NEW BUFFALO and UNION PIER, Mich. (WLS) --A lot of people think Michigan's Harbor Country shuts down after Labor Day, but a lot of people continue to make the drive around the bottom of the lake, where they'll find plenty of delicious things to eat year-round.
The first two towns you encounter upon driving into Michigan are New Buffalo and Union Pier. Sure, they're bucolic, quiet little towns filled with antique shops, but they also have some great places to eat and drink.
The muffins are the real stars at Nani's Cafe in Union Pier. Located on the Red Arrow Highway, the small shop cranks out giant versions packed with flavor.
"I'd say the most interesting and the most popular is the bacon maple, which is a bacon muffin filled with Applewood-smoked bacon, glazed with a maple glaze," said Reyna Larson, the cook at Nani's.
Chocolate, cinnamon sugar and lemon poppyseed with pine nuts are other stars. Don't rule out lunch; their creative hot dogs - some covered in jalapenos, sriracha, bacon and coleslaw; others classic Chicago-style - are all tucked into homemade buns.
"We do all the buns in-house. So it's a split-top, New England-style roll that we butter and grill for each one and then various toppings," she said.
A few minutes up the road, The Whistle Stop Grocery is a gourmet paradise: a well-edited selection of wines go with a number of homemade seasonal salads and hearty sandwiches. Their pastry chef worked for Mindy Segal at Hot Chocolate in Bucktown, and it shows. Decisions will be extremely difficult.
Just as stressful will be deciding which of the smoked meats or sausages to try from LOCAL, a hidden New Buffalo gem near the famous Redamak's.
"My wife and I - Ellie, who own the business - we were living in San Francisco, my mom lives in Three Oaks, she has a farm, and we would come and visit and we knew all the stuff was being produced around here, we knew it was around but we couldn't buy it anywhere," said Pat Mullins, Local's co-owner.
So now they cure, encase and smoke almost every day, becoming Harbor Country's go-to source for charcuterie and brats, not to mention their insanely good bacon jam.
"We make sausage in-house, we cure bacons in-house, we do a lot of smoked meats," said Mullins.
In this week's Extra Course, Steve heads to a brand new place in the town of Lakeside, where they specialize in fresh seafood - both prepared dishes as well as raw, in case you feel like cooking while you're staying in the area.
Extra Course: Flagship Specialty Foods and Fish Market
Nani's Cafe & Beach Shop
16117 Red Arrow Hwy, Union Pier, MI 49129
The Whistle Stop Grocery
15700 Red Arrow Hwy, Union Pier, MI 49129
424 E Buffalo St, New Buffalo, MI 49117
EXTRA COURSE: Flagship Specialty Foods and Fish Market
14939 Red Arrow Hwy, Lakeside, MI 49116