Mackinac Island, Part 1: Food, Fudge & Shopping

Love each other, dammit!

Love each other, dammit!

Fudge. Horse poo. Several near-death experiences thanks to companies of cyclists.

It must be Mackinac Island.

In an effort to force our two families to be more social to one another and, you know, act like their children are married to one another, Caitlyn and I invited our families to Mackinac Island for the weekend on our dime. We figured locking them up in the same hotel would force them to interact and, dare I say, “love” each other. While that wasn’t always true, it was nice to escape to this 8-mile round island, located in Lake Huron, just north of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

For those unfamiliar with Mackinac Island, it was the scene of the Christopher Reeve-Jane Seymour flick “Somewhere in Time,” and is known for prohibiting motor vehicles except for emergency transport, plane rides off the island during the dead of winter and the occasional go-kart on the ferry pier. No cars, no trucks – it’s horse and buggy or bust here.

Here’s the first of two parts on what we recommend doing on Mackinac:

Go fudge yourself on Mackinac Island.

Go fudge yourself on Mackinac Island.

Fudge: There are 17 fudge shops on the island – no kidding – but only a few companies with several shops each: Murdick’s, Ryba’s, May’s, Sander’s (which is really an ice cream and chocolate shop that happens to have fudge on Mackinac) and Joann’s.

For variety in flavors, go to Joann’s. For creaminess, visit Ryba’s. For fudge that tastes like gritty sand in your mouth, pick Murdick’s (OK, maybe we just got a bad batch, but both our pieces of fudge tasted weird). For a presidential feel, visit May’s, which boasts that none other than President Gerald Ford visited its shop years ago.

Most shops offer “Buy 3, get 1 free” on whole pieces of fudge, but if you go to the horse stables in the middle of the island, there’s a secret Murdick’s that does “Buy 2, Get 1 free.” It’s a good deal if you like bad fudge.

I liked Joann’s for its chocolate-Butterfinger fudge, and Caitlyn and her mom liked Ryba’s for its creamy old-fashioned chocolate. Tip: Most places will let you order half-pieces of fudge and all offer free samples. It’s been said if you got a free sample from every fudge shop on the island, you’d ingest four pounds of fudge. Who needs dinner?

Nothing too fancy, but the Pancake Chef is all about the end product, and that end product is delicious.

Nothing too fancy, but the Pancake Chef is all about the end product, and that end product is delicious.

Dining: This is the part where, once again, we have to reminder everyone we’re vegetarian, so take our review with a grain of salt. There are three places we’d pick on the island and one just across the straits in Mackinaw City.

On the island, we recommend the Ice House inside our hotel, the Island House. With indoor and outdoor seating and a nice menu, it has a little something for everyone. Caitlyn and I chowed down on a tasty falafel sandwich, while others in our party got burgers. It’s nothing fancy, but the food is good.

Millie’s on Main is also a place worth checking out. Essentially a pub/bar on Main Street, but with a good selection of burgers, sandwiches and other foodstuffs. Best part? My vodka and Coke was, shockingly, only $4.50!

For one of the best views with your meal, sit outside at the Carriage House at the Hotel Iroquois. Located on the west end of Main Street, there’s ample seating for taking in the sights of the Mackinac Island coastline. We advise getting the Caprese sandwich.

Last but not least, check out Pancake Chef in Mackinaw City. This place has been around for 50 years, and the inside décor proves it. But it’s not the décor I came for, it’s the fluffy, delicious pancakes that have been luring my family here for decades. The waitress even gave Caitlyn a copy of the recipe for the pumpkin pancakes she ordered so she could try her hand at home. What service!

Welcome to downtown Mackinac Island. Cars need not apply...and watch your step for horse poo.

Welcome to downtown Mackinac Island. Cars need not apply…and watch your step for horse poo.

Shopping: Most the stores on Mackinac Island sell crap you don’t need, like ticky-tacky magnets that say “My Bichon Frise loves Mackinac Island” or T-shirts with stupid slogans. That said, there are a few “normal” stores on the island.

Little Luxuries, in the Lilac Tree Hotel, sounds like a shop for pretentious toddlers, but it actually sells trendy, locally made products like pillows, dishes, T-shirts and so on. Nearby, Poppins has artwork, cards and other handmade items to adorn your abode. Caddywampus, Poppins’ sister store, specializes in the weird, offering everything from giant Facebook “like” hands to a trippy light up piece of art featuring head molds of famous figures from history, like Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein. Beyond that, you might find something here and there, but the selection is pretty similar across stores.

Next post: Lodging and getting to/around the island

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