ReLo to Grand Rapids, MI
Hello Fellow Chowhounds,
I am going to be relocating from Ann Arbor to Grand Rapids in the next few weeks and would like to hit the ground running with regard to restaurants. I will be living in the West Village Subdivision in Ada and working downtown at Spectrum Health. However, I’m willing to drive for some good chow. We have a toddler and another one on the way so I’m not really looking for super fancy places. Here is our Grand Rapids, MI foodie wish list:
1. A good authentic Chinese restaurant. Can be hole in the wall with rude servers as long as they have good food. Dim sum and live fish/crabs/lobsters in tanks a plus. I’ve heard Wei Wei Palace is the only place in Western MI with decent Chinese.
2. A Pho joint. Again, can be hole in the wall as long as they serve a Pho with good noodles and delicious broth. A menu with pho containing mystery meat meatballs considered a plus.
3. A Thai place. Someplace that goes beyond Pad Thai. Dishes served with sticky rice on the side considered a plus.
4. Authentic and Tex-Mex restaurants. I’d like a place with a good chicken mole or tripe soup as well as a place to get fajitas or a sloppy burrito.
5. Asian market. A place where you can buy 25 pounds of jasmine rice and pick a live crab out of a tank would be nice.
6. Family restaurant. Preferably not a chain, but a mom and pop place that welcomes toddlers and has a nice staple of comfort foods.
7. Bakery. A place where you can get fresh bread, a chocolate croissant or a pear tart.
I think that is a good list for right now. If you can help with any of these on my list I would be grateful.
I have not lived in GR in 12 years (now in DC where we have all of the above) and would be interested to see what people respond. I will be visiting next week and would love to be able to get to a good bakery for mom's bday.
I too was at spectrum Butterworth back then....you will be pleasantly surprised with the restaurants...havent been there in years though
I'm looking forward to the answers as well. I'm very familiar with many of the fine dining options around GR, as that's what I'm generally looking for in my visits to town, but that's clearly not what you're looking for.
Well, I'm not the best responder to this. I live near Kalamazoo, and go to Grand Rapids now and then, but really don't know the restaurant scene. My favorite place in GR is SanChez (tapas) downtown. It has a big menu, the food is really good and it has a nice ambiance, but may be a little bit upscale for what you're trying to find. Gaia (209 Diamond near Fulton) is a vegetarian place that has wonderful food and great freshly squeezed juices. The menu is eclectic and includes some good Mexican choices. This place is not at all up-scale, a place you can comfortably read a paper or book while you sip coffee or wait for your food. I like the atmosphere, but some would complain it's stuck in the 60's - that suits me fine because I guess I have one foot stuck back there. Teshlou's Little Africa is nearby on Fulton. The food is wonderful, Ethiopian but a little different from what I've had in other Ethiopian places. Terrible decor. Definitely not up-scale, a one man operation - Lou cooks and serves. Also, there's a Thai place I haven't eaten in on 28th St: Thai House. I hope someone will let us know about that place. I hear it's very down-scale - tiny place with no decor in a strip mall. I did hear it's suppose to be good, but have no idea if it would meet your expectations for Thai. I don't know of a decent Chinese place in southwest Michigan. I haven't been to the one you mention. Last summer I had lunch at Charlie's Crab (a more up-scale place downtown) with a bunch of friends and we were all very pleased with our food. Good luck! Let us know what you find.
As best as I can determine from a web search, there are three Thai restaurants in Grand Rapids:
Thai House Restaurant
6447 28th St Se
Grand Rapids, 49546
1233 28th St SW
Formosa Chinese & Thai Restaurant
5260 Northland Dr NE # D
Grand Rapids, 49525
That's few enough that you can just try all of them.
Grand Rapids can now boast a fourth Thai restaurant. Open since December 4, Angel's Thai Cafe is located at 136 Monroe Center NW, across from the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Classic Thai cuisine is served (lunch and dinner menus) from 11AM until 9:00 PM - but open until 3:00 AM on Fridays and Saturdays. The telephone number is 616-454-9801 and the web site is www.angelsthaicafe.com
I haven't lived there for a while, and only go back to visit infrequently, but the near West Side has become the Mexican part of town. Maggie's Kitchen and the Adobe are doable for lunch if you're coming from downtown.
I seem to remember a couple of Asian markets tucked away in Wyoming.
It's a small chain, and is sometimes hit or miss, but I like Arnie's for comfort food. Nice basic soup, salad, sandwich, blue plate kind of grub.
I'm not sure if it's still there or not, but I used to love the Choo Choo Grill for a bazillion calorie burger and milkshake kind of meal.
As far as Asian food you may be taking trips back to Ann Arbor just for something good, or start honing your cooking skills! We recently moved to GR from Portland Maine and previously from Ann Arbor so I feel for your pain in advance! We were in AA last weekend and stocked up at China Market, Zingermans and Trader Joes. Seoul Garden on 28th next to the mall has decent Korean food, but pretty sticky and sweet on their other pan-Asian attempts. Wealthy Street Bakery is the only real European bakery in town, www.wealthystreetbakery.com. Marie Catribs on Lake is great for fresh local food, she does take-out and is kid-friendly. Arnie's is a family-friendly place, as is the Dutch favorite, Russ' (when you're feeling the need for a french dip-sandwich, a hot-turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy, fried chicken and onion rings, with banana cream pie to go). I also second San Chez as a unique place to go, if you get a table in the upstairs back, kids aren't a problem either.
You'll find plenty of places in GR,,, but on a Sat or Sun make a trip to the lakeshore. Su Casa in Fennville for good Mexican, I dig their carne asada and a killer seafood soup. Not much of a place to look at from the outside, it's a super mercado. Also, The Journeyman in Fennville get's rave reviews with a menu using locally produced goods-although a bit on the pricey side. M&M on Blue Star in Douglas is an ice cream place with a good menu. I just had a great gyro there on Saturday, they have several different versions. VERY kid friendly menu and atmosphere. Everyday People Cafe in downtown Douglas is very good. Not sure about the kid friendliness on that menu though. Poke around Saugatuck and Douglas, make for a nice weekend afternoon.
1, 2, 5. The area around the Wei Wei Palace (Division south of 28th) has both Hispanic and Asian neighborhoods of stores and restaurants, many of which look pretty authentic from the outside but I've never tried them. Worth a shot, anyhow.
3. Bangkok Taste Thai Restaurant
674 Baldwin Street
Jenison, MI 49428
It's 15 minutes from downtown. I haven't tried the other Thai places listed here because I tried this place first and liked it, so I can't compare. It's as good as many of the Thai places I used to go to in the Chicago suburbs, however. Their menu is online here: http://www.bangkoktastes.com/menu.htm. It's a little place in a strip mall and the people who run the place usually have a kid or two running around so I think it's safe to say it's kid friendly.
