When Jason Beecher and his wife Chris were seeking out ideas for a food truck, he immediately thought of pretzels.
“It’s hard to find a good pretzel, and a lot of breweries don’t serve food,” said Beecher, who is based in Wyoming, Michigan, and started Beecher’s Pretzels for takeout and catering in 2018, then opened the food truck in May of 2020.
With nearly 400 breweries in Michigan, and not many pretzel food trucks in the area, he saw an “advantage” and a “point of differentiation.”
Plus, who doesn’t love a good pretzel with a Michigan-made beer?
“They both have a pronounced malty flavor, and the coarse crunchy salt enhances both the pretzel and the beer flavors,” said Beecher, who studied at the prestigious Johnson & Wales University and has a masters degree in food science from North Carolina State University.
“I’m sure people also like carbs to help absorb their beer.”
In honor of National Pretzel Day, which is today, April 26, Beecher is setting up from 4-6 p.m. at Burlingame Dip, 3555 Burlingame Ave. SW, in Wyoming. He says for “pretzels and ice cream,” which is another great pairing.
With a history dating back centuries ago, pretzels “got their start in the Catholic Church,” according to nationaltoday.com. “Sometime around the 7th Century A.D., monks presented their students with treats of baked dough twisted in the shape of crossed arms,” they said, and it was perfect for Lent.
What makes a good pretzel?
“A good pretzel requires a healthy dose of art and science,” said Beecher, who makes his pretzels the traditional German way, dipped in an alkaline soda bath.
“When you look at a great pretzel, you see the rich mahogany color, with some sheen to it, generously sprinkled with coarse white salt that livens up each bite. The pretzel aromatics and how they are characterized is fascinating.”
But it’s a challenge because changes in temperature and humidity make a big impact on baking, he said.
“It takes experience to look at a piece of dough and understand where it is in its ‘lifespan,’” he said. “…Much of this is learned through a lot of practice over time.”
Beecher is one of many places making great pretzels in Michigan.
We looked back at some of our travels for Michigan’s Best and identified some of the “essential pretzels” to try the next time you’re out and about.
Some of these places are not open today, but, heck any day can be National Pretzel Day!
10 Great Pretzels in Michigan
Bavarian Inn, Frankenmuth
A top 10 pick for Michigan’s Best Pie (2014), as well as a finalist in for Best Fried Chicken (2016), the Bavarian Inn Restaurant knows a thing or two about pretzels. What makes them so good? “Pretzels really consist of very simple ingredients, but our recipe’s secret ingredient is our special Bavarian Inn Dark Beer,” said general manager Amy Zehnder-Grossi. The 7 oz. pretzel is served with their Bavarian Inn Franconian Mustard, sweet Bavarian Mustard or a cheddar cheese sauce. They are baked fresh daily and available in the Bake Shop, as well as bar and dining rooms. “We bake them in small batches throughout the day so that they are always fresh,” she added. National Pretzel Day: “Buy 2 Bavarian Pretzels, Get One Free” or enjoy a Michigan Craft Beer and large pretzel with cheese at the Michigan on Main Bar and Grill for $10. More info at bavarianinn.com/dine or facebook.com/MichiganonMain
Beecher’ Pretzels Food Truck, Wyoming
Jason and Chris Beecher, as well as daughters Corrina and Stella, have been busy building the food truck business since opening last May. Jason Beecher said a a good pretzel’s color and aroma should be “indistinguishable.” “This is because pretzels are dipped in an alkaline soda solution that accelerates browning and helps to release an abundance of wonderful aromatic compounds that do not develop in regular bread,” he said. You can get a beer cheese with his, but it’s not needed. “A great pretzel can be thoroughly enjoyed naked (no salt), or salted, or in any number of ways, but good pretzels can also stand on their own. At the same time, pretzels make great sandwich carriers where mustard might make a lot of sense. Cheese dip has become customary and tastes pretty good, so we always have cheese dip. Sometimes we will make the cheese dip with any. number of different local beers and even cider. Guests to Farmhaus Cider in Hudsonville love the cider cheese dip.” He added that pretzels are also great with butter, sliced cheeses and meats, and more. National Pretzel Day: Open 4-6 p.m. at Burlingame Dip, 3555 Burlingame Ave. SW, in Wyoming. Learn about Beecher’s Pretzels at beecherspretzels.com or at instagram.com/beecherspretzels.
