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Jul 18, 2011 03:55 PM

Grand Rapids MI Recommendations

I'm going to be in Grand Rapids for 2 days and was looking for some recommendations for restaurants and bars. High or low price range, fine or divey doesn't matter. I'm usually up for anything if it's good or fun.

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  1. Leo's is my favorite. Great seafood, sleek atmosphere, convenient downtown location. Here's the website:

      1. re: tokyo

        A lot of those seem to be old reviews, how are the restaurants holding up.

        1. re: AShields82

 and Leo's are both still excellent. It's been a while since I went to Bistro Bella Vita but it was always good in the past.

          1. re: AShields82

            I haven't been in a year or so, but places mentioned on those threads where I would return:
            Marie Catrib's -lunch
            Real Food Cafe -breakfast
            Nantucket Bakery
   -dinner or brunch

            Places on those threads where I would not personally return (for all the raves, food seemed VERY mediocre):
            San Chez
            Green Well

            1. re: AShields82

              i've already been all over this thread but it seems we may be in order for an updated list of GR dining so i'll add my 2 cents (on top of the 6 added previously).
              -Reds on the River has very good food, is close to GR (~20 min or less from downtown), and often overlooked. i've only had one meal there that i regretted. awesome views if you can sit outside on a nice day.
     gets a lot of love on these boards but I absolutely abhor it. I've eaten there five times, and gotten their pairing menu at GR Wine Festival twice and not once had a decent meal. i find the menu to be ridiculously global, like we're talking Epcot-level (and they have a sushi bar?) and they go overboard with sweet components in savory dishes. I wrote very specific yelp review once critiquing this place so I'll resist the urge to get back into it indepth, but suffice to say, I hold a grudge haha.
              -Bloom is closed
              -Real Food is a decent breakfast spot if you are nearby, I feel it is a tad overhyped and it's easy to wait well over an hour for a table at prime times. I prefer breakfast at Cherie Inn, which also has a lovely ambience.
              -Marie Catrib's to me has a very spotty menu, some things on it are decent, others can be incredibly bland. Usually very full, and I feel way overhyped.
              -Nantucket bakery is great
              -Bistro Bella Vita is very safe food, it has broad appeal but not much depth. I find it bland and tend to avoid it except for drinks.
              -El Burrito Loco is certainly not authentic mexican food; it's tex-mex but not even good for that genre.
              -i've only been to Cygnus for brunch (which is pretty awesome if they still offer all-you-can drink champagne, though I think they shut it down in the summer months).
              -A place not frequently mentioned that has a great prime rib and an awesome looking dining room is Great Lakes Shipping on the corner of Breton and Burton. I only vouch for the prime rib though. Drinks are great.

              Cherie Inn
              969 Cherry St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

              Burrito Loco
              351 E Cass St, Joliet, IL 60432

              1. re: keefgr

                >> Reds on the River

                Red's on the River is in Rockford, north of GR. I ate there a couple of years ago. I thought the food was very good. Not the very best food in GR - for that, go to or Leo's, both of which are terrific - but very good, and competently prepared. I remember loving my salad, but only liking (not loving) my entree. It reminded me a lot of the Gilmore Collection restaurants (I've eaten at at least three of those) - very good food in a lovely setting, the kind of place you go because it's pleasant and the food is pretty good, not the kind of place you go where you expect the food to blow you away.

                Reds on the River
                8 East Bridge Street Suite 100, Rockford, MI 49341

          2. Tacos El Granjero on Bridge Street has wonderful Mexican food. Ostas in East Grand Rapids has terrific mediterranean food, but it is quite pricey.

            I've had some pretty good meals at the Winchester on Wealthy. Brewery Vivant and Green Well on Cherry Street make good, not great food, though they get a lot of hype and can be pretty packed. The Electric Cheetah is similar, but expect a long wait there no matter what time you go, and pretty poor service for the small size of the space. Republic on Division can be hit-or-miss but I've had a couple good meals there. Leo's is the go-to place for seafood and well-prepared meat entrees. San Chez is a pretty good tapas bistro but it seems like they're always out of whatever I decide to order. A personal favorite of mine for simple italian food in a bistro-like setting is Big O's on Ionia Ave. in downtown (try the chicken pesto sub or pizza and add green olives).

            I like the atmosphere and most of the food at Graydon's Crossing on Plainfield. 1913 Room would be a go-to, but it has recently closed :(. I seriously recommend avoiding the Gilmore Collection restaurants (Roses, Bluewater Grill, anything in the BOB, Mangiamos, etc.). They may be "independent" and have wonderful locations/buildings but the food is very bad and definitely on the decline.

