The best is all right here

These are a few of your favorite things
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Photo by Stacy Feyer-Salo

Each year, Grand Rapids Magazine readers get to declare the Best Of Grand Rapids winners. Readers then get to add a long directory of people, places, and things to eat and drink to their see-and-do list, courtesy of suggestions from people with similar interests.

The past year was still a strange time, still a difficult go for many businesses because of effects from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the poll’s 19th year, these people and businesses stood out to West Michigan residents, so check out the winners in more than 100 categories and let us know your thoughts on social media, using #bestofgr.

Appetizers

  • San Chez

Runner up: Rockwell Republic

In the early 1990s, Spanish tapas were all the rage.

So, when San Chez, a Tapas Bistro opened in late 1992 — when downtown Grand Rapids was but a glimmer in the eyes of those who made it what it is today — West Michigan patrons loved it.

They still love it.

Tapas are meant to be shared, and the menu at San Chez can read like a big selection of appetizers, which helps explain why readers voted it Best Appetizers in Grand Rapids.

While the appetizer-esque menu is a hit for dinner, the 2004 addition of San Chez Café allows the restaurant to offer more substantial breakfast, brunch and lunch options, as well.

The Spanish tapas menu has something for almost everyone, from meats, cheeses and breads to a full lineup of vegetarian items and plenty of seafood selections. For a nice hearty meal in the same Spanish style, go for paella, which can take a bit longer to prepare than other menu items but is well worth the wait.

While San Chez offers perhaps the best appetizers in Grand Rapids, the eatery is capable of creating an ample meal for dinner customers.

Photo by Stacy Feyer-Salo

Bakery

  • Nantucket Baking Co.

Runner up: Field & Fire

Walk into Nantucket Baking Company’s Lyon Street storefront and prepare for a sensory overload that will baffle the decision-making process.

From a hearty loaf of sourdough to a delicate pastry, the bakers at Nantucket have figured out what Grand Radians like out of an oven.

Regular customers are sure to have their favorites, but here’s a quick guide for a first-time visitor. Start with the bread selection:

  • Polish rye
  • Challah
  • San Francisco sourdough
  • Six-grain
  • Garlic parmesan
  • Brioche

Nantucket also recently opened a new facility on Fuller Street NE to help keep the fresh supply of baked items flowing in West Michigan.

The bakery also supplies plenty of other Grand Rapids Best Of honorees with its baked goods, including Founders Brewing, Mitten Brewing Co. and Two Scotts BBQ.

Bar/Pub

  • Stella’s Lounge

Runner up: O’Toole’s Public House

With old-school arcade games, more than 250 kinds of whiskey, and giant stuffed burgers voted the Best Burger in America by GQ in 2012, Stella’s Lounge has a lively yet easygoing atmosphere like no other.

Photo by Stacy Feyer-Salo

BBQ

  • Two Scotts Barbecue

Runner up: Daddy Pete’s BBQ

While the two Scotts behind Two Scotts Barbecue describe themselves as regular guys, their barbecue skills are anything but.

When Scott Hartmann and Scott Leucht were setting up shop in an old root beer stand at 536 Leonard St. NW, they wanted to make sure Grand Rapids had a barbecue restaurant that could hang with the joints they visited in travels across the country.

The meats are well worth the wait that sometimes accompanies a visit to Two Scotts, and those delectable meats the reason the restaurant was voted Best Barbecue in Grand Rapids.

From the delicious chicken and full racks of ribs to melt-in-your-mouth brisket and the piled-high sandwiches, Two Scotts is a place to satisfy those carnivorous cravings.

Beer & Wine Store

  • Martha’s Vineyard

Runner up: Rishi’s International Beverage

From its collection of international and local craft beers and wide selection of global wines to its custom deli trays and cut-to-order cheeses, Martha’s Vineyard is Grand Rapids’ best beer & wine store and specialty grocer for a number of reasons, all of which you’ll enjoy.

Bloody Mary

  • Rockwell Republic

Runner up: Sundance Grill & Bar

A lively gastropub located in the Heartside district of Grand Rapids, Rockwell Republic offers a casual yet energetic environment alongside a menu filled with a variety of seasonal, handcrafted cuisine.

Breakfast

  • Anna’s House

Runner up: Real Food Cafe

Since 2002, Anna’s House has provided West Michigan with a bright, homey atmosphere and an extensive breakfast and brunch menu that fits a variety of dietary lifestyles. The hand-painted murals, high-quality service, and fresh, local dishes create a retro diner experience everyone can enjoy.

Brewery

  • Founders Brewing

Runner up: Mitten Brewing

As one of the largest craft breweries in the country, Founders has been a staple in Grand Rapids for over two decades. Founders offers one-of-kind beers and a deli menu full of classic shareable plates, sandwiches, and pizzas.

