Chelsea, Michigan is a lovely southeast Michigan hamlet of slightly over 5,000 people. Maybe you’re simply passing through on your way from Ann Arbor to Lansing, the state capital, and want to stop for a quick bite to eat. Maybe you’re in town for a performance at the Purple Rose Theater, which is owned by Emmy-winning actor, singer, and writer Jeff Daniels. In any event, there are a surprising number of must-try restaurants in Chelsea, Michigan in old structures that have their own attraction.
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Visiting other Michigan cities? Check out our gastronomy guides to the cities listed below:
- 7 Best Restaurants & Things To Do In Ludington
- 5 Must Try-Restaurants In Holland Michigan & 10 Fun Things To Do In Holland MI
- 7 Must-Try Lansing Restaurants
- 11 Must-Try Upper Peninsula Restaurants & Bars
- 7 Best Traverse City Restaurants
- 15 Michigan Dishes You Must-Try
- 10 Must-Try Grand Rapids Restaurants MI
- Best Mexican Food In Holland MI
- Best Sushi In Holland MI
- Best Thai Food In Holland MI
- 1 The 5 Best Restaurants in Chelsea, Michigan
- 1.1 Chelsea, Michigan’s Finest Fine Dining
- 1.2 Best Brewery in Chelsea, MI
- 1.3 Chelsea, Michigan’s Best Café
- 1.4 Chelsea, Michigan’s Best BBQ
- 1.5 Chelsea, Michigan’s Finest Apple Fritters
- 1.6 Which of these Chelsea, MI restaurants do you want to try the most? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below!
The 5 Best Restaurants in Chelsea, Michigan
Chelsea, Michigan’s Finest Fine Dining
734-475-0470112 South Main St.
The Common Grill is a trendy American bistro that focuses on daily flown-in fresh seafood. Chef-owner Craig Common oversees this out-of-the-ordinary destination restaurant in Chelsea, Michigan, making it a must-try eating visit.
The Common Grill has a seasonal cuisine that includes vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. Although the menu emphasizes on seafood, there are plenty of alternatives for those who like fowl or pork. Landlubbers will like the Korean lamb ribs, blackened steak salad, and grilled chicken club.
The wine selection includes a wide range of American wines, including several from California. If you want to get a taste of Michigan while you’re there, try some of the wines from the Traverse City area.
If you’re traveling from out of state, you should sample a Great Lakes meal in Michigan. A smoked Lake Superior Whitefish pt. is served with rosemary flatbread crackers cooked in-house. It’s a unique appetizer with a Michigan twist. Another Michigan-centric dinner is a pan-fried black walnut-crusted Walleye served with citrus butter, wild rice pilaf, and sautéed spinach. The whitefish from Lake Superior is parmesan-crusted and served with roasted lemon-chive butter. Side dishes include orzo pasta with lobster, radicchio, cremini mushrooms, and garlic haricot vertes.
My favorite starter here is the Lobster Spring Rolls with Asian slaw and a dab of Chinese mustard sauce on top. The lobster is abundant, with buttery bits of lobster scattered throughout the roll. The contents is combined with Napa cabbage before being wrapped in an egg roll wrapper and deep-fried. The Asian slaw is made out of chopped orange, red, and yellow bell peppers with Napa cabbage.
Although many guests dress up in business casual wear to go to the local theater after dinner, we felt more at ease in jeans. Yet it is the cuisine that shines at this outstanding Chelsea fine dining restaurant, not the attire.
Consider the Purple Rose Theatres timetable before arranging your visit. Common Grill accepts reservations for parties of six or more; however, if your party is smaller than six, it is advised to avoid eating shortly before a planned performance, since they may be quite crowded.
Best Brewery in Chelsea, MI
Brewery Chelsea Alehouse
South Main Street, 734-475-2337115 South Main Street
The exposed brick walls are complemented by cedar planked, blond hardwood flooring, creating a comfortable ambience. When there is a delay, a gold sofa and live plants in the foyer make a cozy waiting place. They are only open until 11:00 p.m. on Saturday evenings, so it is not a late-night hangout. But, this superb Chelsea eatery is a fantastic spot to have a meal with a local beer.
Chelsea Alehouse Marcella Golden Strong Ale was on tap the night I visited. It’s an 8% ABV Belgian Strong Ale, and a 4-ounce sample priced $2. Their mug club has almost 1,000 members, and $100 buys you lifetime beer discounts, among other things.
Avocado toast is now popular. Chelsea Alehouse Brewery has taken this a step further by offering a Toast of the Day. The Toast of the Day on the day I was there was a Cuban. They started with a buttered and toasted baguette then heaped on roast pig, ham, and Swiss cheese, all topped with house-made sweet pickle chips and drizzled with a garlic and mustard aioli. The dish came with four pieces, making it a good appetizer to share.
The Cudighi Sandwich, pronounced (Could-a-gEE), is a popular sandwich in the Michigan towns of Ishpeming and Negaunee. Even though it is the only location to acquire one in our region, I had never heard of it as a lifetime Michigander. It’s a flat sliced mild Italian sausage with marinara sauce, onions, red and green bell peppers, and mozzarella cheese, and it reminded me of an Italian sausage and pepper sandwich.
