7 Reasons Why the Copper Country is the Ultimate Food Destination

The Copper Country in the Upper Peninsula might just be one of Michigan’s best-kept secrets. Sprawling from the Keweenaw Peninsula down into Baraga and Ontonagon counties, the Copper Country is a unique region packed with history, natural beauty, and incredible food. Looking for the best food in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan? Look no further!

1) Bountiful Berries!

The Copper Country offers a variety of delicious local berries throughout the summer.

Fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries can be found at the various local Farmers Markets and U-Picks starting as early as June. The highly coveted Thimbleberry is exclusive to foragers and only available during the month of August. But don’t worry, you can usually find Thimbleberry Jam throughout the year to satisfy your cravings. Check out the Jam Pot, North Harvest CSA, and local grocers for a jar!  

Wild Thimbleberry

2) A Vibrant Farmers Market Scene

The Copper Country has a farmers market scene that is diverse and growing!

Starting in June, you can find a local farmers market nearly every day of the week. With a wide variety of farmers, bakers, and artisans, each market brings a unique flavor to the area. Three farmers markets in Houghton, Hancock, and Calumet participate in the newly formed From the Ground Collective and offer multiple food assistance programs to make local food more accessible to everyone.

For info on locations, dates, and times head to our Find Food & Farms page! 

3) Fresh Catches From Lake Superior

The Copper Country is surrounded by the beauty and bounty of Lake Superior.

Whether you’re casting a line or hopping in line, there’s no shortage of delicious fresh local fish like lake trout, whitefish, and walleye! Enjoy smoked fish from Keweenaw Fish Co. or the best whitefish and chips from Four Sun’s Fish and Chips and Peterson’s Fish Market next time you’re in town! 

Lake Superior, Photo Credit: Todd Marsee, Michigan Sea Grant

Fun Fact: Lake Superior is the world’s largest lake by surface area and holds 10% of the world’s surface freshwater! 

4) Bites Rich with History

The Copper Country is blessed with food that is rich in flavor and culture.

The U.P. is the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary lands and waters of Indigenous nations, including the Anishinaabeg. It is also home to a large population of Finnish and Scandinavian immigrants. These cultures have defined iconic dishes in the Copper Country. Whether it’s manoomin (wild rice), pasties, or pannukakku (Finnish pancake), there’s a story to share and a tradition to pass on!

Freshly baked UP pasties!

Check out Roy’s Pasties & Bakery, Suomi Restaurant, and Amy J’s Pasty Shop to try some of these historical eats!

5) Gordon Ramsay Approved!

Yoopers had quite the shock seeing Chef Ramsay hanging around town while filming for an episode of National Geographic’s Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted. The celebrity chef had high praise for the Copper Country, visiting the Jam Pot & having a cook-off with Michigan Chef James Rigato.

The folks at Portage Health Foundation even had the pleasure of speaking with Chef James Rigato on their podcast about the experience! Listen here: Chef James Rigato Previews Gordon Ramsay’s Uncharted in Upper Peninsula.

6) A Co-op for the Community, by the Community!

Since 1973, The Keweenaw Co-op in Hancock has been building a community that values local food and the environment. The Co-op is owned & operated by the community, with shares available for everyone to participate in the strengthening of the local food system. To meet the growing needs of the community, Keweenaw Co-op Market & Deli is expanding/relocating to its new home in downtown Hancock with a targeted opening of Autumn 2023 

To learn more about the co-op’s mission and how you can support their growth listen to PHF’s podcast episode here: New location and more local food part of Keweenaw Co-op’s vision

7) Opportunities to Learn with Biblio Bistro!

Portage Health Foundation and the Portage District Library have partnered up to create Biblio Bistro, a cooking series that serves up fun, quick, dynamic recipes and lessons. Biblio Bistro is led by Chef Michael and Dietitian Meghan who show just how easy it is to incorporate local, nutritious, and seasonal produce into our everyday lives!

Two cooks demonstrate a recipe as part of Biblio Bistro
Chef Michael and Dietitian Meghan prepare a recipe for Biblio Bistro

Ready for some inspiration? Click here to learn more and stream all episodes of Biblio Bistro: Biblio Bistro 

Surrounded by Lake Superior and pristine forests, it’s no surprise that Copper Country is one of the most sought-after travel destinations in the Midwest. However, it’s the welcoming community and growing food scene that keeps people coming back year after year! Is the Copper Country on your itinerary for your next visit to the U.P.?

Madelina DiLisi is the Western UP Local Food Coordinator for Taste the Local Difference. She lives in Hancock. Contact her at [email protected]

Portage Health Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization serving Michigan’s Copper Country, which includes Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties. Their mission is to positively influence a healthier community through enhanced philanthropy and collaboration. Learn more about their impact at https://www.phfgive.org/

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