Wednesday, 24 March 2010 10:16

April Isn’t the Cruelest Month. It’s May.

Written by  Matt Simpson Siegel
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"Would you prefer smoking or non?" Overjoyed hostesses everywhere are now giddy because not they can shorten their script by one question we've heard thousands of times. Soon enough, you can sit anywhere you'd like-except for smokers. Beginning May 1, the Michigan Smoking Ban takes effect and, as a smoker, I will wallow in the stink of nicotine in public establishments for all of April. It's for the better. I know you anti-smoking nazis (as opposed to the benign non-smokers) have finally won, and I'm smoking them while I got ‘em and may go on a killing spree with my to-go orders by the second week of May. Just giving you a heads up.

The Original Clover Bar (601 S. Beechtree, Grand Haven) has been feeding the smoking masses since 1963. Here, you can blow smoke and your laundry money-there is a video game arcade (sorry, no Dragon's Lair) -where you can drink, eat, and game on. Pasta Night on Thursdays from 5-9 p.m. have spaghetti and lasagna options, but go for the pizza. Pizza here is thin crust with all your usual options; however, I think they've put something semi-addictive in the sauce. Cauliflower, tomato, and chicken may seem like an odd combination, but I dare you to dislike it.

Wolfgang's Restaurant (1530 Wealthy St. SE) is the breakfast Mecca for many. After taking over Just Breakfast from his father in 1995, Matt and his wife Stacy have catered hearty breakfasts that keep people coming back weekly, if not daily. Decorated with humble pictures of Matt, I'm positive part of the wait here (busy weekends have lines out the door with up to a 45 minute wait) is based upon menu indecision. Several of note include: The Westsider, hashbrowns with cheddar, grilled onions, three eggs, and a grilled polish sausage; Missad, eggs scrambled with chicken, Cajun sausage, turkey, shrooms, onions, green peppers, layered with hashbrowns, topped with cheddar and stacked on a slice of English muffin toast, covered in hollandaise; or The Bob Andree, a toasted bagels spread with cream cheese, topped with mushrooms, tomato, onion, green pepper, broccoli, two poached eggs and hollandaise. And if you don't want your secondhand smoke fill, the nonsmoking section is practically in another building.

I shall miss the abject horror on the anti-smokers' faces as they wade to their section in the back by the hearth at The Cottage Bar and Restaurant (18 La Grave Ave. SE). Owned and operated by the Verhil family since 1967, ‘The Cottage' originally opened in 1927 and added a bar in 1934, making it the oldest operating bar and restaurant in downtown Grand Rapids. A Back Alley Burger will clot your arteries with sour cream and chives, green olives, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and layers of sliced ham. The Potato Nachos are grade ‘A' golden fried Michigan potato wedges, loaded with sour cream, ground beef, bacon, co-jack cheese, olives, tomatoes, and onion. If lung cancer won't get this guy, a hemorrhaging stomach or heart attack will. For the health-conscious smoker, try the Yellow Fin Tuna Steak over mixed greens, topped with parmesan/peppercorn dressing, tomato, red onion, sliced mushrooms, alfalfa sprouts, cucumber, and parmesan cheese.

A stone's throw from Western Michigan University, Bilbo's Pizza in a Pan (3307 Stadium Dr.) in Kalamazoo (or 6202 S. Wesnedge Ave., Portage) has hints of J.R.R. Tolkien's creations all over its menu but luckily, not in the restaurant or staff. Where else can you quaff your thirst with Dragon Red Ale while fending off an orcish incursion or stave off hunger with It Took 13 Strong Young Dwarves To Carry This and, for a limited time, chain smoke. Although pizza is in the name, the sandwiches here are ethereal and the bread sticks and dill dip are a must. The aforementioned dwarven Italian roll sandwich is stuffed with hard style salami, white meat tuna salad, colby and swiss cheeses, shredded lettuce and tomato slices, mustard and mayo. If you are more refined and watch your weight, The Elves of the World Recommend Boneless skinless breast of chicken, cooked with herbs, lettuce, and tomato and heated on an Italian roll.

The Original Clover Bar
601 S. Beechtree, Grand Haven
(616) 846-3580
cloverbar.com

Wolfgang's Restaurant
1530 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids
(616) 454-5776
mattwolfgang.com

The Cottage Bar and Restaurant
18 La Grave Ave. SE, Grand Rapids
(616) 454-9088
cottagebar.biz

Bilbo's Pizza in a Pan
3307 Stadium Dr., Kalamazoo
(269) 382-5544
bilbospizza.com

6202 South Westnedge Ave., Portage
(269) 323-8855

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