Hidden Gem Eateries
Photo: The Commons Street Corn Mac & Cheese.


There’s nothing better than finding a new favorite restaurant or takeout joint you didn’t even know existed.

On the other hand, there’s nothing worse than when they close doors because no one knows about them. To do our part in combatting that tragic fate, we want to do away with gatekeeping and instead shine a spotlight on some of the best hidden gems in town.

Some gems are hidden because they’re visually discreet or in a low traffic area. Some are hidden in the sense that word simply hasn’t got out to the larger community.

Either way, here are some of our favorite unsung heroes of the Grand Rapids food scene.


834 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids


As Partage built out their new café space on Cherry, they were serving food with Sidedoor Sammies, which required ordering online and knocking on an inconspicuous side door. Now, the café is open, and you can—and should—get an amazing sandwich like the Cold Cut Shop, a brilliant NY deli invention.

The Commons

547 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids


Driving past The Commons, all you’ll see is an 8-story apartment building with a black awning. If you manage to find the door and step inside, you’ll be greeted with an incredible vintage vibe that feels like your grandma’s living room in the best way possible. The menu fits, with tasty burgers, goulash and even meatloaf dinner.

Cousins Tasty Chicken

1209 Leonard St. NE, Grand Rapids


Fried chicken, fried fish, fried potatoes, wings, plus burgers and all the sides you could ask for—from cheese curds to coleslaw and okra—Cousins has it all, and at an affordable price. This is everything you could hope for in a fried chicken spot, including an incredibly friendly staff who bravely stand over hot fryers all day, just for you!

Little Africa

956 E. Fulton St., Grand Rapids

For a time, Little Africa was an especially hidden gem in that the hours seemed to be “when we feel like it.” Now, you can stop by for lunch or dinner just about any day and enjoy some amazing, unique, all-vegetarian Ethiopian food and spiced tea that’s all made for sharing. In our experience, everyone who eats here becomes a dedicated fan.

Mad Dogz

3916 W. River Dr. NE, Comstock Park


For 15 years now, Mad Dogz has been serving up all beef hot dogs with wildly creative toppings in Comstock Park. How’s the Goofy sound, with chili, peanut butter, pickles and corn chips? Or maybe the Pit Bull, with cream cheese, pineapple, olive, banana pepper, nacho chips and celery salt? This isn’t just a gimmick though—the ingredients are quality and the flavors always work.

Jamaican Dave’s

530 S. Division Ave., Grand Rapids


If you want authentic curried goat, jerk chicken, plantains and other traditional Jamaican dishes, all soundtracked by a steady stream of reggae music, this is the place to be. The menu is simple and handwritten on a whiteboard, but the flavors are complex, with spices and peppers delivering an explosion of taste.

The Elbow Room

501 Fuller Ave. NE, Grand Rapids


In some ways, The Elbow Room is one of the most visible spots in GR, sitting right off the highway exit on Fuller. But what you may not know is that this bar is serving up some of the best burgers and sandwiches in town. It’s a casual, inviting atmosphere where you can enjoy spot-on pub grub, elbow to elbow with your friends.

La Huasteca

1811 Plainfield Ave. NE, Grand Rapids


In Creston, you’ll find incredible Mexican food cooked by a passionate and loving family at La Huasteca. The small, unassuming eatery is serving up big flavor in everything from tacos to wet burritos, fajitas, mole enchiladas, tamales, tortas and much more. You can’t go wrong with a single thing on the menu here.

Two Scotts Barbecue

536 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids


Two Scotts might be right on Leonard, but since they’re only open for lunch (except Fridays), you may not have stopped in yet. If so, it’s time to fix that. This barbecue is simply exceptional, and a 1/2 pound of the meat of your choice with some pickles and sauce on the side is enough to fill your heart and stomach.