Brunch

  • Morning Belle

Runner up: Michigan Drag Brunch

Morning Belle creates a vibrant, friendly atmosphere with a brunch menu full of fresh dishes for any palate. With one location on the East Beltline and another on Bridge Street, both Morning Belle eateries serve as an excellent brunch setting for everyone.

Burger

  • Stella’s Lounge

Runner up: Noco Provisions

Burrito

  • Beltline Bar

Runner up: Cantina Mexican Grill

Since 1953, Beltline Bar has served Grand Rapids with an extensive Tex-Mex menu, including its signature, award-winning wet burrito. While it has expanded and evolved throughout the years, Beltline Bar continues to use original recipes from 1966 and provide the best burritos in Grand Rapids.

Butcher Shop

  • Sobie Meats

Runner up: Louise Earl Butcher

Since opening in 2004, Sobie Meats has become famous for its ready-to-serve pulled-pork, friendliness to patrons, and endearing slogan: “Home of the Free Butt Rub,” in honor of its signature rub for smoked pork butts.

Caterer

  • Martha’s Catering

Runner up: Kangaroo Kitchen

After years of public clamor, Martha’s Vineyard began offering catering services a little over 15 years ago and opened Martha’s Catering. That proved to be a wise move. Martha’s Catering strives to create memorable weddings, corporate and social events for all customers with its talented team of chefs and event planners.

Chef

  • Chef Jenna Arcidiacono, Amore

Runners up: Kevin VanderMeer, KJ Catering; Oscar Moreno, MeXo

Award-winning chef Jenna Arcidiacono opened Amore Trattoria in 2010, serving Italian cuisine that combines both her diverse culinary experiences with her mother-in-law’s old familial recipes. Chef Jenna creates remarkable dining experiences with her passion for food, charisma and hard work.

Coffeehouse

  • Madcap

Runner up: Sparrows Coffee & Tea

The creative and highly skilled team of coffee-bean growers and baristas at Madcap Coffee Company have provided coffee-lovers in Grand Rapids and Detroit with high-quality coffee and a lively, welcoming atmosphere since 2008.

Craft Cocktails

  • Long Road Distillers
  • Runner up: Eastern Kille

Along with the world-class spirits made at the distillery, Long Road Distillers’ cocktail program also creates drinks that tickle tastebuds. Beyond the bartenders whipping up cocktails at the bar, Long Road also packages some of its more popular cocktails for at-home enjoyment.

Cupcakes

  • The Salted Cupcake

Runner up: Cakabakery

The Salted Cupcake serves a variety of delicious, creative cupcakes baked fresh each day, with classic cupcakes flavors served daily and additional flavors that change weekly. From walk-in orders and online ordering to wedding catering and a rentable cupcake truck, The Salted Cupcake provides dessert for anyone and any occasion.

Date Night Restaurant

  • Butcher’s Union

Runner up: MDRD

Butcher’s Union has served an extensive and diverse selection of food, cocktails and whiskey since 2017. Butcher’s Union is passionate about serving locally sourced ingredients, being a positive influence in the community, and creating a welcoming and intimate atmosphere for guests.

Dessert

  • Leo’s

Runner up: MDRD

Since 2004, Leo’s Seafood Restaurant and Bar has provided guests with a sophisticated dining experience in the heart of Grand Rapids through exquisite seafood cuisine, an elegant dining room and a more laid-back (yet vibrant) bar and lounge area.

Diner

  • Real Food Café

Runner up: Royals

Since the first location opened in 2000, and the second in 2006, Real Food Café has offered guests an inviting and cozy environment for breakfast and lunch, serving a wide-ranging menu of fresh, handcrafted, classic diner dishes.

Distillery

  • Long Road Distillers

Runner up: Eastern Kille

Doughnuts

  • Marge’s Donut Den

Runner up: Sandy’s Donuts

From the wide range of doughnuts and cookies to custom cakes and cupcakes for any special occasion, Marge’s Donut Den has offered fresh, high-quality baked goods and a warm, welcoming environment for all customers since 1975.

Food Truck

  • Patty Matters

Runners up: Two Bones BBQ, What the Truck, Pizza Parliament

Serving a variety of creative, gourmet burgers and sides, Patty Matters travels all over the state and is the first food truck in West Michigan to operate year-round, specializing in large events while being available for private events as well.

French Fries

  • HopCat

Runner up: Stella’s Lounge

In 2008, the original HopCat location opened in Grand Rapids, offering a unique food and beverage menu and an environment that varies between its nine locations throughout the Midwest. HopCat’s famous fries were voted one of the top 10 French fries in America by Food Network Magazine.

Froyo Shop

  • The Pump House

Runner up: Sweet Yo’s

With more than a dozen ever-changing flavors of custard, yogurt, sorbet and gelato and what feels like endless toppings, The Pump House provides do-it-yourself dessert at four different locations in a bubbly, casual atmosphere.

