Rare Bird Brewpub
Lots of Traverse City area blog posts coming your way over the next week or so. We took a little mini-vacation to northern Michigan to take the kids to Great Wolf Lodge just outside of Traverse City. Of course, we need some mommy and daddy activities too, so we hit up a couple of breweries in the Traverse City area and a lighthouse museum…but we’ll get to all of that eventually.
When we arrived in town on Friday afternoon, we were still a few hours from check-in time at the hotel. We actually left Kalamazoo early so we could find a place to eat lunch before we did some swimming.
I had a list of breweries that I wanted to try to get to, so J asked me to pick. We were meeting another family up there eventually and one of the breweries on my list didn’t have a kids menu online. I’m always a little hesitant when we go to a place without a kids menu, so I wasn’t going to drag someone else there…so that was our first stop since we were dining alone for this meal.
Rare Bird Brewpub took over a 1930’s era warehouse south of Traverse City’s downtown near the Boardman River. The brewpub is nestled between a couple of other retail shops, but it sits right across the street from a working warehouse. The narrow street has metered parallel parking of which we were able to find a spot right near the front door. I have to assume there’s a lot or something nearby that can be used, but we didn’t seek one out and nothing popped out at me as we were driving by.
Rare Bird is a little different than most breweries. In addition to the five beers they make on site, they have a full Class C liquor license which means they do cocktails as well as a number of other companies craft beers.
The building was basically gutted down to the walls before Rare Bird opened for business in the summer of 2014. The brewpub was built from sustainable and reclaimed resources including the tables which were all built from a single 120 year Cottonwood tree that grew just outside of Northport on M-22 and died on it’s own. The pub has a very rustic feel even though it’s an old warehouse set up like a German bier hall.
The pub has two distinct areas when it comes to seating choices. On the side with the bar, there are signs up all over the place to order at the bar. You can get food and drinks in this area, but there is no table service.
If you enter the door and take a left, you’ll find an area with booths and long tables. This area has table service so that’s the way we went after grabbing a high chair from the back of the room. We let L pick a table and she wanted a booth, but the ones with the windows all had reserved signs on them, so we took a large, u-shaped booth near the front door.
I started in right away with a flight. Rare Bird has five of it’s own beers on tap, so I took all five to kick off our mini-vacation.
The first beer on my board was the Catch The Sun Blonde. This is a perfect way to kind of ease myself into the weekend. Very light, crisp beer that doesn’t really have any “wow” characteristics but is pretty tasty.
Beer number two was La Toronja. The beer is listed as an American Pale Ale, but La Toronja literally means Grapefruit, so one must assume there’s some grapefruit in it. It’s not an overpowering sweetness, but instead a subtle grapefruit taste to counterbalance the bitterness of the Pale Ale.
Beer three was Schmamber Amber. Not hard to figure out this one is an amber. Amber’s aren’t my favorite, but I enjoyed the maltiness of this one. It was nice in a taster, but just personal preference would prevent me from ordering anything bigger.
The fourth selection was Dubbel Butt. Again, the name gives away that this is a Belgian Dubbel. I actually really enjoyed this one. There was a little sweetness to it, but it didn’t seem very heavy for a dubbel. Very tasty.
The last beer on this flight was the Freshy Fresh Sesh. This is a harvest ale that is wet hopped with local Chinook hops that they claim are picked the same day they’re added to the beer. It’s a really good session beer that’s not very bitter and very easily drinkable. This was probably my favorite from the flight.
J took advantage of Rare Bird being able to sell other people’s brews and ordered the XR Cyser from St. Ambrose Cellars in nearby xxx, Michigan. The company that makes this calls it “Apple Pie in a Glass.” The cyser is spiced with Star Thistle Honey, maple syrup, and cinnamon. J was happy to find a cyser on the beer list and really enjoyed this one.
The food menu at Rare Bird is described as craft deli food. J was a little hesitant at first but eventually came around. She had a hard time finding something on the menu that really jumped out at her, so she the one sandwich that she thought maybe she’d like.
J’s sandwich choice was the Fried Chicken Sandwich. The fried chicken breast came with a curry lime cole slaw and spicy honey. She was really iffy at first not really sure if this was something she was going to like, but it took about one bite to convince her otherwise. She ended up loving the sandwich. The spiciness was just right. It wasn’t overly spicy, but just enough so you knew it was there. The slaw was a crunchy, creamy element that played well with the crispy fried chicken. The sandwich came with delicious fresh cut frites and a small cup of ketchup.
I could find a couple different things that I really wanted to try, but it was the Pub Burger that won out for me. The 8 oz. natural beef burger came with bleu cheese, bacon, crispy onions, tomato, BBQ sauce, and a Roasted Garlic Aioli. I asked to leave the aioli off and pulled the onions that I forgot to ask to keep off from the sandwich once I got.
The sandwich was delicious. It was just a little pink in the center with a delicious mound of bleu cheese holding on some very crispy bacon. My sandwich also came with the frites which were delicious and hard to put down.
We had to get a little bit creative with L. There was no kid’s menu and there really wasn’t anything on the menu she would eat. When this happens, we usually go to the appetizer part of the menu to find something. There wasn’t much there that she would eat either, but she did show interest in the Pretzel Sticks so that’s what we ordered here.
The starter came with three soft pretzel sticks covered in sea salt and served with a white cheddar ale cheese and an IPA whole grain mustard. L ate about one of the sticks without dipping it in either sauce. J grabbed the cheese sauce and a pretzel while I did the same with the mustard. The pretzel’s were nice and soft with maybe a little too much salt. Each of us liked the respective sauce that we grabbed and both of used them for some of our fries as well.
The bill for lunch came out to just under $50. Rare Bird Brewpub is another in a long line of amazing Michigan breweries. The atmosphere is fantastic with the old warehouse turned into cozy brewpub. The food was great as was the beer. They’re not a super kid friendly place, but, as I’ve said in the past, as a brewery/bar, they don’t have to be. We were able to make it work with no issues and really enjoyed the kickoff to our weekend in Traverse City.