Intrigue in Ishpeming

Besides being fun to say, Ishpeming makes for a fantastic launchpad for your next adventure in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Ishpeming - Northern Michigan Fall Color

Why Ishpeming?

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.

Ishpeming - Northern Michigan Fall Color

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.

Ishpeming - Northern Michigan Fall Color

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.

Cognition Brewing - Winter Beer Fest 2020
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.

Ishpeming - Cognition Brewing

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.

Congress Pizza

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.

Ishpeming - 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.

Ishpeming - Congress Pizza

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 - Northern Michigan Fall Color

Ishpeming Fun Facts:

Ishpeming - Northern Michigan Fall Color

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.

Ishpeming - Northern Michigan Fall Color

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.

Ishpeming - Northern Michigan Fall Color

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.

Ishpeming - Northern Michigan Fall Color

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.

Ishpeming - Rainbow Bar

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.

Ishpeming - Rainbow Bar a round of drinks

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!

Ishpeming - Rainbow Bar Bloody Mary

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.

Ishpeming - Rainbow Bar with Brenda

Pictures!

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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13 Comments

  1. Nice article! With so few businesses surviving not only the pandemic but the recessed economy across much of the UP in the past few decades, I’m shocked that you were remiss in mentioning and experiencing Ralph’s Deli. It’s a mom-and-pop shop that has been around and going strong since 1970, starting out downtown as Ralph’s Italian Delicatessen and still owned and operated by family. They have a fabulous menu including truly home-cooked meals like lasagna, amazing pizzas, and their famous cudighi sandwich which has won numerous awards for best in state. Portions are very hearty and prices are unbelievably reasonable. This business is an icon. I hope you get a chance to go.

    Reply
    • Thanks Cathy! We realized after two days that there was a LOT of other things we missed in Ishpeming. We’ll certainly plan on coming back.

      Reply
    • Trip through Ishpeming wouldn’t be right without a cudighi from Ralph’s.

      Reply
      • Thanks Dave! We plan to stop by Ralph’s on our next trip!!

        Reply
    • So happy Ralph’s is still here Cathy. Love stopping in there. The customer service is always as great as the food. The employees are always smiling and so friendly.

      Reply
  2. Nice article and pics. Too bad it was ruined by the profane masks. No class.

    Reply
    • Sorry about that Chris!! Totally forgot what those masks said, we’ve removed

      Reply
  3. I found it amusing that you said it can be a “bear” to get around in Marquette… seriously? Perhaps with two feet of snow on the road (although Marquette County and City snow removal crews are top notch!), Marquette’s only hard to navigate if you’ve never lived anywhere but a town with a single flashing traffic signal. Ishpeming, comparatively, is not tough, either…

    Reply
    • Hi Eric, nope, not seriously 🙂 Our intent was more to highlight that Ishpeming can be a nice quiet alternative to Marquette. Cheers!!

      Reply
  4. LOVE IT !!!!!! WELCOME TO ISHPEMING, WHERE WINTER IS FUN !!!!

    Reply
  5. Sad that Da Yoopers Tourist Trap wasn’t mentioned not even in the fun facts.

    Reply
    • Good Point Anna! Fixed

      Reply
  6. Pasties, pasties, pasties! An Ishpeming staple food. Cudaghi sausage. Another staple of Ishpeming. Ski jumping. Absolutely great going to the jumping events at world class Suicide Ski Jump.

    Reply

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