Hangover Food

  • Grand Coney

Runner up: Wolfgang’s Restaurant

Grand Coney Diner serves classic diner dishes and creates an enjoyable, laid-back environment for all. Grand Coney has two locations in West Michigan, one in Allendale and one in Grand Rapids, with the latter open 24 hours a day on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. A perfect schedule for those hangover blues!

Happy Hour

  • Rockwell Republic

Runner up: Queen’s O’Clock

Hard Cider

  • Vander Mill

Runner up: Farmhaus Cider

Since its humble beginnings in 2006, Vander Mill has become one of the biggest cider makers in the Midwest. Along with the significant cider operation that has grown with demand and cultivating a great supply of heritage apples, its taproom offers up a fine selection of food.

Hot Dog

  • Yesterdog

Runner up: Mad Dogz

A Grand Rapids favorite since 1976, Yesterdog provides both classic and creative hot dogs in a lively and unique environment filled with vintage posters, pictures with celebrity icons and sports memorabilia.

Ice Cream Parlor

  • Jersey Junction

Runner up: Frosty Boy

Established in 1963, Jersey Junction is an old-fashioned ice cream parlor in East Grand Rapids that offers a wide range of Hudsonville Ice Cream. From the school benches covered in customer signatures to the model Polar Express that wraps around the shop, Jersey Junction creates a nostalgic, welcoming atmosphere for all.

Late Night Drinks & Dining

  • Stella’s Lounge

Runner up: Z’s Bar & Restaurant

Mac & Cheese

  • Electric Cheetah

Runner up: HopCat

In The Electric Cheetah’s vibrant and unique atmosphere, it serves a menu packed with innovative, made from scratch, savory dishes and a variety of drinks, including its famous draft root beer.

Mediterranean

  • Sheshco Mediterranean Grill

Runner up: Zeytin Turkish Restaurant

Since opening its doors in 2012, Sheshco Mediterranean Grill has provided a wide-ranging menu of traditional Mediterranean dishes made fresh daily and fosters a family-friendly, inviting setting for all guests.

Outdoor/Deck

  • Rose’s

Runner up: The Score

Opened in 1992 and sitting on the shore of Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids, Rose’s serves a combination of Italian, American and Mediterranean cuisine and provides a stunning, serene view of the lake from its four-season deck.

Pizza

  • Mitten Brewing
  • Runner up: Harmony Brewing

Mitten Brewing Company is a microbrewery and pizzeria with an old-fashioned baseball theme, serving a variety of specialty pizzas and hand-crafted beers in the restored Engine House No. 9 since 2012. The beers and pizzas are both award-winning.

Restaurant Service

  • Amore

Runners up: The Chop House, Leo’s

Rooftop Dining

  • Mertens Prime

Runner up: Knoop

Mertens Prime, located in a renovated hotel that was built in 1914, provides French cuisine in a historic, elegant dining room, as well as a remarkably stunning view of the Grand Rapids skyline on the Mertens Rooftop.

Sandwich

  • Schnitz Deli

Runner up: Two Beards Deli

Offering an extensive selection of classic deli sandwiches made from locally sourced ingredients, the world-famous Schnitz Deli has been a staple in Grand Rapids for decades, providing something good for all tastes.

Seafood

  • Leo’s

Runner up: Fishlad’s

Sports Bar

  • Uccello’s

Runner up: The Score

Faro Uccello opened the first Uccello’s Ristorante Pizzeria & Sports Lounge in 1996. Now there are six Uccello’s locations across West Michigan, each serving a mixture of classic Italian dishes and bar food in a casual setting.

Steak

  • The Chop House

Runner up: Ruth’s Chris

Photo by Stacy Feyer-Salo

Steaks are tricky.

While a slab of meet is perfectly tasty after a stint on the grill, there are few ways to get more out of that perfect cut of beef.

Andrew Verburg, chef at The Chop House, takes us through a few easy ways to amp up a steak.

No. 1: We do aggressive seasoning. I’ve noticed cooking with family or people who are not too accustomed to cooking, they don’t use as much salt. We use an abundance of salt (and) a little black pepper. That’s it, just keep it clean and highlight the flavor of the meat.

No. 2: The equipment we use here, we keep very hot. A really good sear is key to ensuring a really flavorful steak.

No. 3: We like to temper the meat for an hour. What we do is bring it up to about 60 degrees and then we put it on the grill or broiler. I think tempering the steak is more important than the rest.

No. 4: Getting a good instant read thermometer is an incredibly useful tool. Whenever I train a new broil cook, I make them use it on every steak to get that touch and feel of a steak. They like to do that hand thing, but that really only works on filets or certain sirloins. Every meat is different, different toughness and fibers. A good instant read will not lie to you.

No. 4.5: I always go for a good Napa cab if I’m having steak. I really like a nice, melted cheese and a little bit of sauce. That’s what I go for. We have a number of sauces, too many for this space.

