Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a five-part series on the Best of Grand Rapids Readers’ Poll results.
Best Cupcake: The Salted Cupcake
The Salted Cupcake offers a sugar coma wrapped within a sweet little bundle of frosting and cake batter. Korina Thompson, owner of The Salted Cupcake, has been creating unique and delicious flavors in Grand Rapids for five years now. The store’s most famous flavor features a chocolate peanut butter cupcake topped with salted caramel and smoked salted chocolate bark.
More unique, yet surprisingly delicious flavors, include potato chip, chicken and waffles, pickles, and grilled cheese sandwich (a tomato soup cupcake topped with goat cheese buttercream and garnished with a mini grilled cheese).
The shop also caters to your furry friends with its Pupcakes, which make a wonderful surprise for those “adoptiversarys” and birthdays.
The store posts a weekly menu each Monday for walk-in customers, but it also offers pre-orders over Facebook and wedding catering. It even has a food truck that travels to feed its
fan base in Kalamazoo.
Don’t eat with your hands (or do!)
Burger: Stella’s Lounge
From the award-winning Stella Blue to the jalapeno-stuffed Big Ballah, every burger at Stella’s Lounge is specially crafted to go above and beyond the typical burger experience.
Burrito: Beltline Bar
There is a reason why the Beltline Bar’s burrito is dubbed “world famous.” Slathered in melted Colby-Jack cheese and red enchilada sauce and stuffed with seasoned ground beef or beans, lettuce and tomato, this burrito truly lives up to its title.
Sandwich: Schnitz Deli
Schnitz Deli off ers a full menu of mouthwatering sandwiches including classic Rubens and hoagies. Creative diners can take advantage of the build-your-own option to create the perfect sandwich from the bread up.
Tacos: Donkey Taqueria
Inspired by traditional Mexican street food, Donkey Taqueria uses unexpected ingredients such as grilled pineapple and fried Brussels sprouts to create unique flavors while still maintaining an authentic feel.
Wings: Wing Doozy
With three locations across West Michigan, Wing Doozy’s wings are known for being some of the biggest and freshest in the city. You’ll also find a wide selection of dips and sauces to pair them with.
Appetizers: San Chez Bistro
Here, Spain is given life in downtown Grand Rapids. Tapas are a staple at San Chez Bistro and every day it serves up a blend of unique flavors and spices to give you that Spanish
authenticity in an urban, historic setting.
In Beer City USA, there is no better place to find a variety of craft brewers from around Michigan in one setting. This fun, hip, cat-themed pub is an iconic spot on Ionia Avenue. Enjoy a local beer with the Madtown Grilled Cheese, a side of Cosmik Fries and the roasted red pepper gouda soup.
BBQ: Two Scotts Barbeque
Join the bandwagon and hop on this ride toward a sensational smokey and authentic barbecue experience. It can be a traditional dry, spiced rub sensation or take the sauce route and load up on the barbecue. The flavors are downright tasty.
Beer/Wine Merchant: Martha’s Vineyard
Martha’s Vineyard is tucked away on the quaint corner of Lyon
Street and Union Avenue. This intersection is a hidden gem in Grand Rapids with other neighborhood favorites Nantucket Bakery and Lyon Street Café to name a few places housed here. At Martha’s Vineyard, you can find an assortment of wine, cheeses, beer, coffee, dips and an abundance of homemade deli sides.
Breakfast: Anna’s House
Let’s take a trip back to the ’50s. Anna’s House is a modern twist on the iconic diner scene, sporting fresh, fun colors and ’50s-inspired vintage murals. Its classic take on breakfast
specialties is the perfect start to your morning. Or try something out-of-the-box like the chocolate quinoa breakfast bowl.
Brewery: Founders Brewing Co.
The craft brewery that started it all. Founders Brewing Co. is a renowned brewery sitting in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. Its success reaches nationwide but Founders will
always stay true to its hometown roots.
Adult (and kid) Approved
You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy these comfort food favorites!
French Fries: Hopcat
Formerly known as Crack Fries, the renamed Cosmik Fries are beer-battered, sprinkled with HopCat’s signature black pepper seasoning and paired with warm cheese dip.
Adventurous meat-eaters should be sure to order the loaded Cosmik Fries topped with hickory-smoked bacon, red onion and pickled jalapeño.
Hot dog: Yesterdog
One of the most iconic restaurants in Grand Rapids, Yesterdog has served some of the best hot dogs in town to everyone from celebrities to presidents for over 40 years.
The classic Yesterdog, topped with chili, onion, mustard, pickle and ketchup, is sure to please every hot dog enthusiast.
Mac and Cheese: The Green Well
This is not your typical boxed mac and cheese. The Green Well adds a new twist to this comfort food classic by adding unexpected ingredients and flavors.