            Grand Rapids restaurants seemed to be hitting a renaissance/renewal period 5-6 years ago that abruptly stopped several years ago as restaurants now seem to be content to operate a "gastropub" concept, throw up lots of microbrew drafts, and call it good. Some of the places I've listed haven't made major changes to their menu since they opened (the ones that have have been for the worse - Logan's Alley and J.D. Reardon's downgrading adventurous menus to simple bar fare), so though I'm sick of them, a newbie might find them more to their liking. Hope this helps, if I think of anything else I'll update.

            Be wary of yelp reviews of GR places - I'm shocked at how many places I simply wouldn't eat at ever can maintain consistent four or five star rankings.

            Cherry Street
            57 S Cherry St, Galesburg, IL 61401

            Bluewater Cafe
            323 W Main St, Ionia, MI 48846

            1033 Lake Drive S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49506

            Graydon's Crossing
            1223 Plainfield Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505

            Bridge Street Cafe
            103 E High St, Belding, MI 48809

            The 1913 Room
            187 Monroe Avenue NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

            5 Replies
            1. re: keefgr

              Thanks for the recommendations. Yeah I'm wary of Yelp reviews in general. On a recent business trip I went to the highest rated restaurant in a small city (4 stars) and it was awful, I would have been hard pressed to give it 2.

              Any nightspots you'd recommend?

              1. re: AShields82

                My favorite bars are Hopcat and Gardellas on Ionia downtown. Viceroy is a pretty new place worth checking out if you're a cocktail person (check the website first for the password).

                25 Ionia Ave SW Ste 100, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

                1. re: keefgr

                  Thanks, was looking at Hop Cat earlier. Def probably will check out viceroy.

                  Any thoughts on Bar Divani?

                  Bar Divani
                  15 Ionia Ave SW Ste 130, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

                  1. re: AShields82

                    Nice looking place, I haven't eaten there since it became Bar Divani but I have been in there for a glass of wine at a couple birthday gatherings. Haven't been there in over a year so I can't get too specific, but it's probably the more "upscale" bar on the street it's on (Ionia, actually right between Gardellas and Hopcat). Worth checking out.

                    Bar Divani
                    15 Ionia Ave SW Ste 130, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

                    25 Ionia Ave SW Ste 100, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

                    1. re: keefgr

                      Just ate there on a trip through GR and recommend Divani. Nice atmosphere and good food. Also, had a very good (and pretty reasonable) lunch at the restaurant in the JW Marriott where I was staying, I think it's called 6.1.6.

            2. I have a new favorite in Grand Rapids! :)

              This past Sunday I had dinner at Grove, and it was absolutely awesome! It was one of the very best meals I've had in the past year, one of those rare dinners where every single dish was amazing, so much so that it would be almost impossible to mention one dish as a "don't miss" without mentioning all the others. What's even more amazing is that Sunday is one of their "bargain nights", so it was a bargain menu; they offer your choice of three courses for $28, with an option for wine pairings for another $12. The menu is not their regular menu but has plenty of great options, roughly eight choices to choose from for each of the three courses. And oh, those choices were SOOOOO good! They only have a sample of their everyday menu on their website, but they post the Sunday menu on their Facebook page, so you can see a sample there. (Dessert was a separate, fourth course.) At least during the summer, they also have a bargain menu Tuesdays through Thursdays, 5:00-6:30, two courses for $22.

              Incidentally, Grove is from the same restaurant group that also owns/runs the consistently-excellent Bistro Bella Vita, and another restaurant I haven't been to, the Green Well.

              Grove Restaurant
              919 Cherry Street S.E. (in the East Hills neighborhood just east of downtown)
              Grand Rapids, MI 49506

              Oh, and their website says that they will be closed all next week.

              1. I am coming to Grand Rapids this weekend. Our daughter will be celebrating her 7th birthday while we are there. Do y'all have any suggestions as to where I should order her cake. We are store cake just does not cut it. Also, any great places to eat with our young children--7 and under. They eat just about anything.

                Oh, then we are going to South Haven....any good food there...or, within an hour?

                Thank y'all!

                1 Reply
                1. re: ezturneats

                  >> Oh, then we are going to South Haven....any good food there...or, within an hour?

                  Grand Rapids is within an hour of South Haven. :)

                  About 20 miles north of South Haven are Saugatuck and Douglas, side by side towns right off I-196. In Douglas is Everyday People Cafe, one of the best restaurants in the entire state. Beware, they don't take reservations and they get very busy especially on weekends and especially in season (May-October), so you may encounter a lengthy wait to be seated unless you go early (when they open) or late.