With the recent news that Grand Rapids will be seeing the addition of 24 new restaurants and breweries, it might be time to take stock of the treasures we already have before we get too excited about what’s in the pipeline. Everyone knows about nationally recognized hot spots like Stella’s and Hopcat, as well as popular tourist destinations like the B.O.B., but even some locals have likely missed some top-notch spots for food and drinks given the flurry of development in West Michigan the last few years (myself included).
So, with some help from my friends on social media, here’s a list of some of Grand Rapids best spots that might still be flying under your radar.
855 Michigan St NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Maybe it’s the location in a strip mall off Michigan Avenue that allowed me to drive by this place so many times without realizing it even existed, but I’m sure glad I found it. Flat Lander’s is technically a “barstillery,” a bar that uses their own spirits. They have a great menu of bar food, a small but solid selection of draft beers and some very tasty craft cocktails. As far as food goes, the fish tacos are excellent and if you’re coming off a long night on the town there may not be a better remedy in Grand Rapids than Flat Lander’s Hillbilly Poutine. In terms of cocktails, the salty dog is a favorite, but you can’t really go wrong with just about any of their drinks. The gin is particularly interesting as it has floral notes opposed to the usual juniper essence you might expect.
On a personal note, I visited this place on the opening night of restaurant week in 2015 and they got slammed to the point that they ran out of nearly every item on their restaurant week menu by 7 pm when we had our reservation. Service was a little slow but the manager came out, apologized, and said the normal menu was still good to go and that we would “be taken care of” if we stayed. I appreciated the personal attention so we stayed for a couple of drinks and had food. I assumed “taken care of” might mean a round of free drinks, but instead our food was comped. All of it. That earned a nice tip and is one of the reasons this place has since become one of my go-to locations when I want to grab a drink.
916 Michigan St NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Maybe I just like Michigan Avenue, but among the many great dive bars on this road, Logan’s and Flatlander’s really do both the drinks and the food a step above most places around town. While Flatlander’s really owns things as far as spirits go, Logan’s is a great spot for a beer on the east side of town. With 23 taps and a phone book sized menu of bottled beers (this is no joke) just about any fan of beer can find an old favorite or something new to try. On warmer days the porch is also a nice touch since there aren’t enough locations in Grand Rapids where you can grab a bite to eat outdoors. Oh, and if you work weird hours these kind folks open up at 7 am. If you’re looking for some upscale bar food, you can’t go wrong with the menu at Logan’s either. They have a nice mix of traditional bar food like burgers mixed in with some more unique twists like smoked gouda fritters. Few things go better with a beer than a fritter made out of gouda.
80 Ottawa Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
If you’re one of those people who misses Viceroy, the old craft cocktail neighbor of Stella’s downtown, you’ll be delighted to know that uber fancy craft cocktails have a new home downtown. Sidebar is located right next to the Big O Cafe and has limited seating, but no shortage of tasty cocktails for you to try. Seating is limited, so if you head out for happy hour or on a weekend you may have to stand, but most patrons will agree that the drinks are worth the wait. If you’ve never tried truly classic cocktails (I’m talking 1930s here) you need to give this a spin. Yes, you’ll be paying $12 or $13 but these drinks are made from premium ingredients by people who REALLY know what they’re doing. Definitely worth a visit if you’re out and about downtown.
5080 Alpine Ave NW, Comstock Park, MI 49321
Okay, technically this fabulous Italian restaurant is in Comstock Park. But many of us consider the entire stretch of Alpine to be Grand Rapids so I’m including it. This place used to be a sports bar many lives ago, so the layout can seem a little funky, but it oozes charm and the food will blow your mind. Don’t believe me? Check out the Yelp reviews. The tiramisu, or tirami-Snoop if you see the picture of the chef in the entryway with Snoop Dogg, is the stuff of legend. You’ll be hard-pressed to find an Italian place in West Michigan that gets universal acclaim like this place. Yes, it’s a bit of a hike north of town but you can’t go wrong if you want to dig into some real deal Italian.
Did your favorite make this list? If so, feel free to share. If there’s a favorite of yours that we missed, by all means, let us know in the comments.
Featured image: Ken30684 – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2007956