The classic mac and cheese is made with corkscrew pasta, chicken, ham, bacon, peas, caramelized onions, mushrooms, four-cheese sauce, breadcrumbs and white truffle oil.
Ice Cream: Jersey Junction
Conveniently located in Gaslight Village, Jersey Junction is a staple in East Grand Rapids, serving old fashioned ice cream since 1963.
The Traverse City Cherry Fudge is an amaretto ice cream mixed with chocolate and cherry chunks that will remind you of summer nights up north.
Pizza: The Mitten Brewing Company
Set in a unique Victorian-era restored firehouse with a baseball-themed interior, The Mitten Brewing Company is a perfect place to grab a beer and enjoy artisanal pizza.
The Westerdog is an ode to another classic Grand Rapids restaurant on this list (Yesterdog). It is a hotdog-inspired pizza topped with chili bean sauce, all-beef franks, Colby-Jack cheese, diced white onions, shredded kosher pickles, ketchup and yellow mustard.
Butcher Shop: Sobie Meats
Home of the Free Butt Rub! Not exactly what it sounds like, but Sobie Meats is happy
to serve local meat favorites such as pulled pork, signature pork rub and sausages. This butcher shop not only serves up clean meat but plenty of smiles while doing so.
Date Night: Butcher’s Union
This downtown hotspot’s beautiful stark structure, moody décor and lighting, high ceilings, antique bar and dark mahogany woodcreate the alluring ambiance of a casual night out. Add a touch of candlelight and a couple of dashes of whiskey for a romantic date night.
Distillery: Long Road Distillers
Spirits equal happiness at Long Road Distillers. Its dazzling concoctions of in-house liquors create a night full of mouth-puckering sips and surprised oohh’s and aahh’s. Long
Road’s spirits are crisp and smooth going down — making the perfect addition to any classic or unique cocktail.
Food Truck: Patty Matters
It’s a diner but on the go. This food truck takes the classic burger, fries and soda combination and serves it up on four wheels. Enjoy this greasy deluxe treat by chowing down on every bite and licking every finger.
Happy Hour: Rockwell Republic
Start your night early with a visit to Rockwell Republic to enjoy drink and food
specials during Happy Hour. You can choose from several sushi rolls, sharing plates
Late Night Dining: Rockwell Republic
Not only does Rockwell Republic offer an award-winning happy hour and exquisite food, but its late-night menu makes it a late-night winner. Paired with its location in the historic Heartside district and dramatic interior décor, with two floors of exposed brick and mahogany accents, this place is perfect for a last stop during date night.
Outdoor/Deck Seating: Rose’s
Situated on the banks of Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids, Rose’s patio and
four-season deck offers pristine views overlooking Waterfront Park, the Grand Rapids
Yacht Club and a private marina.
Restaurant Service: Amore Trattoria Italiana
Amore Trattoria Italiana’s world-class service starts with local chef Jenna Arcidiacono. After living in Northern Italy, Arcidiacono opened Amore Trattoria Italiana in July 2010. Since then, Amore has won multiple awards for its authentic “old style” Italian comfort meals, including being named one of the best Italian restaurants in Michigan.
Rooftop Dining: Mertens Rooftop
Located on top of a historic former hotel built in 1914, Mertens Rooftop combines
some of the best views of the city with an impressive traditional French menu. Mertens holds true to its history in Grand Rapids serving the same 50 cocktails as it did when it
originally opened 80 years ago.
Seafood: Leo’s Seafood Restaurant and Bar
Since 2004, Leo’s has been offering an extensive seafood menu made with the highest quality and freshest ingredients. An elegant ambiance paired with a world-class wine
list sets Leo’s apart as the top seafood restaurant in the city.
Sports Bar: Big E’s Sports Grill
With a wide selection of craft brews, large-screen TVs and a menu that goes above and beyond typical bar food, Big E’s Sports Grill is one of the best places to watch the game or catch up with friends.
Morning, afternoon or evening, these places are go-tos for enjoying drinks with friends.
Hard Cider: Vander Mill
Locally grown Michigan apples are transformed into crisp, unique blends of hard cider at Vander Mill.
Bluish Gold, a wonderfully concocted semi-sweet hard cider made from farm-fresh Michigan blueberries and apples is the perfect blend of all things Michigan combined into a tasty brew.
Craft Cocktails: Long Road Distillers
Long Road Distillers is on a mission to provide world-class spirits for Grand Rapids patrons who enjoy a classic cocktail — or two.
Stranger Things — an adult twist on the acclaimed TV series — features apple brandy, lime, raspberry and orange blossom. Hopefully, you won’t find yourself in the Upside Down after having this drink.
Bloody Mary: Rockwell Republic
Rockwell Republic is famous for its $5 bloody marys that are featured on the weekends during brunch from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Create a savory combo of your favorite tomato-infused vodka beverage with a kebab of shrimp, chicken tenders or succulent steak — a cure for any hangover.
