Where to Eat the 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.

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What is a Pasty and What is not a Pasty

A plate holding a pasty on a picnic table in the Upper Peninsula.Now let’s get this straight — it’s pronounced păst-ee. Not pāste-ee. That’s what strippers wear.

A păst-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 pie on their shovel, hold it over a candle to heat it up, and there they would enjoy a great feast.

Where to Find the Best Pasty

The sign that proclaims that Muldoons has the best pasties in the UPThe hearty treat 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 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.

Workers making pasties at Muldoons in Munising MichiganWe watched two women at a back counter worked with dough and vegetables. 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.

Ketchup or Gravy on Your Pasty

The exterior of Muldoons, known for their pasties in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.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. A true Yooper, we were told, 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.  

Tip: If you are in the U.P., there’s a good chance you are planning to visit the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It’s certainly worth your time, and the money for the boat ride.

More on Michigan’s U.P.