Sushi

  • Maru

Runner up: Ju Sushi & Lounge

Founded in Okemos in 2009, Maru Sushi & Grill offers a variety of sushi dishes made with the freshest fish and vegetables, made-from-scratch sauces, and premium sushi rice from California in six different locations across the state of Michigan.

Photo by Stacy Feyer-Salo

Tacos

  • Donkey Taqueria

Runner up: Tacos El Cuñado

Donkey has provided Grand Rapids with authentic Mexican dishes and beverages made with the freshest ingredients since opening its doors in 2009. From dining-in to catering events, Donkey creates a lively and entertaining atmosphere for all guests.

Vegan/Veggie Burger

  • Stella’s Lounge

Runner up: Anna’s House

Vegan/Veggie Menu

  • Brick Road Pizza Co.

The family-owned and operated Brick Road Pizza Co. offers an extensive menu full of pizzas, sandwiches, and pasta made with locally sourced ingredients, along with a large selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes as well.

  • Gaia

As Grand Rapids’ first and only vegetarian restaurant, Gaia offers a complete and diverse menu of vegetarian dishes while providing a tranquil, classic cafe setting where guests can enjoy a meal and share various forms of art.

Runner up: San Chez

Wine Bar

  • Reserve

Runners up: Copper’s Hawk, House of Wine

The 2017 Grand Rapids Magazine Restaurant of the Year, Reserve prides itself on an impressive wine list. The restaurant has been recognized by Wine Spectator multiple times since 2012, showing West Michigan diners the curation is on point.

Annual Festival

  • ArtPrize

Runner up: Festival of the Arts

Since it first began in 2009, the open art competition has featured artists from all over the world and their various forms of art. For 18 days, the art is displayed throughout Grand Rapids, inviting visitors from near and far to view and discuss the various pieces.

Female TV Personality

  • Ellen Bacca

Runners up: Deanna Falzone, Terri DeBoer

Golf Course

  • Thousand Oaks Golf Club

Runners up: Saskatoon Golf Club, The Golf Club at Thornapple Pointe

Rated a “4 ½ stars Places to Play” by Golf Digest, Thousand Oaks Golf Club provides a challenging and one-of-a-kind golfing experience on its four stunning courses, all offering a peaceful and enjoyable golfing environment for all skill levels.

GR-based Band/Musician

  • Brena

Runner up: Desmond Jones

Touting themselves as West Michigan’s premier party band, Brena’s six members can trot out a wide range of instruments and play pretty much anything to keep parties flowing. Along with rocking out, Brena also offers a string quartet and DJ services.

Photo by Bryan Esler

Hike/Bike Trail

  • Fred Meijer White Pine Trail

Runner up: Kent Trails

The Fred Meijer White Pine Trail offers a 92-mile stretch of uninterrupted trail for West Michiganders to explore.

That awesome length helped it secure the best trail position by readers. Its size and the natural beauty found throughout the path also helped the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail achieve state park status.

A “rail trail,” the White Pine Trail was once the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, but converted to the path. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources eventually took control of the railroad land and started converting the rail beds to trails for the public.

For much of the 92-mile section between Comstock Park and Cadillac, the trail is a combination of natural and hard-packed gravel and paved asphalt.

From biking and running in the summer to cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the winter, the trail is a fantastic refuge for active residents.

The trail has waypoints throughout, offering parking and restrooms, but part of the joy is also venturing throughout the communities the trail passes through, including Rockford, Cedar Springs, Big Rapids and Sand Lake.

Improv Group

  • River City Improv

Runner up: Pop Scholars

Since 1993, River City Improv has kept the laughs coming. With the art of improv more widely known now than when it started, the company has started to thrive more than ever. They don’t stick to West Michigan, either, as the troop has performed across the country.

Karaoke Bar

  • Z’s Bar & Restaurant

Runners up: Fulton Street Pub, Playstation Pub

Established in 1987, Z’s Bar & Restaurant provides a classic American bar atmosphere with a food and beverage menu full of pub favorites and entertainment in the form of Trivia night on Mondays, and live karaoke every Tuesday through Thursday night. Measure your vocal chops against Grand Rapids’ finest!

Live Music Venue

  • GLC Live at 20 Monroe

Runner up: The Intersection

Established in 2017, GLC Live at 20 Monroe hosts a variety of live entertainment, music and other special events. The venue can hold over 2,500 people but has the unique ability to make nearly any event feel intimate, with most events being general admission and reserved balcony seating.

Local DJ

  • Tony Gates

Runner up: Adrian Butler

Tony Gates has been with WLAV for 36 years and he’s kept mornings fresh for thousands of commuters every day. Gates and his crew do their best to keep the infectious laughter flowing out of the speakers.

