A lot of folks often ask me how a truly unique Traverse City experience really goes. What should we do that will make us feel local? What do the locals do?
My answer to this question always seems to revolve around one simple thing: A tasty pull of local or craft brew. It is in that pull that one can find the essence of Traverse City. It is unique, it is varied, it is ever changing and its best moments and experiences are ones that must be sought out.
A grand example of the TC lifestyle is taking a short bike ride along the TART Trail from downtown. Next to the Traverse City Public Library sits a formerly abandoned railway station.
But now it’s going full steam ahead, inhabiting a group of folks serious about their quality suds.
Since 2011, David Cannizzaro has been toying with the concept of the perfect brew. Some would say that he’s hit the nail on the head a few times over the last couple of years. I would tend to agree with them, having just sampled yet another pull of the Louvian Farmhouse, a Belgian Pilsner that brings me great joy, partially because of the amazing flavors and partly because of the nearly 10% ABV.
“We’re just starting up,” says Kendra Hunter, a Detroit area native, who I met at The Filling Station. “We’ll be heading downtown too, but I really wanted to try this place out. I’ve heard so much about it.”
What does she think?
“I love it,” she says with a laugh as she goes for another glass of the night’s Track 7 — the Mumbai Imperial IPA.
Each of The Filling Station’s beers are listed above the bar as though they were trains arriving at the station house. While Kendra hopped on Track 7, I switched to Track 2 — the London Porter.
I wandered from the bar back into the dining area, a large room with nearly floor to ceiling windows that look out upon the TART, Boardman Lake, a few well-manicured lawns maintained by the library and almost all of Traverse City’s historic Railroad District.
There, I found Gene Withers, a “sometimes local” from Chicago. Seems Gene and his crew have a habit of taking up residence at the Park Place Hotel for a week or two every couple of months.
“In the last year or two, we’ve really started branching out from our usual places,” says Withers. “This town has a lot to offer in food and beer.”
The Chicagoans go on to compliment both the beer and the flat breads.
“The pizzas here are pretty sweet,” says Withers. “I’m drinking the Denver Brown…It’s pretty tasty with this Stump Jumper.”
Withers is referencing one of the many flat bread available at The Filling Station. The Stump Jumper is $14 and comes with garlic oil, roasted garlic, roasted onions, crimini and oyster mushrooms, parmesan and mozzarella.
“I guess you could say that I’m not really looking for a girl tonight,” Gene says with a laugh when I asked him about all of the garlic and onions.
The Filling Station truly is a perfect example of what one can find in Traverse City if they step off of the well-beaten tourist trail.
“There’s just a whole free spirit thing going on here,” says Alison Blair, a TC native I met while exiting The Filling Station. “I think that vibe really comes across in places like this. This guy loves his art, you know? He’s passionate about his beer and his food. And it shows. You find that passion and you make it work for you. That’s Traverse City to me.”
The Filling Station offers up a constantly changing menu of brews. Its tracks are filled with hoppy goodness and its stone fired ovens produce some fine flat breads. Prices here are some of the best in town as well — a pint will only set you back $4.50. Flat breads range from $10 to $16 with a few build-your-own options and some salad selection certain to please as well.
The brewing of the beers that flow from their taps happens right on site. Cannizzaro is the master of both a 10 bbl and 3 bbl brewing system. That 3 bbl system is the one that will keep the curious coming back for more, allowing Cannizzaro to produce endless concoctions in smaller batches. The 10 bbl system helps maintain a few of the brewery’s standby favorites.
The Filling Station shows that life is truly good in Traverse City, especially with beers like Track 12 — Munchen Marzen.