Quick Diner’s Notes: Sleder’s Tavern, Traverse City, Michigan

By Michelle Railey

Sleder's Tavern
Smooch the Moose. Order grub. Enjoy. 717 N. Randolph St, Traverse City, Michigan

Prices and links updated, 6 May 2019.

Sleder’s Tavern has been open since 1882 and much of its furnishings are original. (You can, and totally should, read up on their official history at their site. It’s really interesting.) The environment is old hardwood floors, original fixtures, and old taxidermy. Quirky antique memorabilia covers the walls: prohibition notices, old rules, the odd note from a wife asking the barkeep to please stop serving the mister. In a world of restaurants trying to either fake or find character, Sleder’s has it. It has it in its bones. It’s had it so long, it can’t even remember a time when it didn’t. Sleder’s is the real deal.

For the short list: service and prices are good and fair. Selection is pretty good: but this is basic bar food, despite the Brie appetizer. Wings, burgers, sandwiches. All the things that make the world go ’round. Unless you’re vegan. Atmosphere is key at Sleder’s but, even if it weren’t, well, the food is solid enough to visit anyway.

The basic rundown: I visited with Frequent Dining Companion/World Famous (see here; long story) and the two of us had a beer a piece, an appetizer, two fantastic burgers with homemade chips. We spent forty-ish dollars for an hour and a half of history, full stomachs, and very satisfied palates.

Our notes on the meal:

The drink: Right Brain Dead Kettle IPA. A lighter IPA than we’re used to but perfectly, abundantly hopped. Seemed to be extra carbonated. I loved this and it didn’t seem to bother ol’ FDC/World Famous.

Appetizer: chicken wings with buffalo sauce. $6.95 for 6/$13ish for a dozen. Hands down, the best wings I have ever had. The skin tasted like broasted chicken; the sauce was rich (so rich, lots of butter). Just spicy enough; just everything enough. I like wings. Sleder’s wings? Pure, unadulterated love. (I’m craving them now.)

FDC’s burger: World Famous chose the Bleu Bacon burger, a basic burger topped with bacon and bleu cheese. He didn’t give commentary (a good sign: FDC just ate, happily, until it was gone). That’s high praise.

For me, I chose the olive burger, a northern Michigan thing. And I paid the up-charge to get a buffalo meat patty. When you visit Sleder’s, you should do this too. I’m a frugal (cheap) sort of gal, and the up-charge was one hundred and a thousand percent totally worth it. The olive burger piece of the equation was fantastic: like the best muffaletta you ever dreamt of eating in New Orleans (mounds of olive salad heaped under molten, gooey cheese). And then, underneath, the earthy-fantastic buffalo patty, an amped-up burger. The bun was great, slightly crisp, slightly buttered and not, thank god, straight from the package and slapped on the plate. This was delicious. (When will Indiana restaurants figure out either the buffalo burger option thing OR the olive burger thing? The combination is arrestingly good.)

Now, the table next to us had a couple also experiencing the buffalo burger. The diner who had not ordered the buffalo burger asked “is it spicy at all?” (It’s not buffalo sauce…) The diner who ordered the burger asked the server “is this really buffalo meat?”

Yes, it’s really buffalo meat. And it’s delicious. Which is why you’re going to go to this food and drink Midwest capital and try it at Sleder’s. See, in Traverse City, you’re going to have Asian fusion, Italian. You’re going to visit J&S Hamburg for the essential 1930’s diner meal. You’ll have a slice of cherry pie. You’ll drink craft beer, craft spirits, local wine. You’ll stop at the corner with all the food trucks: you’ll smell the barbeque, the fresh fish tacos. And then you’ll eat them. You’ll get ice cream at Bardon’s or Dairy Lodge.

But, most of all? You’d better get yourself to Sleder’s. Smooch the moose. And then get some wings and an olive burger. With homemade, freshly fried, thin-sliced and still-hot potato chips.

And you will be so happy you did.

The rules. Sleder’s Tavern.


Originally published summer, 2016.


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