Besides being fun to say, Ishpeming makes for a fantastic launchpad for your next adventure in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Sure, we all know Marquette is super sexy. Right by the big lake, it has some cool restaurants and a few okay breweries (I kid…we love Blackrocks, The Vierling, Barrel & Beam, and Ore Dock). But for all its luscious curves, Marquette can be busy and a bear to navigate when you just want to chill. Enter the lovely next door neighbor called Ishpeming.
We chose Ishpeming as our base camp for the first part of our Northern Michigan Fall Color tour for three reasons: Cognition Brewing, Congress Pizza, and Sunday bloody marys at the Rainbow Bar. Obviously, great food and beverages were priorities on this portion of the trip.
We stayed at a cute little Airbnb which was conveniently located within walking distance of our food and beverage destinations. Our spot in Ishpeming was also within a 30 minute drive of our hiking and color points at Dead River Falls and our beloved Hogback Mountain.
Return to Cognition
We have developed a bit of a love affair with Cognition Brewing. Not only do they make great beer in an inviting space, they are fantastic people. Everyone from the owners, brewers, management, and staff are warm and welcoming folks. There are plenty of places that make great beer, the key factor in our book is the community a brewery creates. It is important to feel that you belong; that you are home. Cognition does it right. It also doesn’t hurt that they insert a bit of heavy metal into the mix.
Like many businesses during the pandemic, Cognition has pivoted to provide great beer while keeping folks safe. We would love to sit inside the pub and enjoy a brew, however the small space would endanger both the staff and patrons. Instead, on a slightly rainy and chilly afternoon, we enjoyed our brews in the tent next to the pub.
Regardless of the cold rain, it was great to catch up with Jay, Kris, and Louis. The pandemic has made it difficult to spend time with our Michigan beer family. This sliver of time with our friends from Cognition was priceless. A definite cure for the pandemic blues.
Before the 2019 Michigan Brewers Guild U.P. Fall beer fest, we stopped in for our first ever visit to Cognition Brewing. After a couple of beers, we were looking for some food. Our friend Jay mentioned that we should check out Congress Pizza.
Talk about fantastic pizza featuring a thin crust loaded with toppings. This is a some of the best pizza in the state. I know you are thinking “Pretty damn bold statement there Chuck”. Head up to Ishpeming and try for yourself. The bonus is they offer vegan pizza which actually tastes great.
Due to the pandemic, Congress Pizza was carry out only during our visit. This was actually what we wanted. We had a nice cozy place to enjoy our pizza just a quick walk away. Sadly, I took no pictures of our fabulous pizzas. Maybe that is an indication of how awesome the pizza is.
Wandering in downtown Ishpeming
With the sun shining and a few hours before the Rainbow Bar opened to get our Lunchbox Bloody Marys, we took an urban hike around Ishpeming. Our first priority was coffee. We made our way over to Huron Mountain Bakery. Since it is impossible to only get coffee, a donut (or two) was in order.
Ishpeming Fun Facts:
- The name Ishpeming takes its name from the Chippewa name for “on the summit”. The city sits 1436 feet above sea level on the divide between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.
- The first real evidence of Paleo-Americans living in the Upper Peninsula was found in the Deer Lake Basin. These people hunted the great woods near Ishpeming over 8000 years ago
- “Anatomy of a Murder” author John D. Voelker is a native of Ishpeming and parts of the film were shot in Ishpeming.
- The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and Museum call Ishpeming home. The National Ski Association was founded in the town back in 1905.
- Ishpeming is also home to the Da Yoopers Tourist Trap which has fun with Upper Peninsula culture and includes the world’s largest working rifle and chainsaw!
We didn’t have a destination (other than coffee). We strolled the streets going from one interesting building to another. Our first stop was the Ishpeming High School. The home to the Hematites, the school was built in 1931 after the prior building was destroyed by fire.
Our next stop, City Hall. This majestic building is built from the gorgeous Lake Superior (technically Jacobsville) sandstone. Much like you’ll find used on buildings in Calumet and Marquette. The building was constructed in 1891 and is still used today as the city hall.
We loved the vintage look of Jackson’s Hardware. Turns out Jackson’s has been in business since 1914. They moved to their current home in 1945. The hardware remains proudly family-owned.
Rainbow Bar’s Lunchbox Bloody Marys
Sadly we can’t remember who actually told us about the amazing Bloody Mary’s from the Rainbow Bar in Ishpeming. We think we can narrow it down to either Jay Clancy (Cognition Brewing), Amy Sherman (MLive/MIBest), or Dianna Stampfler (Promote Michigan). The key point is that once we learned about these mythical drinks, we had to try one.
After our urban hike, we headed into the Rainbow Bar. Patrons were nicely spread out and wearing masks which is always a good sign in these plague years. Our bartender welcomed us with smiling eyes over her mask. We told her that we’d heard great things about the Blood Mary’s. She then started working on creating these masterpieces.
These monster beverages not only taste great, but they also come loaded with a sandwich as a garnish. The stuffed mushroom, olives, and pretzels were awesome garnishes on their own. But the Rainbow Bar shoots for the moon with an egg salad sandwich!
We did learn that the sandwich changes up each week. You could get egg salad this Sunday, and next Sunday it could be grilled cheese. Regardless, we enjoyed our lunch on a glass from the Rainbow Bar. They were a tasty way to start up the next leg of our Northern Michigan Fall Color Tour.
Feel free to wander in our gallery which includes images from the first part of our Northern Michigan Fall Color Tour. Enjoy the images. Contact us regarding any use.
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