Not all who wander are lost; those who meander with meaning are sure to pick up nuggets of culture along the way — from traditions to music, dress, and cuisine. This free-spirited worldly influence is exactly what the leadership at NOMAD. in downtown Bay Harbor was going for when they opened the restaurant’s doors last May.
It’s the second eatery operated by the Morrison family in this small community along the southern coast of Little Traverse Bay (less than five miles from downtown Petoskey); Maple + Batter opened down the block from NOMAD. in July 2021. Twin brothers Bryant and Philip Morrison, and their wives, Jamie and Laura, respectively, are principal owners of both places, under the umbrella of Ross Restaurant Group.
“The name NOMAD. embraces both our style of menu (with international influence and continuous change) and a new age dining experience where guests are encouraged to taste their way through the menu, sharing every dish,” Philip explains. “We consider the style of our restaurant to be a ‘social dining experience.’ To us, that means come as you are, enjoy, relax, and share. As a guest, allow yourself to settle in, feel at home, and engage in the experience.”
Executive Chef Eric Basta began his culinary career in Detroit at Opus One in the late 1990s. Since then, he’s enhanced his passion and honed his skills at restaurants nationwide, including notable locales such as Jackson Hole, Wyo.; Park City and Deer Valley, Utah; Chicago; and Detroit. His flair for unique ingredients, distinct flavors, and creative presentation have become his signature, and he says he draws inspiration from American, French, Asian, and Italian fare.
The seasonal tapas-style menu is divided into small plates and snacks, as well as featured salads and entrees, most meant for sharing. While some selections may sound familiar, the preparations are unabashedly all Basta.
On the Menu
Among the winter features are foie gras PBJ — seared foie gras on toasted brioche with blackberry jam; a double-patty Wagyu cheeseburger with American cheese, dijonaise, peppered bacon, and farm egg; and bao buns (pronounced “bow”) — sweet, white steamed dough buns stuffed with pork belly, pickled cucumber, and onions, and drizzled with hoisin sauce. They’re currently the most popular item on the menu.
While many area restaurants serve Great Lakes whitefish, perch, or walleye, Basta prefers the distinct style of branzino (a mild European white fish) that he roasts and serves whole with puttanesca, citrus pesto, and charred lemon.
Mary and John Leese, who have a home in Bay Harbor, have enjoyed dining at NOMAD. a handful of times since May. “We split the antioxidant salad, which is so good,” Mary says of one of their summer favorites. “The last time we were there we had the shishito peppers, and they were amazing. John loves the tuna tacos. I’ve also enjoyed the spicy sausage rigatoni and the brown butter agnolotti.” When it comes to dessert, Mary recommends the trio of gelato, when available.
Beyond the food, NOMAD. offers signature cocktails such as its Harvest Cider Mill, crafted with Van Gogh Dutch caramel vodka and local apple cider, and served in a cinnamon-sugar-rimmed glass, or the Maple Old Fashioned with Bulleit Bourbon, black walnut bitters, maple syrup, and a touch of orange peel.
Local distiller High Five Spirits is also prominently featured with its Gypsy Vodka, Mackinac Island rum, and Petoskey Stone gin. Craft beer from Michigan breweries such as Short’s, Petoskey Brewing, Right Brain, and Dragonmead, as well as an evolving and elevated wine list, round out the beverage menu.
Oenophiles (wine connoisseurs) will love the personal wine lockers, which are available for an annual lease. Each of the 50 units holds up to 12 bottles; owners can bring in their own vintages to enjoy on site without paying an added corkage fee.
Guests can receive discounts on bottles of wine through NOMAD., with guidance available from the restaurant’s general manager, operating partner, and Level 3 advanced sommelier, Colin Brown.
The restaurant offers a variety of dining spaces for couples and groups alike, with intimate tables for two or communal tables that support the social dining concept. Inside, the capacity is about 100 between the tables, banquettes, 12-seat bar, and private dining room. An intimate seating area surrounds a built-in gas fireplace — sure to be a popular spot on blustery northern Michigan winter evenings. In the summer, an additional 120 seats are available on the patio, overlooking a 111-slip marina.
NOMAD. is open seven days a week, year-round. A daily happy hour runs from 4:30 to 6 p.m., with half off select small plates, snacks, and drinks, as well as 10 percent off bottles of wine. There’s talk of adding lunch service and a pizza bar in 2023.
By Dianna Stampfler & Photos courtesy of nomad.