Thursday, 01 July 2021 17:20

Savor the Sea

Written by  Josh Veal
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Seafood at Sandy Point Beach House. Seafood at Sandy Point Beach House. Courtesy Photo

Michigan is defined by our Great Lakes, so of course we love all things aquatic.

The huge bodies of freshwater may not be oceans, but we still have perch, trout, salmon, whitefish and more — not to mention all the local eateries who bring in top-quality fish from around the world. We get great food and great coasts, without the sharks and jellyfish. Win-win! 

Just about every restaurant in West Michigan has some form of seafood on the menu, but certain places clearly put fish in the spotlight. Whether you want a classic fish fry, a shrimp po’ boy or an elegant seafood risotto, we have it all.

Here is some of the best seafood in Grand Rapids and beyond, to get you started on your culinary journey across the seven seas.

Fish Lads
435 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
fishlads.com

Nestled inside the Downtown Market, Fish Lads has become the premier fish market of Grand Rapids. They have just about every type of seafood you can imagine for cooking at home, alongside an excellent menu of fish dishes. You can pick up sushi-grade tuna and salmon for nigiri at home and a freshly made lobster roll for the road.

There’s a variety of fish and chips, including Icelandic cod, Alaskan halibut and yellow perch. Or get a shrimp po boy for a taste of NOLA. Or treat yourself to a full dinner with stuffed trout and sea scallops! Fish Lads has it all.

Leo’s Seafood Restaurant and Bar
60 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
leosrestaurant.com

When you want the real deal, you head to Leo’s. This is by far Grand Rapids’ fanciest seafood eatery, with high-end dishes well worth the price. Start with fresh oysters, move on to clam chowder, then treat yourself to an incredible fresh-catch special, like grilled salmon from the Western Isles, with Maryland jumbo crab, bearnaise, harvest blend rice and asparagus.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to put on a suit, and the bar and lounge area is even more casual, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a wide spread of drinks.

Carolina Lowcountry Kitchen
2213 Wealthy St. SE, East Grand Rapids
carolinalck.com

Carolina Lowcountry was “born out of a love of oysters, fresh fish and laidback foods of the South Carolina coast.” Oysters of all kinds, Carolina gumbo, jambalaya and more bring the South up north with a comfy restaurant in Gaslight Village.

The star here is wild-caught Gulf shrimp, whether it’s marinated in ceviche, boiled in Frogmore stew, or cooked in garlic butter as a platter. Of course, you’ll find catfish, blue lump crab, Scottish salmon and more as well. 

Forty Acres Soul Kitchen
1059 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids
fortyacresgr.com

Forty Acres brings a taste of the South to West Michigan too, with a special focus on Black culture and cuisine. Our big recommendation here is the Shrimp & Grits, with three offerings to choose from or a flight to taste it all!

The house shrimp and grits keeps it simple with a spicy-smoked tomato puree. The Northern variation has a sweet/savory glaze, whole-grain mustard and white wine. My personal favorite is the Southern: cream, asiago, parmesan, bacon, pancetta, peppers!

Sandy Point Beach House
822 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
7175 Lakeshore Dr., West Olive
sandypointbeachhouse.com

Sandy Point was so successful on the coast, they opened a second location in GR. Both locations of the Beach House have tons of seafood on the menu, from jumbo shrimp cocktails to seared scallops and lobster mac n' cheese. Try the Tuna Nachos, with raw tuna and Asian flavors on fried wontons. It's like sushi, but crispier.

Or dive into the blackened salmon, with avocado jasmine rice, cucumber-mango-pear salsa, and a hibiscus beet coulis. It's an ocean of summer flavors that exemplifies Sandy Point's elevated, yet laid-back style. Also: The GR location has an outdoor bar!

Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant
216 Van Raalte Ave., Holland
boatwerksrestaurant.com

Seafood is best eaten with a view of the water, and Boatwerks has both. The entrée section of the menu is robust with options, including fried perch, roasted walleye, and lobster mac and cheese. Feeling adventurous? Get the tortilla-crusted grouper, with black bean puree, street corn salsa and roasted poblano chimichurri. Enjoy it all on the shores of Lake Macatawa.

Oakwood Bistro
3003 Oakland Dr., Kalamazoo
oakwoodbistro.com

Oakwood is one of those strip mall sensations that delightfully surprises you with friendly service and delicious food. We like the unconventional choices here like the Salmon BLT or the Lobster Pizza, with an herb oil base, cold-water lobster, scallions, roasted red pepper, roasted garlic cheese blend and goat cheese.

The Lake House Waterfront Grille
730 Terrace Point Dr., Muskegon
thelakehousemi.com

With a gorgeous view of Muskegon Lake, this waterfront restaurant is all-in on seafood. Of course you can expect perch, salmon and whitefish, but The Lake House also has an amazing Cajun seafood pasta with shrimp, P.E.I. mussels and chorizo. Or head to the ocean with the grilled swordfish, accompanied by cilantro-lime rice, sesame-soy broccolini, roasted tomato coconut sauce, tropical fruit salsa, fried rice noodles and eel sauce.

The handheld menu has a strong showing here too, featuring a Nashville Hot Po’ Boy and a Blackened Grouper Sandwich. The latter has red chili mustard, pepper-jack cheese, tropical salsa and fried banana peppers on a jalapeno cheddar bun. You’re not going to find that anywhere else.

Grand Rapids Fishery
3645 Byron Center Ave., Wyoming
grandrapidsfishery.com

For fish fry lovers, the Grand Rapids Fishery can make all your wildest dreams come true. This market and eatery offers a huge selection of fish and other seafood from all around the world, and you can either get it fresh for home or have them cook it up for you! You can even bring in your own fresh catches and have the Fishery cook it for just $3.50 per pound. Their website also has tips, techniques and recipes for homecooking.

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