4. For Tex-Mex, the Beltline Bar (which isn't anywhere near the Beltline). Division and 28th street. For cheap, highly informal Tex-Mex, Don Rafav's in Eastown (near Wealthy and Lake).
6. If you want somewhere fun to take the kids and don't mind driving a half-hour or so, you could go up to Rosie's Diner on 14 mile in Rockford. It's a traditional roadside diner and it's fun. http://www.rosiesdiner.com/
Also, I like the Brandywine, which is in Eastown. However, I don't know if this will matter to you but there IS smoking in a not-very-well-separated area. It bothers me if there's a lot of people smoking. I think there's one or two other Brandywines in the area but I've only been to the one.
There's also Wolfgang's which I think someone might have mentioned. Best breakfast in GR in many people's opinions. Good stuff.
7. Wealthy Street Bakery, which I think someone else mentioned.
I like the Great Lakes Chinese in Jenison/Hudsonville, MI area. It has my favorite General Tso's Chicken....yum yum. I agree that the Beltline Bar isn't that great. I've gotten a better wet burrito from a local pizza place. I like Sara's Pizza on Chicago Drive in Hudsonville. the Red Geranium is very tasty and descent priced. I think Arnie's is good. I like the torte's and I always get the Cuban Sandwich. What I am looking for is a place to get a good gyro and coney dogs...maybe even some chili cheese fries.
Welcome to GR. This is a meat and potatoes town. Nothing great, but if you look around a bit, you'll get fed.
1. Wei Wei Palace is the first and maybe only place to try for Chinese, and you'll find Dim Sum and fish tanks. That said, sometime go to Seoul Garden and order the noodle dish with black bean sauce (comes with kim chi) - my vote for one of the best "cheap eats" dishes in the GR area.
2. A Pho joint? May I suggest Chicago, which is a comfortable three hour drive?
3. Thai? Bad news - there is no real good Thai in the GR area. Good news - there is a place in Holland (short drive to the coast) that gets decent reviews from foodies.
4. Mexican: drive down Bridge Street and compare the tacos at Maggie's and Tacos el Ganadero. In Maggie's favor, the atmosphere is a little brighter, the shredded beef more tender and flavorful, and the chips come with a real good pico de gallo. At TelG, I like the chicken chipotle taco, they serve beer, and ask for the radish plate on the side (radishes, grilled scallions, and a grilled jalepeno that can be smokin' hot if you're lucky). I saw someone recommend the Beltline Bar, and with all due respect, I'd just as soon eat at Chili's (which is to say I'd just as soon not eat at all).
5. Asian market: there's one in the same strip mall as Wei Wei, which has the fish tanks, as well as a few others along Division in the same general area. [On an unrelated note there's a good Mexican market on the opposite street corner from Maggie's - one of the few places in town you can find skirt steak.]
6. Family restaurant: tough one. How about this - here are some places my family (wife and two daughters) have enjoyed over the years, in no particular order: Bombay Cuisine (Indian - Easttown); Kopper Top (burger joint on the Northwest side, I get the patty melt platter - and they "decorate" for each holiday in a way that has to be seen to be believed); San Chez - this place is very good to begin with, and my kids like it more and more as they have grown and tastes have gotten a little fancier); Tuscan Express (consistently good and, every once in a while, a can't-be-beat plate of pasta); and, just recently, Graydon's Crossing (pub with the best onion rings in GR). For breakfast, the Red Geranium (right near where you are going to work) is OK, and for lunch, the Michigan Coney - just down the street on Michigan - serves GR's best hot dog, which is to say, an OK but not great hot dog (see my comment about the three hour drive to Chicago). PS, in Ada, lots of families (including mine) go to Vitale's - and I do recommend the mussels appetizer with spicy tomato sauce - if you ask, they'll put in on a bed of pasta.
7. Wealthy Street Bakery is my top choice; there is also a neat foodie store (Art of the Table) right next door.
A few other random comments: (1) for a "welcome to GR" date with the spouse I suggest going to the bar at the Chophouse on a weeknight, when Dan is bartending - my favorite bartender anywhere, not just GR, and have him recommend something to drink along with the seafood appetizer platter (downright affordable when compared to the $35 + main course items on the dinner menu); (2) drive out to Grand Haven to try Thali's Bistro, which serves Sri Lankan food; (3) for foodie stuff, Erika's (German) and Russo's (Italian) do a fine job; and (4) a Turkish place, Zaytin's, opened up recently in Ada.
re: G Mo
> This is a meat and potatoes town. Nothing great, but
> if you look around a bit, you'll get fed.
As a frequent visitor to Grand Rapids from a much larger city, I disagree with that remark! I find that the restaurant offerings in Grand Rapids include quite a few places that offer terrific food, as many (and with as much variety) as one could reasonably expect in a city of its size.
Since the OP specifically requested recommendations for "cheap eats", I haven't posted anything about places that are not inexpensive. But it's worth noting that I've had consistently excellent dinners at the following finer dining restaurants:
Leo's (seafood) - my FAVORITE restaurant in GR - www.leosrestaurant.com
Bistro Bella Vita (Italian) - www.bistrobellavita.com
Rose's on Reed Lake (bistro) - www.rosesrestaurant.com
Blue Water Grill (bistro) - www.thebluewatergrill.com
Spinnaker (seafood) - www.hilton.com/hotels/GRRHIHF
Thornapple Daily Grill (American) - www.thegilmorecollection.com/Thornapp...
Gibson's (now closed)
And I haven't yet been to any of the widely-acclaimed fine dining restaurants in the Amway Grand (the 1913 Room, Bentham's, or Cygnus).
I concede that Grand Rapids is getting better. But that is a recent development - most of the restaurants on your list opened in the last few years after Grand Rapids opened up the Van Andel Arena.
I stick by my opinion that Grand Rapids is an average food town at best and that it will not get better until its residents start demanding something more. The Grand Rapids Press used to have a reviewer whose vocabulary consisted of "good" "very good" "nice" and "very nice." And he reviewed chains! All I'm asking is that we celebrate great cooking - which can be done at different price points - and Grand Rapids does not have a lot of great food (yet).
The best thing about this string of e-mails is it is one of the first I have seen about Grand Rapids in a while - and I now know there is a Pho place, which I am going to try for lunch today!
re: G Mo
> most of the restaurants on your list opened in the last few years
> after Grand Rapids opened up the Van Andel Arena.
Not true. The only one that opened in the last few years is Leo's. Bistro Bella Vita just celebrated its tenth anniversary, and all the others (none of which is located downtown, where the arena is) have been open at least the same length of time, and some of them a lot longer than that.
