Situated on Lake Michigan’s shores, Michiganders will point out Ludington on their right hand at the base of the pinkie finger. With water, sun, and plenty of fresh air, the town provides an authentic Michigan Up-North experience.
While you could spend your entire time in Ludington sunning yourself and taking in the latest beach read, you’ll miss out on the Pure Michigan experience if you do that. Plus, you need to be sure to visit the best restaurants in Ludington MI!
First, visit Ludington State Park. The 5,300-acre park features 21.5 miles of hiking trails. To making hiking easier, the Sable River features paved pathways. Also, check out the two-mile Lost Lake, Island Lake Trail, where you’ll avoid some hills if you hike counterclockwise.
Then, if you’re up for the almost two-mile walk each way, visit the Big Sable Point Lighthouse, accessed through Ludington State Park.
If you’re not up to the walk, check the schedule of days throughout the summer when they offer bus rides to the lighthouse. You can climb the 112-foot tower and investigate the dunes.
While the Lake Michigan shoreline is stunning, be sure to explore the less populated Hamlin Lake Beach.
Although I couldn’t add the Cartier Mansion Bed and Breakfast to the list because it’s not a restaurant, it arguably has the best breakfast in all of Ludington. So I have to mention it here.
The only way you can sample chef-owner Chris Simpler’s three-course breakfast is to reserve a room for the night at the Cartier Mansion Bed and Breakfast. But, you won’t regret it in the morning.
They serve a breakfast that rivals any four-star restaurant. If you’re lucky, the 21-spice housemade sausage patties will be on the menu, where it’s a fun foodie exercise to see which of the spices you can identify.
With so many outdoor activities to keep you moving, you’re going to need sustenance. So here are seven of my favorite Ludington, Michigan restaurants that will cover all your dining needs.
Note: Pure Ludington hosted my visit.
Visiting other cities in Michigan? Check out our foodie guides to the following cities:
- 5 Must-Try Restaurants in Holland, Michigan & 10 Fun Things To Do In Holland
- 5 Must-Try Restaurants in Chelsea, Michigan
- 7 Must-Try Lansing Restaurants
- 11 Must-Try Upper Peninsula Restaurants & Bars
- 7 Best Traverse City Restaurants
- 10 Must-Try Grand Rapids Restaurants MI
- Best Mexican Food In Holland MI
- Best Sushi In Holland MI
- Best Thai Food In Holland MI
The Seven Best Restaurants in Ludington MI
225 S. James St. // 231-425-3933
Located in downtown Ludington, Q Smokehouse has smoked BBQ and home-style southern sides. You’ll find all of the typical smoked meat offerings along with southern sides like collard greens and cornbread.
For me, an essential component at a BBQ restaurant is the sauces, and Q Smokehouse features two, the Q sauce and the Carolina sauce. The Q sauce is a housemade sweet and tangy tomato-based red sauce, while the Carolina sauce is a house-made mustard and vinegar-based yellow sauce.
Pick up your meal from the take-out window, where they offer an Off the Bone Picnic Pack that includes one and a half pounds beef brisket, one and a half pounds chopped pork, 12 potato roll buns, one quart each of coleslaw, baked beans, and pasta with cheese. They accompany it with half a pint each of the Q sauce and the Carolina sauce. They also offer an On the Bone Picnic Pack that features chicken and ribs.
The Picnic Packs also include plates and silverware, so you’ll be all set. Then go to Stearns Park Beach to enjoy your meal al fresco. You’ll have a great view of the Ludington North Breakwater Light. If you time everything right, and you’ll be in for a spectacular Lake Michigan sunset.
Don’t worry if you have vegetarians in your party. They’ll love the jackfruit al pastor served as tacos or burritos, and the plentiful vegetarian side options, like pasta and cheese, coleslaw, potato salad, and candied sweet potatoes.
Pro Tip: You’ll need to plan your meal at Q Smokehouse, as they’re only open Thursday through Saturday. Just be sure to pick one of those three days for some of the best barbecue in Ludington.
125 S. James St. // 231-843-2001
Situated in downtown Ludington, The Blu Moon offers French, Japanese, and American fusion fare. When you’re in the mood for sushi, this is the place to go. They have an entirely separate sushi menu where they make the items in-house in the sushi kitchen.
Another seafood item I enjoyed is the Bang Bang shrimp with Bang Bang sauce, listed on the menu under appetizers. I ended up choosing it as my entrée with a salad with house-made Green Goddess dressing. The portion-size of seven shrimp made for a filling entrée. Chef Jason Munford serves it with a house-made sauce of mayo, sweet chili sauce, and sriracha for a bit of zip.
If you’re visiting Michigan, be sure to try some local ingredients, like the whitefish. Blu Moon Bistro offers a whitefish dip made from wild-caught Lake Superior whitefish, cream cheese, and various spices. They serve it with raw veggies, pita bread, and corn tortillas.
Landlubbers will enjoy the rotisserie smoked items, wings, ribs, and pork. They cook these items on the rotisserie low and slow with wood chips and charcoal. Get there early as these items sell out during busy times.
The chef also offers several vegan options, such as a baked vegetable ratatouille.
Pro Tip: Available Memorial Day through Labor Day, the open-air rooftop deck and a pet-friendly sidewalk café are fantastic spots to dine and enjoy the northern Michigan fresh air. Enjoy everything one of Ludington’s best restaurants has to offer.
402 W. Ludington Ave. // 231-845-5785
In 1959, the Neal family, owners of Park Dairy, a full line of dairy, decided to stop processing milk, cottage cheese, and butter to focus on ice cream. They’ve never looked back. Today, their restaurant House of Flavors features 40 different flavors of ice cream daily.
