Brilliant colors greet us as we drive across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in late fall. This is my first trip across the “UP” as locals refer to it and the fall colors are staggering.
There is a lot of driving between Mackinaw City and the Wisconsin state line. I consider making a sandwich until I see a sign for pasties. We turn around and make a beeline for Hiawatha Pasties and Mackinac Fudge Co. in Naubinway, Michigan.
Pasties are a staple of mining communities across the country and are attributed to miners who came from Cornwall, England. The term “pasty” reportedly comes from the Medieval French word for pie.
Miners enjoyed these savory pies—with special thick crust ‘handles’ on one side that was discarded—as a hearty meal they could eat on the job deep in the mines.
I order two of Hiawatha’s meat pies (beef and pork combo) and two smaller frozen breakfast pasties. These oblong pasties differ in shape from the more traditional “d-shaped” pasty with the crust handle. I take a bite and it’s delicious! The crust is just the right texture—delicate and flaky–and the hearty filling of meat and vegetables (carrots, onions, and rutabagas) hits the spot.
Having been introduced to this delightful traditional dish, we go on the hunt for “best pasty” on the UP. (Admittedly it’s not the best time of the year since many pasty shops are closed for the season.)
We try a pasty at Muldoon’s in Munising right on Highway 28. There’s a large sign on the building proclaiming they were named Best Pasties on the UP in 2001. We’ve got to try it.
Muldoon’s pasty is a more traditional shape and size and we chow through it. While they’re pretty good, for me, the crust isn’t as flaky and the seasoning is just a bit less tasty than the Hiawatha pasty.
Our last pasty stop is at Irontown Pasties just off the main road through Negaunee, Michigan. This place is a family affair. Established in 2010, John and Lori Cizek crank out pasties at lightening speed—thanks to a pastry-rolling machine. I chat with Lori and John as they work the pasty assembly line filling dough with traditional beef, potatoes, onion, and rutabagas. I choose the bacon pasty; my companion orders the more traditional beef and they’re both delicious, filled to the brim with meat and veggies. Irontown’s crust is good too, but not quite as delicate as Hiawatha’s.
Irontown also makes fruit pies and I order a peach turnover for the road.
As we drive away from the UP, we’re inspired to come back another time and taste even more pasties. But, for now, we give Hiawatha Pasties our “best” vote; Irontown comes in a close second.
If you are travelling through the UP, order up a pasty or two. – Story and photos by Anne Weaver, RFT Editor