> All I'm asking is that we celebrate great cooking
> which can be done at different price points
> Grand Rapids does not have a lot of great food (yet).
Again, I disagree. (Although this may depend on your definition of "a lot" or "great" - but there are certainly plenty of restaurants all over town in all price ranges, and many of them are excellent indeed.)
Incidentally, this past month, Grand Rapids celebrated "Restaurant Month", with $14.95 three-course dinners at restaurants all over town. One more testament to the vibrancy of the local restaurant scene.
I amend my post to state that most of the restaurants of any note on your list are connected to the advent of the Arena, which was built 10 years ago. More importantly, we just disagree as to what is great, and I think that is an important distinction on a site dedicated to chowhounds. On your list, Leo's serves good fish, but the Spinnaker is average by any standards. The Gilmore restaurants serve good food and only sometimes very good food if they are not too busy on a given night, but not great food. Look, there is nothing in Grand Rapids close to the Rowe Inn (expensive eats). There is nothing close to the Stack in Grand Haven, meaning in particular their Hot Italian Beef "Harbor Style" with fries (cheap eats). Grand Rapids is much improved in the past 10 years, but it has a long ways to go to deserve the label "excellent." All that said, if you think these places are great, the opinion that counts is yours, not mine, and there is no need to state your disagreement again. Just go out to those places and enjoy!
re: G Mo
Yes, I think most of the places I mentioned are great. Leo's serves great seafood, Bistro Bella Vita has great Italian bistro food, and the Gilmore restaurants (the ones I've been to, anyway) do a fine job.
While there is nothing exactly like Rowe Inn or Tapawingo, those places are in a class by themselves; there is nothing in all of Michigan outside of the Detroit/Ann Arbor area (and not much *inside* the Detroit/Ann Arbor area) that can compare to those places. That's like claiming that there's no great food in San Francisco and the Bay Area because there's nothing like the French Laundry there!
If you consider an Italian Beef sandwich and fries to be "great food", then your definition of the term is apparently the exact opposite from mine. Still, you are welcome to your opinion.
re: G Mo
Thanks for the heads-up on Stack's, G Mo! We stopped in on our way through Grand Haven last week and had a most enjoyable quick bite! The owner explained some of the Chicago specialties on the menu and how they are prepared. My husband got the "Combo" - Italian beef AND Italian sausage with peppers on a Turano roll. I tried the polish sausage with mustard and grilled onions on a steamed poppy seed bun. Then, we threw all caution to the wind and ordered the chili cheese fries. The chili was homemade, the cheese was from a block (not a can), and the fries were crispy, of the crinkle-cut variety. I'd say they're running a solid little sandwich shop there. www.stacksbeef.com
Thanks to everyone who has responded to this post. We are moving in about a week so I'll be able to try all of your suggestions. I got a few asian leads from a Grand Rapids native who is studying at the University of Michigan. I'll post them here for your review.
Pho place: Pho Soc Trang
4242 Division Ave S
Kentwood, MI 49548
Other Vietnamese: Golden 28 Chinese Vietnamese
627 28th Street SW
Wyoming, MI 49418
Upscale Asian: XO
58 Monroe Center NW
Grand Rapids, MI
Thai: Bangkok Taste
674 Baldwin St
Jenison, MI 49428
Asian Grocery: A Dong Oriental Food Market
3614 Division Ave. S
Grand Rapids, MI 49548
Hong Kong Market
4242 Division Ave. S
Kentwood, MI 49548
I'll let you know what I find once I arrive in town.
Hi I just got back from a lunch that had me smiling all day, and I'm not sure why I hadn't heard about this restaurant sooner! Real Food Cafe on Eastern Ave, right at Alger (and Alger pediatrics, our pedi office). One of the big problems with GR restaurants probably stems from the general inability here to cook from scratch with fresh ingredients instead of using mixes, boxes, cans, dried herbs and Gordon Foods frozen items. As a result, the food tastes predictable, cloned and less than fresh. Everything at Real Food Cafe is homemade from the bread to the pancake batter. The burger patties are not the pre-formed food service brand. The have homemade pies, malts, espresso drinks. I had a short stack of blueberry pancakes ( 12 inches in diameter, hot, fluffy, crisp around the edges with tiny tart wild blueberries...not your typical Bisquick affair),4 slices of thick cut bacon and coffee. I took half home with me and came away at under $5. The place was packed out at noon on a weekday, I sat at the bar facing the grill. The staff was incredibly friendly, if not a strange mix of tiny great-grandmothers to hip college students. They only serve breakfast and lunch, only take cash (a ATM machine is in the back), and are no-smoking!! For those familiar with Ann Arbor, I called home to my husband to report I'd found the Angelos of GR. Happy eating!
Ah, I wish there was an opening at Alger! I'm just staying at home with my two girls (and new babe due in June) for now, waiting for a part-time-pedi opening somewhere in the city...those pesky U of M loans do linger...Drop an email if you need pedi/ob recs! firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mexican - El Burrito Loco - Knapp's Corner on the Beltline - extensive menu, authentic
Little Mexico - Stocking & Bridge across from Maggie's Kitchen
Thai - XO downtown, try Mirado across the street from it for Sushi
Graydon's pub was mentioned - great beer selection but the food is not terrific, for a more traditional English Pub try Arie's in Plainwell (45 minute drive)
Real Food Cafe is a good family choice and they recently opened a location on Northland Drive. Arnie's is also a good GR standard.
Bakery - You won't find a Zingerman's here but Wealthy Street Bakery is good. I think D&W markets still sell LaBrea breads also and those are awesome (from a popular LA bakery)
Red Geranium, Bombay Cuisine, Don Rafav are all tasty places to go.
Ditto that Beltine Bar no longer lives up to it's reputation
You have some good lunch options in the hospital for lunch. I work downtown and wander over just for the salad bar sometimes. The Bob downtown has a good all you can eat pizza & salad spread during the week for $5
If you're a fan of The Oasis in A2 try Sami's in Eastown. Olive Express downtown is good too but I wouldn't choose it over Sami's
I live in Kalamazoo, just to the south of GR and my partner and I make a special trip to GR just to go to Thai House Restaurant. It is in a strip mall, next to a D&W Supermarket (I think it's D&W) and it is a sparsely appointed little hole-in-the-wall but between us and everyone we know it beats any other Thai restaurant we've ever been to. It doesn't hurt that the proprietress recognizes us when we walk in, we don't order, she just smiles and about 10-15 minutes later, what we want is in front of us. I've left 40% tips because it is just that good, IMHO.
