Summer is a bit different this year, but our annual guide will help you find the best places in the city to eat, drink, shop, stay and stock up on grocery items.
These specialty markets meet the needs of their neighborhoods with convenience and style.
By Charlsie Dewey
Neighborhood markets have had a resurgence as of late, and Grand Rapids has seen a number of new shops open in the last few years to meet the needs of residents in the city’s many different residential areas including Bridge Street Market and Gordon Food Service’s Michigan Street location.
Part of this is due to millennials. As this generation ages into adulthood and begins launching their careers, buying homes and starting families, large grocery stores are seeing a shift in shopping habits. Rather than weekly, cart-filling visits to the big-name grocers, many millennials are turning to Amazon and other online options to have things delivered and making more frequent stops at smaller markets to purchase ingredients or prepared foods for that evening’s dinner.
There also are plenty of baby boomers who are downsizing and purchasing condos closer to downtown who want a convenient place to grocery shop that doesn’t involve a drive to the nearest suburb.
With an even more tech-reliant and convenience-expectant Gen Z on the horizon, neighborhood markets very likely will continue to thrive and find ways to compete with their big-box counterparts.
2225 Plainfield Ave. NE
A staple in the Creston/Cheshire Village neighborhoods, Kingma’s Market has been serving customers in the neighborhood for over 80 years. Despite its small footprint, the market manages to carry a plethora of items. Its popular bulk wall is filled with candies, trail mixes, nuts and more. It also carries a large selection of cheeses, wine and beer, and offers a deli and butcher counter, plus all the staples you need for your pantry — many of these items are made in Michigan. It also has a wide selection of fresh produce.
Bridge Street Market
405 Seward Ave. NW
Bridge Street Market is Meijer’s answer to a downtown grocery store. Located on Grand Rapids’ West Side, Bridge Street Market offers residents and workers in the area a convenient place to grocery shop for all the necessary household items and fresh foods. While many neighborhood markets offer few if any non-food essentials like paper and cleaning products, Bridge Street Market is stocked with all of these items, making it a one-stop shop for all of your grocery needs. The market also offers Shipt delivery.
200 Union Ave. NE
For nearly 40 years, Martha’s Vineyard has served as a community grocery store on the edge of the Heritage Hill neighborhood. With a carefully curated selection of wines, beers and spirits as well as grocery items, produce, premade food items and party trays, owner Kameel Chamelly has turned the corner of Union and Lyon into an always bustling hotspot. Over the years, Chamelly has added a takeout pizza shop, bakery and coffee house to the intersection’s offerings.
Gordon Food Service
1003 Michigan St. NE
Similar to Meijer’s Bridge Street Market, Gordon Food Service opened its location on the corner of Michigan Street and Diamond Avenue to meet the growing need for an urban grocery store. Located a few blocks from the busy Medical Mile in the Midtown neighborhood, GFS offers all of the basic grocery items from food to household essentials, plus a prepared food counter, bakery items and frozen bulk foods. It also has some fun offerings including a guacamole bar, where you can watch your guacamole be prepared, fresh-squeezed juice and an olive bar. GFS offers home delivery through Instacart as well as curbside pickup.
4455 Breton Road SE
Horrocks Market opened its doors nearly 20 years ago and has become a go-to source for the southeast community. Its meat counter is one of the store’s highlights. Meat is cut to order and experienced staff can answer any cooking instruction questions you have. There also are plenty of ready-to-cook meat items available, ranging from stuffed chicken breasts and pork chops to gourmet burgers and steak pinwheels. Horrocks stocks nearly 20 varieties of sausage and can preorder more. If you want something more unique, the freezer section offers whole rabbits, duck, goat, lamb, beef offal and more. Horrocks is also known for its greenhouse and garden center.
