bar & Grille or Salt of the Earth.

Look no further than Bowdie’s Chophouse for an exceptional, intimate steakhouse experience that’s big on flavor. Or, if a burger is more your style, head for The Butlerwhere the selection ranges from the classics to more gourmet.

If sampling a variety of small plates is what you’re after, your trip needs to include a visit to Borrowed Time where seasonally-driven ingredients are artfully prepared and meant to be shared. A local favorite and hidden gem is Clearbrook’s Grill Room Restaurant, who have been serving their house special walleye since 1985.