Taste This: Rustica; The Green Well; Old Burdick's

Restaurant of the Month: Rustica

Co-owner Bill Weier's quote "give me some crusty bread, simple food, good friends and a bottle of wine ... now that is a meal!" does not give Rustica a fair description. This small, cozy Kalamazoo Mall wine bar features a primo selection of 30 wines by the glass, more than 180 bottles to choose from and a solid offering of European cuisine created with Michigan ingredients. Chef Chris Kidd and Assistant Chef Scott Shattuck, both graduates of the Culinary Institute of America of Hyde Park, NY, present house-cured meats, handmade stocks, soups, cheeses and desserts alongside sumptuous scratch-made European entrees which can nearly guarantee you may grace the gates of gastrointestinal paradise.

Start with a charcuterie plate with grilled bread or Prince Edward Island mussels in white wine and garlic with chili flakes. For a modestly large dish pasta-wise, a parmesan and potato gnocchi with duck ragout and cornichon is something you can't find anywhere else.

Entrées of pan-roasted chicken in roasted garlic jus, sea scallops and shrimp in a cilantro vinaigrette with a crispy polenta, frisee and apple and cranberry relish exist, as do the baked market-fresh fish with olives, capers and leaks under a lemon herb butter and the grilled pork chops with a white bean puree and house mustard. However, aiming for something utterly ethereal (and formerly on top of my bucket list) is the Pot-au-Feu. This is braised lamb leg and braised pork belly at its finest; house-made sausage and bone marrow with grilled cabbage and brioche will slump you back into your chair, gasping prayers to the gods of food. If you have managed room for dessert, try the bread pudding, with gelato from Palazzolo's, dripping with a brandy-caramel sauce. Leave ample time for digestion and conversation and your choice of after dinner cordials, teas or coffees (provided by Water Street Coffee Joint).

For parties of five or more, it is strongly suggested you make reservations Sunday through Thursday prior to 6:30 p.m.
236 S. Kalamazoo Mall, Kalamazoo; (269) 492-0247, rusticakzoo.com 

DINING EVENTS: The Mystery Plate, Sundays at The Green Well

Sundays at The Green Well Gastro Pub present a unique dining experience—a mystery meal. Shrouded in secrecy but guaranteed taste-tested and certified delicious by the chefs and staff, this $15 feature could be the most succulent supper you've ever enjoyed, perhaps something that revitalizes your Philistine palette, or maybe it'll be like a homemade meal your mother's sexier younger sister made special just for you. (Did I mention she was adopted and not technically your aunt?) This blind date meal isn't without the usual comforts of The Green Well; take comfort in their familiar wine menu and drink specials with $2 'kind' cans, $1 'schwag' cans and $1 off drafts.

924 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids; (616) 808-3566, thegreenwell.com

CHEAP EATS: Half-Off Students at Old Burdick's

No, you may not order a student for half-off (for that, see Craigslist). Instead, reach for your college I.D. and assert you'll be eating from the student menu for half-off on Sundays and Wednesdays at any of the three Old Burdick's locations. For some reason, the student menu includes salads; don't bother when there's bacon-wrapped shrimp in the macaroni and bleu cheese (upon request). Sandwiches include the Reuben-esque pretzel roll dripping with Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing and sauerkraut with braised corned beef tucked inside. For those craving a bar burger, there are about a dozen with suitable vegetarian options, served with sea salt fries, which can be swapped for sweet potato or truffle white cheddar. 100 W. Michigan Ave. (inside the Radisson), Kalamazoo; (269) 343-0032, oldburdicks.com