Grand Rapids, MI: A Weekend
Believe it or not, there’s actually quite a bit to do in GR, “Beer City USA,” especially if you like to eat and/or drink. There’s a ton of spots to hit, of different cuisines, genres, and budgets. I could go on and on about breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack spots, but here’s a sample itinerary of a diverse array of spots, the culinary-explorer will be sure to enjoy ~
You just got to GR, checked into your hotel or friend’s house. It may or may not be happy hour, but who really cares because it’s Grand Rapids and you know you’re gonna get beer anyway. Brewery Vivant is one of my favorite breweries in GR. The beer is amazing. The food is amazing. And it’s situated in a used-to-be funeral home. The architecture is spot on and it’s very warm/cozy/medieval without being amusement-parky like hey, we’re Belgian let’s time warp us to Belgium in the 10th century or something.
Like I said, the beer is top-notch and pretty hybrid, actually. Try the Undertaker for something darker and the Farmhand for a light and refreshing beer. Can’t go wrong with a seasonal, either, or, literally any of their food. Brewery Vivant has one of the best burgers EVER. Make sure they give you the aioli and bacon jam to add to it. Also, they cook their meat on the rare side. So, if you like rare, you might want to order medium rare. I still get rare because it’s a burger and burgers deserve to be eaten rare. The duck confit nachos and the bone marrow are also never to be gone wrong. Order them and savor them and devour them and then thank me for that experience - or better yet, thank BV by buying the kitchen a round of beers. You can do this at most breweries.
If you're not into Belgian food, head to City Built. They have a large selection of beer, in addition to mead, cider, and wine. Contrary to most breweries, they have a Puerto Rican style menu that you can't not find something to love. Any and all of the tacos are top notch. Try the Jibarito, melt in your mouth beef sandwiched between to large tostones (smashed, fried plantains).
Breakfast!!! Head over to Maggie’s Kitchen, the best real-life authentic Mexican food outside of Mexico and/or my abuela’s kitchen. I always get the chorizo, papas, y huevos (chorizo, potatoes, and eggs) and it’s served with warm tortillas, beans, and rice. Maggie’s also has the best tostadas - get the chicken ones. If you had a little too much to drink last night or didn’t have anything to drink at all, this is the beeeeeeeeeessstttt cure for anything ailing you in your life - be that alcohol or too much family time. Side note, Maggie is probably my abeula’s age and is usually cooking all day every day. I would be too if my food was that damn good and my name was on the restaurant. Say, “gracias” because she’s a saint and you should always say please and thanks, saint or not.
Maggie’s is across the street from Harmony Hall which is another brewery. Next to tacos, my favorite food is schnitzel and they serve up a good schnitzel sandwich. They also have an amazing German-style pretzel that you can get single-serving or as the size of 5 plates, which can also be single-serving depending on who you ask *cough cough*, ME. Also, they make their sausage in-house. It's wow. THE WEST SIDE IS THE BEST SIDE. Or so they say. But regardless, Bridge Street is booming with amazing food/beer/bookstores/coffeeshops (Sparrows & Annex is great).
2 blocks down is Søvengård, Butcher’s Union, New Holland Brewing, and Ando. I’d say grab a small bite, such as the Sour Beer Fries and Swedish Meatballs from Søvengård along with a beer/cocktail. It’s a Scandinavian-style biergarten that has an amazing outdoor atmosphere in the summer. Hello, shuffleboard. Ando, the sister of Maru, is Asian fusion, including ramen, bibimbop, and sushi. It’s top-notch and has beer on tap.
You could honestly spend all day on Bridge Street.
PENDING what you’re craving come dinner time, I’d say either stick to Bridge Street and head to one of the mentioned spots, grab a “Darker Thank Your Soul” margarita (IT'S A BLACK MARGARITA, FAM) from Luna, OR get a burger, voted Best In America by GQ in 2012, at Stella’s Lounge, the sister to HopCat. Their Chronic Fries are like crack...essentially similar to HopCat's Crack Fries. It’s also a whiskey bar so you can’t go wrong. Did I mention there’s arcade games? Def gotta go. Don’t have an option. There’s also a mural on the Ionia side of the building with a bunch of skulls that I usually *happily* get my photo taken in front of as I gracefully leave Stella’s. DO IT.
So by now you’ve taken your glamour shot in front of Stella’s and won/lost one or twenty games of pinball and it’s time to get your beauty sleep so you’re digestive system can get back to it in a few hours. DO IT.
You awaken realizing GR is not that bad because you’re body and bloodstream is full of amazing cuisines from all over the world and more styles of beer than you’ve had since you were in Europe/dreamt you were in Europe. “Maybe I’d move here…” you think. “I like that Heritage Hill area with the awesome architecture and the Frank Lloyd Wright house.” Me too, me too. If you’re stomach is a little non-alkaline, head over to the Downtown Market, home to lots of food/beverage options, including Malamiah Juice Bar. Get a 2oz wheatgrass shot with added lemon juice. You’ll feel beautiful in no time. Also grab a coffee from Madcap, the coffee roasting company’s second location in GR.
Since you're over here, you might wanna stop across the street at The Craft Beer Cellar. They have racks on racks on racks of craft beer and taps on taps on taps of more craft beer. They also have board games so you can lose 3 times in a row to your engineer-dad and you it's also BYOF (Bring Your Own Food). Order some tacos from Tacos El Cuñado, some BBQ from Slow's, or a pizza, and drink, eat, play, and be happy.
From here, I’ll give you some options before you head home/decide to overstay your welcome on your friends couch for another day.