Cedar Springs Brewery, Cedar Springs
On our searches for Best New Brewery, Best Fried Chicken and Best Fries, Cedar Springs Brewery is one of those breweries that does everything well. It’s no surprise they would also excel at pretzels, too. Owner Dave Ringler is a history buff, so if you ever run into him, be sure to ask him any question about the brewing process or history of German beer. He’s faster than Google: “Pretzels date to the 7th century, some tales originating in Italy, where the shape and ingredients had religious connections, as symbolizing the cross, marriage connections, treats for children (appearing as if arms were crossing in prayer), and the ingredients – water, flour, and salt – were acceptable during Lent,” he said without thinking. He added: ”Monestaries also were the beer makers of the dark ages, and it is no mystery that a sweet and malty beer pairs wonderfully with a salty pretzel.” He said they use soda water ”to create a nice, lightly crunchy crust and a soft, chewy inside that is dense, without being heavy. There’s a certain flavor to an authentic Bavarian pretzel that just doesn’t exist in modern, hard pretzels or the soft, chewy ‘fast food’ pretzels that always leave you wanting just a little bit more…and pair wonderfully with a Küsterer Bier by Cedar Springs.” They use an authentic, imported German “Mittlescharfer Senf” (or medium mustard) and an herbed butter to compliment their pretzel. They also do a creamier version of “Obatzda,” which is a southern German-style cheese spread. Their pretzel is just over one pound. Open Noon-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and Noon-8 p.m. Sunday. More info at csbrew.com.
Read: Michigan’s Best New Brewery: Our Top Ten revealed
Our pick for Michigan’s Best Bakery in 2018, Crust is known for having some of the sate’s best pastries, as well as doughnuts, breads, sandwiches, beingets, pies and pretzels, of course. They use “traditional artisan techniques to shape and bake” the pretzels, said employee Autumn O’Connor. They’re made fresh each day, but they sell out quickly, so get them early. In addition to their huge “carnival size” pretzel, which you can order with a side of cheese, customers can get pretzel knots topped with everything seasoning and served with mustard or cheese, or the fan favorite, a hand-craved turkey sandwich with applewood-smoked bacon, barbecue sauce, fresh red onions, and Vermont cheddar cheese, and served on a homemade pretzel bun. The sandwich is served in the restaurant everyday until 4 p.m. Closed Mondays. Open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. More info at crustandbeyond.com/menu.
D’Angelo’s, Bay City
Most recently a Top 10 pick for Michigan’s Best Burger, D’Angelo’s has been a longtime favorite of Michigan’s Best. Whether it’s wings, pizza, burgers or Vegan items, they always deliver quality and creativity. Now, add “King Kong,” a 1 1/2-pound pretzel ($12) that includes nacho cheese, ranch and mustard or peanut butter and chocolate to the list. “We put it on the menu about a year ago,” said Berry, who runs the restaurant with her partner/owner David Baranowski. “We sell out of them every week. Last time I advertised it we sold over 100 of them in three days.” They are closed Mondays and Tuesdays, and only open for dinner “as we no longer have enough staff to be open for lunch,” she said. In a recent article with MLive’s Amy Sherman, the couple shared their challenges of operating a restaurant during Covid-19, and Baranowski’s need for a kidney transplant. Berry is his kidney donor. “He was officially approved for transplant,” she said in an update. “We go back for my testing the first of June . (It’s) taking longer than we anticipated.” The restaurant is expected to be closed for a month at the time of the surgery. It’s open now. Learn more at dangelostakeout.com or facebook.com/1305ColumbusAveBayCity.
READ: Well-known Bay City restaurant couple to undergo transplant: she’s giving him a kidney
READ: These are the 10 best burgers in Michigan
DJ’s Bakery, Ann Arbor
A Top 10 pick Michigan’s Best Doughnut, owner Kim Yam is well known in the area for making great doughnuts, dating back to the early ‘90s when she and husband/baker Saing Yam owned the Dexter Bakery in Dexter. It was there they learned to make pretzels from the former owner, who had a German recipe. She makes them every day, including a popular ham and cheese stuffed pretzel that made Amy Sherman’s list of the Top 21 things to eat in 2021. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve almost made the drive from Grand Rapids to Ann Arbor to try that ham and cheese pretzel sandwich. Sherman said in her post: “Kim brought out her famous pretzels to try, and they are top of the line. She said many people will order them by the dozen for U of M tailgates. She also brought out her ham and cheese stuffed pretzel, and we gobbled it down. Tender golden pretzel dough gets wrapped around salty ham and cheddar cheese. You can order these cold, or they are ready to grab and go hot, with the cheese melted and oozing.” Open seven days a week. More info at facebook.com/djsbakeryAA.
