Pearl's New Orleans Kitchen: Traverse Bayou? Cajun Cuisine up North

By Kiel Christianson, Senior Writer

ELK RAPIDS, MI - Wanna spice up your visit "Up North" a bit? Tired of planked whitefish and sirloin steaks? Then get yourself to Pearl's New Orleans Kitchen in Elk Rapids. You'll think you've died and gone to Bourbon Street.

Ask Mary Palmer, co-owner of Pearl's, how she and her partners ever dreamed of a Cajun restaurant in the middle of the northern Michigan wilderness, and she says, "We needed one!" Apparently she and her partners sensed the culinary malaise dampening the tastebuds of both locals and tourists alike.

To remedy the situation, Mary and her staff have assembled a menu that is totally unique in these parts. Start off with the best damn Bloody Mary you will ever taste. Pearl's Big Easy Mary ($5) is garnished with a blue cheese-stuffed jalapeno, whole crawfish, and pickled carrots. With Creole seasoning rimming the glass, the spicy concoction will have you licking your lips all night - I gua-ran-tee! Or, if you're not so big on Marys, you can choose from nine other specialty cocktails.

Appetizers include several varieties of shrimp and oysters, along with some southern specialties like crawfish bisque and blackened alligator that range in price from $2.25 to $12.50.

Daily specials change with the availability of fresh seafood. On my visit, the blackened black-tip shark with crawfish sauce on red beans and rice ($16.50) was just too good to pass up. I have a very good source, however, who tells me that the blackened pork loin with cornbread stuffing ($12.75) and the crawfish étouffée ($14.75) are two menu staples that have built up Pearl's reputation with the local clientele as "the" place to go for a special night out.

Mary Palmer and her partners in Magnum Hospitality also operate The Fish, an upscale yet casual seafood house in Harbor Springs (231-526-3969), and Red Mesa Grill in Boyne City (231-582-0049), specializing in authentic southwestern fare. That's right, folks: Northern Michigan now has ethnic food besides pasties.

Kiel ChristiansonKiel Christianson, Senior Writer

Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Ill. Read his golf blog here and follow him on Twitter @GolfWriterKiel.

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