I might ruffle a few feathers in my new home-away-from-home, Seattle, but the truth is Michigan and the Pacific Northwest actually share the title. Michigan produces 75% of the nation's tart cherries, while Washington and Oregon produce 60% of our country's sweet cherries. I love them both. In my neck of the woods, the brand-the myth-the legend, Cherry Republic has the final word in all things cherry.
My first visit each summer is to the flagship location in Glen Arbor for lunch under the trees; doesn't this look beautiful? Fresh dried cherry chicken salad on a bed of greens. And when you order a glass of water, it's served in a lidded plastic tumbler with a fresh cherry bobbing among the ice. It's just for fun, but I always hear people commenting about this light-hearted touch. There are 4 Cherry Republic retail locations - 3 are "up north" and one is in Ann Arbor.
Everything on the menu has cherries in it. Cherry barbecue pork, cherry-studded hot dogs, cherry chili. I'm not kidding! They also serve slices of cherry pie, cherry pastries and offer a soda fountain filled with cherry-kissed ice cream. The latest flavor I tried was "cherries in the snow" (vanilla with dried cherry bits) and it was creamy and delicious.
On the property, behind the restaurant/ice cream counter, are two other specialty buildings. My favorite is the shop exclusively selling "cherry food creations" - cherry salsa, dark chocolate-covered cherries, cherry vinaigrette. You can even choose between a packet of dried cherries or a chocolate cherry chunk cookie (the "Boomchunka") and mail it to a friend in a post office friendly box - an edible postcard, of sorts.
The latest addition is a tasting room where you can sample a variety of Cherry Republic wines, cider and soda pop. These are unique cherry beverages which range from rich and mellow to bright and heady. Try a little of each and then decide which will remind you of your glorious vacation in northern Michigan.