Thursday, 25 July 2019 14:03

Best of The West: Dining Winners

Written by  by Josh Veal
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Maru Sushi & Grill. Maru Sushi & Grill. Courtesy Photo

In a growing region like West Michigan, the food scene will always be in flux. 

Just look at last year’s winner for best New Restaurant: Georgina’s Fusion Cuisine. The restaurant closed in less than a year for a variety of reasons we won’t speculate on. We’re pretty sure this year’s winners aren’t going anywhere, however. 

Hancock took first and has very quickly established itself as a Wealthy Street mainstay. The fried chicken is phenomenal thanks to an amazing hot sauce, and the many, many sides pair perfectly. Hancock also skyrocketed to the top of the Fried Chicken category, if that tells you anything. You also won’t find the extensive champagne menu and frozen cocktails menu anywhere else. After acquiring the old Wealthy Street Station building, Hancock’s owners could have taken the space in any direction, but they chose an unpretentious, approachable hang that locals immediately latched onto.

The Commons in second place and Forty Acres Soul Kitchen in third both match the sentiment. The Commons’ retro vibe is uber comfortable, especially when paired with classic American food like burgers and steak frites. More and more, diners are looking for places that offer a full experience that takes interior design, music and mood into account. Forty Acres offers its own kind of experience as a full-service soul food restaurant, with huge portions of classic down-South, African American-created food. If you’ve been craving some quality grits, black-eyed peas, fried catfish and cornbread, this is the place to be.

Meanwhile, some eateries have been making more of a name for themselves as time goes on. Wikiwiki Poke Shop had a particularly strong showing this year, coming in first for Service, second for Lunch, and third for both Seafood and Most Innovative Cuisine. The one-of-a-kind poke shop has earned it by being bold on every level and always keeping it fresh and clean. Personally, I could eat here every day and never feel bad about it.

Mike’s Wings is also on the come-up, moving into third place for best Wings. This place isn’t trying to be fancy in any way and that’s what makes it great. If you head to Mike’s, you’re going to get crispy, moist wings drenched in top-tier sauce. The Spicy Garlic sauce is my favorite, coated in enough minced garlic to cure any known illness. 

There’s a million more things we could say about Dining’s winners, but you can form your own opinions. To close, here are a few stray observations:

  • Marcona on Lyon opened late last year and quickly made a splash, moving up into second place in Mediterranean. If you haven’t been yet, it’s well worth checking out.
  • The Vegan and Vegetarian top three winners are the exact same, down to the order. I know they’re two fairly different lifestyles, but the organizer in me just wants to merge the categories.
  • The top two Pizza winners are breweries. Does this mean they actually have the best ’za, or do we just love to have a beer with our pie? Maybe both.
  • I’m hungry.

Ambience

1. Butchers Union
438 Bridge St. NW, Grand Rapids

2. New Hotel Mertens
3. The Commons

Bakery

1. Nantucket Baking Company
615 Lyon St. NE, Grand Rapids

2. Wealthy Street Bakery
3. Field & Fire

 