Marie Catrib's is a "must". (Diamond and Lake)
I like Vitale's (I've only ever been to the one on Leonard) for what feels to me like "real" Italian. (I'm from Staten Island, and my stepmother is Italian, so I'm allowed to say that)
I'm not sure if someone mentioned this, but asian grocery stores up and down Division and possibly by 44th and Breton might have some of what you're looking for.
You are in for a rude awakening!! We came to GR 5 years ago, and have eaten in close to as many restaurants as our first 42 years combined. I have never had so many bad dining experiences.
SanChez is always great!!--as well as traditional tapas, it has many great Cuban dishes. But, don't have a Mojito unless you enjoy sucking crud from your teeth.
Seoul Garden, serving Korean, Chinese, and sushi, is also good. There's something for everyone there!
But, as a rule, GR is home to the blandest food I've ever eaten. I've lived in Ft.Lauderdale, Denver, and Dallas. I grew up on the gulf coast in south Alabama, and lived in New Orleans for 20 years-----------I guess I thought all food had flavor.
My advice to you..............keep a bottle of Tiger Sauce with you at all times. And, eat fresh morels and wild leeks whenever you can.
If you do find a crab you can pick from the tank, please share the info!
1. Wei Wei for sure. Plus the Asian market is there. They have good DimSum ala cart for lunch on weekdays, and the place is packed on Sundays. Get there early if you want to get a seat on Sunday. Specialties are their fish dishes, Cantonese friednoodles, and pan fried rice noodles, as well as lots of duck. The waitresses are really sweet for the most part - speak mostly Cantonese, not Mandarin, if I've got it right. A real family place, especially on the weekends, and a nice break from the demographic "sameness" of Grand Rapids.
3. We go to Thai House on 28th street. Good Masaman curry, delightful owner. Their Grapow Gai is pretty authentic, also. Green curry so-so. No sticky rice, though - haven't found any in Grand Rapids yet. You may have to make your own. My brother lives in Thailand, and I've spent about 4 weeks there, and their stuff isn't bad. If you want it hot, order "pit pit", and you can get it really hot!
Love to know how you find things, and welcome to GR!
If you are willing to expand your definition of Grand Rapids to include Holland and Grand Haven, here are some places that I would recommend.
Unkh's Japanese, 332 E. Lakewood, Holland (loved their spicy seared tuna...didn't back off on the spice to suit the West Michigan palate)
DeBoer Bakkerij, 360 Douglas, Holland. This is a great Dutch bakery (after all the baked goods are the best part of Dutch cuisine) with bankat and krakkelingen.
Thali Bistro (Sri Lankan), 211 N. 7th St, Grand Haven
K Garden (Korean), 3155 Madison, Grand Rapids. This is a Mom and Pop place that I think this is better and much more authentic than Seoul Garden, but it is a hole in the wall.
Lee's Oriental Market, 3004 S. Division, Grand Rapids. Pretty good Korean market.
Oh, and to add to the West Michigan list...
Huynh's Restaurant (Vietnamese and Thai), 143 Douglas, Holland. I've never had their Thai, but the Vietnamese I've had is good (I've never had their Pho).
"K Garden (Korean), 3155 Madison, Grand Rapids. This is a Mom and Pop place that I think this is better and much more authentic than Seoul Garden, but it is a hole in the wall"
This was my all time favorite here in G.R., but sadly, it is no more. I still dream about their kimchi......
And not to be the bearer of bad tidings, but I'm pretty sure Maggies Kitchen is now defunct.
worth a try:
Gaia It's on Diamond south of Cherry
The Grand Coney NE corner of Michigan and Eastern
There is a new Thai place (name escapes me) on the west side of Kalamazoo Ave just north of 44th street. Tasty.
Personally, I'd avoid the Beltline Bar like the plague.
Welcome to GR. As of this reply I believe you have moved into town and are getting a feel for all the previous recommendations, of which I can only say I truly disagree with a few.
I worked at the illustrious San Chez for 10 years and my husband and I are by no means food snobs but we can dine out and then come home and replicate just about any dish we have eaten so I feel a bit entitled, if you will, to wear a tierra of knowledge on the subject of dining out in GR and beyond.
To address your requests:
1. 2. & 3. As with everyone else I agree WEI WEI PALACE is fab but there were a few left out and one, unfortunately... very unfortunately out of biz- K Garden. However, we did find and very good replacement for that wonderful po' mans dish, Bi Bim Bop, at SHOGUN (Breton & 28th Street). Other chinese places to consider are FIRST WOK on Alpine- not real oily and good taste (except I do agree with Mr. Tiger Sauce on this one, except we prefer the Rooster), also nearer to you in Ada is a relatively new Thai joint called, THAI HOUSE- yea, sooo terribly original but they do get straight to the point, don't they? They are ok if you are in need of a fix and are locationally challenged. But the real yummies can be found at BANKOK VIEW. If you want your eyes to roll back in your head or if you just want to be teased with the heat Plang and her sis Sam and Plang's husband can do it for you. They also serve Chinese but we have yet to even venture to that side of the menu. Everything is made to order so expect to wait, sometimes at peak dining times, up to 45 minutes but trust me it really is worth it. Plus, after you've been going there enough times you will be treated like family, especially when Plang gets a free minute and prowls the dining room floor- wonderful people, wonderful food! Also, do check out the recommendation for THALI BISTRO in Grand Haven for Sri Lankan cusiene. Oh, and as for Pho, there is a little place in the Wei Wei Palace shopping center- excellent with or w/o mystery meat! AS for XO Asian? YUCK! Don't do it!!!!!
4. Hmmm. Authentic Tex-Mex? Not since Tom had the Texas Cafe has there been good Tex-Mex but there are a few good Mexican dives. Housed in an old chain restaurant down on Lane Street on the Westside across the river is Los Rancheros Ganaderos. Oh Man! The shrimp gorditas and tamales are worth it alone. Plus, I am a firm beliver that if most of the restaurant is taken up by individuals from the same country you have to be in the right spot! Another joint, this one a couple short steps up in atmosphere from the previous, is LITTLE MEXICO CAFE (Bridge & Alpine). And to be true to my srevice comrades in arms I have to give a shout out to THE BELTLINE BAR. It has been around since I can't remember when and run by the same family the entire time. Well, a few years back the family sold it to a restauranteur friend of mine- he owns a couple of chains in the area as well- and he decided to keep everything the same. Allowing the staff (which includes the extended family of the previous owner) to
run the restaurant as they always have for decades. Needless to say you don't mess with success!
5. Most all of the Asian Markets in GR can be found on South Division. All those mentioned previously are great but don't hesitate to drop in to any others that might catch your eye- they all have their speciality and should not be overlooked. Make it a day trip as we usually do.
