Allie’s Adventures in Eating: Grand Rapids, Michigan

I’m admittedly pretty excited to share my culinary adventures from a recent trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan, with you. I grew up in Grand Rapids during my formative teen and college years, but my parents still live in the area, so I spent the weekend there recently. I’ve seen the city grow in so many positive ways since I moved away in the late nineties–particularly for those of us who love to eat out.

La Taqueria San Jose

La Taqueria San Jose Tacos

When my friend Sarah posted pictures of tacos from La Taqueria San Jose recently, I knew this would be one stop on the eating tour. The establishment was perfectly divey. I picked two relatively “safe” items off the menu: Al Pastor and Pollo Tacos with Queso Fresco, Cilantro and Onions. I would rate them about a seven out of ten on the tacos scale–the meat didn’t soak all the way through the corn tortillas and wasn’t overly layered with spice, but they nailed the base flavors.

Bell's Hopslam

Bagger Dave's Bacon Cheeseburger

Any time I am back in Michigan, I always drink at least one Bell’s beer–this trip was no exception. I stopped at a burger chain, Bagger Dave’s, as they had Bell’s Hopslam on tap. It should come as no surprise to you that the beer was many times better than the Bacon Cheeseburger I ordered! I’m relatively sure the patties came straight out of the freezer, but the cheek-quenching India Pale Ale was fantastic. Here I was, in Michigan, in late March, sitting outside sipping on a Bell’s. It was a truly wonderful moment.

Reserve

Reserve Popcorn Chicken Hearts

Reserve Charcuterie and Cheese Plate

Reserve Bread, Mustard and Organic Honeycomb

Pommery Mustard

I had an amazing vino and snacks experiences at Reserve–a fantastic recommendation by my friend Justin. I was looking for a wine bar that I could treat my parents to, but in addition to a massive list of wines “on tap”, Reserve offered culinary delights which were right up my alley.

The menu listed an Offal special of the day, but we had to consult our bartender. It turned out the special was IPA Battered Popcorn Chicken Hearts with Celery Root Remoulade. I felt I had to try chicken hearts just once. It took me two very chewy bites to get through one heart–I admit I didn’t eat any more after that. I was proud of my dad for trying one as well, and my mom adored the thyme-laden celery root remoulade, which was much too chunky for any dipping, but great for eating with a fork.

Given my love of dry, white wines, our bartender recommended one of the “Slightly Nerdy” whites, Brokenwood Semillon (Hunter Valley). I ordered a Charcuterie and Cheese plate which paired wonderfully with the wine: Saint Angel Triple Cream Brie, House-made Mortadella, Point Reyes Blue, Benton’s Country Ham, Beemster Aged Gouda. We were pleasantly surprised with the Bread, Organic Honeycomb and Pommery Mustard served with the Charcuterie plate. My nasal passages were instantly cleansed by the accents of horseradish. I called my husband Chris to tell him we must buy this mustard immediately!

In addition to Reserve, another highlight of my weekend was the tasting menu at Grove. Once again, Sarah picked a winner. A group of us got together for a delightful dinner, curated for us by a member of the chef’s team.

Grove

Grove Nicoise Tuna

Grove Seared Scallop

Grove Kimchee with Pork Belly and Littleneck Clam

Grove Trumpet Mushrooms with Cavatelli and Rappini

  1. Tuna Nicoise style
  2. Seared Scallop over Tabouli with Harissa and a Charred Tomato
  3. Kimchee with Creswick Farms Pork Belly and Little Neck Clam
  4. Trumpet Mushroom, House-made Cavatelli, Rappini

All of these dishes were really good, but I would have to rate the kimchee with pork belly & clams the best. It was similar to slurping on a bowl of ramen broth, and the pork belly just melted in my mouth. I also enjoyed the mediterranean flavors surrounding the scallop. The charred tomato added a layer of complexity that I wouldn’t have expected. The only component of these dishes that wasn’t necessarily my fave was the cavatelli–they were uncooked purposely. The crunchy texture was fun, but I’m not sure it elevated the flavor profile in the pasta.

Grove Mackerel

Grove Lamb T-Bone

Grove Ribeye and New York Strip

  1. Grilled Mackerel with a Saffron-Citrus Broth. House-made Gnocchi, Baby Scallops, Broccoli, Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes
  2. S&S Lamb T-Bone with Grilled Asparagus, English Pea and Fava Bean Succotash, Sweet Corn Puree
  3. S&S Ribeye, and Grilled New York Strip with Knefla Mac & Cheese, Sweet Potato Puree, Root Vegetable Risotto, Crispy Kale, Purple Potatoes with Garlic Oil, Rappini with Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins

More & more, I’m becoming an “starters snob”–meaning that main dishes don’t provide the same level of eating enjoyment as starters do for me anymore.  Similar to me, almost our entire group loved the lamb t-bone, but the mackerel and steak dishes fell a little flat. I will say, however, that the crispy kale was amazing! The kale crackled in our mouths with each bite. The corn puree which accompanied the lamb was also tremendous. Well done.

Grove Desserts

The dessert plate consisted of Housemade Vanilla Bean Gelato, Salted Fudge Brioche, House-made Biscuit with Pickled Strawberries and Honey-Miso Gelato.  Can I just post all exclamation points? After having an a great round of starters and an okay round of mains, Grove came back and whomped us with desserts. I am still salivating over the salted fudge brioche! What a great way to end a remarkable dinner with friends.

All in all, I had quite the special trip back to Grand Rapids. I shared many amazing meals with friends and family during my stay, and I found myself bragging to my New York City friends when I returned home. I’m already looking forward to my next trip back as a result. I’m happy to say that my teenage hometown has finally put itself on the map from a culinary perspective!

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2 Responses

  1. Great article Allie (as always). When I lived in France, I lived in the town where the Pommery mustard is made. Love that stuff!

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