An authentic, wallet-friendly Mexican restaurant, Donkey Taqueria is housed in a converted 1920s service station on Grand Rapids’ Wealthy Street. Opened by restauranteur Paul Lee in 2013, Donkey grew out of Lee’s food truck business. Everything from the salsa verde to the guacamole is prepared on-site by chef Craig Svozil and his team. Bright patterns decorate the walls and a bartenders serve cocktails behind a long bar as diners choose between the array of tacos, chili and sandwiches on offer. Donkey’s special guacamole is a must-try, as are their churros (traditional Mexican fried doughnuts served with chocolate sauce) and flavoured margaritas.
Sandy Point Beach House
Sandy Point is up near West Olive, with beautiful views of the beach, and decor that’s somewhere between a beach house and an upmarket brasserie. The rotating menu takes its lead from whatever’s fresh at the market, with an emphasis on seafood caught in the nearby lakes. Scallops, mussels and tuna tacos come highly recommended, while burgers are a delicious non-seafood alternative, with patty toppings including brie and onion marmalade. There’s outdoor dining for good weather, while inside white-painted wooden walls and paintings of Michigan’s landscapes complete the cosy beach house atmosphere.
Phil’s Bar and Grille
Phil’s Bar and Grille, a drive outside Grand Rapids near Kalamazoo lake, serves a great martini and a mean roasted chicken. The chefs serve seafood, grills and salads and specialise in twists on the everyday classics, like lamb lollipops with pomegranate and risotto or grilled ham and cheese on special pretzel bread. If you book in advance, the staff will put your name on the cinema-style marquee out front, and every meal comes with a free cup of animal crackers for dessert.
Reserve Wine & Food
This cheery winebar and restaurant, with its elegant stone exterior, red chairs and extensive wine list, is the perfect place for a long dinner with friends. The recipes and produce are seasonal and local, and the staff are experts in choosing the best food and wine to suit your palate. Menus are carefully chosen to complement the wine, so you’re guaranteed a pitch-perfect taste experience here. The in-house charcutier ensures that every cut is perfectly chosen and cooked. Try the chicken and dumplings or steak if you’re a meat-lover. Pastas and quiche are also on the menu for a lighter bite, and the cheese board for afters is not to be missed.
Cygnus 27, the upmarket restaurant perched on the top floor of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, offers high-end, delicious food and the best views over the city. The food, prepared by chef Werner Absenge, is American with global influences, while the decor is inspired by the Cygnus constellation, the Grand Rapids skyline and restaurant’s world menu, with Turkish rugs and modernist lighting that create an eclectic mixture of design styles. The food is served in small plates, so you can have a single dish with a drink or three for a hearty meal. A favourite is the shrimp and scallop brochette, grilled shrimp and scallops on a skewer served on black pasta with vegetables.
GQ Magazine has declared Stella’s burgers as the best in the United States, and the restarant is an unmissable stop if you’re in the area. The walls are decorated with colourful murals and the laid-back bar atmosphere (their motto is ‘strong drinks, cheap beer, loud music’) belies the serious culinary talent on offer. The burgers themselves are huge, and stuffed with cheese, accompanied with onion rings and salad. There’s Stella’s famous quarter pound of beef, speared with a steak knife so the towering stack doesn’t topple over. Elsewhere on the menu, there’s bacon popcorn, nachos, tacos, and steak sandwiches, if you’ve got room left after your burger, that is.
This quaint cafe with its romantic vintage decor is famous for its breakfasts, but serves excellent fare throughout the day. French classics like croissants, French toast and eggs Benedict are on the menu alongside authentic Michigan crab cakes, pancakes and hash browns. Situated in the business district, the Cherie Inn is also Grand Rapids’ oldest restaurant, and has been open since 1924. It hasn’t changed much since then, and retains authentic tin ceilings, artwork and Stickley furniture. Expect great service, fresh flowers and a cosy atmosphere. Get down there early, as queues often form at breakfast and lunch times.
Amore Trattoria Italiana
Amore Trattoria Italiana is generally thought of as the best Italian in West Michigan. Head chef and owner Jenna Arcidiacono, known to customers and staff alike as Chef Jenna, won Grand Rapids’ Chef of the Year award in 2014 and her cooking is no disappointment. Fresh local fish and meats are combined with Italian seasonings to produce menu highlights like the lobster pasta or the Mangia Fuoco salami and sausage pizza. Imported Italian cheeses and handmade pasta complete the picture, and guests should look no further for the best in Italian home cooking. The atmosphere is cosy, with regular live music during the week and friendly staff.
Grove sources everything from its berries to its maple syrup from environmentally friendly local providers, and the menu changes accordingly. Clams, crab, pork and lamb make up the backbone of their menu, with local cheeses, beans and vegetables determining the accompaniments from day to day. The restaurant itself is low-lit, with a dedicated cocktail and drinks bar (try their special-recipe Moonraker cocktail) and striped booths in the restaurant’s signature browns and greens. Grove defines itself as part of Michigan’s ‘farm to fork’ restaurant tradition, but ‘farm to fine dining’ would be a better description, as their original recipes and flavour combinations make them a stand-out choice.
Bartertown Diner serves all-American diner food, but not as you know it. Here, all the meals are vegan or vegetarian, and the sandwiches and curries are stuffed with chickpeas, beans and other healthy ingredients. Their pun-filled menu is a delight to read as well as eat from. The Pretzeldential sandwich and Michigander black bean burger are worth ordering as much for their names as their flavour. Authentic booths and chequerboard flooring complete the atmosphere. The diner aims to promote fresh, local ingredients, and is co-owned by its workers, so is the perfect place for a guilt-free diner meal.