Photographed by Kath Usitalo & Deb Thompson
Famous for their all-you-can-eat chicken dinners, the sprawling Bavarian Inn and Zehnder’s restaurants in the iconic “Little Bavaria” town of Frankenmuth serve nearly two million guests each year. But you’ll also find finger lickin’ good chicken from the Motor City to hidden gems across the Mitten.
Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, Detroit
Step inside the “World’s Oldest Jazz Club” and be transported to another time and place with the Art Deco decor, intimate seating and live jazz. Serving meals and music since 1933, the traditional soul food menu includes a choice of baked or fried chicken; be sure to order a side of black-eyed peas. theofficialbakerskeyboardlounge.com
Bavarian Inn and Zehnder’s, Frankenmuth
At the Bavarian Inn, now celebrating its 130th anniversary, servers dressed in dirndls or lederhosen deliver platters of fried chicken with all the fixings, including freshly baked stollen (fruit and nut bread) in an Old-World Germany setting. Across Main Street at Zehnder’s, the atmosphere is Colonial American, and the family-style meal pairs its fried chicken with Grandma Zehnder’s dressing and house-made chicken liver pâté. bavarianinn.com, zehnders.com
Dam Site Inn, Pellston
A northern Michigan tradition, this roadhouse has been serving up all-you-can-eat, pan-fried or stewed chicken dinners with sides (including oodles of homemade noodles) since 1953. The décor may be a throwback to another century, but the food continues to wow. Enjoy the display of pumpkins, intricately carved by owner Pamela East, in late September. (Closed late October to Easter weekend.) damsiteinn.com
Iva’s Chicken Dinners, Sterling
Chicken dinners were originally served to oil rig workers who rented rooms from Iva Ousterhout back in 1938. Fast-forward 80 years, and this family-owned and operated restaurant is still dishing out Iva’s famous family-style Southern or stewed chicken dinners. (Closed November to March.) ivaschickendinners.com
Lula’s Louisiana Cookhouse, Owosso
Named one of the best chicken dinners in the state, everything is made from scratch and to order, so sit back and enjoy the New Orleans jazz background music. Lula Mae’s Fried Chicken Platter comes with freshly baked bread and a choice of two sides; go with the Southern style green beans and red beans and rice. lulascookhouse.com
Palm’s Krystal Bar, Port Huron
The sign outside the bar and grill, a local hangout since 1936, proclaims it serves “The World’s Most Famous Chicken Dish.” Chicken in the Rough, fried chicken meant to be eaten with your fingers, is served with shoestring fries, coleslaw, a roll and honey. palmskrystal.com
The Southerner, Saugatuck
Chef Matthew Millar is keeping his southern Appalachia heritage alive on the banks of the Kalamazoo River. Enjoy traditional buttermilk fried chicken or try the Nashville Hot, dressed in cayenne, black pepper and spices. Beyond chicken dinners, The Southerner is known for its made-from-scratch biscuits. thesouthernermi.com
This article originally appeared in the 2018 fall/winter issue of Experience Michigan magazine. The contents of this article were checked for accuracy when it was published; however, it’s possible some of the information has changed. We recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the destinations, attractions or restaurants mentioned in this article.
No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.