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Downtown Grand Rapids

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Attending a conference at the Amway Grand this week and looking for chowworthy recs for inexpensive to moderate breakfast, lunch or dinner, preferably withing reasonable walking distance of the hotel (no rental car). Willing to cab for something particularly worthwhile. Coming from Honolulu, so probably not interested in anything Asian, as the selection here is extensive and top notch, but open to other ethnic or traditional favorites. Of course for us, Polish and German would be very unusual ethnic choices!

Have looked over the board and have found the following possibilities...would appreciate feedback and additional suggestions.

One business-expense dinner, probably 616 or Leo's.

Good Italian dinner: Bistro Bella Vista

Sandwiches/ deli breakfast or lunch: Skywalk Deli/ Big James Steak Sandwich cart

Thanks for any and all suggestions and comments.

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  1. Hi - we just spent the weekend in Grand Rapids and had a lovely visit. 616 was fantastic for dinner. The softshell crab was a standout as was the charcuterie plate. Service was friendly and mostly efficient. We also had dinner at Bistro Bella Vista - the flatbread was good, the antipasto plate was not (no explanation of what was on the plate, random broken pieces of cheese, odd rice salad). Neither of us liked our entrees (I got the duck, husband had the gnocchi), but the fish entrees looked good. They were very busy, but food came out hot and promptly. If you like beer, Founders Brewery is not too far from Bisto Bella Vista and had decent sandwiches and a really laid back atmosphere. Enjoy Grand Rapids - it's a really lovely city.

    1. Great breakfast/lunch is Marie Catrib's in Eastown (Middle Eastern/Locavore). Cab-able though they get crowded due to excellent food. Electric Cheetah on Wealthy has creative food - I have been there on business and had good quinoa salads, etc.

      Founders beer is great. HopCat (can't recall street - Ionia? also cab-able or walk-able) has a ton of beer taps and good bar food (and interesting people-watching). Republic/Rockwells has good local food and drinks as well.

      If you want a swanky wine bar with great charcuterie and cheese, Reserve is right next to the Amway.

      1. Go to Big O's downtown instead of Bistro Bella Vita. Not nearly as swanky ambience wise but much better (and cheaper) food. Get a chicken pesto pizza and add green olives. Also, check out El Granjero for mexican on Bridge Street. Two Beards Deli for sandwiches downtown (used to be called Fourth Street Deli until their very recent move - may have to search for them under that name). Leo's would be my choice for expense dinner... had way too many bad experiences at 616 in the past. I would also recommend cabbing it (short drive) to Grove on Cherry Street - probably the best restaurant in town at the moment.

        1. Timely! I was just going to post/search for Grand Rapids recommendations. I'm in town for one night and wanted to make the most of it. Looks like 616 might be good and easy (I'm staying at the JW). And the menu looks fantastic. Rabbit perogies? Yes please.

          1. I know I am not answering your questions, but figured I would comment on some of the places suggested below.

            We visited Grand Rapids last summer and appetizers/wine at Reserve were great. They had a house cured herb infused bacon that was a real hit.

            If you are into beer at all, I would definitely try to fit in a stop at Founders and/or HopCat. Both serve casual food as well...

            1. Thanks for all the recs so far...will provide some follow up when we get home. Forgot to ask in the original post whether there are any local specialties we should go out of our way for if time permits.

              1 Reply
              1. re: macaraca

                Just wanted to add El Granjero and/or Maggie's Kitchen for Mexican. Both are great!

                Also, as a side note, if you like pinball at all, The Pyramid Scheme has about 15 of them in great shape with an extensive Short's beer tap list. You can bring your own food in too.

              2. Trip report.
                Didn't get to try many of the recs as there were others involved who were not as motivated to walk very far (and for us tropical types, it was damn cold) so we ended up taking the first place we came upon rather than aiming for a destination, and had breakfast at the hotel instead of going out into the cold.

                The highlight was the night we took a cab to Maria Catrib's...thanks for the recs for them. The Husky Varna meatloaf open-face sandwich was wonderful, with sort of grilled mashed potatoes, and a great ragu sauce. Friend M had the chicken breast with homemade cranberry sauce, another winner. We got a taste of Michigan aloha spirit when we asked one of the staff to call us a cab to get back to the hotel, and instead, the boss handed him his keys and told him to take his car and drive us there... Wow, talk about friendly service!

                Another good choice was Barbino's Cafe, suggested by the hotel. Had a blue cheese burger (with crispy bacon), fries and small salad. M had a wood oven baked chicken pesto pizza. It turned out to be a simple and inexpensive dinner. .. the chicken pesto was delicious.

                The Amway Grand provided a convenient, if unexciting dinner one night when we didn't feel like going out after conference sessions all day, a simle dinner at the Cornucopia Cafe... had a bowl of white navy bean soup with philly cheese steak panini, and M had a salad and spaghetti bolognese.

                The last night there was alone and happened on the start of the arts festival, so had Croatian sausage sandwich from a vendor...tasty and inexpensive, but too cold to eat outside, so went inside some big building lobby and enjoyed a last taste of Grand Rapids.

                Kept asking people what was typical or souvenir-worthy but no one could suggest anything except apples, which we couldn't find downtown anyway. Came home with good memories instead.

                1. A quick report: Went to 616 last night with my client. Had the pan seared steelhead- it was delicious. Those pickled ramps were amazing- I probably would have eaten an entire plate just of them. Ended with the chevre cheesecake which was really, really tasty- but I've a love affair with all things goat.

                  After dinner I walked around the downtown area checking out all the lovely sculptures then made my way over to Reserve and sat at the bar for some various wine tastings. Had a great time and tried a couple of the local goats and the andouille (I wanted the chorizo, but they were out). Really lovely space and would love to come back and sample from the whole menu.