Free Market was excited to learn about the opening of Aperitivo in the burgeoning Downtown Market (24 S. Division Ave.) in Grand Rapids. Art of the Table honcho Amy Ruis has teamed up with cheese monger and chef Kate Leeder to create foodie heaven in hobo town. Aperitivo will be a retail cheese shop, a wine and small bites tasting bar and a wine and beer purveyor. The highlight of the shop's sparkling 1,200-square-foot space will be 20 linear feet of display cases. These cases, longer than 26 blocks of Velveeta Cheese, will be chock full of gourmet cheeses, succulent charcuterie, velvety pâté and other related items available for sample and sold by the pound. Amy and Kate were happy to choose the Downtown Market for their latest endeavor. "It will be a great addition to the food culture that has been budding through locally focused groups, restaurants and specialty food stores over the past many years," Amy said.
Still hungry? Head south to On Deck Sports Bar and Grill (225 W. Michigan Ave.), which fills the gourmet sports bar niche for Battle Creek. Co-owned by Robert Buckhannon and fiancée Kelly DeMoss, On Deck is described as "Ruth's Chris with flat TVs." Located in a century-old building, the handsome space boasts hardwood floors and a Victorian-style $100,000 bar back. The restaurant is upscale, but still has a family friendly vibe. There are great dry-aged steaks, as well as Bird's Eye Waffles to snack on. Ask for the Arcanum & Vestium Cocktail. "Our ingredients are quality, locally sourced and prepared by our in-house chef," Robert said. The fun will spill out into the parking lot. Look for concerts by regional touring acts with seating for 3,500. There will also be basketball tournaments and Green Jacket parties for the swell set.
Raad's Mediterranean Grill (962 Cherry St. SE) is bringing a little taste of the Middle East to the East Hills section of Grand Rapids. The inventors behind Raad's Mediterranean recipes are Ashraf Raad, a chemist and scientist who used to work for Amway as a Quality Assurance Scientist and his lovely wife Linda Akkari who is a lawyer. The original Raad's opened a decade ago in Cascade, but about half of the customers were from East Grand Rapids and Heritage Hill, so it made sense to open another store on Cherry Street. On opening day, this reporter took Miss L.B. Divine Clark to taste the delicacies. With the chef charmingly interrogating us through the kitchen window, we sampled the house salad, a mixture of sautéed wheat and lentils with grilled veggies and a pomegranate dressing. Stunning. We moved on to the chicken kabob platter with rice and hummus. Everything was colorful and fresh. Raad's is pretty rad.
Nervous and stressed? (YESSSS!!!) Recharge at the Saugatuck Tea Party Café (321 Water St.). Gina Demos and daughter Christina opened the tearoom to share their love of tea and foster a relaxed gathering place for Saugatuck. "I have always wanted to open a tea room for everyone to enjoy, from young students to seniors," Gina said. "With a blend of different types of tea drinks, we offer something for everyone." The talented tea-sters serve up fresh brewed and iced international teas, lattes, tea infused chocolate drinks and Bubble Tea Smoothies in an amazing array of flavor combinations. There are light pastries from Holland baker, Posies & Pastries, and for patrons who simply must have their java, there is a single variety of smooth coffee. "I like coffee and I like tea, but I love my Sanka 'cause it loves me!"
Saugatuck Brewing Company's (2948 Blue Star Hwy.) Lucky Stone Pub is in good hands. The brewery recently hired Mike Brink as kitchen manager/chef and Nathan Akershoek as head chef. Nathan has won the Saugatuck Chili Cook Off five times. Mike has worked as an executive chef for 13 years. Sounds like it's time for the blushing Miss Carolita to give the Lucky Stone Pub another try.
Bridgett Blough is extending her Organic Gypsy empire to the Renaissance Athletic Club of the Harbor Shores Golf Club in Benton Harbor. Expect the same healthy, organic food Bridgett sells in her omnipresent food truck.
Free Market fave Lush Gourmet Foods is expanding into almonds. The original Lush Nut, Bisera Urdarevik, is roasting her almonds in Coconut Lavender, Coconut Orange Peel and Dark Cocoa Chili flavors. You know I like them crispy, my pets.
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