6. West Michigan is founded on family so most places accomodate children easily into the mix. Any of the Gilmore Restaurants (ROSE'S ON REEDS LAKE, THE BOB) are good. More specifically, their newest addition, MANGIAMO'S (Lake Drive in East Hills) is so child friendly that they go the extra mile to deliver the child's meal as soon as possible, weather mom and dad's are ready or not. Plus, with the waist-high chalk board that replaces the wainscotting throughout the restaurant your little one is sure to be entertained. SAN CHEZ is also a suprisingly good place to bring the wee ones. A lively atmosphere, on-stage kitchen and butcher paper on the tables for coloring provides for a pretty stress-free dining experience for you. Oh yeah! I almost forgot a great one! HONEY CREEK INN (Honey Creek & Cannonsburg- right in your neck of the woods). Here we're talkin' amazing beer on draft, peanuts shells on the floor and great burgers and/or regional cusiene. Plus, it's right around the corner from two fabulous parks, Townsend Park and Fallsburg- worth the drive!
7. Someone has already sent you to WEALTHY STREET BAKERY but you might also want to swing by MARTHA'S VINEYARD & NANTUCKET BAKERY (Union & Lyon in Heritage HIll) before you head home after work. You will be privy to one of GR's best kept secrets and that's all I'm gonna give you on that one.
Here's some more places to visit;
In Grand Rapids
THE CHERIE INN
REAL FOOD CAFE
ZETYIN- in Ada!
MIKADO- mmmmm! sushi!
THE JOURNEYMAN CAFE- Fennville
EVERYDAY PEOPLE CAFE- Douglas
Ahhh, these two are just amazing. If all these yahoos who have posted before me trully are worth their weight in.... hmmm, salt? They will know that these two restaurants are the creme de la creme of all things good and true. If you do head out towards Saugatuck/Douglas/Fennville just try to stay clear of Saugatuck- the Fudgies have invaded and taken over but Douglas and Fennville are still Fudgie-free and worth the day trip.
Ultimately, my friend, it is up to you to and I'm sure you will go forth and conquer with (lemon) zest. Day trips are a must- especially just to see the nature and beauty that West Michigan has to offer. It can be difficult to find a circle of friends in GR, most people remain relatively closed off but give them more chances than you might be used to and you will soon find some wonderful individuals who can accompany you on your food quests. Don't read the food reviews in ANY media! No one in GR can write and all the people who hold those jobs have been raised on Mac-n-Cheese (or so it would seem) and don't know service and/or good food if it.... well, you know.
So, can I keep my tierra or have I been demoted?
Best of luck and, again, welcome!
I like the Beltline Bar for DEEP FRIED Steak Tacos. almost as good as Xochimilos in detroit. Yum !! cant find many places that fry their corn tortillas. other stuff there is ok.
still looking for the best mexican joint tho. i have a few more to try. dont like adobes. or the cantina. and the chains are just bearable. (on the border, carlos kellys, etc)
I go to Moes for lunch a kind of Baja Fresh place. 28th and patterson area. all there food is really fresh good quality but i dont care so much for their salsas. It is cafeteria style tacqaria.
We shop at Asian Delight for asian groceries- fresh produce shipped in from Chicago,(Shangai Bok CHoy etc) my wife is chinese. we find the produce there fresher than the supermarket within asian mall with Wei Wei palace. it is at 44th and Breton street right next to Horrocks. if there is something you cant find ask the owner and they can usually get it for you. we love this place.
Wei Wei Palace we go there to eat pretty good chinese food Cantonese/HongKong style- also to Lobsterhouse - Hong Kong style just down the street same side of division. They have Hot Pots there. there is a chinese menu. I also like the chinese food on the chinese side at Ichiban half of the place is japanese steakhouse 1/2 is chinese http://grandrapids.citysearch.com/pro...
they have Pho there too. and some hot pots - mostly Korean style tho.
I like Soc Trang Pho same place as Wei Wei palace. pretty good. ate at a lot of good PHO places in San Jose Cali and Boston.
for thai food there is a place in Ada that i go to is pretty ok. right at Forest and Cascade.
there is also a place in the D&W shopping center on 28th near cascade. still havent found thai like in SF or Boston though,. but havent tried all the places either. we went to XO but the service was unbearable unfortunately.
we Like BONEFISH Grill in Ada (like Naked Fish in Boston) and if you like middle eastern (actually turkish ) try Zeytins in Ada. great flaming cheese, hummas, salads, x-Kabobs. and beers from around the world including turkey.
oh and there is a place on 28th street near Hobby Lobby called Red Sun - banquet style Chinese. not as grand as Pacific Cafe in Framingham MA though.
george in Ada.
My favorite Mexican is Taqueria Vallarta, located on Fulton near Diamond. So good!!! They put fresh cilantro on their tacos. My hubby had a tongue taco - yum! Their Mexican steak is very tasty w/fresh jalapeno slices. Their green salsa is out of this world. We also love Maggie's and I'm going to be very bummed if they're truly closed. Adobe - don't like it - boring, no sizzle.
I also agree with the San Chez, Wealthy Bakery and Marie Catrib's recommendations. Can't beat Wolfgang's for breakfast - awesome! I work in Ada and we enjoy Vitale's and Zeytins for lunch. You can get Zingerman's baked goods at the Grand River Grocer in Ada (this is where the Ada Starbucks is housed). Erika's deli (at East Paris and Cascade road) is a great place to shop - their deli has a great selection of unusual meats and cheeses - I really love their egg salad. At Erika's we purchased some hot chocolate mix that makes hot chocolate just like they do in Spain - YUM!
We enjoyed some very good Pho at a tiny little restaurant in a strip mall attached to the Target store at Kalamazoo and M-6 - sorry I can't remember the name.
Another place we like to go to is the Pita House in Easttown - good hummus.
My friend Ric has a mexican girlfriend - their two favorites are
1) Little Mexicio
2) Lindos. little hole in the wall - i will have to find out where it is cuz it doenst list out when i google it.
the thai/vietnamese place in Holland is really quite good.
also i know they opened a good Indian reataurant about a year ago. will get those names from my wife as she works in Holland.
Maggie's is still open for now. However, Sra. Magdelena is planning on retiring some time soon, and it's not certain whether anyone else in the family is going to take over the restaurant when she does, or if the family is going to close the restaurant and shift their whole focus back to the tortila factory.
Coming from AA, GR may be somewhat of a disappointment for good Asian food, in my opinion. I've lived in the Dallas area, Chicago, New York City and have traveled throughout SE Asia. I'm Vietnamese, and I do not think Pho Soc Trang is very good, as others have posted. It's okay, but I think their Bun w/grilled meat and eggrolls are a better choice. I think Huynh's in Holland has better broth and better VN food in general. Wei Wei is OK for Chinese, but their dim sum doesn't have as much variety as I'd like. Still looking for good Thai, but suprisingly, Bangkok Taste in Jenison (of all places!) or Thai House in Cascade can give you your fix. I think Bangkok View in Wyoming is on the greasy side. The Asian markets described in previous posts on Division are your best bets for groceries.
