All hands on deck

Bucolic lakefront views push Rose’s to the top.

On the shores of Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids sits an eatery both steeped in nostalgia and current with the desires of today’s diners.

Rose’s, 550 Lakeside Drive SE, has served the community in a building that actually dates back to the days when Reeds Lake was an entertainment destination for those from near and far. Ramona Park was an amusement park on the lake from 1897-1955 that thrilled visitors, complete with the Jack Rabbit Derby Racer, one of only two double-track rollercoasters in the country at the time. Rose’s arrived in 1901 and offered park-goers hamburgers and some especially tasty caramel corn (which still is served today at the end of every meal).

While the amusement park gave way to developers more than 60 years ago, the former hamburger stand has morphed into dining establishment that’s still worth a trip to the lake.

In this month’s Best Of poll, readers voted Rose’s as the best deck seating area for a restaurant in the region. The Gilmore Collection, parent company of Rose’s, certainly understands that and several years ago expanded its patio section to be even bigger and better.

Perhaps the best part about that deck is its four-season capability, allowing diners to revel in sailboats during the summer and ice fishing in the winter.

There’s a certain comfort level at Rose’s, which started its current journey in 1992. Seemingly little inside the restaurant has changed over the years. With that comes a familiarity for the regulars and a nice, cozy feeling for new visitors.

Rose’s also seems to have settled into a nice niche for itself. Despite its lakeside location in an affluent community, it doesn’t flout fine-dining aspirations. It’s not absurdly priced, and while at times some of the prices do outstretch what maybe they should, it certainly could be a more expensive stop for a bite to eat.

Instead, it’s a spot one can feel comfortable stopping at after a day in the yard, ready for a delectable burger. But really, no matter the occasion, Rose’s can cover it.

It’s probably best to start with Rose’s house-made root chips. The chips are served up with a warm goat cheese and red pepper aioli. They’re a tasty way to start a meal, accompany a sandwich, or simply snack on while enjoying a happy hour beverage.

Each of the salads make a full lunch at Rose’s, but the chicken salad is a particularly attractive endeavor for many diners. The creamy chicken salad is served up in the middle of a plate, flanked by banana bread and raspberry sorbet — sweet enough to almost make diners feel guilty.

Patrons, however, would be remiss not to partake in a burger on a visit to Rose’s. As noted, burgers run deep in Rose’s heritage and they’re still well-made and juicy.

The pizzas, too, are worth a try. In fact, the pizzas became so popular, Rose’s opened an outpost a stone’s throw away in EGR called Rose’s Express that serves up the wood-fired pizzas to-go. While Rose’s Express has run into temporary staffing issues because of the pandemic, it’s been a staple in EGR for years.

There is also a wide range of Rose’s signature dishes, which feature a slate of entrees that seem to fit well in a lakeside community restaurant that welcomes back a host of regular customers. From salmon and walleye to a pork tenderloin and bistro steak, there’s plenty on the menu to satisfy whatever craving might pop up. The angel hair pasta is a refreshing mix of chicken, pancetta, tomatoes and green beans with pops of roasted garlic, all while bathed in a light butter sauce.

Then the entrees veer a bit off what one might assume the clientele would gravitate toward, with a chilled shrimp and scallop ceviche, sesame seared yellowfin tuna and blackened mahi tacos, all three of which fit well with the lakefront location.

The desserts are fairly standard, but delightful: chocolate peanut butter pie, tiramisu, creme brûlée.

The pièce de résistance, of course, is the little cup of caramel popcorn provided for each diner with the check. That thank you gift caps what is usually a satisfying visit, and if the small taste is not enough, the restaurant does offer the caramel corn for sale.

Despite its position in the Gilmore Collection, a sizable hospitality group in West Michigan, Rose’s generally keeps to itself and seems to slide under the radar when thinking of great restaurants in Grand Rapids.

While a theme park and big ferries no longer dot the shores of Reeds Lake, the community still is well-served by Rose’s, making sure to keep visitors to the area more than satisfied.

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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