Marquette has plenty of history-rich restaurants and watering holes, but one immediately springs to mind as a response to that oh-so-important query: “Where should we eat when we’re in Marquette?” It’s The Vierling Restaurant & Marquette Harbor Brewery, of course – and yes, that’s it’s proper name. Try saying it five times fast!
According to The Vierling’s website (and why would they lie?), the restaurant portion of the establishment was founded in 1985. It’s just the latest business to be located at this high-visibility corner of Front & Main Streets in downtown Marquette. Starting in the 1860s, Louis Vierling – the restaurant’s “patron saint” – opened a succession of bars in Marquette, culminating in the 1883 unveiling of the “first” Vierling at its current location. Although Prohibition forced the place to close in the late 1910s, its spirit remained alive and well throughout the 20th century.
In 1985, the corner of Front & Main was occupied by a popular cafe. After the old owners decided to cash out, Kristi and Terri Doyle purchased the location and spent nine intense months restoring it to its original glory. The resulting business, The Vierling Restaurant and Historic Sample Room, was the talk of the town. The place had an extensive wine cellar right from the beginning, as well as an impressive collection of 19th- and early-20th century artifacts from the Marquette area (and beyond). Whitefish has also been on the menu for 20-odd years, thanks to Lake Superior’s legendary bounty.
In 1995, The Vierling took a giant leap forward. Keen on the nascent craft beer boom, the Doyles purchased a five-barrel brewing system from a small Hungarian manufacturer and installed the setup in the restaurant’s basement. With one of Michigan’s first commercial craft breweries in their backyard, Marquette locals could finally pair their fresh-caught whitefish with fresh-made beer – held in barrels one floor below their feet! The Vierling’s tap list includes some stalwarts that are pretty much always available, including:
The Vierling also boasts a rotating tap list, with adventurous wintertime brews like coffee stouts and porters as well as mild, refreshing pilseners and lagers for those warm summer days. The Vierling doesn’t have an outdoor seating area, but the picture windows in the back room create a summerlike feel whenever the sun shines.
The Vierling has one of the best-known – and best-loved – menus in Marquette. In addition to the Lake Superior whitefish, which comes in appetizers like whitefish bites and smoked whitefish dip, soups like whitefish chowder, and entrees like grilled, cajun-seasoned, tapenade and piccata whitefish, The Vierling’s menu features:
The Vierling’s menu is only part of its appeal. After walking through its stately wooden doors, visitors find themselves in a cavernous room flanked by a spacious, well-stocked bar and a shelf display with countless old bottles. On the walls, a collection of artifacts and knickknacks tell the restaurant’s – and Marquette’s – long story. Towards the back, an elevated dining section provides panoramic views of Marquette’s Lower Harbor (hence the restaurant’s name) and Ellwood Mattson Park. On a clear day, it’s possible to catch a glimpse of faraway Grand Island and the high ground near Au Train. With a view like that, not to mention a comfort-food menu that tastes great after a long day of outdoor activity, The Vierling is a must-visit Marquette County attraction.