We took the plunge and found some keepers along these salty shores.
The Bluebird Restaurant & Bar, Leland
What to expect: The Bluebird, one block from Lake Michigan in this fishing village-turned-tourist town, has evolved into a white-tablecloth institution. Or at least the dining room has. The bar, with its more casual menu, remains a relaxed throwback to the restaurant’s 1927 roots as a sandwich and soda shop (with the addition of a wine list). Definitely try the fried whitefish, either the sandwich or the platter. On later visits you might explore the smelt, perch, or walleye.
Check it out: 102 River Street; 231/256-9081 or leelanau.com/bluebird
Jolly Roger Seafood Restaurant, Port Clinton
What to expect: “Lake Erie's finest perch & walleye,” claims a sign at this otherwise modest little place in the Lake Erie Islands summer resort area. We won't disagree. Locals line up out the door for tender, juicy fried perch and walleye, which come with excellent waffle-cut fries.
Check it out: 1737 East Perry Street; 419/732-3382
New Sandusky Fish Company, Sandusky
What to expect: The New Sandusky Fish Company serves huge fried-fish sandwiches smothered in tartar sauce. Choose walleye, bass, perch, or catfish. A frog leg dinner with a side order of clam strips makes a tasty alternative. No seating is available inside, but nearby benches and gazebos overlook Sandusky Bay.
Check it out: 235 East Shoreline Drive; 419/621-8263
Howl’n Wolf Saloon & Grill, Grand Marais
What to expect: This small-town bar on the North Shore of Lake Superior serves excellent lemon-pepper grilled walleye and wonderful Minnesota wild rice pilaf with almonds. If you wish to howl, then stop by on Thursday or Friday night for karaoke.
Check it out: 2066 West Highway 61; 218/387-1236