NEW RESTAURANT: Terra GR
It's hard avoiding words and phrases such as "artisan," "authentic," "dairy-free," "farm-to-table," "gluten-free," "hand-crafted," "healthful," "organic," "scratch-made," "seasonal" or "vegan-friendly" when describing New American cuisine these days. This has been a great few years as new establishments have sprouted about West Michigan and forged strong followers; others have downright failed miserably, while some have changed hands for the better. Terra GR is of the latter.
Formerly Trillium Haven, Terra GR is every New American cliché mentioned above—which is as far from negative as one can be. Protruding from the ground floor of the Kingsley Building in Eastown, Terra GR opened in July under sole ownership of Trillium Haven co-owner Ken Sung. It retains the former incarnation's atmosphere, but strips away the pretension for a more relaxed and freeing experience. As some finer dining institutions maintain, Terra closes at 4 p.m. each day for dinner prep. For once, the separate lunch and dinner menus aren't blandly re-worded or upgraded plates with an extra serving, but unique offerings altogether. This is refreshing, which isn't a cliché for New American cuisine. Coupled with the laid-back, Eastown atmosphere at Gennesee and Lake Drive and an autumn day, and you're golden during any happy hour from 3-6 p.m. every weekday and Sunday afternoons.
A luncheon highlight is the Fried Farm Egg, which is inlaid with bacon on a bed of greens with garlic mayonnaise. Another option is indulging in the stream of juice from the pickled vegetable coleslaw and spicy mayonnaise dotted with cilantro, mingling with the patte on the Pork Banh Mi. Dinner plates, which instil salivation upon each viewing, include the Seasonal Vegetables—subject to change at any moment—summer squashes and mushrooms marinated and glazed to perfection. Of note is the Pork Ragu in its red wine stewed glory. Not mentioned but deserving attention is the wood-fired pizzas. All of the standard savory clichés apply. 1429 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids; terragr.com, (616) 301-0998
Photo: Roasted Squash and Kale Salad, by Elyse Wild
CHEAP EATS: Hogzilla BBQ
I'm done barbecuing chicken wings after Labor Day, which means I hanker for it by the third week of September. Instead, I scamper over to Hogzilla BBQ in Kalamazoo (or Battle Creek if I'm creeping back from unsolved serial murders in Detroit). Fifty-cent smoked wings every Monday and Catfish Fridays bookend the work week. The catfish fillets are lightly breaded with cajun spices. And of course, there's always the award-winning barbecue. 889 W. Columbia Ave., Battle Creek; (269) 660-6225 or 911 E. Cork St., Kalamazoo; (269) 364-6777, hogzillabbq.com
PICNIC CRUISE EVERY SUNDAY
Take a cool, breezey lunch ride on The Grand Lady (not to be mistaken for your mother) every Sunday from 1-3 p.m. Although all liquids, including water, are purchased on board, don't let the lack of spirits darken yours with your BYOPicnic. The idyllic Grand River soiree features Captain Bill's stories of steamboat and river history. Feast upon history and munchies as you gaze upon remnants of logging settlements and the ghost of Tom Joad's Michigan cousin Harold—perhaps the child in you will convince Captain Bill to let you stand in the pilot house and steer the 105-foot, 70-ton river queen. You could charter a private party with catering by the Grand Villa Restaurant, but that probably wouldn't end well with the types of people with whom you associate. Sundays at 1-3 p.m., $15 tickets/Kids under 10, free; 775 Taylor St. SE, Jenison; grandlady.info, (616) 457-4837