Syl’s Cafe

pasty, pasty review, pasties, pasty guy, pasty trail, syl's cafe, ontonagonIf you aren’t visiting the Porcupine Mountains and don’t live in Ontanagon, you probably won’t stumble upon Syl’s Cafe. For those who are visiting the mountains, you’ll likely drive through Ontanagon, at least if you’re coming from the east.

It’s a typical small town about 20 minutes east of the State Park. It has Syl’s Cafe, which is open all day, and maybe a couple other places to eat. Syl’s may be the only breakfast spot around because it was bustling on my visit, though it was a Sunday.

Syl’s has a little bit of everything like most cafes, but Pannu Kakku sets it apart. Since one-fifth of the population is of Finnish descent, they have to have Pannu Kakku, which is a Finnish pancake. And of course, as seen on their menu, they also sell a cooler full of pasties. Heyooo!

It’s hard to compare fresh crusts with ones you cook in your own oven because anything can happen. That said, this crust still passed a lot of tests (cooked from frozen about 40 minutes at 350). It was a bit hard on the edges since I probably kept it in the oven a minute or two too long, but it was good overall. pasty, pasty review, pasties, pasty guy, pasty trail, syl's cafe, ontonagonThere wasn’t much flake to it and again, that could’ve been because of the oven. Otherwise, Syl’s has the crust part down.

Unfortunately, everything was kind of ruined by the meat. All of their pasties may not be like the one I had, but it was incredibly fatty. That’s fine to an extent, but there were pieces of fat in almost every bite. It became a problem because in addition to being chewy, it was stretchy and when you take a bite out of fatty meat in a pasty, you have to rip it out. 

The insides were a bit overloaded with salt and that got to be a little too much since the pasty is probably a pound. I’m not sure they use rutabaga, but there was a heavy ratio of meat to potato, which may have something to do with the low-grade meat used. pasty, pasty review, pasties, pasty guy, pasty trail, syl's cafe, ontonagonI assumed their pasties were also Finnish, but I didn’t see any carrots in mine.

The crust makes these pasties. Without it, I’m not sure what the final tally would be. While I won’t seek these out the next time I’m near the mountains, I’ll still consider hitting up the Cafe as one of the only places to eat in town.

Taste: 3 (out of 5)
Crust: 4 (out of 5)
Pasty Presentation: 2.5 (out of 5)
The Shop: 3 (out of 3)
Would I come back for Pasties?: 1 (out of 2) 

Total Pasty Rating: 13.5 (of 20 points)

(Reviewed Winter 2020)

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5 thoughts on “Syl’s Cafe

  1. Who was good on inside. Crust was very bad. You cannot heat pasties in steamer or microwave, your crust suffers. Also using lard is best for crust.

  2. The Syl’s menu directly says their pastry has carrots and rutabagas – I saw and tasted both in them. The menu also says the meat is a mix of pork and beef (also traditional in many Finnish pasty recipes) and the beef appears to be from well ground “steak” (flank or similar cut) – marbled but doesn’t seem either exceedingly “fatty” or “tough” to my pallet… incidentally, a proper keto-constituent – ignore the crust and potato for ketogenic criteria! The menu also says they include onion and are wrapped in a “flaky crust”. It’s not flaky like a butter-infused croissant of course… the pasty’s legacy is as a miner’s hand held food and the crust is traditionally robust enough to stay together reasonably well! I would say the Syl’s oastys I’ve consumed fit that bill… a bit doughy tooth all around, not brittle, but the edges are more full because they form a sort of structure to grip and hold. I’m not sure if lard is used, perhaps not, but it’s not a butter flake dough while not overly tough. It’s makeup is traditional according to my Finnish parents anyway.

  3. Thanks to your site, I could find the heating instructions for the (case) pasties I purchased while in the UP. I gave several to my nephew along with the cooking instructions and today when I reached for a pasty and didn’t have the instructions, I found your site. I am going to follow you now. My grandfather was a Cornish miner and grew up in the UP, so a pasty is a family tradition. My grandpa always went to Tony’s in Laurium, but I’ve been enjoying Syl’s while visiting near the Porkies. The best are still when I have time to make them myself with my grandpa’s recipe. Believe it or not, he said his mom made them on laundry day because they were an easy meal— my, how times have changed, wow! Thanks for sharing your site.

    1. Haha! Thanks for the story and thanks for checking out the site. Shouts to your grandfather, an original Cornish miner. Can’t imagine them being an easy meal to make.

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