BBQ

1. Slows Bar BQ
435 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids

2. Two Scotts Barbecue
3. The Pit Stop

Breakfast

1. Annas House
Multiple locations - annashouseus.com

2. Wolfgang’s Restaurant
3. Real Food Cafe

Brunch

1. SpeakEZ Lounge
600 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids

2. San Chez Bistro
3. Terra

Burgers

1. Stellas Lounge
53 Commerce Ave. SW, Grand Rapids

2. Bridge Street Burger Shack
3. Brewery Vivant

Chili

1. Cottage Bar
18 La Grave Ave. SE, Grand Rapids

2. Rockford Brewing Company
3. HopCat

Chinese

1. First Wok
Multiple locations - firstwokgr.com

2. Ming Ten
3. Golden Wok

Coffee

1. Madcap Coffee Company
98 Monroe Center St. NW, Grand Rapids

2. Biggby Coffee
3. Rowster Coffee

Desserts

1. Amore Trattoria Italiana
5080 Alpine Ave. NW, Comstock Park

2. Arnie’s
3. Brewery Vivant

Diner

1. Grand Coney
Multiple locations - thegrandconey.com

2. Choo Choo Grill
3. Real Food Cafe

Farm to Table

1. Terra
1429 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids

2. Grove
3. The Søvengård

Food Truck

1. What The Truck
facebook.com/whatthetruckgr

2. Patty Matters
3. Underground Cookie Club

Fried Chicken

1. Hancock
1157 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids

2. Cousin’s Tasty Chicken
3. Forty Acres Soul Kitchen

Hancock GR 8Hancock. Courtesy Photo

Fries

1. HopCat
Multiple locations - hopcat.com

2. Stella’s Lounge
3. Bridge Street Burger Shack

Hot Dogs

1. Yesterdog
1505 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids

2. Jonny B’z
3. Corner Bar

Ice Cream/Frozen Treats

1. Furniture City Creamery
958 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids

2. Frosty Boy Grand Rapids | Rockford 
3. Love’s Ice Cream

Indian

1. Curry Kitchen
961 E. Fulton St., Grand Rapids

2. Bombay Cuisine
3. Palace of India

Italian

1. Amore Trattoria Italiana
5080 Alpine Ave. NW, Comstock Park

2. Osteria Rossa
3. Licari's

Lunch

1. Two Beards Deli
38 Commerce Ave. SW, Grand Rapids

2. (Tie) Founders Brewing Co., Wikiwiki Poke
3. Cherry Street Deli

Mediterranean Cuisine

1. Sheshco Mediterranean Grill
2121 Celebration Dr. NE #700, Grand Rapids

2. Marcona on Lyon
3. Le Kabob

Mexican

1. Donkey Taqueria
665 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids

2. Tacos el Cuñado
3. Lindo Mexico

Middle Eastern Cuisine

1. Sheshco Mediterranean Grill
2121 Celebration Dr. NE #700, Grand Rapids

2. Le Kabob
3. The Pita House

Most Innovative Cuisine

1. The Søvengård
443 Bridge St. NW Suite 1, Grand Rapids

2. Grove
3. Wikiwiki Poke Shop

New Restaurant

1. Hancock
1157 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids

2. The Commons
3. Forty Acres Soul Kitchen

 

Patio

1. Founders Brewing Co.
235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids

2. Rose’s
3. The Søvengård

Pizza

1. Harmony Brewing Co.
1551 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids

2. The Mitten Brewing Co.
3. Brick Road Pizza Co.

Sandwich/Deli

1. Schnitz Deli
1315 E. Fulton St., Grand Rapids

2. Two Beards Deli
3. Cherry Street Deli

Seafood

1. Leo's
60 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids

2. Fish Lads
3. Wikiwiki Poke Shop

Service

1. Wikiwiki Poke Shop
1146 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids

2. Amore Trattoria Italiana
3. Founders Brewing Co.

SOUP

1. Uncle Cheetah's Soup Shop
1133 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids

2. Electric Cheetah
3. Hearthstone Bistro

Steak

1. The Chop House
190 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids

2. Butcher’s Union
3. Brann's Steakhouse & Grille

Sushi

1. Maru Sushi & Grill
927 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids

2. Jaku Sushi
3. Ju Sushi & Lounge

Thai

1. Bangkok Taste Cuisine
15 Jefferson Ave. SE, Grand Rapids

2. Little Bangkok
3. Erb Thai

Vegan Menu

1. Brick Road Pizza Co.
1017 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids

2. Stella’s Lounge
3. Anna’s House

Vegetarian menu

1. Brick Road Pizza Co.
1017 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids

2. Stella’s Lounge
3. Anna’s House

WinesReserve Wine & Food. Courtesy Photo

Wine List

1. Reserve Wine & Food
201 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids 

2. House of Wine
3. Aperitivo

Wings

1. Wing Doozy
Multiple locations - wingdoozy.com

2. Rockford Brewing Co.
3. Mike’s Wings

 

