As you enter the town of Houghton, coming along US 41 after leaving the beautiful Michigan Tech campus you will see a statue of a miner. The miner looks like he is heading to work. The town of Houghton and actually Michigan Tech were built around the Copper mines which created the area I call home. Working in the hospitality industry I often get the question, “What is there to do around here at night?”, or “Where is a good place to eat?” So follow me as we take a walk down the cobblestone road of downtown Houghton.
After leaving the miner statue you will notice the road becomes cobblestone, this begins the area known as downtown Houghton’s Shelden Ave. To the right is the Magnuson, previously known as the Franklin Square Inn, hidden on the seventh floor is the Bonfire Grill and Franklin Square Tap. You can get dinner or come in later and hang out at the bar. They often have live music and the view of the canal (yes it is a canal, not a river it is often mistaken for) is breathtaking.
As you continue walking down the historic road you will see the only stop light in downtown Houghton. My next two favorite places are on opposite sides of the road just past the stoplight. To the right and down Isle Royale Street, The Library Bar and Brew Pub. The Library features amazing food, the french onion soup is a personal favorite. They have a friendly staff, local beer on tap, and you may even see a visiting hockey team enjoying post game meals.
Up the hill, across Shelden Ave. you will see the Douglass House Saloon. The Dog as it is referred to is truly a gem. You walk into the darker setting you experience in bars but you could easily imagine walking back into history. The hardwood floors show the wear from years of the Houghton elite back in the day to celebrating students coming to join their friends. The bar runs almost the entire length of the building with some seating available in the front by the windows. You can get your favorite drink and grab some popcorn. The decor is very rich and you can just imagine the fine dining that once went on next door in the adjoining restaurant Armando’s.
About a block down and up yet another steep hill that Houghton is known for is the newest addition to downtown Houghton. The Continental Fire Company, previously a fire station that has been turned into a beautifully historically decorated “night club”. They frequently have live music early on, and turns it over to a DJ for the late night crowd. They are only open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Back down Shelden Ave. and across the cobblestone road is the Keweenaw Brewing Company. This is a local Brewery, the decor is right in line with the Copper Country. The worn hardwood floor, local art hung on the walls, multiple seating, an indoor fire pit, and my personal favorite is the outdoor seating next to a beautiful mural of the bridge that connects Houghton to the Keweenaw. The beer is locally brewed and named after this areas connection to the mining days with names like Lift Bridge Brown and Pick Axe Pale Ale.Since it is a brewery it does close at 11pm, so you may want to make that an early stop.
Further down the road is the Ambassador Italian Restaurant, like the Dog it has a rich feeling, dimmed lights, worn hardwood floors, and an amazing tostada pizza. The Ambassador also has a traditional submarine sandwich which is a personal favorite. As for beverages, the Ambo is known for their signature fish bowls. The Ambassador also closes earlier being a full service restaurant.
Just a hop, skip, and jump away sitting right next to the Portage Lift Bridge is the Downtowner. The DT is a sports bar with a tiki bar off the back. The DT deck is a great place to hang out in the summer as it overlooks the canal and is the closest you can get to the bridge without actually being on it. You can always count on a game being on the big screen behind the bar inside and out.
Written by Serena Peterson the Assistant Manager of AmericInn of Calumet and UPVA Mentor at Horizons Alternative High School. Serena was born and raised in Tapiola, Mi (a suburb of Houghton/Chassell). She loves to explore and share all there is to see and do in the Keweenaw.