Monday, 30 July 2018 10:13

Best of Dining

Written by  Jack Raymond
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Maru Sushi Maru Sushi COURTESY OF MARU SUSHI

A lot like summer love, some restaurants are here for a season while others are here for a reason. You know the drill — there are murmurings of a new spot that promises to reshape the culinary landscape as we know it. The hype cycle that engulfs social media weeks before the ribbon cutting. The lines, lines, lines out the door. The accolades, the three cheers for sweet victory, and then … poof. The honeymoon phase pitters out and it’s time to see whether a place will sink or swim beyond those first oohs and ahhs. This year’s list suggests that it’s not so easy to make a huge splash in the face of Grand Rapids’ institutional goliaths — at least not in a region-wide readers’ poll.

As Founders continues to expand and swallow city blocks like a hungry amoeba, it’s going to need to build a bigger awards closet. Scooping up seven nominations this year in the dining category alone, you might start to wonder what kind of mind control agent they’re slipping into All Day IPA. Jokes aside, the patio rules, I drool at the thought of a Devil Dancer sandwich, and the beer-tenders are the friendliest in town. It’s no secret how Founders has secured its seat on the podium. And yet...

Call me contrarian, but I’m a little disheartened to see the underdogs buried under the heel of the big guys again. Slows beats Two Scotts. Anna’s House bests Westsider. Donkey over El Cuñado. But I really shouldn’t complain. What a privilege to be bittered by the abundance of quality eateries our city has. In the end, some hidden gems are bound to fly under the radar. If I could make one suggestion, circle the places on the list you haven’t been to and seek them out first. The Southerner, Schnitz Deli and Jaku Sushi have evaded my tastebuds for too long and I can’t wait to pay them a visit, pronto.

That said, it’s also fun to watch a new guard (or gård) take potshots at the throne. Taking home a few awards apiece, the Søvengård and Butcher’s Union have proven they’re no fluke, anchoring a thriving corridor that continues to sprout great places to eat. But how long can the West Side renaissance last? With Zoko 822 popping up on the best new restaurant list, my money’s on the North Monroe district as the next zone to watch. Who knows though. Maybe the Grandville castle will open some dungeon diner that only serves mutton and grog. Maybe the people will swarm to it in droves.

Maybe.

Ambience

  1. Butcher’s Union
    438 Bridge St. NW, Grand Rapids
  2. Founders Brewing Co.
  3. Brewery Vivant

Bakery

  1. Nantucket Baking Co.
    615 Lyon St. NE, Grand Rapids
  2. Wealthy Street Bakery
  3. Field & Fire

Honorable mention:
Cakabakery

BBQ

  1. Slows Bar BQ
    435 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
  2. Two Scotts Barbecue
  3. Pit Stop

Breakfast

  1. Anna’s House
    Multiple locations - annashouseus.com
  2. Wolfgang’s
  3. Real Food Cafe

Honorable mention:
Westsider Cafe

Brunch

  1. Terra
    1429 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids
  2. San Chez
  3. SpeakEZ Lounge

Burgers

  1. Stella’s Lounge
    53 Commerce Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
  2. Brewery Vivant
  3. (Tie) Bridge Street Burger Shack
    (Tie) Cottage Bar 

Chili

  1. Founders Brewing Co.
    235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
  2. Cottage Bar
  3. Rockford Brewing Co.

Chinese

  1. First Wok
    Multiple locations - firstwokgr.com
  2. Ming Ten
  3. Beijing Kitchen

Coffee

  1. Madcap Coffee Co.
    Multiple locations, Grand Rapids
  2. Biggby Coffee
  3. Rowster Coffee

Food Truck

  1. What the Truck
    facebook.com/whatthetruckgr
  2. Patty Matters
  3. Two Scotts Barbecue

Fried Chicken

  1. Cousins Tasty Chicken
    1209 Leonard St. NE, Grand Rapids
  2. The Southerner
  3. (Tie) Cedar Springs Brewing Co.
    (Tie) New York Fried Chicken

Ice Cream/Frozen Treats

  1. Furniture City Creamery
    958 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids
  2. Love’s Ice Cream
  3. Spoonlickers 

Desserts (from a restaurant)

  1. Brewery Vivant
    925 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids
  2. Marie Catrib’s
  3. San Chez A Tapas Bistro

Diner (greasy spoon)

  1. Grand Coney
    Multiple locations - thegrandconey.com
  2. Matchbox Diner & Drinks
  3. Real Food Cafe

Farm to Table

  1. Terra
    1429 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids
  2. Grove
  3. The Green Well Gastro Pub

Indian

  1. Bombay Cuisine
    1420 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids
  2. Curry Kitchen
  3. Palace of India

Italian

  1. Amore Trattoria Italiana
    5080 Alpine Ave. NW, Comstock Park
  2. Osteria Rossa
  3. Vitale’s Pizza 

Lunch

  1. Founders Brewing Co.
    235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
  2. Marie Catrib’s
  3. Rockford Brewing Co.