What is the best part about hosting a morning radio show in Grand Rapids? 

I’m a morning person. The best part of hosting a morning radio show is helping the non-morning people get up and get going. The morning people are up, but a lot of them don’t like their jobs or the people they work for or with, so we like to help them, too. When people tell me we made them smile, or better yet laugh, that’s a win for me. We go good with cereal.

What is your favorite concert you’ve attended?

Two of the most memorable in my life: Stevie Ray Vaughn’s last show ever at Alpine Valley. He was clean and sober and surrounded by friends for his encore, including Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy.

No. 1 for me came at the intimate Park West in Chicago when I was hired by Clive Davis and Arista Records and invited to a private showcase for one of the label’s young new voices three months prior to her debut release. Ladies and gentlemen: Whitney Houston.

Local Music Series

  • Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Runner up: WLAV Blues on the Mall, Listening Lawn

Since 1995, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park has provided guests with one of the best botanical and sculpture experiences in the nation. From self-guided tours to wedding ceremonies and their summer concert series, Frederik Meijer Gardens promotes a remarkable appreciation for various art forms and the natural environment. The annual summer concert series draws well-known acts from around the country.

Local Radio Show

  • Free Beer and Hot Wings

Runner up: Gray and Green Show

A longtime syndicated radio show out of Grand Rapids, the Free Beer and Hot Wings Show has plenty of Americans laughing every morning on their way to work. It’s not all about entertainment, either;, each winter they “break into” homes of families in need to provide holiday cheer.

Local Visual Artist

  • Michael Pfleghaar

Runner up: Kristin Zuller

Male TV Personality

  • Bill Steffen

Runner up: Mike Avery

Bill Steffen is a stalwart of local media. Steffen has informed West Michiganders about the weather since 1974. He stepped aside to become chief meteorologist emeritus at WOOD TV 8 in summer of 2021, but his mustachioed smile still frequents local TV screens.

Meteorologist

  • Bill Steffen

Runner up: Ellen Bacca

Museum

  • Grand Rapids Public Museum

Runner up: Grand Rapids Art Museum

Founded in 1854, the Grand Rapids Public Museum is the oldest museum in Michigan and provides a vast collection of artifacts and various temporary exhibits. GRPM aims to provide knowledge of and inspire visitors with the stories told through the artifacts and exhibits displayed.

Orchard

  • Robinette’s Applehaus & Winery

Runner up: Ed Dunneback & Girls Farm

Originally established as a peach farm in 1911, Robinette’s opened the Applehaus & Winery in 1973 and has been a Grand Rapids favorite since. Open year-round with activities and events for each season, Robinette’s Applehaus & Winery offers a one-of-a-kind experience and delicious, homegrown produce and baked goods.

Park

  • Millenium Park

Runner up: Riverside Park

Expanding across four West Michigan cities, 1,400 acres of land, and six miles of shore on the Grand River, Millennium Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States with amenities including nearly 18 miles of trails, a 6-acre beach, splash pad and boat rental.

Performing Arts Organization

  • Grand Rapids Symphony

Runner up: Civic Theatre

Since 1930, the Grand Rapids Symphony has kept the city entertained with an eclectic array of music. Each year, the symphony presents more than 400 shows and helps reach thousands of students with its music.

Place To Go Dance

  • Mojo’s

Runner up: The B.O.B.

Mojo’s claims to be one of Grand Rapids’ most dynamic nightlife options, and with its dueling piano attraction, it might be hard to dispute that. Dancers at Mojo’s can request songs from the pianists, which keeps the evening (and dancers) moving.

Professional Sports Team

  • West Michigan Whitecaps

Runner up: Grand Rapids Griffins

Founded in 1994, the West Michigan Whitecaps are the longest-tenured sports team in West Michigan. Since its inception, the baseball team has won six Midwest League titles and sent dozens of players to the Major Leagues.

Rock Climbing Gym

  • Terra Firma Bouldering Co.

Runner up: Higher Ground Rock Climbing Centre

The Terra Firma Bouldering Co. creates a challenging and fun environment for climbers of any skill level with its 12,000-square-foot facility and 6,000 square feet of climbing terrain along with the help of a team made up of passionate, experienced climbers.

Tourist Attraction

  • Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Runners up: John Ball Zoo, ArtPrize

TV Station

  • WOOD TV 8

Runners up: FOX 17

The NBC affiliate has served West Michigan since 1949 — it was the first Michigan TV station outside Detroit. Its anchors have been trusted faces in Grand Rapids for decades, including a sweep this year with Best Male TV Personality, Best Female TV Personality and Best Meteorologist among Best Of GR voters.

Wedding Venue

  • Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Runner up: Cheney Place

Antiques

  • Pinky’s Place

Runner up: Wallie’s Treasures Antique Mall

Photo by Bryan Esler

Pinky’s Place slipped into several categories of the Best Of poll this year.

