Monday, 30 July 2018 12:33

Best of Nightlife & Activities

Written by  Josh Veal
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7 Monks Taproom 7 Monks Taproom COURTESY PHOTO

Ah yes, “Nightlife & Activities,” a good example of how hard it can be to divvy up life into neat little boxes. We’ll freely admit that with 130 categories on our hands, it can be difficult to sort and divide. Still, looking through this relatively small list, you can see the commonalities — bowling, karaoke, movie theater, cocktail lounges, etc. When we’re texting our friends, trying to plan something fun to do on a Friday night, we tend to turn to these categories.

As for the winners, well, you’ll see some commonalities there as well. Founders once again grabs more than a few medals, just as an all-around brewery but also thanks to its killer open-mic night and the much-beloved Founders Fest. Long Road Distillers retains the gold for distillery, which goes hand-in-hand with an award for cocktail lounge.

All in all, the winners here are the established and esteemed luminaries, including Festival of the Arts, Robinette’s, Clique Lanes and more. For something inherently new, we turn to the new breweries, where we see City Built Brewing Co. sitting on the throne.

This Grand Rapids brewery feels like it’s been around much longer than a year, having quickly established itself as a leader in creative beer and unique Puerto Rican food. The North Monroe district is blowing up, and one could argue City Built has a hand in that.

Coming in second, Brass Ring Brewing has caused quite the scene in Grand Rapids’ Alger Heights neighborhood with a focus on community, good food and straightforward, true-to-style beer. It’s a noticeable foil to City Built’s more experimental brewing, which shows there’s room for both on the scene.

And in third place, we have Jolly Pumpkin, which made a name for itself across Michigan long before arriving in Grand Rapids, but the burgeoning Bridge Street makes a natural fit for this brewery focused on sour beer and top-notch pizza.

Annual Festival

  1. Festival of the Arts
  2. ArtPrize
  3. Founders Fest


  1. The Meanwhile Bar
    1005 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids
  2. Apartment Lounge
  3. Logan’s Alley

Beer Bar

  1. HopCat
    25 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
  2. Logan’s Alley
  3. 7 Monks Taproom


  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 Co.


  1. Gun Lake Casino
    1123 129th Ave., Wayland
  2. Firekeepers Casino Hotel
  3. Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort


  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. Long Road Distillers 


  1. Long Road Distillers
    537 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids
  2. Gray Skies Distillery
  3. New Holland Brewing Co.

Happy Hour

  1. Rockwell Republic
    45 S.Division Ave., Grand Rapids
  2. Terra
  3. Billy's Lounge


  1. Kale’s Korner Bar
    511 Bridge St. NW, Grand Rapids
  2. Fulton Street Pub & Grill
  3. Z’s Bar & Restaurant


  1. Arktos Meadery
    251 Century Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
  2. Hideout Brewing Co.
  3. Bardic Wells Meadery

Movie Theater

  1. Celebration! Cinema North
    2121 Celebration Dr. NE, Grand Rapids
  2. AMC Grand Rapids 18
  3. Celebration! Cinema South

New Brewery

  1. City Built Brewing Co.
    820 Monroe Ave. NW #155, Grand Rapids
  2. Brass Ring Brewing Co.
  3. Jolly Pumpkin Pizzeria & Brewery

Night Club

  1. Rumors Nightclub
    69 S. Division Ave., Grand Rapids
  2. Billy’s Lounge
  3. Eve Nightclub

Open-Mic Night

  1. Founders Brewing Co.
    235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
  2. Rockford Brewing Co.
  3. Creston Brewery

Sports Bar

  1. Peppino’s Pizza
    Multiple locations
  2. Uccello’s Ristorante
  3. The Score Restaurant & Sports Bar 


  1. Robinette’s Apple Haus & Winery
    3142 4 Mile Rd. NE, Grand Rapids
  2. Hudsonville Winery
  3. Fenn Valley Vineyards

Staff Picks:


Virtue Cider 2170 62nd St., Fennville
Virtue Cider, tucked away in Fennville, is one of my favorite secret spots. Their traditional style ciders are the equivalent of drinking fine wine. The tasting room, tucked between rows of barrels, features one bar and cozy seating. On a hot day, you can feel the breeze rolling in off the surrounding fields and nearby Lake Michigan. My first sip of Virtue was a surprise. I expected dry, bubbly, rather “sweet” flavors. Instead, each cider tasted like its own varietal mixed with the atmosphere that surrounds the farmhouse. The bourbon barrel-aged Mitten has sweet notes of vanilla and caramel, while Percheron, my personal favorite, features flavors of both the barn and the barrel. The farm’s adorable outdoor seating overlooks the surrounding grounds, which are home to a handful of barn animals. A stop at Virtue Cider during the fall is an absolute West Michigan must. — Kelly Brown


J. Gardella’s Tavern 11 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
At J. Gardella’s happy hour is all day, every day. Seriously. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. until close. Not only are the drinks cheap ($3 wells, craft pints and more), but the whole menu is under $10. Because of the excellent prices, my friends and I usually order a variety of items to munch on while we drink. I have not yet been disappointed. The portions might be snack-sized, but nothing I have tried so far has lacked in quality or presentation. — Abigail Rzepka 


One Well Brewing 4213 Portage St., Kalamazoo
Picking just one brewery in West Michigan to highlight is no simple task. The beer is crucial, obviously — without a certain level of quality, I refuse to step in the door. But beer that’s just OK can be redeemed with a cool taproom, excellent food and killer service. Luckily, One Well in Kalamazoo has it all. The beer is adventurous without overdoing it, walking a tightrope of flavor with brews like Sweet Water Street, brewed with actual donut holes and coffee, or the Root Beer Float Stout, featuring sassafras and sarsaparilla. The food is equally interesting and delicious, with a wide variety of wild paninis, quesadillas, pizza and more. Then there’s the taproom, which is large but cozy and chock-full of board games, arcade games, trivia nights and even a space just for kids. It’s the kind of place you just don’t want to leave. — Josh Veal

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