Mediterranean Cuisine

  1. Sheshco Mediterranean Grill
    2121 Celebration Dr. NE #700, Grand Rapids
  2. Gita Pita
  3. Le Kabob

Mexican

  1. Donkey Taqueria
    665 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapid
  2. Tacos El Cuñado
  3. Lindo Mexico Restaurante Mexican

Middle Eastern Cuisine

  1. Sheshco Mediterranean Grill
    2121 Celebration Dr. NE #700, Grand Rapids
  2. Shiraz Grille
  3. Le Kabob

Most Innovative Cuisine

  1. The Sovengard
    443 Bridge St. NW Suite 1, Grand Rapids
  2. Grove
  3. Rockford Brewing Co. 

New Restaurant

  1. Georgina’s
    724 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids
  2. (Tie) New Hotel Mertens
    (Tie) Zoko 822
  3. Westside Social

Patio

  1. Founders Brewing Co.
    235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
  2. Rockwell Republic
  3. The Sovengard

Pizza

  1. Harmony Brewing Co. (Eastown)
    1551 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids
  2. The Mitten Brewing Co.
  3. Brick Road Pizza Co.

Sandwich/Deli

  1. Schnitz Deli
    1315 Fulton St. E, Grand Rapids
  2. Two Beards Deli
  3. Cherry Deli & Catering

Seafood

  1. Leo’s Restaurant
    60 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
  2. Fish Lads
  3. Maru Sushi & Grill

Service

  1. Founders Brewing Co.
    235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
  2. Brewery Vivant
  3. Cedar Springs Brewing Co. 

Soup

  1. Uncle Cheetah’s Soup Shop
    1133 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids
  2. The Electric Cheetah
  3. Founders Brewing Co.

Steak

  1. The Chop House Grand Rapids
    190 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
  2. Butcher’s Union
  3. Judson’s Steakhouse

Sushi

  1. Maru Sushi & Grill
    927 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids
  2. Jaku Sushi & Grill
  3. Ju Sushi & Lounge

Thai

  1. Bangkok Taste Cuisine
    15 Jefferson Ave. SE, Grand Rapids
  2. Erb Thai
  3. Thai Fusion

Vegan Menu

  1. Marie Catrib’s
    1001-1003 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids
  2. Brick Road Pizza Co.
  3. Stella’s Lounge

Vegetarian Menu

  1. Marie Catrib’s
    1001-1003 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids
  2. Brick Road Pizza Co.
  3. SpeakEZ Lounge

Wine List

  1. Reserve Wine & Food
    201 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
  2. Bistro Bella Vita
  3. Divani

Wings

  1. Wing Doozy
    3916 Plainfield Ave. NE, Grand Rapids
  2. Rockford Brewing Co.
  3. Founders Brewing Co.

Staff Picks:

BRUNCH

Little Bird
95 Monroe Center St. NW, Grand Rapids
This year, the team behind That Early Bird welcomed another member to the flock. With Little Bird, all signs point to another feather in the cap. The espressos reanimate, the ambience stimulates, but it was the French-style omelette I had that truly inspired. Simple, custardy and unmistakably eggy, I’ve spent hours watching YouTube videos trying to understand how I can recreate something in its image. I give up. I’d rather enjoy this perfect brunch as it’s meant to be, hassle-free with good company and a bitching cortado to boot. — Jack Raymond

 

PIZZA

Jolly Pumpkin Pizzeria & Brewery
428 Bridge St. NW, Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids has finally been blessed with a Jolly Pumpkin, the O.G. of sour beer and pizza haven. Offering eight different pizzas in its fast-casual environment, Jolly Pumpkin’s pizzas come out of the kitchen on a conveyor belt. Made with locally sourced ingredients, these pizzas are sure to win over your heart. Everyone from meat lovers to vegans are destined to find something that makes the taste buds scream in delight. My choice? Two words: truffle oil. Usually only on the Truffled Mushroom, adding it to any pizza takes the pie from “Level 10: Amazing” to “Out of This World, Can’t Fit It On a Scale” good. Trust me on this one. — Hanna Price

 

COFFEE

The Sparrows Coffee & Tea & Newsstand
1035 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids
With big windows that jut out onto Wealthy Street and a unique variety of drinks, The Sparrows Coffee & Tea & Newsstand is an Eastown favorite. Stocked with loose-leaf tea, excellent coffee and tons of reading material, you’ll stay well-caffeinated while catching up on all of the latest indie publications and zines. Sparrows is a perfect spot to meet with a friend, get some work done, or learn something new. — Michaela Stock

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