A Tourist's Guide to Food in Grand Rapids

Greater Grand Rapids has begun to make a name for itself for its dining scene, but before it was ranked as a Best Foodie City or crowned Beer City, there were institutions that paved the way for these esteemed designations. For out-of-towners, the choices are endless, and it can be overwhelming to decide where to go to get a meal that’s classically GR—or is simply darn good grub. Here’s a roundup of some of our favorites.

Cottage Bar
18 LaGrave Ave SE, Grand Rapids

The restaurant, the myth, the legend! The moment you grab the hefty cleaver that serves as a door handle and enter this cozy, dimly lit space, you know you’re in for something special. Whether it’s one of their infamous olive burgers (they’re kind of a Michigan thing), a side of cottage fries, or a bowl of their award-winning chili, you’ll quickly learn why they’ve maintained a presence in the city since 1927. 

550 Lakeside Drive SE, Grand Rapids

Dating back to 1901, this waterfront restaurant is the only remaining structure from what was once Ramona Park on Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids. Secured by the Gilmore Collection in 1992, it remains beloved among city residents and visitors. Sit on the outdoor patio in summer, or enjoy the four-season deck, and order the traditional Rose’s burger, potato-crusted walleye, a wood-fired pizza, or the farro salad, and take a bag of caramel corn home to snack on later. 

San Chez
38 W. Fulton St., Grand Rapids

Talk to anyone who’s lived in the region for a few decades and they’ll likely bring up San Chez as one of the early places to get truly inspired dishes. And, because of the authentic Spanish tapas style menu, be able to have a taste of several. They continue to draw in those who love to try new things and also like to have a communal dining experience. More recently, they opened ROAM, also downtown, which features street food from across the globe. 

1530 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids

This Eastown fixture for more than 45 years (originally called Just Breakfast) is one of THE spots to grab a morning or noon-time bite and a cup of coffee. Benedicts, skillets, omelets, frittatas, and more have people forming a line—but it’s all worth the wait! They also serve up some mighty delicious tiramisu pancakes and strawberry Belgian waffles. Stop in and find out why they’re called “Home of the best breakfast in Grand Rapids.” 

Real Food Café
2419 Eastern Ave. in Alger Heights
3514 Plainfield Ave. in Grand Rapids Township

But… Wolfgang’s isn’t the only place to rise and shine—or have a hearty lunch. Real Food Café, run by a husband and wife team, owns up to their name with freshly made, from scratch dishes sourced with high-quality ingredients. Breakfast standards, plus an array of sandwiches and sweets are on the menu, including milkshakes, malts, and floats—plus plenty of tasty baked goods. They have two locations. 

Cherie Inn
969 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids

We do like our breakfast here! This quaint spot, housed in a 100-year-old historic building, is Grand Rapids’ longest-running restaurant, having opened in 1924. With a distinctly European flair that balances the poshness of fresh flowers, vintage décor, and finely appointed tables with an air of welcoming comfort, the Cherie serves homemade cuisine from breakfast specialties to lunch classics. And, the service is superb! 

Electric Cheetah
1015 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids

You might stop into this lunch, brunch, and dinner eatery because of its curious name, but they’re betting you’ll stick around to give their equally interesting menu a try. From the Pickle Tickle to the Whippy Dippy, there’s a dish to test your imagination and tempt your tastebuds. They also have their own in-house root beer; are GF, vegan, and vegetarian friendly; and they have several sister establishments around town, including The Old Goat and Uncle Cheetah’s Soup Shop. 

Gaia Cafe
1553 Plainfield Ave NE, Grand Rapids

Though they’re no longer in their initial Easthills location that was once the haunt of writers, musicians, and artists, this vegetarian- and vegan-exclusive café has enjoyed a second coming in its new spot in the Creston Neighborhood. Featuring much of its original menu (Hello, veggie hash! Hola, Mean Green Burrito!), it also has new items and specials, plus fresh-pressed juices. They’ve also brought back poetry night on the last Tuesday of every month. Ah, nostalgia. 

60 Ottawa Ave NW, Grand Rapids

There are plenty of places to get a little fancy in West Michigan, but Leo’s has stood the test of time for nearly 20 years. Stylish and sophisticated, with a distinctive menu to match, it’s been voted the best seafood restaurant in Grand Rapids. They pride themselves on using in-season ingredients and local produce, and bringing in fresh, not-frozen seafood. They also have an impressive wine, cocktail, and craft beer selection. 

235 Grandville Ave SW, Grand Rapids

It wouldn’t be a true visit to River City without a stop at our hometown hero: Founders Brewing Company. Whether you’re a KBS sipper or an All Day swigger, they have an extensive tap list to please any beer enthusiast. The venue is plenty spacious, with indoor and outdoor seating, and they have great pub eats to boot, including munchies, handcrafted sandwiches, and pizzas, many of which feature their signature ales. Try the Devil Dancer sandwich—if you dare!