Thursday, 25 July 2019 15:20

Best of the West: Nightlife & Activities

Written by  by Josh Veal
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Now here’s a category for the masses. Nightlife, maybe not so much, but activities? You can’t deny we all do stuff from time to time.

That being said, the most interesting results here come from the breweries, bars and whatnot. There’s just something about going out for a drink that inspires strong feelings.

Whether individually or collectively, those feelings can change on a dime, such as the public suddenly voting O’Toole’s Public House as best Bar/Pub/Tavern. It’s fascinating, because O’Toole’s is right in the midst of the evergrowing Bridge Street, but it’s not one of the new places at all, having opened in 2003. I guess sometimes it takes just takes the spotlight swinging in your direction for people to take notice. The Irish pub moved into second for Open Mic as well.

Then there’s the new stuff! Breweries haven’t stopped opening and they seemingly never will, which I’m perfectly fine with. Hopland Brewstillery took the gold for best New Brewery, partly due to such a wide selection right out of the gate. When you have incredibly unique beer, spirits and even wines, you’re bound to make a splash. Where else can you get pineapple pear pinot grigio alongside blueberry brandy, cocktails and hazy IPAs? Nowhere!

Meanwhile, in Kentwood, Broad Leaf Local Beer worked its way to second place. This isn’t a huge surprise, given that it’s the second venture from the minds behind the wildly successful Brewery Vivant. Broad Leaf veers away from the farmhouse brews of Vivant and focuses on broader styles like IPAs, stouts, sours, lagers and more. There is a common denominator between both breweries though: Quality.

In third place, Guardian Brewing Co. in Saugatuck is cranking out ALL kinds of great beer, from a dry Irish nitro stout to a tequila barrel-aged Belgian witbier. Pair that with delicious food in a historic red barn — used as a theater since the ’40s — and you’ve got a destination brewery. Plus, founders Kim Collins and Kate Bishop are just super cool.

There’s plenty else to discuss aside from breweries though. Here are a few notes:

  • We have a tie for first place winery, which is highly unusual and honestly pretty unlikely, given the number of votes we receive. It must mean something — Hudsonville Winery & Restaurant and St. Julian Winery, with its new Rockford tasting room, both deserve an equal share of praise.
  • Gray Skies Distillery moved up into third for cocktail bar, which may (or may not) have something to do with its reworked tasting room. R.I.P. giant circle table — you sacrificed yourself to make room for more comfortable seats.
  • Logan’s Alley, placed in both Bar/Pub/Tavern and Beer Bar, which pretty much sums it up. It’s the perfect place for craft beer lovers and well liquor drinkers alike.

Annual Festival

1. Festival of the Arts

2. ArtPrize
3. Founders Fest


1. O'Tooles Public House
448 Bridge St. NW, Grand Rapids

2. Meanwhile
3. Logan’s Alley

Beer Bar

1. HopCat
Multiple locations -

2. 7 Monks Taproom
3. Logan’s Alley


1. Clique Lanes
533 Stocking Ave. NW, Grand Rapids

2. Wengers Bowling Center
3. Westgate Bowl


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

2. Brewery Vivant
3. Perrin Brewing


1. Gun Lake Casino
1123 129th Ave., Wayland

2. Soaring Eagle Casino
3. Firekeepers Casino


1. Vander Mill
505 Ball Ave. NE, Grand Rapids 

2. The Peoples Cider Co.
3. Farmhaus Cider Co.

Cocktail Lounge

1. Buffalo Traders Lounge
950 E. Fulton St., Grand Rapids

2. Sidebar
3. Gray Skies Distillery


1. Long Road Distillers
537 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids

2. Gray Skies Distillery
3. New Holland Artisan Spirits

Happy Hour

1. Rockwell Republic
45 S. Division Ave., Grand Rapids

2. Terra
3. CitySen Lounge


1. Fulton Street Pub & Grill
801 Fulton St. W, Grand Rapids

2. Kale’s Korner Bar
3. Z’s Bar & Restaurant


1. Arktos Meadery
1251 Century Ave. SW, Grand Rapids

2. City Built Brewing Company
3. Bardic Wells Meadery

Movie Theater

1. Grand Rapids North
2121 Celebration Dr. NE, Grand Rapids

2. AMC Grand Rapids 18
3. Wealthy Street Theater

New Brewery

1. Hopland Brewstillery
977 Butternut Dr. #4, Holland 

2. Broad Leaf Local Beer
3. Guardian Brewing Co.

Night Club

1. Rumors Nightclub
69 S. Division Ave., Grand Rapids

2. Eve Nightclub @ The B.O.B.
3. Billy’s Lounge

Open-Mic Night

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

2. O'Toole’s Public House
3. Rockford Brewing Company

Sports Bar

1. The Score Restaurant & Sports Bar
5301 Northland Dr. NE, Grand Rapids

2. Peppino’s Sports Grille
3. Big E’s Sports Grill


1. (Tie) Hudsonville Winery
3768 Chicago Dr., Hudsonville

1. (Tie) St. Julian Winery 
Multiple locations -

2. Fenn Valley Vineyards
3. Cascade Winery


Staff Picks

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

While they receive no shortage of praise for their food, vibe, service, cocktails, heck even their bathroom wallpaper, The Søvengård’s draft list is what secured my business. While many beer bars opt for the more handles = more choice approach, a carefully curated list spares the headache of deciding between five amber ales (which probably taste the same). The judiciousness is intentional, catering toward bright, light offerings that taste better on a patio with friends. Give me one well-meaning Pils and I’ll glug it ’til last call. — Jack Raymond

Happy Hour
Social Kitchen & Bar
435 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids

Inside the Downtown Market, you’ll find one of the best happy hour deals in West Michigan. To start, Social offers half-off multiple of its best appetizers. Even better, you can get an entire build-your-own pizza for just $7. That means anything you want, with no upcharges for anything except specialty meats. It’s amazing. Then you can wash that down with $6 specialty cocktails, which typically average $10. — Josh Veal


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