Best Pasties in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

In the realm of unique cultural food, the U.P. pasty ranks right up there. The U.P., of course, is Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The people who live there are called Yoopers. And the soul food of a Yooper is a pasty.

michigan's upper peninsula

Photo by Bruce N. Meyer

Now let’s get this straight – it’s pronounced past-ee.  Not paste-ee. That’s what strippers wear.

A past-ee is a wonderful meat pie whose origins are in the coal mines of Wales, Finland and similar countries. The wives of coal miners would make these hearty meat pies and wrap them in paper for their men folk to carry down in the mines. Instead of climbing back out of the mine at lunch, they would place the pasty on their shovel, hold it over a candle to heat it up, and there they would enjoy a great feast.

Michigan's Upper PeninsulaThe pasty came to the U.P. with the copper miners that made this region a wealthy empire in the late 1800s and early into the 20th Century. Most of the copper is gone, but the pasty remains.

Lots of places sell pasties and every Yooper has their favorite. The best pasty in the U.P., we were told, is at Muldoon’s in Munising. You can’t miss the red-white-and-blue bunting on this homey yellow house on Highway 28.

michigan's upper peninsulaWe watched two women at a back counter making pasties. Muldoon’s co-owner Donna Grahovac says she hires experienced grandmothers who like to bake at home.  The dough is made fresh every day and creates a wonderful flaky crust when baked. The inside is a ground beef mixed with potatoes, carrots, onions, rutabaga, and spices.  Muldoon’s goes through about 200 pounds of potatoes, peeled by hand, every day.

Muldoon’s also makes chicken pasties and pasties with vegetables only, although one very serious Yooper told us that a vegetarian pasty an insult to mankind.

The big debate is whether to eat a pasty plain, with ketchup or with gravy. They’ll know you’re a tourist if you ask for ketchup with your pasty. A true Yooper eats their pasty plain in the summer and with gravy in the cold weather months.

We ate a couple of bites of our pasty plain, and since it was summer when we visited, we didn’t ask for gravy. But we did ask for ketchup.  

 

 

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