But before you head into dessert, you’ll want to choose an entrée. While a burger and milkshake showcase the ice cream, consider a turkey dinner or sandwich. A window featuring two turkeys roasting on a rotisserie will tempt you into enjoying the typical American Thanksgiving dinner even in summer. However, if you want something lighter, go for a turkey sandwich.
Pro Tip: For an Instagram-worthy photo, order one of the Pig Dinners, essentially a banana split piled high with scoops of ice cream, decorated with a cloud of whipped cream, and topped with a Michigan cherry. Plan on sharing one of these. For a great meal with an ice cream finale, make sure to try this Ludington restaurant.
130 W. Ludington Ave. // 231-843-6555
Located downtown, Table 14 is an eclectic southern-inspired upscale restaurant. While not solely a southern menu, Chef-owner Howard Iles lived in Charleston, South Carolina, and Louisiana, and upon returning home to Ludington, he brought back that southern tradition. You’ll find southern specialties like fried green tomatoes, fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and collard greens on the menu.
I had one of their daily specials, chorizo encrusted Bay of Fundy salmon. Chef Iles accompanies the dish with Parmesan risotto and asparagus, then finished with a lemon pepper aioli. If you’d like to try a Great Lakes fish, I recommend the pan-seared whitefish.
The Caprese chicken is another must-try dish. It starts with a grilled seven-ounce chicken breast topped with tomato, fresh buffalo mozzarella, and basil. Then they top it with a balsamic drizzle. The chef serves it with Parmesan risotto and a seasonal vegetable. I particularly enjoyed the creamy Parmesan risotto, where they took the time to plate it into a perfectly shaped pyramid.
Pro Tip: I suggest that you make reservations to be sure to get a table at this popular Ludington restaurant.
410 S James St. // 231-845-2522
Situated in downtown Ludington, the must-try item is the house-made Michigan cherry bourbon glaze that they serve on just about everything. The chef serves it on burgers, salmon, sirloin steak, and even pot stickers. Never mind, drink it. It’s just that good. I enjoyed it on the burger that came accompanied with house-made kettle chips.
The other dishes you’ll want to try at Jamesport Brewing Co. are those that incorporate craft brews into the dish. For example, the Jamesport cheese ale soup is a cheese soup that features Jamesport beer containing ham and red peppers. What makes it unique is the honey mustard pretzel garnish.
A signature item is a pecan-crusted perch where they coat the fish with toasted pecans, fry it, and serve them with a Michigan cherry vinaigrette. Another way to enjoy the Great Lakes perch is as an entrée. They light season lake perch and deep fry them, and serve them with brewhouse fries, your choice of a side, and tartar sauce.
The patio deck offers two areas, one covered and another uncovered, each with a view of Pere Marquette Lake. Enjoy the beautiful lake views with your meal.
Pro Tip: Their brewer loves to provide brewery tours; just ask. Try a burger and brew at this favorite Ludington restaurant.
515 S James St. // 231-239-6690
Located in downtown Ludington, Ludington Bay Brewing uses locally sourced ingredients, materials, and talents to produce its beer on the shores of Lake Michigan. Their goal is to provide an exceptional beer drinking experience consistently. They feature between 20 to 24 different artisan brews on tap daily. They also distribute their nine core beers throughout the Mitten.
Their must-try menu items are those featuring their beer. I particularly like their pulled pork braised with their fall seasonal James Street Brown Ale served in tacos or a pulled pork plate.
Pro Tip: They welcome dogs on their massive patio. This Ludington restaurant is a great place to spend a summer afternoon.
502 West Loomis St. // (231) 425-3557
Situated on Pere Marquette Lake, for the best view, I like to sit in front on the lower level facing the marina, where I can watch the boats on the sparkling waterfront. Crown and Cork’s atmosphere is trendy with a relaxed, casual vibe.
Visitors from out of state must try the local bounty that the chef uses as much as possible. You’ll find menu items like beer-battered cauliflower; salt-roasted beets with fresh honeycomb, goat cheese, and arugula; and jumbo shrimp and grits.
The chef also thoughtfully offers vegetarian and vegan options. The vegetarian Red Pepper Ravioli comes pan-seared with a buttered pan sauce stuffed with a whipped red pepper and butternut squash filling, shaved fennel, apple, and toasted pecans. Vegans will appreciate the grilled Eggplant Rollatini, served with creamy spinach risotto, marinara, Parmesan, and a balsamic reduction.
If you love s’mores as much as I do during a northern Michigan getaway, try the s’mores lava cake. The perfect riff on the campfire dessert in an easier-to-eat combination of a graham-flavored cake with a molten hot fudge center, topped with fire-roasted marshmallow.
Pro Tip: The restaurant features live music where the dueling pianos are a fun addition to the meal.
So that wraps up our list of the seven best Ludington restaurants. If you can’t find something you like at these places, you just aren’t hungry.
Amy Piper is a freelance travel writer, photographer, and blogger. A native of Michigan USA, she has traveled to 41 countries and 42 states, most recently adding New Mexico to the list. She aspires to go to Antarctica and finally visit all seven continents. She specializes in food and multi-generational travel, frequently traveling with her husband, daughter, and two granddaughters. Amy has had six-month-long expat assignments in South Korea and Argentina. She has been chased by bomb-sniffing dogs in the middle of the night in Bogotá (working late), refused boarding for a plane from Buenos Aires to Paraguay (wrong visa), and Federal Marshals once announced her seat number on a flight while looking for a murder suspect (traded seats.) It is always an adventure! She is a member of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA), Travel Massive, TravMedia, and the International Travel Writers and Photographers Alliance (ITWPA). Follow her on Twitter @amythepiper