I grew up in TX, so Tex-Mex is also near and dear to my heart. Beltline Bar is alright for your staple dishes like fajitas and burritos. Being on the NW side, we do favor Little Mexico and Maggies too (though I wouldn't really call Maggie's Tex-Mex).
For a family restaurant, Mangiamo's is great (Italian) and family-friendly but nicer. Red Geranium is good for breakfast and lunch with the fam too.
Wealthy Street Bakery is great! Marie Catrib's is also a favorite anytime: brunch, lunch and dinner, but they have some tasty offerings on their deli side too.
I agree with some posts that it's worth the drive outside of GR for good food too. In Douglas, Everyday People Cafe is a favorite and Marro's Pizza in Saugatuck is great for thin crust/brick oven style pizza.
GR will definitely not have the variety of AA, so be prepared for that!
The Journeyman in Fennville is definitely worth the trip from Grand Rapids. Unbelievably good. Artisan cheeses, fresh baked breads, homemade chocolate truffles like you've never seen before, menus feature local produce, always interesting and well prepared dishes.
I just found you listing and wanted to reply. First thing; do not be fooled by the Beltline Bar advertising as the best Mexican food in G.R.; I'm not even sure how they hold onto their title. I wouldn't call their food tex mex or mexican; just greasy americanized mexican food.
Two places for mexican: Little Mexico on the corner of Bridge and Stocking or La Cantina on 28th street; I have been to as many Mexican restaurants and these are the best.
Since you are located in West Village try Ada's Vitale's for a family restaurant. While it is Italian food they have many other home cooked meals and have great service, great prices and great tastes.
The Gathering Place on the corner of Cascade and Thornapple River drive is the best breakfast place around-though you didn't ask.
I found your link searching for First Wok Chinese food in cascade; this is the best we can do as much is not authentic. But from your list above I think you will truly like the Japanese Steakhouse on 29th street (Shang Hi) - make sure you sit at the Japanese style for some Hibachi cooking.
I have been visiting GR frequently since I started dating someone that lived in the downtown/Heritage Hill area. I have to say that there are many places that I LOVE to eat there! I am sure that many/all of my favorites have been listed, but I will still share.
Martha's Vineyard (lots of good wine/deli food), Nantucket Bakery (also has great pizza), Wealthy Street Bakery
Breakfast: Brandyine, Real Food Cafe
Sushi: Marado (downtown) - the rest of the food isn't that great but the sushi is amazing. Also allow you to bring in your own wine/beer to have with dinner.
Thai: XO Asian Cuisine (downtown)
Middle Eastern: Pita House
Other good ones: Marie Catrib's, Bobby J's
Wine/Martinis: Bar Divani
Like I said, those are the places that I enjoy most when I visit. Have fun!
I may be late a couple months, but if you're still looking for a decent Pho joint, my suggestion is to visit Rosie's and Pho Bo (it's the same restaurant) near S. Division and 36th St. I know the Vietnamese half of the owner there, who makes the Vietnamese plates and soups. Rosie makes the Philipino half of the menu.
It's a small place and can be really busy at times, mostly around the weekend and lunch time, but boy, their Pho and Bun Bo Hue is out of this world!
I can't believe there isn't someplace around Grand Rapids that takes advantage of the great fresh fruit and produce from West Michigan. I'm not opposed to an occasional Asian or Tex-Mex feast, but If I lived around Grand Rapids and couldn't find restaurants that did interesting things with the great local products, I would spend my time at the roadside markets, farmer's markets and farms and cook at home.
Who said there isn't? There are *plenty* of places in GR take advantage of local produce and suppliers. Bistro Bella Vita does, as it says on their home page and all over their menu, "FRESH NATURAL LOCAL". Right on their menu it says, "It’s that wonderful time of year in Michigan when the growing season has reached a state of perfection we know as Harvest Season. At Bistro Bella Vita, we take pride in putting nothing but the freshest, most natural ingredients into our recipes like chemical-free produce from local farms like Ingraberg Farms in Rockford. Bistro Bella Vita was the first restaurant in Michigan to introduce a farmer-to-plate program. Nothing tastes better than fresh-picked produce. And it comes right from the harvest to your plate at Bistro Bella Vita. Delicious. Healthy. Local."
Other places may not say so on their home pages, but also do so; for example, the menu at Cygnus 27, in the Amway Grand, mentions Michigan cherries and names the farm down the road in Ravenna which supplies the meat for their burgers. In fact, when you look at the menus at the better places in town, like Leo's and Rose's and Blue Water Grill, it's often harder to find a good restaurant that *doesn't* mention Michigan cherries and other local products on their menu.
I'm sure a lot of other places do, too, even though they may not scream it out on their website or menus. I think claims such as "local ingredients" and "local purveyors preferred" are often more a matter of marketing (smart marketing, to be sure) rather than actual differentiation from other restaurants. Quality restaurants get that way by insisting on the highest quality products from their suppliers, and the freshest, highest quality products are often found close to home. Whether they bother to say so or not.
It sounds like you've never been to Grand Rapids. You should go there and check it out for yourself. You'll find some excellent restaurants there.
Thanks for the clarification. As I noted in an earlier post, the OP was asking mostly about places offering "cheap eats", ethnic and otherwise. These places are not generally the ones using (or, at least, advertising) local suppliers - not just in Grand Rapids, but in most places. Yes, there are occasional exceptions, but that's generally the case, more often than not.
I've lived in Grand Rapids for 15 years and we have been everywhere...by far and away the BEST Thai is the Bangkok View 1233 28th St SW Wyoming, MI 49509 (616) 531-8070.
If you are new to the area you also have to try the Cottage Bar. It's the oldest place in Grand Rapids...nice atmosphere, especially in the winter months, and the best burger you will find anywhere. It's more of a restaurant than a bar, as you will note if you go there. It's one of our favorite places and we take out of town guests there when they visit.
Great Chinese..Yen Ching.
Great Bakery: Wealthy Street Bakery and the "old school" Van's Bakery on Fulton.
Mexican: Beltline Bar and Little Mexico...both excellent!
You also have to try Marie Catrib's, the deck at Rose's on Reed's Lake, and one of our newest and coolest additions, Reds on the River in Rockford.
Martini's? Bar Divani
Out of town guests to impress? Sanchez
My personal favorite is Indian food. Bombay Cuisine/Pub in Eastown...fantastic Chicken Saag...mmmmmm!
Truly authentic Mexican breakfast...a little hole in the wall called La Loma on Division. I only recommend it for Mexican breakfast, not dinner. The breakfast is out of this world.