STAFF PICKS

BAKERY
Rise Authentic Baking Co.
1220 W. Fulton St., Grand Rapids

The only thing worse than being gluten-free or vegan and not having the joyful option of a sinister sweet dessert is having a diet-sensitive treat that tastes like cardboard out of a recycling plant. Luckily, Rise Authentic Baking Co., located in the heart of Grand Rapids, offers high-end, quality gluten-free and vegan desserts that don’t taste like your latest Pinterest fail. Offering unique sweets like handmade pop tarts alongside classics like doughnuts and brownies, Rise can do it all, including custom orders. With a storefront on Fulton Avenue and treats at multiple locations around the city, you’ll never have to go another day without dessert again. Now that’s something to celebrate. — Michaela Stock

BURGER
Nonla Burger
2103 S. Burdick St., Kalamazoo

Cheap eats and small batch shakes are what this boutique burger joint in Kalamazoo does best. Offering a small variety of classic burgers and one rotating shake flavor each day, Nonla Burger even takes care of its vegetarian customers by serving Beyond veggie burgers and salads. With eclectic seating indoors and out, Nonla Burger is the perfect place to catch up with friends after a long day or a bite of comfort food on your lunch hour. Pro tip: Be sure not to skip a side of fries with your order, as they’re soft yet crispy potato perfection. — Michaela Stock

ITALIAN
Palio
545 Michigan St. NE, Grand Rapids

Palio is criminally underrated, to the point that I always just assumed it must not be that good since I never heard anyone talking about it. Boy, was I wrong, and now I feel the mandate to spread the good word. This is easily some of the best Italian food in West Michigan. Whether you get pasta or pizza, it’s all done exquisitely right. The bolognese is amazing, the eggplant parmesan is unbelievable, and I’ve had my eye on the Fettucini Alfredo al Tavola, which is prepared inside a massive wheel of parmesan right at your table. Plus, you get a little shot of limoncello at the end of every meal. Salut! — Josh Veal

Ice Cream/Frozen Treats
Spoonlickers
Multiple locations - spoonlickersgr.com

Every worn-out college kid and tired grownup knows the best way to revive your soul is with a sweet and frozen dessert. A big problem, however, is that everywhere closes too early! This isn’t the case for an amazing local frozen yogurt shop, Spoonlickers, which is open until at least 10 p.m. every night. After a long day of running around at work, with kids, or even doing chores at home, Spoonlickers has found its way into the hearts and stomachs of Grand Rapids locals.  Amazing combinations, even better sorbetto and vegan options to boot have made these shops one of the best options for delicious summer sunsets. — Abi Safago

MEXICAN
Taqueria San Jose
1338 S. Division Ave., Grand Rapids

Burritos, tacos, tortas and more, Taqueria San Jose is the perfect spot for all of your taco Tuesday cravings (and on every other day of the week). The retro, drive-up dive style restaurant boasts a long line of outdoor booths and tables to eat at, as well as a few coveted indoor seats for chilly nights. Along with in-house service, Taqueria San Jose offers full catering for events, parties and more. — Michaela Stock

PATIO
Zoko 822
822 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids

If I hadn’t asked, I never would’ve known Zoko 822’s patio existed. That’s because it’s perfectly tucked away behind the Spanish tapas and gin restaurant, which is what makes it so good. It doesn’t feel like a typical patio at all. It’s more of a lounge, but outdoors, perfect for grabbing drinks with friends and relaxing in the evening. If you head there earlier in the day, you’ll encounter Gintonica, which is Zoko’s lovely outdoor shipping container bar. This is what summer is all about. — Josh Veal

SUSHI
Oppa Sushi & Korean
3772 Alpine Ave. NW, Comstock Park

Living in Comstock Park, I have begged for years for a sushi place to open on Alpine. Just a few months ago, my wish was finally granted in the form of Oppa Sushi & Korean. I would’ve been happy with any raw fish at all, but we were blessed with a quality sushi spot that stands up there with all the rest in West Michigan. Even if it’s not “real” sushi, the Crunch Burrito is a particular favorite of mine, wrapped in seaweed with shrimp tempura, spicy crab salad, avocado, tempura flakes, eel sauce, spicy sauce, and rice holding it all together. There’s also bibimbap, hot pot, bento boxes and plenty more.  — Josh Veal

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