Ken’s Fruit Market
2420 Eastern Ave. SE
3500 Plainfield Ave. NE
With locations on the city’s north and south sides, Ken’s Fruit Market is a neighborhood favorite in both areas. Stocked with produce, meats and cheeses, this place is known for its quality and its prices. With its produce bins and displays it feels a bit like an indoor farmers market.
Guide to the weekend
Jon O’Connor shares his suggestions on how to spend a weekend in the first ward.
If you find yourself on Grand Rapids’ northwest side on a Saturday morning, take the advice of First Ward City Commissioner Jon O’Connor and start your day at Mr. Burger, 2101 Lake Michigan Drive NW.
According to O’Connor, “There is nothing better than a quick stop at Mr. Burger for the breakfast sandwich with sausage. It is the standard by which all breakfast sandwiches should be judged.”
After breakfast, check out Blandford Nature Center, 1715 Hillburn Ave. NW. The stunning natural area allows for hiking and enjoying wildlife. If it’s raining, explore the amazing antique and vintage shops like Willow & Co., 827 Fulton St. W, and Heavens Treasury, 1200 Leonard St. NW.
For lunch, O’Connor recommends El Granjero Mexican Grill, 950 Bridge St. NW. “They have been a staple in my life for over 20 years since moving to Grand Rapids,” he said. “Alambre, gorditas or tamales, you can’t go wrong.”
Later, meet up with friends for a craft beer at Siciliano’s Market, 2840 Lake Michigan Drive NW and then stop in at the Tip Top Deluxe, 760 Butterworth St. SW, for local live music.
— Robin Gould
Food trucks have become popular summer lunch and dinner dining destinations.
By Charlsie Dewey
It’s common during the summer to see food trucks lined up outside of the GRAM on Thursdays for Relax at Rosa, but that wasn’t always the case. Grand Rapids launched its food truck pilot program back in 2016 as the city debated whether to allow food trucks in different areas of the city and what rules should govern the burgeoning food truck business. The pilot was tweaked and extended until an ordinance was finally adopted in 2019.
Even as the guidelines for food truck operations were debated, food trucks flourished in Grand Rapids, growing from 24 in 2017 to 48 in 2019. The number of events that added food trucks also increased. During 2019, you could find food trucks lined up nearly every day of the week for an event or festival.
As summer kicked off this year, food trucks unfortunately have seen many events cancelled and they are facing an unknown future with COVID-19 threatening to require social distancing for months to come. Still, we wanted to share some of the food trucks that help make summer dining fun and tasty. Hopefully, you will be able to find them operating this summer around the city.
Pressed in Time
This “grilled specialties” food truck offers sandwiches heaped with grilled meats like slow-roasted pork in its Grilled Pressed Pork Cuban or seasoned steak in its Texas Steak Press. It also is known for its Crum chips, freshly made potato chips named after their African American inventor George Crum.
Daddy Pete’s BBQ
Daddy Pete’s is owned and operated by husband and wife team Cory and Tarra Davis. The Davises prepare Southern slow-smoked meats and popular sides like mac and cheese and smoky baked beans. The pair also operate a brick and mortar location on the city’s south side.
This Mexican cuisine food truck offers tasty tamales stuffed with everything from red chicken to sweet pineapple.
Pork Fat Slims
This food truck offers low and slow Central Texas-style BBQ. Its menu includes brisket, pulled pork, ribs, chopped chicken, sausage and a signature chorizo, along with sides.
B.D., which stands for Big Daddy, offers a slew of barbecue favorites including Big Daddy’s Bourbon Wings and Mamma’s Fabulous Five Mac and Cheese.
El Caribe is one of the few places in town where you can find Caribbean cuisine. It offers authentic street food more commonly available in Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
Lauren D’Angelo is the owner of Patty Matters, which offers an assortment of burgers with sides such as French, sweet and chili cheese fries.
Cooking up comfort food any time of the year, Cruisin’ Fusion calls itself a “carnivore’s dream.” You’ll find everything from Philly cheesesteak to chicken wings slathered in a number of sauce options.
