Escanaba, Michigan – Swedish Diner

An Upper Peninsula Delight

You’d never know it when you first walk into the Swedish Pantry, but it’s quite possible that the meal you’re about to have could change your outlook on what you want for breakfast for the rest of your life.

Finnish Diner breakfast in MI Upper Peninsula U.P.

Phyllis LaBranche, the owner of the Swedish Pantry, didn’t know what to expect when a bunch of native Swedes walked into her restaurant, grabbing breakfast before continuing their journey to Milwaukee for the 100th birthday celebration of Harley Davidson motorcycles.

“They came up on their motorcycles and some of them were wearing helmets with horns on them and everything,” said LaBranche. “And then they started chanting. ‘We want the meatballs with the pancakes! We want the meatballs with the pancakes!’ I told the waitresses and the cooks to give them anything they wanted.”  And a star was born.

Escanaba, Michigans Upper Peninsula authentic Swedish meal

Little did LaBranche know that morning would lead to her best-selling dish–Swedish pancakes served with lingonberries and Swedish meatballs.

Yes, you read that right–meatballs for breakfast. Don’t worry, LaBranche had to tell us twice before we understood the concept as well.  ”It’s our most popular item on the menu,” said LaBranche. “I always tell customers that they should try it because it’s nothing like they’ve ever had before.”  She’s right. The savory, gravy-covered meatball blends so perfectly well with the slightly-sweet, thin Swedish pancake (think crepe, but sweeter) makes you instantly wonder why this wasn’t a combination that was much more popular. When you sit back and think about it, sausage and pancakes have long been a breakfast pair–the meatballs and pancakes are just as astounding, if not more so.

The only problem you’ll come across when you have the meatballs and pancakes at the Swedish Pantry is that breakfast from that point forward just won’t seem adequate. Quite frankly, the dish completely changes what breakfast can be–and in this case, it can be great with each and every bite.

If for some reason you run out of meatballs before pancakes, then grab yourself a spoonful of lingonberries (a Swedish berry LaBranche has imported in for her restaurant) and spread it on and enjoy. The lingonberries are much like cranberries, but less tart. While very good with the pancakes, they would likely be outstanding spread on a turkey sandwich.

More than just Swedish Meatballs

While their meatballs and pancakes might be the best selling item on the menu, the Swedish Pantry has plenty to offer outside of that box. From meatloaf (made from scratch–like EVERYTHING on the menu) to baked ham, roast turkey and to succulent pot roast beef all the way to taco pasta salad, hot open-faced sandwiches to a tasty meatball sandwich, the Swedish Pantry has something for everyone.

For those who aren’t sure of what they want to have a full meal of, the best suggestion is the Swedish sampler. Like every dish that comes from the kitchen, this one is designed to make sure you can’t possibly leave hungry, plus you get all of the Pantry’s best dishes all in one.

The sampler comes with Kottbullar (Swedish meatballs), Kroppkakor (ham-stuffed potato dumplings) and one of the best Patatiskorv (potato sausage) made in the Upper Peninsula.

The Swedish Pantry Restaurant in The Upper Peninsula of Michigan

The dish is the all-star lineup from the menu, offering up the best of the best on one plate. The Swedish meatballs, as stated before, are savory and covered with mouth-watering homemade gravy. The potato dumplings pack a surprisingly tasty punch with the smoky essence from the ham adding a wonderful flavor to the creamy texture of the potato. And the potato sausage? It’s a specialty dish that isn’t served in nearly enough restaurants and, of course, it’s made from a secret recipe right in the kitchen at the Swedish Pantry. The perfect combination of meat and potatoes mixed with a slight blend of spices that lead to a hearty, yet flavorful entrée that will have you never looking at sausages the same way again.

Sweet endings

It’s going to be hard to still have room for dessert when you’re done with your main course at the Swedish Pantry, but if you can make room then it’s highly suggested you do. Or, at the very least, order some of their scrumptious dessert to take home.

The Swedish Pantry offers up a gamut of dessert options, ranging from baked apple dumplings to mile-high lemon meringue pie to sour cream walnut pie.

Escanaba, Michigan Mi U.P UP food authentic meal

Two of their standout desserts happen to be their rice raisin pudding and their cardamom bread pudding. Both are absolutely perfect examples of how the desserts are meant to be prepared. Full of flavor, perfectly constructed and not too creamy or dry–in short, you likely will have a tough time finding a restaurant that prepares either dish as well as LaBranche and her kitchen crew.

You won’t be disappointed

Downtown Escanaba is not on the way to very many destinations in this great state, but one thing is for certain: You won’t be disappointed in making the special trip to the Swedish Pantry.

It’s not hard to get to, being right on the main drag through downtown, and there is ample street parking throughout the shopping district. You can’t really miss it either–there are billboards and signs pointing the way to the Swedish Pantry as you’re entering town from any direction and more frequently as you get closer to Escanaba’s center.

Mark your map, program your GPS or go online and get directions–you can’t go wrong with a trip to this tasty Upper Peninsula original.

And don’t’ worry if you can’t make it to the Swedish Pantry as much as you’d like to get their great pancakes or lingonberries–you can order them right online and have them shipped anywhere.

The Swedish Pantry

819 Ludington Street  Escanaba





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  • J.R. Carlson

    Our daughter Cathy in Mequon forwarded this piece she found in the paper and sent same. Those pancakes appear to be exactly like those that our “Aunt Mary” served up each morning when we were able to visit at “The Farm” in Bark River. The potato sausage and kroppkakor are treats that we long for as well. We still make kroppkakor when we can convince my wife and my sister to set aside a day and put this delightful treat on our dinner plate. Our mother fried up pork steak with onions and let it simmer for a good deal of time, (we couldn’t resist stealing a taste) and that, in my opinion really makes the dish.