West Michigan Must Eats
Written by Revue Staff. Photo: Principle Food & Drink.


When you’re traveling or have just moved to a new city, one of the first questions to ask is always, “Where do I absolutely HAVE to check out?”

In West Michigan, the list is long—much longer than we have room for here—and if we’re being honest, pretty subjective. Some locals will point you toward longtime institutions (like Yesterdog, Wolfgang’s and Founders), while others will insist on the high-end favorites (like MDRD and The Chop House), and many will insist on a local brewery with killer food (like Harmony, The Mitten and Brewery Vivant).

Those are great picks, and you’ll find them winning our annual Best of the West readers survey frequently. That’s why for Revue staff’s own list of Must Eats, we sought to broaden horizons with eateries that personify what we love about the region and boast a devoted following, but may not top the search engine results.

Here are a few of our top suggestions to anyone putting together an edible bucket list for West Michigan.

Butcher’s Union
438 Bridge St. NW, Grand Rapids

Of everything on our list, Butcher’s Union is the one most likely to be found on every other list you read—and the one most likely to have a 2-hour wait. It’s well worth it though (and there are excellent establishments nearby to bide your time), as Butcher’s immaculate atmosphere, sumptuous entrees and robust cocktails are all unforgettable. Head here for a big city feel but approachable menu, and more than 100 whiskeys behind the bar.

201 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids

Reserve is the kind of place where you try a dish largely composed of ingredients you’ve never heard of (because that’s what local farms have in season at the moment) and end up falling in love with a whole new world of food. It’s a great place to share—start with a cheese board, move on to a ridiculously fresh salad, then wrap your tastebuds in a blanket of housemade pasta. Not to mention the huge, yet highly curated wine list.

San Chez
38 W. Fulton St., Grand Rapids

San Chez is one of those local institutions that has survived and thrived by sticking with what works while innovating new additions. They’re known for tapas served in a jovial atmosphere, with a widely varied menu home to nearly 30 shareable plates, including vegetarian, meat and seafood options—all showcasing the rich, vibrant flavors of Spain.

Max’s South Seas Hideaway
58 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids

Tiki enthusiasts have traveled across the country to visit Max’s, and the moment you step in, you’ll see why. This tropical urban oasis has three bars (one shaped like a ship) across two floors and plenty of dining room seating, all filled to the brim with tiki mugs, artifacts, mid-century art and one giant aquarium. Perhaps more importantly, Max’s serves delicious Polynesian inspired food and a tiki cocktail menu with dozens of offerings. 

230 S. Kalamazoo Mall, Kalamazoo

Here at Revue, we’ve said it time and time again: Principle Food & Drink is a must-visit when in Kalamazoo. The cocktail program is outrageously good, with their bartenders using housemade ingredients to innovate on classic recipes that go back a century. Where else are you going to find “duckfat washed rye” in your glass? The food follows the same path, elegantly elevating classic dishes.

The Southerner
880 Holland St., Saugatuck

If you visit Saugatuck without checking out The Southerner, you have, quite simply, messed up. Appalachian roots come through in a simple, stellar menu of fried chicken, catfish, biscuits and other such comfort food delights. And it’s all right on the Kalamazoo River, so it feels like you’re eating on your grandma’s cottage’s back patio.

Black Napkin
966 E. Fulton St., Grand Rapids

Black Napkin has absolutely taken GR by storm, thanks to sinfully delicious smash burgers and chicken sandwiches with innovative topping combinations and luscious sauces—plus flavor-dusted fries (like Kimchi & White Cheddar). The dining room is tiny and the line regular stretches out onto the sidewalk, but things moves fast, and even if they didn’t, you would never regret waiting. Try the pistachio orange blossom soda, and thank us later.

Cherie Inn
969 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids

This European-style café is everything we want in a breakfast spot. The delightfully cozy yet sophisticated atmosphere is calming, while the smell of eggs, potatoes and coffee is rousing. The menu has everything you could hope for to start your day, plus rotating specials that are always tempting. And the hollandaise? Well, some say it’s the best they’ve had anywhere. It's a special place.