Perhaps that’s because at Pinky’s Place, there’s a little bit of everything. Open daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Pinky’s Place, 4790 Alpine Ave. NW, features 130 booths and 145 vendors offering pretty much anything a customer might be looking for, from antiques and vintage goods to Michigan-made foods, sports memorabilia and home decor.

Pinky’s is a “whatnot shop,” a term used by Bert “Pinky” Anderson, who died in March 2021 from dementia. She was the anchor of Pinky’s Place, opened in 2013, which is an offshoot of the nonprofit Pinky’s Palace. The nonprofit uses proceeds from the sale of gently used items to help Kent County families struggling with dementia.

Along with the daily market, Pinky’s Place also hosts a variety of events, including a holiday open house in November.

Auto Dealership

  • Fox Motor Group

Runner up: Kool Chevrolet/Toyota

Since 2000, the knowledgeable and compassionate employees of Fox Motors have provided customers in over 50 locations throughout the Midwest with new and used vehicles of more than 47 brands in a safe, friendly environment.

Bike Shop

  • Freewheeler Bike Shop

Runner up: Village Bikes

Constantly growing and expanding since opening in 1978, Freewheeler Bike Shop carries a tremendous amount of bikes, accessories and apparel from a wide range of brands and offers a full-service bike repair shop.

Bookstore

  • Schuler Books

Runner up: Books and Mortar

Schuler Books creates a unique and enjoyable bookstore experience for all guests with a collection of over 150,000 book titles and 50,000 music titles, its full-service Chapbook Cafe and a spacious children’s area.

Bridal Shop

  • Renee Austin Wedding

Runner up: Bridal Elegance

For over a decade, Renee Austin Wedding has offered an extensive selection of wedding dress and accessory styles from top bridal designers in a comfortable, inviting showroom for all brides-to-be.

Photo by Bryan Esler

Comic Book Shop

  • Vault of Midnight

Runner up: Tardy’s Collectors Corner

In the past two decades, comics have grown in public consciousness thanks to the blockbuster Marvel and DC universes.

Need a primer behind those stories, head to Vault of Midnight, 95A Monroe Center St. NW, the best comic book store in Grand Rapids, according to readers.

While comic books were deemed geeky for years, the new era of movies and TV shows have turned them to main stream popular culture and nearly everyone wants a piece of them.

Beyond comic books, however, and readers can discover a variety of graphic novels — give them a shot, much more literary than you might think! — and collectables. They also hold special events and perform appraisals, just in case you’re sitting on a secret stash.

When Vault of Midnight opened in Downtown Grand Rapids, it helped usher in a new era of retail store fronts in the area. Vault of Midnight is not unique to Grand Rapids either, with stores in Ann Arbor and Detroit.

Consignment Shop

  • Georgie’s Consignment Clothing

Runners up: Rock Paper Scissors, Elevated Grand Rapids

Located in the historic post house in the village of Ada, Georgie’s opened in 1981 when owner and namesake Georgie decided to sell the entirety of her professional wardrobe. Today, Georgie’s sells very gently used clothing from countless brands.

Florist

  • Kennedy’s Flower Shop

Runner up: Eastern Floral

Awarded “Retail Florist of the Year” by Florists’ Review Magazine, Kennedy’s Flower Shop provides exquisite, professionally designed floral bouquets for any occasion using the freshest flowers in Grand Rapids.

Furniture Store

  • Talsma Furniture

Runner up: Stonesthrow

Founded in 1948 in Hudsonville, Talsma Furniture has provided a broad selection of furniture products that fit a variety of styles, budgets and comfort levels. It now has four locations across West Michigan.

Garden Center

  • Romence Gardens

Runner up: Flowerland

Romence Gardens has been a family-owned and operated retail greenhouse for over 80 years and offers a variety of plants, as well as assistance in the care and upkeep of gardens.

Gift Shop

  • Rebel

Runner up: Kennedy’s Flower Shop

Rebel is a modern gift shop that offers a variety of gifts including jewelry, self-care products, home decor, games, candles and more. In its vibrant, charming environment, Rebel provides products from all over the world that aim to bring joy and inspire.

Grocery Store

  • Meijer

Runner up: Forest Hills Foods

With strong community values such as family, freshness, health and safety, and more than 240 locations throughout the Midwest, Meijer strives to provide customers with high-quality products and services, as well as a safe and successful shopping experience.

Hardware Store

  • Rylee’s Ace Hardware

Runner up: Kingsland Ace

Rylee’s Ace Hardware supplies customers with a variety of services and nearly any product needed to repair and maintain a home. While Ace Hardware has over 5,000 stores worldwide, the majority of its stores are run independently by local entrepreneurs, aiming to provide helpful hardware advice, tools and services.