READ: These are the best doughnuts in Michigan: A baker’s dozen of winners
Five Shores Brewery, Beulah
Co-owner and brewer Oliver Roberts said they wanted to offer a house-made pretzel when they opened a year ago, but with Covid-19, and struggles with operating a kitchen, they opted to find one they liked from a provider. Their German-style pretzel has been been a big hit with customers. It’s a hand-crafted pretzel with an earthy rye flavor, he said. It’s coated with everything bagel seasoning and served with spicy brown or yellow mustard. You can get a side of craft beer cheese for an extra cost. Current hours are 3-8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 3-9 p.m. Friday, 1-9 p.m. Saturday, and 1-7 p.m. Sunday, but will expand in the summer. Five Shores made my list of Top 10 beers in 2020. Learn more at facebook.com/fiveshores.
Read: Gonzo’s Top 10 Michigan beers of 2020
Nantucket Baking Company, Grand Rapids
Our No. 2 for Michigan’s Best Bakery in 2018, Nantucket Baking Co. offers a little bit of everything, including about 12 varieties of artisan breads each day. The top-selling San Francisco Sourdough takes four days to make, but is a great example of quality. It’s the same attention to detail that makes their pretzels some of the best in the state. The soft German pretzels are dipped in a food grade lye solution for maximum color and flavor. “You can’t find these anywhere in Grand Rapids but here,” they say online. Although they are open daily from 7 a.m.-7 p.m., pretzels are available Thursday through Sunday beginning about 9 a.m. Pre-orders are available for your convenience. More info at nantucketbaking.com/products/bread/pretzels.
READ: Michigan’s Best Bakery: Our Top 10 revealed
Since opening in September of 2020, Twist Pretzels in downtown Detroit has gained an intense following for it tasty flavor and distinctive “twist” presentation, said owner Holly McClain. “The shape of our pretzel is super unique,” she told MLive. “Each pretzel is hand rolled into three sections and then hand braided. This shaping is not only beautiful, but eats very light and fluffy because of the braid and the style of the dough.” Open as a “concept off the side” of her Olin Bar & Kitchen in Parker’s Alley, behind Shinola Hotel, she said she always wanted to open a restaurant in Detroit. “The location of our space was perfect to add this additional concept off of the alley,” adding that “warm soft pretzels have always been something that I have loved, and my two little girls love them as well.” Currently they offer their twist original soft pretzel with sea salt, a sesame and sea salt pretzel, a cinnamon sugar pretzel, and a truffle pretzel. Dipping sauces include beer cheese, grain mustard, sweet and sour mustard, and veggie cream cheese. It is a traditional Bavarian pretzel with a a slow fermentation with a wheat and rye base, she said. “It is a high hydration with a fast cooking time, which yields a very soft texture.” She feels “a great soft pretzel is warm, with a soft texture, with delicious dips to accompany. I feel like our distinct and beautiful shape only adds to the experience.” In addition to pretzels, customers can also order cocktails to go. Open only Friday-Sunday. More info at facebook.com/twistpretzelsdetroit or olindetroit.com.
Village Baker, Spring Lake
We met Sara Rathbun and Oran Rankin in 2018 on our search for Michigan’s Best Bakery. Immediately we were impressed with their scratch kitchen cafe on one side, and quality baked goods on the other side, all in the small town of Spring Lake. The have a tasty pizza, too. The breads are so good that each day fans rush in to check a huge variety of offerings. But we left impressed with that pretzel. “We are stating right here that Village Baker makes the best soft pretzel in the state,” wrote Amy Sherman in her story about Michigan’s Best Bakery. They pretzels are so popular that in the summer they can twist, by hand, more than 1,000 a day. Overall, Village Baker was our No. 5 pick as best bakery. Closed Mondays, they are open 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, and Saturday; 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday; and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Learn more at villagebaker.us.
READ: Michigan’s Best Bakery: Our Top 10 revealed
Did we miss your favorite pretzel? Do you want to tell us about more Michigan’s Best foods, craft beverages and destinations? We’re always looking for ideas and future searches.
John Gonzalez: [email protected]
Amy Sherman: [email protected]
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