Bakery: Nantucket Baking Company
Sweet scents drift down Lyon Street as Nantucket Baking Company opens its doors for
the morning. Artisan breads, scones, croissants, cookies and macarons will have every
passerby falling in love with its alluring aroma and mouthwatering delicacies.
Passion meets delectable recipes paired with exquisite designs resulting in desserts
perfect for any event. Sweet selections include specialty cakes, custom cupcakes, cake
pops, caramel corn, cheesecakes and cookies. Your tastebuds will thank you after taking a bite out of any of its heavenly desserts.
Doughnuts: Marge’s Donut Den
Wheels of sugar and flour will captivate any sweet tooth. Made from scratch fillings, icing and dough are qualities that Marge’s takes pride in and has since 1975. The melt-in-your-mouth feeling and sugary bites keep regulars coming back for more — and bring new customers in. Marge’s Donut Den provides instant gratification.
Froyo Shop: Spoonlickers
The beauty of Spoonlickers was its make-your-own-concoction aspect. Customers
could choose from fruity, sugary, succulent, bittersweet, rich and nutty flavors. This
beloved multilocation froyo shop is now closed, but you can still find its froyo at two of
five Sprinkles locations.
Steak: The Chop House
With some of the most exceptional cuts of USDA prime beef, every steak offered at
The Chop House is the perfect combination of flavor and tenderness. The Chop
House is renowned for excellent service and a unique atmosphere created by ornate gas lamps that make for a dining experience you will never forget.
Sushi: Maru Sushi
Started by Robert Song and chef Moon Yang, Maru Sushi places an emphasis on creating one of the best experimental sushi restaurants around. The team has taken traditional
Japanese sushi cuisine to a new level with contemporary twists on classic rolls.
Vegan/Vegetarian Burger: Stella’s Lounge
Stella’s Lounge can please meat lovers and veggie lovers alike. The popular Mission Impossible Burger is a twist on the typical vegetable burger made with a blackened Impossible patty, topped with a grilled pineapple ring, BBQ sauce, spinach
and sautéed peppers and onions.
Vegetarian/Vegan Menu (tie)
Brick Road Pizza Co.
Brick Road Pizza Co. goes far beyond cheese pizza and has
a rotating menu of vegan and vegetarian-friendly dishes including a completely vegan BBQ tofu pizza and even a cheeseburger vegetarian pizza with Impossible burger crumbles.
Not only is Stella’s Lounge a winner for the best vegetarian/
vegan burger, but its entire menu has impressive and diverse options for vegan and
vegetarian diners, including beer-battered and fried avocado nuggets.
Wine Bar: Reserve Wine and Food
Reserve Wine and Food boasts one of Michigan’s largest charcuterie selections and carries over 100 wines by the glass and over 200 wines by the bottle. Reserve also offers farm-to-table menu options perfect for pairing with your favorite wine.
Terra’s chef de cuisine Ryan McClure takes a lot of pride in providing one of the
best brunch menus in the city. Experimenting with classic breakfast foods,
Terra adds playful twists on all your favorites creating a unique and delicious
meal that you’re sure to come back for.
The popular Hair of the Dog Bowl is your classic biscuits and gravy dish with
kale, charred onions and scrambled eggs topped with jalapeño hot sauce. Those
with a sweet tooth can appreciate Terra’s take on peanut butter and jelly with
its French toast made with homemade milk bread, berry jam, peanut butter
gelato, peanut brittle and topped with lemon whipped cream.
If you’re looking for a boozy brunch, Terra offers a range of classic cocktails
on its brunch menu including bloody marys and mimosas. For a step up from
the everyday mimosa try the biermosa, a mix of Wolverine Lager, Tito’s vodka
and orange juice.
Terra has teamed with growers to provide high-quality ingredients that are
locally sourced from farms around West Michigan. “We are always looking
for new farms to check out and support. It’s a really interesting place to live.
Michigan has a lot of great things to offer,” said McClure.
Terra’s unique menu options offer an upscale dining experience with
moderate prices, making it the perfect place to grab brunch with friends.
Since 2008, The Madcap Coffee Company has become a staple for coffee lovers across
West Michigan. With two locations in town, Madcap is the perfect place to go for a quick
coffee run or to sit and enjoy with friends. Beans are specially chosen from growers across the globe and delivered within 24 hours of roasting, maximizing the quality of your cup. You can sip easy knowing your coffee was brewed ethically because of Madcap’s emphasis on offering top prices to farmers as well as its commitment to its Zero Waste program. Whether you are at the Fulton Street or Monroe Center location, Madcap’s full range of lattes and brewed options are sure to satisfy your coffee obsession.