While there are hundreds of restaurants and bars serving up mouthwatering bites and bevvies in the Great Lakes Bay Region, there are a handful of unique spots that should be on every foodie's bucket list when exploring Michigan. These gems offer visitors and locals something a bit out of the ordinary: reason alone to put on your stretchy pants and navigate your way through the six cities in the region.
1. Tony's I-75 (Birch Run)
What makes it unique? Portion sizes: quite possibly the largest in the entire state. This family restaurant goes through 11,000 lbs of bacon and 1,000 lbs of hash browns every week!
What to order: The famous BLT stacked with one pound of bacon, Belgian French Toast or the mammoth Banana Split. Arrive with an appetite and you'll still leave with a doggie bag in hand.
2. Japanese Tea House (Saginaw)
What makes it unique? Awa SaginawAn rests partly on American soil and partly on Japanese soil and is regarded as one of the most authentic tea houses in North America. It was designed by renowned architect, Mr. Tsutomu Takenaka, and constructed in 1985 as a collaborative effort between the City of Saginaw and its sister city Tokushima, Japan.
What to order: Head here to experience the traditional, 400-year-old tea ceremony on the second Saturday of each month between April and October. Tea and sweets are served during the ritual.
3. Bone Daddy's (Midland)
What makes it unique? This northern-style, champion barbeque house uses cherry and sugar maple wood that's been cured for three months. The ribs are dry-rubbed and smoked for five hours before being slathered with homemade BBQ sauce.
What to order: Bone Daddy's Rib & Chicken Combo for the best of both worlds. The Dynamite Sandwich (sliced brisket, peppers, chilies, onions, jalapenos, pepper jack cheese and Bone Daddy's hot sauce) is also a popular pick.
4. Bar Oxygen (Midland)
What makes it unique? Named after an element on the periodic table, the bar pays homage to the locally-founded Dow Chemical Company (as does the rest of the AAA Four Diamond rated H Hotel which it's located in).
What to order: This is the place to indulge in artisinal cocktails. Try Codeword (a speakeasy-style cocktail made with Bulleit Bourbon, Amaro Nonino, Pimm's, Aperol & elderflower lemonade) or their award-winning creation Clear Blue O2 (made with Stoli Blueberry Vodka, white cranberry juice & soda).
5. Stein Haus (Bay City)
What makes it unique? This neighbourhood bar has an impressive collection of beer steins -- more than 1000 of them -- hanging from the ceiling and proudly displayed around the space.
What to order: Stick to the German brews like Hofbräu, Weihenstephaner and Ayinger. Head here on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays for live music and don't forget to bring a friend or two: it's affectionately known as the gathering place.
6. Zehnder's Restaurant (Frankenmuth)
What makes it unique? With over 30 million guests served, this is the largest family restaurant in America (they cook up an average of 1 million meals each year).
What to order: Go straight for the famous chicken dinners. Served with mashed potatoes, Grandma's dressing, Zehnder's creamy cabbage salad and their freshly-baked bread, the dish is known world-wide and attracts hungry regulars and tourists alike.
7. SugarHigh Bakery (Frankenmuth)
What makes it unique? Flavour profiles that stretch far beyond the ordinary. From Pizza Pie (marinara cake with parmesan, Italian meringue buttercream and candied pepperonis) to Hofbrau Dunkel (Hofbrau beer cake topped with a Hofbrau ganache), you'll find all kinds of gourmet cupcakes and designer cakes to satisfy your sweet tooth.
What to order: Slowly work your way through the creative selection, but don't leave without tasting the Lemon-Lime and Turtle Power cupcakes. These guys won Cupcake Wars on The Food Network so you're in for a treat!