Like music, movies and fashion, the culinary industry is prone to inescapable season-defining trends. Suddenly, a relatively innocuous foodstuff will get to bask in its 15 minutes of fame, with appearances in farm-to-table restaurants, fast-food joints and everywhere in between.
Who doesn’t remember the Summer of Sriracha, or that year when every restaurant was striving to implement kale in every conceivable dish? Perhaps you were lucky enough to wait hours in line for a cronut at the peak of its flash in the pan.
Bacon, too, recently enjoyed a stint at the forefront of the collective cuisinal consciousness. However, whereas less dynamic items see their scrumptious star fade in short order, West Michigan is lucky to have eateries that understand and apply the full range of possibilities bacon brings to the table. Here are some establishments keeping bacon — that versatile reigning champ of salt-cured pork — interesting and essential to your daily caloric intake.
BREAKFAST: Maple Bacon Donut
1971 E. Beltline Ave. NE, Grand Rapids
Bacon is surely the king of breakfast meats, and bringing doughnuts into the office will get you on the sweet side of even your saltiest coworker. It is no wonder, then, that a morning treat pairing these tasty titans is a delicious no-brainer. This Donut Conspiracy staple is built on a pillowy soft yeast-raised donut, which is covered with a store-made maple icing and topped with bacon crumbles. The texture of the bacon isn’t overly crunchy, which makes for an incredible melt-in-your-mouth morning wake up. Go for the baker’s dozen.
BRUNCH: Bloody Mary Bar Bacon
1747 Plainfield Ave. NE, Grand Rapids
Every weekend warrior knows a Bloody Mary Bar lives and dies by its accoutrements. An expertly placed olive skewer or cheese cube can elevate a Bloody Mary from savory to lifesaving. Lucy’s Café understands this crucial fact, having devised a specially seasoned bacon, exclusively available as garnish at the Bloody Mary Bar. Derived from the unique spice blend that was originally developed for Lucy’s potatoes, the slightly spicy rub provides an unexpected, revelatory flavor twist to Mary’s favorite meat. Once you try it, you’ll likely end up bribing your server for a side order.
SNACK: Curried Chili Wontons
1223 Plainfield Ave. NE, Grand Rapids
This shareable is an exquisite exercise in flavor balance and control. While the first element you’ll notice is the yellow-curry cream cheese filling, the sweet chili-rubbed bacon crumbles tucked inside are the soul of the dish, giving the wontons a perfect depth and smokiness. I’m not usually one to refuse more bacon, but any additional meat here could risk overpowering the amazing curry cheese filling. Fried in a beautifully wrapped wonton and flanked by sriracha sour cream and gorgonzola cheese dressings, perhaps you won’t be sharing these after all.
FOR THE SUSHI-PHOBE: Sexy Bacon Roll
Maru Sushi & Grill
927 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids
We’ve all been there: a moment when sushi is the meal you simply must have, and by some cosmic joke, you’re hanging out with the one friend who’s convinced that they won’t like raw fish. Fear not, Maru has you and your picky pal covered, prepared with all the elegance and artistry of other signature rolls. Cherrywood-smoked bacon plays nicely alongside crunchy cucumber, asparagus, crab stick and smatterings of fantasy, eel and creamy garlic sauces. After sharing a roll and polishing off the perfectly prepared bacon triangles that garnish the plate, it may be even more difficult to convince your picky friend to try anything else.