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Seven Best: Michigan food

Chow time! It's Friday so let's debate the best foods made and consumed in great quantity in my house…Oops…I mean the Great Lakes state.

--Better Made: This snack-food company has been in Detroit since 1930. It uses locally grown potatoes to make their famous chips (personal fave: barbecue). Better Made also produces pretzels, pork rinds, tortilla chips, beef jerky, salsas and cheese dips. The company claims Detroiters eat an average of seven pounds of chips per year, as opposed to four for the rest of the country. Explains a lot.

--Koegel and Kowalski: Personally, I could eat a Koegel Vienna every day. And I would have to renounce my Polish heritage if I didn't praise the mighty Kowalski family for its Kielbasa. Koegel, based near Flint, makes everything from summer sausage to salami to olive loaf. Kowalski is a Hamtramck powerhouse with markets across Metro Detroit.

--Garden Fresh: Amazing fresh salsa. Crispy fresh chips. I have products from Ferndale-based Garden Fresh in my fridge at this very moment. Founder Jack Aronson started making his salsas from his restaurant and they grew so popular he had to mass market them. Thank you, kind sir. (The hummus also is wonderful).

--Jiffy: Who hasn't enjoyed Jiffy blueberry muffins at least once? The Chelsea-based company manufactures over 1.6 million boxes of “JIFFY” mixes every day. Each mix costs less than $1, which makes them very budget friendly. Jiffy is so popular nationwide that the company never needs to advertise. (See, I just did its dirty work for free once again!)

--Hudsonville Ice Cream: Straight out of Holland comes the creamiest, dreamiest ice cream in the land. Don't believe me? Drive straight to Michigan right now and try the Pumpkin flavor. Or the Mackinac Island Fudge. Or the Grand Traverse Bay Cherry Fudge. Enough said.

--Sanders and Morley: These two chocolate dynasties have worked together for a common good since 2002. Nothing in the world (to me) tastes better than some good ice cream – see Number Five – and some fabulous Sanders hot fudge. Bliss.

--Beer: This is October (translation: Oktoberfest) so you have to invest in some good Michigan beer. Believe it or not, today is the start of “Detroit Beer Week,” according to the Michigan Brewers Guild. So grab a Bells, Curmudgeon, Cherry Festive Ale or Huma Lupa Licious and salute this Great Beer State.

Other greats: Guernsey Farms Dairy, Elan Candy, Dearborn Sausage Company, Eden Organic, Gayle's Chocolates, Kellogg's cereal, Steve's Backroom, Zingerman's, Achatz Handmade Pie Co. The list goes on and on.

P.S. I would have mentioned Vernors and Faygo, but they aren't locally owned any more. Vernors is owned by Dr. Pepper, although Wikipedia claims some 80 percent of the ginger-flavored ale is still consumed in Michigan. Faygo was purchased by a Florida-based company more than 10 years ago. Still, love me some Redpop.

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  • 1

    Thanks for the story. It's great to see these names mentioned as being Michigan Made Companies and products even though we're not necessarily a FOODIE TOWN.

    Don't forget all those hard working Farmers who supply the basic ingredients, many can be found at your local Farmers Markets like Eastern off Mack Ave, Royal Oak on 11 Mile (there's some really good salsa here too) and Pontiac which are year round venues. Other outdoor markets will be closing at the end of the month.

    I have shipped many jars and cans of Sanders and froze many pounds of Kowalski Polish Sausage and Pinconning Mild Cheese to be enjoyed by my family living out west. It's not quite home, but it's as close as you can get without flying into Metro.

    As for Vernors - it's not local anymore but you can't make a decent Boston Cooler with out it.

    Strohs isn't here anymore, but those frosty 16 ounce Tall-necks that were distributed in wooden cases are sorely missed too.

  • 2

    I didn't know Jiffy was a Michigan thing! I was raised on those little packets of goodness! My grandmother always used it for pie crust, I love the brownies, and my mom makes these weird cake-cookies from the big box of all purpose bakers mix.

    I'm stoked about Harvest Fest! Michigan beer is fantastic! Woo!

  • 3

    Can anyone tell me what is a "Michigan Hot Dog?" I see them for sale around here in central NY State -- haven't ever had one, as I am not the type to stop at a hot dog stand -- but I see the ads and have always wondered. I was born and raised in the Detroit area and I never heard of a "Michigan Hot Dog."

    • 3.1

      Sounds like what we Michiganders would call a coney dog.

    • 3.2

      Except, of course, that Coney Island is in NY! Silly creatures.

    • 3.3

      Nope he's right. For reasons unknown, the primary "Detroit food" is coneys. National Coney Island and Lafayette's coney restaurant are staples in the region. In CNY terms, a coney dog is a snappy : )

  • 4

    Calders Dairy. Local to the Detroit area.

  • 5

    I'm with you, mogrady: chocaholics for Sanders! For years after I moved away from Detroit, my mother would send me a jar of Sanders hot fudge topping in her Christmas care package or send me home with one when I came to visit. Not to mention their chocolate cake with strips of cream filling under the top layer of icing. Entenmann's makes one now, but it's only a substitute.

    No one has yet mentioned Vlasic pickles! I still remember those giant pickles painted on brick walls, one of which decorated the local corner store, which we neighborhood kids dubbed--of course--The Pickle Store. And there was the Vlasic plant/warehouse on Dequindre just south of the railroad tracks on the way to my grandmother's house in Hamtramck. Check out for a brief history of the company.

    Speaking of which, how many people outside of Detroit know how to PRONOUNCE Dequindre or Hamtramck?!?

  • 6

    I can pronounce both correctly as well as Skaneateles. ;-)

  • 7

    Better Made brings back fond memories for me, when I was growing up my mom and I would stop by the Better Made factory (on the east side) and buy me Better Made potato chips from their store on the way to my grandmother's house.

    In elementary school I remember going on a tour of the Vernors plant.

    Stroh's beer also makes me think of the motor city.

  • 8

    I toured the Jiffy factory years ago in Chelsea. I think they still do tours.

  • 9

    Southeastern Michigan's Metro Parent Magazine is hosting a Taste of Home Cooking School. Check out my blog for more information- if not- here is a direct link to

  • 10

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