Suomi Home Bakery & Restaurant (Houghton, MI)

After three days of hanging out in the Keweenah Peninsula, it was time for us to start heading home, with a stop to visit with Carol’s family in the Lower Peninsula. As we worked our way back toward the Mackinac Bridge, we decided to stop for breakfast in Houghton and check out one of our favorites from a previous visit, Suomi Home Bakery & Restaurant.

Located on Huron St just a block away from Portage Lake (which separates Houghton from the sister town of Hancock), Suomi. My previous review of Randall Bakery discussed the mixed Cornish and Finnish culinary heritage of the Upper Peninsula’s copper country, and Suomi Home (for those not fluent in Finnish, ‘Suomi’ is the Finnish word for Finland) is nod to the area’s Finnish-American Heritage, and is a well-known favorite for both Finnish-style breakfasts and Finnish-style pasties. On this visit, we were hoping to score a bit of both, stopping in for breakfast while grabbing some pasties to eat as a picnic on our way south.

While Suomi has a wide breakfast menu that’s mostly American-style diner fare, the attraction here is the handful of traditional Finnish breakfast items, including pannukakku (a baked, custard-style pancake), nisu bread, and crepes. The pannukakku is the big attraction here, it’s basically a custard baked into a pancake, with a result that’s somewhat like the marriage of a pancake, French toast, and crepes: the top and bottom layers are crepe-like, the interior still nice and custardy, and, served up with a nice warm raspberry jam, it just kinda works. Only other breakfast cakes I’ve had like this are Dutch-style pannekoeken, and these are a bit more custardy. The nisu toast was a nice touch as well, a hearty bread with a nice strong cinnamon swirl. This was definitely a great breakfast.

As for the idea of getting pasties to-go for lunch, we hit a minor snag: fresh pasties aren’t available from the kitchen until 10am at the earliest, and at 8:45 we were entirely too early to score some. However, upon hearing that we were not averse to eating cold pasties (indeed, that’s how most historical pasties were eaten, long into a shift in the mines), our server helpfully ducked into the kitchen and emerged with a pair of day-old pasties, all wrapped-up and ready to go, and added them to our bill for $1 (which is a crazy-good deal!).

So, a few hours later, at a quiet rest area on MI-28 east of Munising, we stopped to enjoy our takeout bounty. Like many of the area’s Finnish-inspired pasties, the Suomi ones lack the refined crimp of many of their Cornish cousins (that’s not always a given, I know the well-regarded Kaleva Cafe does a crimp on theirs), but the impressive thing here is that the day old pastry remained firm-but-flaky, still nicely enrobing the filling and retaining the moisture while maintaining a nice crumb without becoming soggy. And the filling itself? Still delicious: tender chunks of beef, potato, onion, and carrot, still holding up some texture and flavor. Indeed, this was a perfect lunchtime picnic; I’d love to have one of these in my backpack for a hike.

So, while our effort to get fresh pasties failed, everything else at Suomi was excellent: the pannukakku were an excellent choice for breakfast, the cinnamon nisu bread a nice side… and a pair of day old pasties for $2? That was probably the culinary bargain of our trip. And the pasties themselves? Quite enjoyable, although next time I’ll make sure to schedule things to get a fresh one.

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