Home Decor

  • Pinky’s Place

Runner up: Kennedy’s Flower Shop

Jewelry Store

  • DeVries Jewelers

Runners up: Almassian Jewelers, Bauble Patch Jewelers

One-hundred years after opening its doors, DeVries Jewelers continues to surpass customer expectations by providing high-quality pieces and extensive jewelry knowledge. DeVries Jewelers is an affiliate of several of the jewelry industry’s most esteemed organizations and offers custom jewelry design, appraisals and repairs.

Men’s Clothing Store

  • Fitzgerald’s Men’s Store

Runner up: A.K. Rikk’s

With over 40 designers sold in-store and services including custom tailoring, hair styling by Groomed, and shoe-shining with Harley’s Shoeshine, Fitzgerald’s Men’s Store creates a one-of-a-kind shopping experience for men in Grand Rapids.

Place To Purchase Local Artwork

  • LaFontsee Gallery

Runner up: Pinky’s Place

Originally established in 1987 as the Underground Studio and expanded in 1994, the award-winning LaFontsee Gallery has been a leader in West Michigan art culture for over 30 years. Carrying work by more than 60 artists, LaFontsee creates a casual environment with an appreciation and understanding for artwork.

Specialty Grocer

  • Martha’s Vineyard

Runner up: Horrock’s

Courtesy Lee & Birch

Women’s Clothing Boutique

  • Lee & Birch

Runner up: Leigh’s

Since 2007, Lee & Birch has provided shoppers with a great selection of women’s clothing and accessories.

Now, Lee & Birch stretches its inventory across four locations in West Michigan — Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, Rockford and Kalamazoo.

The store prides itself on a “personalized shopping experience to each and every customer that walks into our stores and visits us online.” They must be doing a pretty swell job as our readers voted it best women’s clothing boutique.

Along with offering up a big selection in their showrooms, Lee & Birch also provides for a “fitting room to-go,” which allows shoppers to fill out a questionnaire and pick up a bag of favorite pieces to try on at home.

Readers like how the store will go above and beyond to find a new size or additional color of items for special orders.

Animal Clinic

  • Family Friends Veterinary Hospital

Runner up: Animal Medical Center of Wyoming

The experienced and passionate veterinary team at Family Friends Veterinary Hospital are committed to providing top-notch care for pets throughout Grand Rapids. As a full-service veterinary with a staff of 11 doctors, Family Friends Veterinary Hospital creates a safe, comfortable and positive experience for families and their pets.

Bank

  • Lake Michigan Credit Union

Runner up: Huntington Bank

With a mission to help businesses grow and communities thrive, Lake Michigan Credit Union is committed to providing financial help to all members through banking, borrowing and investing services.

Child Care Provider

  • Milestones

Runner up: Appletree (and Gliden Woods)

The quality staff at Milestones helps each child further his or her development socially, emotionally, physically and cognitively through its play-based program. Milestones has five locations throughout West Michigan, offering accessible child care and a wide range of programs for varying ages.

Chiropractic

  • iChiro

Runner up: Kooistra Chiropractic

Award-winning iChiro offers safe, natural health care to patients all over Grand Rapids. Since 1998, iChiro has provided patients with modern computerized and manual chiropractic techniques, health and lifestyle advice, and massage therapy.

Credit Union

  • Lake Michigan Credit Union

Runner up: Adventure Credit Union

Day Spa

  • Design 1 Salon Spa

Runner up: The Woodhouse Day Spa

For over 40 years, Design 1 Salon and Spa has provided clients with exceptional and innovative spa treatment experiences. With five locations in West Michigan, Design 1 offers a variety of salon and spa services beautifully executed by talented, committed professionals.

Dentist Practice

  • Thomas Lambert

Runner up: Stonecastle Dentistry

Dr. Thomas Lambert provides patients with safe, high-quality dental care, focusing on cosmetic and implant dentistry. Lambert has served as adjunct professor at the Grand Rapids Community College of Dental Hygiene for over 10 years and chair of the Michigan Dental Association’s Committee on Continuing Education for four years.

Dermatologist

  • Richard Ashack

Runner up: Dr. Rebecca Jansen

In the ever-changing field of dermatology, Dermatology Associates of West Michigan’s Dr. Richard Ashack is known for his skill and compassion for patients requiring various forms of treatments and services. Ashack specializes in pediatric and cosmetic dermatology, as well as laser and skin cancer surgery.

Photo by Teri Genovese

Doggie Day Care

  • Animal Medical Center of Wyoming

Runner up: Whiskers Resort & Pet Spa

Since 1983, the Animal Medical Center of Wyoming has helped treat the pets of West Michigan residents, ensuring high quality health care for those who keep them company.

Accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association, the Animal Medical Center of Wyoming is a place that offers veterinary care for animals large and small.

But readers also love the extra services the animal center offers it lovable fur babies.

From grooming to boarding, the Animal Medical Center of Wyoming seemingly offers it all. But it’s the doggie day care that readers want to highlight.

