Pasties have been a culinary staple in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for over 150 years. What started out as a meal for miners is now enjoyed by Yoopers and visitors alike.
What is a Pasty?
Much like a calzone or any number of other dumpling-like dishes, a pasty is, in its simplest form, dough filled with meat and/or vegetables.
The official Cornwall Pasty, which has Protected Geographical Indication status, has a filling made of chopped or minced beef, onion, potato, rutabaga, and seasoning. The dough is usually a pie dough that often contains lard.
Outside of Cornwall, where the ingredients are less rigidly defined, pasty fillings can vary quite a bit. Finnish pasties have carrots, which are a big no-no in Cornwall pasties.
In Michigan, you can find pasties filled with beef, of course. But, chicken is also common. You can also find fillings like bacon cheeseburger, ham and cheese, or vegan. Some places even make gluten-free pasties.
Pasty Origin Story
The pasty was first mentioned in a cookbook over 700 years ago. And, its origin is likely much older than that.
Originally a dish for the wealthy, miners in Cornwall, England began eating pasties en masse in the 17th century. The pastry dough is quite dense which keeps the contents of the pasty warm for hours, making it an ideal meal for working people, especially the miners of Cornwall.
When the copper mines in Cornwall began declining in second half of the 19th century, hundreds of thousands of miners went overseas looking for subterranean work. Many would end up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, working the rich copper mines. They brought with them a hand-held hearty meal.
Where to get a Pasty in Michigan
Even though mining isn’t the big business it once was, Yoopers (people from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula), still love pasties. Here are three of the best places. And, best of all, if you can’t make it to the U.P., most of these places ship frozen pasties to your door!
And if you want to eat your pasty like a real local, douse it in ketchup.
Lawry’s Pasty Shop
Lawry’s is a pasty institution that has been making pasties since 1946. Their monster beef pasty is over one pound! And they ship.
Not far from Lawry’s is Irontown Pasties. They have a traditional beef pasty, but also vegan, spicy, and gluten-free pasties.
Down in Escanaba, MI is Dobber’s. In addition to the standard beef pasty, they have a breakfast pasty with scrambled eggs and a pizza pasty.
About the Author
Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including an in-depth eating and drinking guide to Traverse City, Michigan. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms and is distributed by the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.