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7 Places to Grab a Burger in Downtown Traverse City

Updated on June 18, 2017
Kierstin Gunsberg profile image

Kierstin is a Traverse City local who served a brief stint in Southwest Florida. It wasn't great.

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Rated #2 on Midwest Living's list of Best Midwest Food Towns, Traverse City is a foodie's daydream. Sometimes, so much selection can be disorienting, especially when you're just in search of a burger that isn't from the drive-thru. Here are seven places to find great burgers right in the heart of Downtown Traverse City.

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One glance at The Blue Tractor's burger board and you'll immediately notice the ultra-meaty Cuban Burger which features a mess of Blue Tractor's famous pit smoked pulled pork piled under a perfectly melted jack cheese. The finishing touches are heaps of crisp lettuce, pickles, yellow mustard, and a good ol' slathering of secret sauce - a yummy smorgasbord of hearty cravings you'll want to Instagram before you dig in. Served with BBQ chips, add a side of creamy macaroni and cheese and wash it all down with a bottle of Michigan-made Acoustic Rock Steady Berry Cider to say you had the full Blue Tractor experience.

Save room for a scoop of ice cream sandwiched between two house-made cookies and a drizzle of chocolate. Phew!


The Blue Tractor is located at 423 S Union Street in Downtown Traverse City, Michigan. Call ahead at 231.922.9515 for pickup and reservations.

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A visit to Traverse City isn't really complete unless you've tried at least one everyday dish made better by a little cherry infusion, which you'll find in the Cherry BBQ Burger at State Street Grille. Dressed with all the classic fixin's like lettuce, tomato, and cheese, this burger is topped with a unique cherry BBQ ranch. Order a side of tots to wipe up the extra sauce that's sure to make it's way onto your plate while you plot your next stop from an air-conditioned booth or in the fresh air on the patio.

If that's not enough cherry for your taste buds ask for a Cherry Drop Fishbowl - pink lemonade for grownups.


State Street Grille is located 221 E State Street in Traverse City, Michigan. Call ahead to 231.947.4263

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What better place to eat a a pub burger than in a locally famous pub. This burger is a bar food reboot, throwing restaurant visitors back to the days when bar food filled you up. This classic dish is grilled fresh then adorned with red ale soaked onions and savory mushrooms then topped with a bed of crisp bacon and a slice of Swiss cheese, all of which can be made even better with a side of pale ale battered onion rings and an aptly named West Bay I.P.A. (you can see Traverse City's West Bay glimmering from the big, back window).

If the kids aren't fond of burgers they can nosh on chicken strips and fries before you venture back out to the sun-soaked sidewalks in search of ice cream.

Mackinaw Brewing Company is located at 161 E Front Street in Traverse City, Michigan. Call 231.933.1100 for reservations or takeout.

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Has there ever been a naughtier sounding burger? I don't know, but if it's wrong, I truly don't want to be right. Ask any local where to grab a burger in TC and they'll point you straight down Front Street, past the hustle and bustle to the West end of town, so far you might think you've gone the wrong way. Here sits Slabtown Burgers in the heart of, where else?Traverse City's Slabtown district.

Decide first whether you want a single or a double patty burger then watch 'em grill it up fresh before your eyes before laying down a saucy scoop of chili, a sprinkling of cheddar cheese and onions, and a meticulous drizzling of yellow mustard. You'll definitely want to ask for a "Bag It" combo which includes fresh cut fries and a locally made Northwoods Soda (the root beer is uh-mazing).

Don't leave without a malt to enjoy on the ride back.


Slabtown Burgers is located at 826 West Front Street in Traverse City, Michigan. Call 231.932.1760 for takeout.

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Can't decide between sweet or spicy? You don't have to if you order Bubba's beast of a burger, the Spicy Hawaiian. A half pound of locally ground beef, this burger combines the indulgent sweetness of grilled pineapple with a kick to your taste buds - fresh jalapeno. Add a little sliced red onion, fresh spinach, a slice of Swiss cheese and a slather of savory BBQ sauce all pressed between two Hawaiian buns and you'll find yourself hard pressed to save room for the mac and cheese bites (crusted mac and cheese with ham and scallions and served with lime-dill ranch, Lord help us all)! Still, you know you can do it.

Just take a lap or two around Front while you window shop and you'll have room for homemade, locally made fudge in no time!


Bubba's is located at 428 E Front Street in Traverse City, Michigan. Call 231.995.0570 for pickup.

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Alright, so sometimes the ol' standby from America's favorite fast food burger joint is all that will do. But what if you could get a local version that comes with half the guilt and twice the taste? The Greasy Spoon Burger at 7 Monks Taproom is all that and a piping hot side of fries (actually, frites).

A six ounce beef patty meets all of the classic toppings: a hearty slice of American cheese plus a sprinkling of pickles and onions and just enough greens slathered with a secret sauce (seriously, what is in it?)

Sip an icy cold ale while you wait for it to be grilled fresh in this cozy, industrial space just off Front Street's main drag.


7 Monks Taproom is located at 128 S Union Street in Traverse City, Michigan. Call 231.421.8410 for hours.

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With it's dazzling views of Lake Michigan, a vibrant arts culture, and a community that nurtures the nostalgia of small-town America, Traverse City is, in itself, a bit of a rare bird, kind of like the hops-loving, local-conscious owners of Rare Bird Brewpub, Tina and Nate.

Nestled in one of the city's nearly-century old buildings, you'll find a menu full of Michigan made brews including a handful of in-house creations to go along with the pork belly nachos, fried cheese curds, seasonal salads, grouper tacos, and of course, burgers.

Rare Bird's black bean and quinoa burger is a handmade black bean patty topped with lettuce, tomato, and onion, a helping of sweet caramelized onions and a dollop of fresh avocado cream.


Rare Bird Brewpub is located at 229 Lake Avenue in Traverse City, Michigan. Call 231.943.2053 for hours.


© 2017 Kierstin Gunsberg

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    • profile image

      Charlene 4 weeks ago

      Right Brain Brewery has life changing burgers. Hands down the best in TC, and perhaps even the world.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 2 weeks ago from Norfolk, England

      I'm visiting Traverse City. Sounds like there's so many places there I can get a burger from!

    • Kierstin Gunsberg profile image
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      Kierstin Gunsberg 9 days ago from Traverse City, Michigan

      Coffeequeeen, no way! You're going to love it here, it's such a beautiful and unique place with so many neat little towns around it to enjoy too. I'm super excited for you! And yes, there's lots of great places to grab a burger up here, this list is honestly just a handful of them.

    • Kierstin Gunsberg profile image
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      Kierstin Gunsberg 9 days ago from Traverse City, Michigan

      Ah, I'll have to check out their burgers, Charlene! Which one do you think is the best there? Right Brain is great :)

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