The menu includes a list of their suppliers, with certain things, such as pretzels, arriving fresh from the bakery next door. They come with a beer cheese dip and make a wonderful appetizer or snack to go with their house-made brew.
Although beer is highlighted, this Chelsea, MI restaurant blends it with superb regional and international cuisine to make it a must-visit.
Pro Tip: Live music starts about 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday and Sunday evenings.
Chelsea, Michigan’s Best Café
Zou Zou’s Café
Main Street, 734-433-4226101
Zou Zous Caf is a French European-style cafe named after a friend of the owner’s mother. It is a fast-casual setting with counter service. When you place your order, the staff will deliver the meal to your table. There are vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free choices on the menu.
Except for the bagels, Zou Zous manufactures all of its soups and bread in-house. Fresh-baked bread, the base of their sandwiches, distinguishes them from other sandwich businesses.
They utilize house-made bread for their lean Polish ham and cheddar cheese sandwich, which is toasted on a panini machine for a warm, gooey sandwich.
The grilled corn beef sandwich is another fan favorite. They bake their own brisket, slice it, and pile it high on the sandwich. They top it with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing. If you do not like sauerkraut, they will substitute coleslaw for it.
Although the bakery case offers a broad variety of baked goods, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a taste of France with their crepes. The chocolate crepes with a drizzle of chocolate sauce and a coating of powdered sugar were my favorite.
On Wednesday through Saturday nights, enjoy a glass of wine or a drink while listening to live music in a family-friendly setting. One of the nicest locations to visit in Chelsea is this modest yet adorable caf.
Pro Tip: Get some bakery things to go so you can have some for a snack later.
Chelsea, Michigan’s Best BBQ
Barbecue at Smokehouse 52
South Main Street, +1 734-562-2565125 South Main Street
Smokehouse 52 is located on Highway 52 in Chelsea, commonly known as Main Street, and the 52 in the name alludes to this.
This barbecue is light and smokey, with flavors from apple and cherry wood. As a consequence, it isn’t too heavy on the smokey tastes often associated with BBQ, and even people who don’t generally enjoy BBQ are pleasantly pleased. The meat is served with a choice of five varieties of house-made BBQ sauce. The Root Beer Barbecue sauce is an intriguing choice here. All-American Sauce, Steakhouse Gold, 52-Alarm, which is spicy but not as hot as it sounds, and Kiss and Vinegar are all available. With so many options, you’re certain to discover one you like.
Since they smoke their BBQ over actual wood-fired pits, most of the restaurant’s decor is made of wood. The rear wall of the main dining room is covered in reclaimed barn wood, while another wall is covered in chicken wire with slices of tree trunks.
Cowboy caviar is something you won’t typically find at a Barbecue restaurant. Corn, black beans, onions, red and green bell peppers, tomato, and black-eyed peas are combined in this corn salad, which is dressed with Kiss and Vinegar BBQ sauce. This is available as a side dish or as a basis for the honey citrus grilled salmon.
Pit beans are a cross between butter beans, red beans, and white beans. To produce a little sweeter variation of pit beans, smoked pork and apples are cooked with the beans.
Jiffy Mix’s production factory is located in Chelsea. Jiffy is right down the street, and Smokehouse 52 Barbeque supports that local company by using Jiffy mix in their cornbread. Since it’s so moist, I’m guessing they add something somewhat different from the box recommendations to make it their own.
They slice and arrange gently smoked peaches in the bottom of a ramekin to make the peach cobbler. The peaches are combined with a caramel sauce and topped with Jiffy baking mix cake crumbs. The delicately toasted topping is accompanied by a generous dollop of vanilla ice cream. The smoking of the peaches is what distinguishes this meal.
Smokehouse boasts a broad bourbon menu in addition to its Barbeque. This BBQ may not be done in the same manner as your conventional standards, depending on where you are from, but it is unquestionably a high-quality barbecue restaurant in Chelsea. Be sure to give it a go!
Get a combo platter to sample a range of meats and choose your favorite for future visits.
Chelsea, Michigan’s Finest Apple Fritters
The Chelsea Bakery
South Main Street
Although Chelsea Bakery is not a full-service restaurant, it is a great spot for a cup of coffee and a pastry for breakfast or a snack. It has to be on my list of must-try restaurants in Chelsea, Michigan. Why? Only two words. Fritters made with apples.
The apple fritters are made with a mix of pleasant autumn flavors like cinnamon and apple dice. This is mixed into dough, deep-fried, and then glazed with a thin powdered sugar glaze. They are big enough to share as a snack, but with such many flavor, why would you?
Apart from the apple fritters, cookies, and donuts, there are a few savory options, such as fresh-baked pretzels and ham and cheese croissants, that may be turned into a light lunch, particularly if you mix it with one of the sweets for dessert.
The exposed brick walls of a sitting area are decorated with artwork by local artists, all of which is for sale. Settle down and enjoy your apple fritter; by the time you’re done, you could have picked on a new piece of art for your living room. Where else except Chelsea can you purchase art and dine at an excellent local restaurant?
Pro Tip: Go early in the day for the best choices.