The Grand Rapids foodie scene perked up with the announcement of the impending expansion of the Social Kitchen & Bar, a Birmingham, Mich. fixture. The new addition arrives at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market, 435 Ionia Ave. SW, later this year — hopefully in September.
The restaurant serves lunch, brunch and a dinner menu, along with gluten-sensitive options. Side perks: its selection of beer, wine and specialty cocktails. Social Kitchen & Bar Chef and Owner Zack Sklar, 29, chatted with Revue. Here’s what he had to say.
How did your interest in food begin?
Food has always been a passion of mine. I loved cooking with my mom as a child. I’ve wanted to be a chef for as long as I can remember. In fifth grade, I was given an assignment asking where I saw myself in 10 years and in 15 years. Even then, I said I was going to be a chef and restaurant owner. My family laughs about my high school English teacher chastising me for a low grade. I told her, “I don’t need good grammar! I’m going to be a chef.”
What made you decide to bring Social Kitchen & Bar to Grand Rapids?
I was approached by the Grand Rapids Downtown Market about the vacant space, and learned about all of the growth happening in this city. When I visited, I was blown away. I loved the space and also fell in love with the selection of vendors, all of whom are passionate about their trade and have a deep sense of pride for Grand Rapids. I knew right away that I wanted to be part of it.
How far along is the construction process at the new location?
We are in the design stage, lots of drawings so far.
What do you recommend on the Social Kitchen & Bar menu?
One of my favorites is the Egg Sandwich. It’s legendary: Toasted whole-grain bread, an over-easy egg, a smear of guacamole, cheddar cheese, tomato and Sriracha. It’s simple and to-the-point, but unbelievably satisfying and balanced. It’s definitely one of our most popular dishes, and very easy to recreate at home.
What are your hopes for this new location?
I want to bridge the gap between the farm-to-table experiences by creating an everyday spot, rather than a special occasion spot. People can come, have a great meal, and then walk around the market and enjoy some wine and cheese or check out the bakery. I’d love for people to start exploring how they can create one of our meals by purchasing ingredients from other vendors in the same place.
Will you be in Grand Rapids much after the grand opening?
With each open, I like to spend as much time as I can in the restaurant. I love the chance to talk to our new community, so I tend to be around a lot. And I don’t live far, which is perfect for coming into town as often as I can.
What do you appreciate most in a dining experience?
Food is the most important thing, but right beside it is great service. It’s that connection with a guest, remembering them from the last time they were in, getting to know them, and wowing them every time they come in. The way you accomplish these things is with sincere connection — the kind that grows out of passion for what you do.