Hope that helps!
OK a new restaurant (mostly thai) has opened up of all places in Lowell. right on Fulton. Called Mynt Fusion Bistro. 800 West Main ST Lowell MI 616-987-9309
My wife born in Ning Bo China and lived most of life in Hong Kong right on Victoria Bay. It is now her favorite restaurant in all of GR and we eat out a lot. They have a wide variety of dishes including thai, chinese, and korean. Tom Yum is excellent. Yellow Curry delicious. Bulgogi Beef - yum. etc etc. Owners are very nice and very friendly . definitely check this place out.
1. Good Chinese: Yen Ching on 28th, Wei-Wei (dimsum on weekends), ming ten at celebration, blue ginger across from from new metro hispital, east garden buffet a kalamazoo ave,
2. Pho: Pho soc trang, rosies pho bo, golden 28
3. Thai: Bangkok view, XO
4. Mex: tres lobos, siete mares
5. asian market: asian delight next to horrocks (love this place), india spice, asians best
6. Family: wolfgangs at east town, sundance cascade
7: Bakery: wealthy street bakery, great grains, bosnian bakery
grille at watermark (cascade) great porterhouse, tuscans express (cascade) veal chop, leo's (downtown), tokyo grill, shogun, minado, bombay cuisine at east town*****, san chez (tapas)
TKWu, university cafe, susi.com,
My daughter recommended Tre Lobos when I took her back to college on Friday and I was less than impressed. the horchata was good if slightly sweet and the salsa was fresh but I doubt that I will go ever go back.
I've been to Bangkok view before I agree that its quite good, as is San Chez.
My daughter likes La Guadalajara Mexican market on Division just south of Burton. Its very clean, well stocked and friendly to non-natives.
I'll remember to try Wealthy street bakery, and the Pita place.
Hi, I'm sure since you posted you have long since moved to our fair city of Grand Rapids, and have found all of the restaurants of your dreams. However in case you haven't tried or found my favorites, please try these:
Pho Bo: on Division, between 28th and 44th. Very hole in the wall but very good
The Thai house: on 28th St. in Casade. Hands down my favorite Thai restaurant EVER. I recommend the Thai house special soup, Tofu Todd, Pad Prig Hang and Massaman.
Maggie's Mexican kitchen: on Bridge St. authentic and delicious, I love their avocado torta
There is a plethora of asian markets along Division, but my favorite is actually an Asian/African market on 28th between Division and Eastern I believe.
Marie Catribs: on diamond and lake is so great, even their take out rocks. It's all home made and locally grown as well. Marie is the biggest sweetheart and she loves kids.
Nantucket Bakery: on Union. Delicious baked goods and best pizza in town in my opinion.
In addition you may like: SanChez (tapas), Cherry Deli, Bloom, Mirado (sushi), Tokyo Grill... I'm going to kick myself later when I remember more. I hope your enjoying Grand Rapids. One last thing, for everyone who hasn't been to the Thai House, go eat their tonight (actually they're not open on mondays tomarrow for sure, you won't be disappointed (disclaimer, my husband and I are vegetarians, so I can not vouch for any of the meat dishes) Bon Appetite!
I just had to add in that many of the restaurants listed are fantastic, but must disagree with the recommendation for Reds on the River. We had dinner there last evening with another couple and it was below average for all four meals. The atmosphere was very nice (we sat outside) and the wine and beer list were acceptable. The calamari was ok as were the salads. However, the steak was full of elastin, the lobster mac and cheese was dry and the lobster was chewy claw meat, the scallops were not 4 whole scallops, but two scallops cut in half. The duck was average, but the confit was not confit. It was just a semi-dry leg. The mashed potatoes were scooped onto the plate with an ice cream scoop. The mushroom risotto was dry and seemingly without butter and cheese. The wait staff was pleasant and they did take the lobster off our bill as my husband couldn't stomach it. The dessert list was nothing exciting. Maybe the chef had a bad night, but we won't be going back there. Too many other great places in GR.
Just got back from GR and had good food and drinks at HopCat. Also I went to Little Africa for Ethiopian food and it seemed like the injera was made with white flour. It's a shame. There's a new decent cajun restaurant in Eastown, Chez Bayou. They have pretty good fried crawfish and po boys.
I've traveled extensively in Thailand and the best Thai food I've experienced is in Holland, Michigan at the Thai Palace Restaurant. The Thai Palace is on the north side of Holland in a strip mall along with a Family Fare grocery store. The Thai Palace recently received a license to sell beer, wine and liquor. They do carry Singh Ha beer which is rare in Michigan. I've asked the owner to see if she can find Sang Tip and Mekong whiskey to put on her shelves.
You will find sticky rice dishes on the menu as well as the usual Pad Thai. I've experienced Pad Thai in Bangkok, Phuket and Chang Mai, Thailand and the best I've eaten is at the Thai Palace in Holland.
The Thai Palace is the place to go if you want a real taste of Thai/Lao cuisine. They have a website at http://www.thaipalacefood.com/ if you want more information and an address.
Many thanks to the West Michigan hounds! We just returned from a little driving tour along Lake Michigan and made all of our dining choices based on recommendations found here. Every suggestion was right on target, with one surprising exception. These were our picks:
Su Casa -Fennville; Phil's -Saugatuck; Marro's -Saugatuck; Stack's -Grand Haven; Marie Catrib's; Real Food Cafe; Nantucket Bakery. All fantastic. And San Chez...
We were camping most of the week, so we weren't really interested in fine dining. However, we did want one meal that would stand out. Based on everything I have read about San Chez (on this board and elsewhere), it sounded like just what we were looking for. After several days of great food, though, this was the one where we were completely disappointed. I almost posted a new topic just to inquire why everyone seems to like it so much, but decided it doesn't really matter since we won't be going back. Each dish was served lukewarm (could have been an off night?) but more puzzling were the flavors of each one. The blue cheese fritters didn't taste of blue cheese. The batter was still raw inside, but we ate them since we were told that is how they are supposed to be. I never got used to the gooey texture. The pan de la plancha was...boring. The cerdo asado tasted like cinnamon, and not much else. Which was definitely unexpected coming from a dish of pork, idiazabal rice, roasted peppers, and fried egg. The bistec con pimienta did taste strongly of pepper, which I like, but the accompanying sauce contained raw celery (?). Finally, the espresso brownie was just plain terrible. Unfortunately, there wasn't a single thing that we felt was worth returning for. Anyone have any insights? Maybe it's recently changed hands?
All in all, it was a week of great food, including a stop at the Fulton St. farmer's market and Summertime market in Douglas. Thanks again! We enjoyed roaming the coastal towns and the historic streets of Grand Rapids.
