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.

Explore the Lake Michigan Beachtowns in the Winter

Lake Michigan Lighthouse Frozen

While we are the Michigan Beachtowns and we are most famous for our summers, there is still plenty to do and discover in the winter months along Lake Michigan!

Little Sable Lighthouse - 📷 @r_christensen_photography

Silver Lake Sand Dunes + Hart

This area is best known for their towering sand dunes that keep watch over Silver Lake and Lake Michigan. The Silver Lake Sand Dunes ORV area is open April 1st through October 31st but there are still many winter activities to enjoy! Pentwater Patherways and The Hart-Montague Bike Trail are each excellent areas to cross-country ski or snowshoe. When the snow is at least 4 inches or more, snowmobiles are permitted on the Hart-Montague Trail which is 22-miles long! The Little Sable Point Lighthouse Beach is accessible in the winter months even though it is not open for tours. Take a quiet walk along the frozen lakeshore and don’t forget a selfie with Little Sable. Learn more about the Silver Lake Area here!

Muskegon Muskegon Lighthouse 📷 @gregviau

The Muskegon Winter Sports Complex luge track is one of only four luge tracks in existence here in the United States. And you can give it a try! Public participants receive equipment and training before shooting down the luge upwards of 30mph. If this is a little too adventurous for your taste, the Winter Sports Complex also offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, and sledding. Pere Marquette Beach is home to two lighthouses and gorgeous views of Lake Michigan. Warm up after a day full of winter fun by visiting one of the many breweries and coffee shops downtown Muskegon. Catch a Muskegon Lumberjacks hockey game while eating gourmet tacos from Rad Dads Taco & Tequila Bar. Learn more about the Muskegon area here!

Grand Haven Lighthouse 📷 @colegrove_photographyGrand Haven

Good news! You don’t have to drive 2 hours further up north to be able to go skiing! Mulligan’s Hollow Ski Bowl is just minutes from downtown shops & restaurants and offers downhill skiing and snowboarding on lighted paths, including tow ropes, eight downhill runs, and snowmaking. Warm up on cold days at Mulligan’s Lodge inside next to the fireplace or sit outside in the Adirondack chairs that circle the outdoor firepit. Grand Haven State Park is home the the Grand Haven Lighthouses and Pier whose catwalk looks otherworldly when covered in snow and ice. Pigeon Creek Park has lighted cross-country ski and snowshoe trails as well as a lighted sledding hill. The Nature Education Center at Hemlock Crossing Park offers snowshoe rentals and cross-country ski trails. Downtown Grand Haven has heated sidewalks for slush free shopping and many breweries, coffee shops, and restaurants to warm up. Learn more about the Grand Haven area here!

Holland Holland Lighthouse 📷 @david.sowa

Starting in late November, the Holland area embraces the season by celebrating with their Dutch Winterfest and with their open-air European Kerstmarkt with unique gifts for all. Downtown Holland has heated sidewalks and outside fireplaces so that shoppers can make their way to over 100 locally owned shops and restaurants. Even though Holland is home to many wonderful breweries, New Holland Brewing Company was born here in 1997 and has grown to be one of the leading innovators in craft brewing and distilling. Riley Trails is a multi-use trail that has a 4-5 mile mountain bike loop is a favorite of fat tire bike riders in the snowy months. Don’t forget to stop at Holland State Park to watch a winter sunset or get a photo with Big Red! Learn more about the Holland area here!

Saugatuck 📷 @lady_of_saugatuck Saugatuck-Douglas

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing can be a lot of work but with views of Lake Michigan, the 13 miles of trails at Saugatuck Dunes State Park are worth the effort. If you more of a quiet winter hike kind of person, the Tallmadge Woods Loop has views of the Kalamazoo River, Lake Michigan, and Ox-Bow Lagoon. The charming downtowns of Douglas and Saugatuck have unique gift shops, cozy coffee cafes, and farm-to-table cuisine. The area is home to many vineyards, tasting rooms, breweries, and cider mills including Virtue Cider. Located on a working farm, you can sip a variety of hard ciders while visiting the local pigs, sheep, and chickens. Learn more about the Saugatuck-Douglas area here!

South Haven South Haven 📷: @davidwbehrensphotography

A great way to start a winter’s day in the South Haven area is with a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate from a local cafe and then to head down to South Beach to see the frozen lighthouse and lakeshore. The 34-mile Kal-Haven Trail is open to cross-country skiers, snowshoeing, and snowmobiles when the conditions are right. For downhill skiing, Timber Ridge Ski Area and Bittersweet Ski Area are located nearby. Bitter-Sweet Acres has horse drawn wagon, sleigh, trolley, or carriage rides. The South Haven Ice Rink is an outdoor, covered ice rink located in downtown near many restaurants and cafes. Not only do they offer skate rentals, but they also host curling lessons and leagues! Learn more about the South Haven area here!

St Joseph Light House 📷 @alexlewislandscapesSaint Joseph

Being one of the most southern towns along Lake Michigan, the St. Joe area can experience some of the largest waves on Lake Michigan. Watch the waves crash against the mighty St. Joseph Lighthouse creating an unforgettable formation of ice along the pier. Lake Bluff Park overlooks Lake Michigan, Silver Beach, and the Silver Lake Carousel. From the first Friday of December through Valentine’s Day Lake Bluff is covered in over 1 million lights.  The Saint Joseph area is filled with locally owned shops, restaurants, breweries, and more. Follow the Makers Trail and visit local brewers, wine makers, and distillers. Grab a Makers Trail Flight Crew Passport for your trip to collect stamps and free gear. Learn more about the Saint Joseph area here!

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