New, Diverse Restaurants Open in Traverse City, Boutique Hotel Proposed


Visitors to Traverse City this summer will have a wide variety of restaurants to choose from with the opening of an eatery featuring Japanese ramen and dumplings, to be called Gaijin, along with the opening of a Mexican restaurant and a barbecue spot.

Simon Joseph, the owner of Harvest and Roaming Harvest in Traverse City, will open Gaijin later this spring at 136 E. Front St., near Cherry Republic. Joseph says the menu will focus on traditional Japanese offerings with a drink menu that includes sake and Japanese beer and whiskey.

Mama Lu’s, a Mexican restaurant specializing in tacos al pastor (pork, dried chilies, and pineapple) will also open in the spring. Owned by John Larson, former executive sous chef at The Franklin in Traverse City, the eatery will offer fresh tortillas and guacamole, among other Mexican sides and appetizers. Mama Lu’s will be located at 149 E. Front St., just down the street from Gaijin.

Dean Sparks, owner of the Sparks BBQ food truck, plans to open a brick-and-mortar outlet in the spring, serving slow-smoked brisket, ribs, pulled pork, and chicken. The restaurant will be located at 439 E. Front St., along the Boardman River near The Cook’s House restaurant.

A taco from Mama Lu’s

Traverse City may also see a boutique hotel constructed by next spring. Wuerfel Resorts, owners of the Beach Haus Resort and the Traverse City Beach Bums baseball franchise, is seeking approval for a four-story, 51-room hotel that’s tentatively called Baywatch Resort. The 27,000-square-foot resort, which would be located along Traverse City’s East Bay, is envisioned as a “family-style” resort with an indoor pool and breakfast area. Wuerfel Resorts hopes to begin construction in August.

Traverse City’s only other boutique hotel, Hotel Indigo Traverse City, just opened in the city’s Warehouse District. A newly-constructed pedestrian bridge connects Front Street to the city’s Warehouse District was added, as well.

In turn, Chateau Chantal Winery Bed and Breakfast on Old Mission Peninsula has finished renovations to two of its master suites, the Van Gogh and Renoir, and is scheduled to renovate three remaining downstairs suites by the end of the year.

Recent Traverse City restaurant openings include:

Alliance: A vegetable-focused restaurant run by Chef Harlan “Pete” Peterson of the now-closed Tapawingo restaurant in Ellsworth. Read more about Alliance, located in the Warehouse District, here. â€‹

White on Rice: A Japanese sushi restaurant offering sushi rolls, ramen bowls, tempura plates, and miso soup located on W. 14th Street.

Thai Kitchen: A Thai restaurant offering coconut curry, fried rice, and noodle and stir-fry dishes located at 1133 South Airport Rd. near Cherry Capital Airport.

Taproot Cider House: A restaurant offering hard ciders, cider-infused cocktails, a farm-to-table menu, live music, and a brick-pizza oven at the corner of Front and Park streets.