I've visited GR often in the last 20 years, and agree that the restaurant scene has really improved. Last month I had a great lunch at the Green Well Gastro Pub on Cherry -- lovely mussels, and my companion had their mac & cheese, which was incredible. I've also had good meals at San Chez, Rose's on Reed's Lake, Blue Water Grill, Bistro Bella Vita, Tuscan Express, Marco's Bistro, and Leo's. For family dining, try Olga's Kitchen in East Grand Rapids. Love the vegetable soup, and the salmon sandwich was wonderful. Oh -- for many years we went to Pietro's -- still like it, and it's family friendly.
I definitely agree with you on San-Chez..They "specialize" in Spanish (NOT MEXICAN) food and their menu items just don't seem to hit the spot for me! I'd also like to respond to some of the blogs...
MEXICAN FOOD- I'm a BIG fan of Mexican food and all these restaurants are great but I'm taken back on what many of you consider to be "authentic" Mexican food!...LOL With all due respect, I grew up in GR and have tried ALL of the recommended Mexican restaurants in town and their all excellent however, theirs one that is THE MOTHER of all Mexican restaurants and that's GARIBALDI on Division. Formally known as La Loma (thank God nothing like it) this restaurant is awesome!! Sure it's a mom and pop business but I tell you, I lived in Mexico for 4 yrs and this is the only place that has the REAL deal. This family is hardcore in their recipes. Ever since the new owners took over I've been hooked. Someone commented that, "where you see natives, you know your in the right spot!" Well, this place is definitly the spot. Theirs also a second location inside the flea market on the weeknds and it gets jam packed with natives from all over Michigan (no joke!). I think it has alot to do with the handmade corn tortillas that are made on the spot! I've seen people eating their bowl of steaming HOT tripe soup standing up and not to mention they leave with tubs of red and green salsa. Tubs people!! If I had the time I would eat at the market more often but cant do that with the wife and kids. Although I prefer the authentic stuff my wife is a big fan of Tex-Mex and the little ones want burgers so we eat at the DINE IN. Their dine in menu has a pretty good variety of everything. I admit the restaurant is small and doesn't have much of a Mexican decor but who cares when you can't keep your eyes off your food!..lol Besides, it's SUPER clean, smoke free and comfortable. For me, I order the Authentic Chicken and Steak Huarache (bet you never heard of that one!) with rice, beans and a salad or I opt for the Fajitas Garibaldi...I swear these fajitas are the best in town!, Wet Burrito with rice and beans for my wife, and burgers or chicken fingers for the kids. I especially like their drinks. They have the Horchata, Pineapple, Tamarind, Flower water and their Cokes are bottled and imported from Mexico! Unlike most places their food is not super greasy. When I spoke to the owner I of course asked what her secret was, and she told me to take a look at her vegetables. Everything is crispy fresh! So, to the guy who said that GR doesn't take advantage of their fresh produce, your dead wrong buddy...seems like that's all this small restaurant uses. Might I add that there prices are also very affordable.
So again, no disrespect to all the other restaurants because their great but GARIBALDI takes the cake for me!
re: El Capitain
i go to college in GR. I'm glad someone did justice to the many mexican/hispanic options. I don't get out much, but just drive around Division, and you'll find plenty of ethnic hole-in-the-wall places. I don't know which ones are best, but there are plenty to choose from.
Welcome to GR
I'm just getting around to posting about the restaurants I tried during my annual trip to GR a couple of months ago:
Everyday People Cafe - I ate at this restaurant in Douglas on my way to GR, and once again it was thoroughly excellent. It's worth the 40-mile drive from GR. No reservations. www.everydaypeoplecafe.com
Six One Six - This is a fairly new restaurant in the JW Marriott hotel downtown. And it was simply outstanding in every way! The food is contemporary American with global accents. If you go there, DON'T MISS the smoked duck flatbread; it was fantastic. Another standout they had (but I don't see it on their current website menu) was a dessert called "custard dream", an assortment of three kinds of custards; that night it consisted of white chocolate creme brulee, blueberry pot de creme, and lemon panna cotta. The decor is gorgeous, super contemporary with a curved glass wall on one side of the restaurant. Service was excellent too. When I go to GR, I like to try at least one restaurant for the first time, and I like to return to my favorite place in town; Six One Six is now the latter (replacing Leo's), and I look forward to returning. www.ilovethejw.com/dining.html
1913 Room - This is a longtime super-high-end restaurant in the Amway Grand in downtown GR. The contemporary American food was generally very good, although it didn't "wow" me the way the food at Six One Six did. The best and most creative items were several complimentary amuse bouche courses. Prices were rather high, and it was only between 1/3 and 1/2 full on a Saturday evening. Service was excellent, with a staff of four serving, clearing, and checking that everything was okay, but in an oddly pre-programmed way, with everyone nauseatingly cheerful and repeatedly addressing me by name. All in all, it was a reasonably good dinner, not a great dinner like the two previous evenings. It would be an appropriate place to try for a special occasion or an important business dinner, where you're looking to be pampered. www.amwaygrand.com/1913_room.html
Charley's Crab - The main reasons I went here were that it's one of the few nicer places in town that are open on Sundays, and it's right off the highway. It was just okay, with some items that were very good and others that weren't. If it's not a Sunday and you want seafood in GR, go to Leo's instead. www.muer.com
Every once in a long while Groupon introduces me to a real gem. Just had a VERY lovely experience at Chez Olga. Since it doesn't appear to have ever been mentioned on CH...it's a Haitian place on Wealthy in East Town, in a rather interesting building that you can't miss as you drive by. I had the gryot and the curry goat. The former came with fried plantains and a spicy slaw - the fried pork and slaw were fantastic. The meat was crispy, tender, and flavorful, and the slaw was bright, acidic, and laced with nice, fruity chiles. The plantains were...well, fried plantains...they're pretty much exactly what you would expect. :) The curry goat was also really comforting and delicious. All of the spices tasted really well integrated into the curry - sometimes curries taste like nothing but raw spices, and that was definitely not the case here. They do their dishes on a spice scale of 1-10 - I went with medium and everything came out with a nice level of heat. I'll probably bump it up a couple of notches next time, but the slaw was just about right for me. I washed all of it down with the iced ginger tea - I think I heard Olga explain to another table that she buys a chai and adds the ginger and some other touches to it. Again, really delicious and interesting with the various layers of spice in it, and I'm a sucker for anything with a good fresh ginger burn to it.
This place really seems beloved by the neighborhood - the owners know their clientele, and take good care of them. Olga herself came out to check on me, and when she saw I was eating alone, said if she were able to, she'd come out and sit and eat with me. I honestly think I'd choose this place over San Chez any day of the week.