Grove and Marco's Bistro (Grand Rapids, MI)
I was born and raised in GR and have been frequently harsh on the local dining scene. However, over the last six months two places have really captured my attention and left my outlook a little brighter.
Grove opened in the past year, it's run by the people who own Bistro Bella Vita and Green Well. Though I've never been a fan of the latter two restaurants, I think Grove is very exciting and sometimes the food is fantastic. There have been a few duds there certainly (the asian influenced dishes in particular - avoid the miso soup or the kimchi stew despite how good the descriptions sounds... very weird broth), but I've also had some of my best meals in GR there since the 1913 room closed.
Highlights I've had thus far:deep fried chicken liver mousse topped with pickled carrot and daikon; a deconstructed taco salad with perfecty cooked cow tounge; any seafood dish (they have a particular deft hand with trout), the ceviches. Last time I was there I had a buttermilk shortcake with pickled blackberries and honey-miso ice cream that may sneak into my top 5 desserts ever. The menu leans upscale but has quite reasonable price points for the quality of fare, and also has enough to appeal to less adventurous eaters. Service can be hit-or-miss, and I'm a little surprised that we've been there on 12-13 occasions and never been recognized by some of the servers we've had multiple times. Also, the wine list leaves much to be desired, but I was informed by a manager that one could bring their own bottle with no corkage fee.
Marco's Bistro has been around for a while but it was only in the past three months that I finally tried it, and I've been kicking myself for missing out on this place. A great, eclectic menu that is just perfectly executed. It's divided into small, medium, and large plates, with enough things to satisfy me (a foie gras appetizer with caramelized onions and pomegrante seed, halibut cheeks, willd boar pappardelle) and less adventurous dining companions (daily risotto specials that are fantastic, homemade pastas). The service is fantastic; the waiters remember our name every time since the first visit and maintain a professional decorum that matches the upscale nature of the food. However, this is not a snooty place - it's always packed with regulars, probably due to the generous diner rewards program that is offered at no fee. Also, if you like me are a sucker for salty/sweet desserts, you must try the dessert simply called "nuts". It's essentially a slice of pecan pie except made with the entire range of nuts you'd find in a can of Plantar's mixed nuts, bound in a bourbon-mollasses syrup and served with caramel and peanut butter ice cream. Tremendous. Also have a very good wine list.
You couldn't drag me to BBV or Green Well (have had too many terrible meals at both); I guess the third time is the charm for this group. Grove also recently started opening on Sundays. Instead of the regular menu, it's a three (all savory) course prix-fixe with lots of options for $28, wine with each course for an additional $12. Took my mother and grandmother yesterday for Mother's Day and had a great meal.
Finally made it there during Restaurant Week. I've been following them on FB, and their RW menu looked fantastic - rather than app, main, dessert, your three courses were all savory with an option to add dessert and coffee for $6. There were also some wine specials. Basically, they did their Sunday thing all week for $3 less.
Hawaiian Opah "Fire and Ice" salad - very refreshing, but I would have liked a bit more fire. I would have preferred it with chilis that were fruitier and hotter than jalapenos. Fish was lovely.
Smoked Trout Nicoise - also delicious, and perfect on a hot day. The beets and potatoes made this a nice second course.
Lamb Neck Fettucine - I don't care if this was an about-face after my first two cold courses - I am an absolute sucker for braised meat on pasta. This was rich, luscious, and very satisfying.
$25 went very far. But I still ordered dessert and coffee. The butterscotch pudding is TO DIE FOR. Coffee was also excellent. From Water Street in K'zoo, I think.
I also feel the need to say that I ate at the bar, and not only was the service very good, but the bartender just seemed to be having a hell of a lot of fun. He made the whole experience even more enjoyable.
Long story short: I'll be going back. :)