Traverse City’s Most Unique Restaurant — And Who’s Open for Thanksgiving Dinner?

A Daytime Shot of the Bar at Lobdells (Even Prettier at Night!)
A Daytime Shot of the Bar at Lobdells (Even Prettier at Night!)


After a week of stunningly clear, warm weather, things started behaving more November-ish this weekend. It’s been a great season, but the onset of cooler, wetter weather made me glad that Traverse City isn’t just the outdoor recreation capital of the Midwest, but its culinary capital as well.

On Friday night, we dined at the city’s least-known and most exclusive restaurant – a place where the food is so good and the schedule so intermittent that you have to reserve a dinner table weeks in advance. Even lunch reservations (though a bit easier to get) need to be done ahead of time – but it’s well worth the effort.

The name of the place? Lobdell’s.

You’re forgiven if you’ve never heard of it before, because Lobdell’s is a “teaching restaurant” for the Great Lakes Culinary Institute. Located on the second floor of Northwestern Michigan College’s Great Lakes Campus, with an awe-inspiring evening view of West Grand Traverse Bay and the Great Lakes Maritime Academy pier, Lobdell’s serves as a working laboratory for culinary students and is open to the public for lunches and dinners throughout fall and spring semester.

The Culinary Institute’s work in training a rising new generation of chefs and food service workers, is one of the prime reasons for Traverse City’s growing reputation as one of America’s rising “foodie” towns. The Institute’s facilities include four culinary labs including a bakery, an introductory and food skills kitchen, an advanced cooking kitchen, a garde manger kitchen, a beverage management outlet (fancy talk for a fine bar) and the 90-seat training restaurant, named for longtime supporters Wayne and Terry Lobdell.

I’d only been to Lobdell’s for lunch until this week, and that was an amazing experience in itself, but Friday’s dinner was flawless. Those students were unbelievable. If you want to check out their lunch menu, learn more about the Culinary Institute or make a reservation, check out their website at

As long as we’re talking about food, this may be the best time to answer that annual nagging question: which restaurants in Traverse City will be serving meals on Thanksgiving. It’s not as easy as you might think, since T-Day isn’t a big restaurant day, and many places shut down to let their employees be with their families. Here’s my current list; it’s definitely a partial one – and if you know of any other places that’ll be open, please let me know!

Yummy Offerings at Minerva's
Yummy Offerings at Minerva’s

Aerie Restaurant (Grand Traverse Resort) – Open noon – 7 p.m.  Buffet – turkey, garlic shrimp, broiled walleye, ham, and more. Adults:  $29.95  Kids 6 – 12 yrs: $14.95  6 and under are free.  231-534-6800

Bluebird Restaurant – Open 11:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.  Traditional Thanksgiving Turkey  Adults: $19.99  Prime Rib Adults: $21.99  Kids 2 – 12: $7.99  Reservations recommended 256-9081

The Boathouse – Open 1 p.m. – 6 p.m.  Thanksgiving Favorites plated dinner or order from the regular menu. Kids menu available. Reservations are highly recommended…223-4030

Cottage Café – Open 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.   Traditional Buffet  Adults:  $13.99  Kids 12 yrs and under:  $7.00  Also regular breakfast, lunch and dinner from regular menu. Reservations for large parties are recommended…call 947-9261

Firefly – Open 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.  Grand Buffet…turkey to sushi and all in-between.   Adults: $19.95 Kids 4 – 12 yrs: $13.95 3 yrs and under are free.  Reservations recommended…call 932-1310

Giovanni’s Roadhouse – Open 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Traditional thanksgiving Day buffet. Adults: $13.99  Kids 4 – 12 yrs: $6.00  3 yrs and under are free.  Reservations recommended…… 276-6244

Great Wolf Lodge – Open 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.  Traditional Thanksgiving Buffet plus prime rib and fish dish.  Adults: $21.99  Kids 11 – 15 yrs:  $14.99  Kids 4 – 10 yrs: $8.99  3 yrs and under are free.    941-3600

Hanna Bistro – Open 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.  Appetizers, soups and more off regular menu.  Entrees include turkey, whitefish, scallops, prime rib, and pork roast.  Includes 4 thanksgiving sides with each entrée – stuffing, potatoes, brussels sprout hash, cranberries. $16 – $24      946-8207

Holiday Inn West Bay – Open 11:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.  Traditional Thanksgiving Buffet w/turkey, ham, chicken, beef tips, and other.  Adults: $16.95  Kids 12 yrs and under: $8.95  Under 4 yrs are free.     947-3700

Jolly Pumpkin – Open 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Traditional Buffet  Adults: $19.95   Kids 6 -12 yrs: $12.95  5 and under are free  Reservations are recommended…223-4333 (Mission Table closed Thanksgiving Day)

Minerva’s – Open 11 a.m. – 2:45 p.m. Traditional Buffet    Adults: $17.95  Kids 12 yrs and under: $8.95  Reservations recommended….946-5093

Shanty Creek Resorts – Lakeview Restaurant Brunch includes turkey …Open 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.  Traditional Buffet.  Adults: $22.95  Seniors: $20.95 Kids 5 – 12 yrs: $11.95  4 yrs and under are free.  Evening – regular menu includes turkey. Reservations are recommended…231-533-8621  ext 7100

Closed on Thanksgiving Day:

Mabels                                      Martha’s Leelanau Table        Old Mission Tavern

Mission Table                            North Peak                                Schelde’s

Olive Garden                             Red Ginger                                Tuscan Bistro

Tra Vino                                    Trattoria Stella

About mikelovestc

These days, I’m the media relations guy for the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau, but before that I spent 25 years as a reporter and columnist at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, a job that frequently took me out into the most remote backroads, forests, beaches and islands of the beautiful Grand Traverse Region. My strategy was pretty simple — just drive, paddle, ski or walk until you’re certain you’re lost, and then find somebody to talk to. It was a great job! I never intended to live in Traverse City. I grew up in Grand Rapids, spent four years in the Coast Guard in places like Miami Beach, Monterey and San Francisco, and when I finally graduated from college I took a summer job at the Miami Herald. To my surprise, I discovered I didn’t like the tropics nearly as much as I thought I would — and when the Record-Eagle offered me a job I took it, figuring I’d put in a year or two and head off to someplace like Seattle or Portland. What I discovered very quickly is that this place gets to you in a variety of unexpected ways. The beaches here are as lovely as anyplace else I’ve ever been, the weather is mild all year round — warm enough for swimming in September and cold enough for skiing in December — and just about the time you’re getting tired of one season you get another one every bit as pleasant. The people are laid-back and friendly, the music and arts scene is awesome, and the place still hasn’t gotten so sophisticated that a guy like me feels out of place.
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5 Responses to Traverse City’s Most Unique Restaurant — And Who’s Open for Thanksgiving Dinner?

  1. Jan Bauer says:

    Blu, in Glen Arbor is open for Thanksgiving!

  2. Mike, Blu is open for Thanksgiving at 12 noon, last seating is 6pm. A very traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings will be offered along with my entire menu which will feature venison, goose, duck, rack of lamb and even some fresh fish for those that want nothing to do with meat that day. Call for reservations, 231-334-2530.

  3. Dianna Stampfler says:

    I went to blu last year and it was amazing. Sitting there enjoying an amazing meal, great wine and spectacular views of the Lake Michigan waves crashing in on the beach.

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention Traverse City’s Most Unique Restaurant — And Who’s Open for Thanksgiving Dinner? | Loving Traverse City --

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