Up North Downtown
The final hit-or-miss refrain comes with the greatest percussive contrast at--drum roll--pie time. The wide dessert case is the first thing you see upon entering (Panera again), and a wedge of pie can be a wonderful $2.99 conclusion to an otherwise light lunch. The cherry pie filling is really good, authentically sweet with a tart accent. Grand Traverse's strawberry rhubarb is possibly the best I've ever had--not too sweet, not too mushy, not too skimpy. Big chunks of each fruit remain intact so you can enjoy distinct flavors, textures, shapes, and even colors! Nestled in that above-average crust, it's definitely a treat for people who love the complex tastes of this classic early summer pie. Our crumb pie samples seemed less exemplary, with a too-thick layer of supersweet cake-batter-like crumble that was overbrowned in blueberry and gooily undercooked in a berry medley. You also get less fruit with the crumb pies, and that's less of a good thing. The cookie crust on very real-tasting key lime pie was pleasing, though, and there are peanut butter cups, brownies, and other decadent choices for the non-pie crowd. Any and all of the above wash down well with coffee from Higher Grounds, Traverse City's "mission-driven" roaster. Be forewarned: the cherry-flavored coffee is really cherry flavored, for folks who haven't had enough berries in their salads, sandwiches, and pie.
Grand Traverse Pie is not the only North Coast fix downtown. Cherry Republic at Main and Liberty sells dried fruit amid north woods decor and flair, and 2Mission's Jolly Pumpkin and Blue Tractor come in both northwest and southeast Michigan versions. Like Grand Traverse, all offer Pure Michigan experiences, feeding the work-weary soul as much as satisfying the hunger for food.
Grand Traverse Pie Company
505 E. Liberty