The best new spots: Part 1- Monsoon

’An elevated version of Southeast Asian cuisine’
Monsoon's Pho Bo noodle soup and a Tequila Sunrise. Photo by Teri Genovese.

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Editor’s note: The following is a seven-part series on the best new bars and restaurants in Grand Rapids, brought to us by food and beverage industry reporter Pat Evans.

A few short years ago, the restaurant industry was so badly crippled many establishments across the country were not able to crawl their way back out.

Thankfully, many more were able to rebound into an evolved state, ready to serve hungry diners in a new world. In Grand Rapids, that same story rings true, especially across some of the city’s favorite hot spots. And thankfully, across the past two years, many more dining rooms have opened, as have a number of vibe-filled bars ready for new sippers.

The list of new places to open in the past two years, even the past year, is far too many in the metro area to do them all justice in these pages. Instead, the focus will be on the hot spot restaurants that have popped up since last summer, and largely in the downtown area, or at least the downtown adjacent neighborhoods now becoming their own independent destinations for a night out full of options, all a few steps apart; the likes of Wealthy Street and Bridge Street.

Also worth a mention is Myrth. Without using too many words, the restaurant is helmed by a James Beard Award winner — an award not to be sneezed at in the culinary world — and Paul Berglund is flipping out a refined menu focused on pasta and pizza. All of which can be made gluten and dairy free, a true treat for the many people out there with some form of dietary restrictions.

While Myrth is not a cutting-edge restaurant that will make it on the world’s best restaurants lists, it also delivers an outstanding version of the foods Berglund set out to make, so really, it does exactly its job.

What’s notable in the selections for upstart hot spots is the eclectic mix of menu items, which will help diversify the options downtown. That is a welcomed addition to a growing city aiming to be a destination for those inclined to imbibe in food and beverage.

Downtown- Monsoon, 55 Monroe Center St. NW

Monsoon shift Lead/Bartender/Server Ricky Shin, mixes a Coffee Martini. Photo by Teri Genovese.

Perhaps stretching the time frame a bit set out is Monsoon.

It is not the first Vietnamese restaurant in Grand Rapids, but Monsoon does bring an elevated version of the Southeast Asian cuisine to the heart of downtown. And for that alone, the restaurant deserves a lot of credit. It also operated for months without a liquor license in the heart of a city, which, again, can be celebrated.

The setting is cool and the food is gorgeous. But beyond appearances, the dishes are also delicious. For those with limited Vietnamese exposure, do not be intimidated and go give it a try. There are items like chicken wings, crispy spring rolls, grilled short ribs and the oh so delicious bar buns that are approachable for any palate. There’s also a burger.

Beyond those, really, almost all the dishes can appeal to even the pickiest eaters. Plus, the menu might just be downtown’s friendliest to gluten- and dairy-free eaters.

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