With a turfed outdoor play area — complete with pool for the summer heat — dogs can run and play to their heart’s content.

It can be hard for pet owners to leave their animals in the care of another person, but sometimes it’s just as hard leaving them at home when work calls. A quality doggie day care can help solve those nerves and readers say the Animal Medical Center of Wyoming hits all the right notes.

Estate Planning

  • Alexandre Zucco

Runner up: Linsey Gleason

Estate planning attorney Alexandre Zucco of Dickinson Wright focuses on the design of customized estate plans and is passionate about assisting clients at varying stages of life in achieving their estate planning goals.

Family Law Attorney

  • Connie Thacker

Runners up: Melissa Neckers, Carpenter & Judd Attorneys & Counselors, Varnum LLP

At Thacker Sleight, Connie Thacker works to take care of family law with a high level of care and discretion. Thacker has more than 20 years of experience and has been named Lawyer of the Year multiple times for divorce and family law.

Fitness Instructor

  • Amy Kwaiser and Brianna Cummings, Zumba With Amy & Bri

Runner up: Chad Hughes

Licensed Zumba instructors Amy Kwaiser and Brianna Cummings strive to make health and fitness fun by offering a mix of in-person and virtual classes ranging in difficulty, all while fostering an inclusive, loving environment for all participants.

Hair Salon

  • Jeffrey Richards Salon

Runner up: Design 1 Salon Spa

Since opening its doors in 2000 as an Aveda concept salon, Jeffrey Richards Salon has provided guests with a unique, sensory salon experience while being committed to giving back to the Grand Rapids community.

Hotel

  • Amway Grand Plaza, Curio Collection by Hilton

Runner up: JW Marriott Grand Rapids

From its award-winning restaurants to its serene salon and spa, the Amway Grand Plaza’s knowledgeable and friendly staff has created a captivating environment that has given guests a luxurious, one-of-a-kind hotel experience since 1981.

Interior Design

  • Fuschia Design

Runner up: Janel Joppie, Designer; Kathryn Chaplow LLC

Specializing in custom home renovations and luxury construction, Fuschia Design provides a variety of interior design services for Grand Rapids homeowners. The Fuschia Design team focuses on the idea that a strong relationship with the client is the most important aspect of every project.

Landscaping

  • Tender Lawn Care Inc.

Runner up: Rooks Landscaping

Tender Lawn Care has been family-owned and operated since 1949 and provides high-quality landscape and snowplowing services to both commercial and residential clients throughout the greater Grand Rapids area.

Mani/Pedi

  • Design 1 Salon Spa

Runner up: Emily @ Palace Flophouse Salon

Plastic Surgeon

  • Bengston Center for Aesthetics & Plastic Surgery

Runner up: Plastic Surgery Associates Grand Rapids

Bengtson Center for Aesthetics & Plastic Surgery aims to provide its patients and clients with safe, state-of-the-art products and procedures, as well as lead in the field of aesthetics and plastic surgery.

Residential Cleaning Service

  • Cascade Fresh Cleaning Services

Runner up: Taylor Maids

Whether it’s a weekly cleaning or a special event, Cascade Fresh Cleaning Services has all customers covered. There’s a baseline cleaning to get in all the nooks and crannies, but the company also offers a variety of special-occasion cleaning services.

Residential Real Estate Firm

  • Five Star Real Estate

Runner up: Greenridge Realty

Opened in 1996 by broker and owner Greg Carlson, Five Star Real Estate has become a leading real estate firm in West Michigan with the core belief that the relationship between homeowner and agent is the key to success.

Retirement Community

  • Holland Home

Runner up: UMRC and Porter Hills

Holland Home has provided Grand Rapids seniors with assisted living services, vibrant independent living and skilled nursing facilities since 1892. A commitment to care with compassion and love creates the best retirement experience for seniors with varying needs of assistance.

Photo by Bryan Esler

Tattoo Parlor

  • Sovereign Arms Tattoo Co.

Runner up: Mos Eisleys Tattoo Studio

Specializing in Japanese, Blackwork, Traditional and Neo-traditional tattoos, Sovereign Arms Tattoo Co. creates a professional, hygienic environment for each client. With talented, experienced tattoo artists Gareth Hawkins and Brady Alberts, Sovereign Arms aims to provide the best tattoo experience in Grand Rapids.

Yoga Studio

  • Funky Buddha Yoga Hot House

Runner up: AM Yoga

Photo by Michelle Cuppy

From yoga amateurs to veteran yogis, Funky Buddha Yoga Hot House creates a unique yoga experience in its 95-degree yoga studios. Funky Buddha’s experienced, passionate instructors provide fun and challenging hot yoga classes for anyone 18 and older, or 16 with a waiver signed by a legal guardian.

This story can be found in the January/February 2022 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox, subscribe here

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