When I stumbled upon the cherry connection to northern Michigan’s Traverse City region, my curiosity was piqued.
I’d never known to associate Michigan with cherries and yet they were home to the “cherry capital of the world.”
Eager to savor these delightful fruits, I embarked on a quest to discover the best places to experience their magnificence. Among the gems that surfaced on my radar was famous The Cherry Hut.
Background on The Cherry Hut
You won’t find The Cherry Hut in Traverse City. It’s located about 40 minutes southwest of town. In fact, it’s closer to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which makes it a great place to visit after a morning of exploring the dunes.
Located in the charming town of Beulah, Michigan, The Cherry Hut has been a beloved family-owned restaurant since its establishment in 1922.
Initially, it started as a humble roadside pie stand, serving delectable homemade cherry pies crafted from the fresh cherries grown in the Kraker family orchard. The year 1937 marked a significant milestone when The Cherry Hut found its permanent home at its current location.
In 1946, a young Leonard Case, Jr., a sophomore at Benzonia High School, was welcomed into the Cherry Hut family as the “Jam Kitchen Boy.”
Starting in 1948, and with the exception of a brief hiatus for two years while serving in the army, Leonard took on the responsibility of crafting the scrumptious jams and jellies that became a hallmark of The Cherry Hut.
But Leonard Case’s journey went far beyond his role as the Jam Kitchen artisan. In 1959, he took a significant step by purchasing The Cherry Hut. This move followed his two years as the restaurant’s manager, succeeding the founding Kraker family.
During his tenure as the owner, Leonard Case undertook a remarkable transformation of The Cherry Hut.
What was once a modest outdoor food stop with a restricted menu, open solely for 12 weeks during the summer, evolved into a contemporary establishment boasting three dining rooms and a comprehensive menu featuring a wide array of entrees.
Leonard’s dedication to The Cherry Hut knew no bounds, as he committed his entire life to the restaurant’s growth and success. This unwavering commitment extended through The Cherry Hut’s impressive 93rd season in 2015, leaving an enduring legacy for generations of patrons to savor.
After reading about his life, I couldn’t help but notice many similarities between him and myself.
He was a world traveler who loved the Grand Canyon, and he was “most passionate about WWII, The Civil War, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition, as well as the discovery of the American Western Frontier.” He definitely seems like a person I would have found fascinating to speak with.
Experiencing the Cherry Hut
To truly relish the Cherry Hut experience, timing is key. This charming eatery follows a seasonal schedule, typically closing its doors sometime in the fall and reopening as summer approaches.
As it’s not a year-round establishment, those craving a cherry-infused treat when the restaurant is closed can take advantage of their convenient mail order system or head to the Cherry Hut Products location.
Moreover, it’s worth noting that The Cherry Hut’s operating hours are somewhat limited, with doors swinging open at 11 AM and closing at 4 PM. To ensure your visit aligns with their schedule, a well-planned excursion is certainly in order.
Upon your arrival, it’s impossible to miss the presence of the quirky Cherry Hut mascot affectionately known as “Cherry Jerry.” Initially, you might find Cherry Jerry comically eerie at first glance, but there’s a certain charm to his eccentricity.
Stepping inside, we managed to secure one of the last available tables. The Cherry Hut is undeniably a popular spot, often bustling with patrons.
The ambiance is a delightful trip down memory lane, with everything from the servers’ attire to the cherry-patterned wallpaper exuding a charming, nostalgic vibe that envelops the entire restaurant.
When it comes to deciding what to order, I highly recommend indulging in one of their timeless classics – the turkey and gravy dishes. My choice was the comforting Hot Turkey Sandwich served with a side of Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, while Brad opted for the equally satisfying Turkey Plate.
If you’re a devotee of Thanksgiving dinners or adore the post-holiday delights like a sumptuous turkey sandwich, The Cherry Hut has a menu that will certainly tantalize your taste buds. But fret not if turkey isn’t your preference; they also offer a selection of burgers, salads, and chicken strips.
To complement our meal, we stuck to our usual sparkling water but couldn’t resist adding a touch of extra flavor with a refreshing Cherry Ade.
Our meals arrived promptly, and as we savored every bite of our turkey dishes, it felt like a delightful sneak peek into the upcoming Thanksgiving feast we’d be enjoying in a couple of months.
And, as tradition would have it, we couldn’t resist the allure of one of their renowned cherry pies for dessert. This delectable creation is a cherry lover’s dream, generously filled with cherries on the inside and featuring a delicate, flaky pie crust.
Each slice comes overflowing with cherries, making for an incredibly delicious treat that we thoroughly enjoyed (though I think we should’ve gone for the cherry pie a la mode).
Once you’ve savored every last bite of dessert, don’t forget to explore the charming store, where you’ll discover an array of many cherry-inspired products. Inside, you’ll find a delightful assortment that includes among many products, cherry soap, cherry jam, cherry popcorn, and even a tasteful selection of apparel.
It’s a treasure trove of cherry-themed goodies that adds a cherry on top to your memorable visit. And you can always order online.
If your travels lead you to the Traverse City, Michigan area and you’re eager to immerse yourself in the rich cherry history of the region, The Cherry Hut is an absolute must-visit destination. With its delectable offerings catering to both turkey enthusiasts and cherry aficionados, it presents the perfect blend of flavors and heritage that should unquestionably find its way onto your itinerary. Don’t miss out on this delightful experience!
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.