Sarah Suydam  |  When friends visit from out of town, we always catch brunch at SpeakEZ Lounge (I can’t pass up the Casino Royale). I also always find something delicious at Brass Ring Brewing—I’m still dreaming about their Dill Pickle Soup special.

Kelsey Shoemaker  |  Tupelo Honey (super cute cocktails, and obviously fried chicken is always going to make my day), Black Napkin (I dream about their smashburgers lol), Sapporo Ramen & Noodle Bar (solid spot for ramen and they have a lot of great small plates!) and The Old Goat—I seriously can’t stay away from their goat cheese appetizer, even as a lactose intolerant person.

Kelli Belanger  |  For anyone looking for a casual, yet delicious meal made from seasonal farm-to-table ingredients, I recommend Terra in Eastown. Whether you want to dine inside or out, have a group or just want to go out for drinks, Terra has it all. Their brunch menu, which has a nice variety of options, is one of my favorites in the city. My go-to order is the breakfast pizza with their Browned Butter Tea brunch cocktail to drink. Yum!

John Kissane  |  KCM, an unpretentious Japanese-Korean restaurant in downtown Grand Rapids, is selling what’s easily some of the most delicious food in the city. Start with the hire katsu curry and come back for everything else.

Eric Mitts  |  Ever want to escape to Middle Earth? How about eat some of the best pizza you’ve ever tasted and feel like you’re transported to the magical world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbits? Then don’t pass up
Bilbo’s Pizza (3307 Stadium Dr) in Kalamazoo, a favorite of the Western Michigan University community since 1976. With whimsical pizza and sandwich names pulled right from “The Lord of the Rings,” pasta, and the legendary “Pizzookie,” you’ll want to go there and back again.

Zachary Avery  |  The hire katsu at KCM may have earned them an NY Times ‘Best Dishes of 2023’ mention, but their veggie kimbap is phenomenal! A perfectly refreshing, lunch-sized meal to have as you’re cruising around Eastown.

Michaela Stock  |  For those of us who are gluten free, it can be tough to find options on menus other than salad. That’s why I love Uncle Cheetah’s Soup Shop. They offer soups, grilled cheeses and even sides of bread without gluten, making it one of the most delicious dietary-friendly restaurants in West Michigan. 

Allison Kay Bannister  |  It’s impossible to go to Creston Brewery and not get the Nashville hot chicken. I’m not even sure what else is on the menu, TBH. But, just a warning, it’s HOT. Don’t tell anyone, but I usually get the sauce on the side, and it’s still a burner. I always make sure I have We Were Infinite by Creston or Cottonmouth Crusher by Saugatuck Brewing close to wash away the pain. Hurts so good, as they say. 

If you still call Rezervoir Lounge by that other name (rhymes with, ahem, “azerac”), you’re not alone. Old habits die hard. I’m still a diehard fan, no matter what it’s called. I love that they’ve maintained an admirable offering of cajun cuisine, alongside menu standbys like mac & cheese and specialty pizzas. Top picks are the gumbo, Cajun fritters, and Da’ Gov. Oh, and if you’re listening, Rez, please bring back the diablo burger. 

Josh Veal  |  The simplest way I can describe Cafe Mamo is: They truly understand and deeply love food. Substantial thought and care is put into the ingredients they source from the best farms around, the menu they craft every week to let those ingredients shine, and the cozy dining room/kitchen designed to feel like home. Nothing is too much, nothing is too little. It’s real food, exemplified.

As an American, I’m biologically hardwired to crave hot dogs. They’re essential to my mental and physical health—a doctor I found online told me so. One Stop Coney Shop understands my needs, and takes care of them with dogs like the Chippy Dippy, topped with dill chip dip, wavy potato chips and fresh dill. It’s a picnic on a bun! Not to mention the smash burgers, Belgian fries, milkshakes, and insane(ly good) concoctions like the Coney Crunkwrap.