Guide to the weekend
Joe Jones maps out a weekend in the second ward.
Second Ward City Commissioner Joe Jones recommends visiting northeast Grand Rapids on a sunny Saturday morning. “I love going to the Fulton Street Farmers Market early Saturday mornings and then taking a walk through the many majestic parks,” he said.
For dog lovers, check out the Hillcrest Dog Park, 1415 Lyon St. NE. After your walk, hop over to Malamiah Juice Bar, 122 Oakes St., for a refreshing and healthy drink.
If hungry, Jones said to try Fat Boy Burgers, 2450 Plainfield Ave. NE, which offers reasonably priced and delicious burgers at any time of the day. Calling it an “absolute gift to our city,” Jones is a diehard fan. Or, he said, order takeout from Taqueria San Jose, 1338 South Division Ave. — Robin Gould
These bars offer the best happy hours.
By Jamie deGraaf-Tulisiak
Because 2020 has been one hell of a year already, we wanted to make sure you know where to go for the best happy hour deals and socializing with your friends and colleagues when the stay-at-home order is lifted. And if you are visiting our great city, make sure to hit up one — or several — of these spots.
250 Monroe Ave. NW
Roam, sister to Grand Rapids’ beloved San Chez Bistro, serves up globally inspired street food honoring the cuisine of over 25 countries. Check out its weekday specials, enjoying half-off drinks — beer, margs, wine, mules — and sampling half-off bites from different countries each day of the week.
The Bull’s Head Tavern
188 Monroe Ave. NE
This cozy pub offers half off all beer, wine and liquor, and small plates for $5-$7 from 3-5 p.m. and 8-10 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
Founders Brewing Co.
35 Grandville Ave. SW
The brewery that put G-Rap on the map before microbreweries were en vogue, Founders offers half off “class-1” drafts from 10 p.m.-close, Sunday through Tuesday, and Monday pitcher nights from 7 p.m.-close with $10 off “class-1” pitchers.
Bistro Bella Vita
44 Grandville Ave. SW, Suite 100
Not that anyone needs an excuse to unwind, eat and drink well — but if you’re looking for one, Bistro Bella Vita’s take on happy hour, American Apéro, is your answer. From 2-5 p.m. and 9 p.m.-close, Monday through Friday, sip on $4 drafts, $6 wine, $7 cocktails and $8 martinis. Pair that with French and Italian farm-to-table eats including $6 snacks — Brussels sprouts, frites, meatballs — and $11 pizzas.
The Chop House
90 Monroe Ave. NW
An homage to the opulence of 1940s hotel dining, The Chop House serves up ambiance with a side of choice beef cuts. Soak up daily specials from 5-7 p.m. that include spicy shrimp, calamari, Caesar salad, petite lamb chops and $5 signature cocktails and wine.
64 Ionia Ave. SW, Suite 100
The self-proclaimed love child of Latin American and West Michigan culture, Luna knows how to mix up a marg — so, that’s where you’ll find us for all-day half-off margaritas on Mondays and weekends from 10 p.m. to close. Pop in from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday to enjoy rotating daily specials — come for the booze, stay for the house-made tortilla chips.
16 Monroe Center St. NE
This Italian eatery’s happy hour menu is delightfully underrated. From 4-6 p.m., Monday through Friday, the extensive specials include an array of small plates ranging from $2-$7 including oysters, olives, woodfired pies, antipasti and charred octopus. And for imbibing: $5 negronis and house wine, $6 local beers and $7 cocktails.
New Hotel Mertens
35 Oakes St. SW
Housed in a historic hotel and century-old landmark in the downtown scene, the charm of this chic brasserie rests in its vintage French aesthetic and dedication to the building’s 1940s features. From 3-6 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, sidle up to the bar for half-off drafts, $2 off house wines and premium rails like Rémy Martin and Johnnie Walker Red, and half off snacks including deviled eggs, French olives and frites.
Reserve Wine & Food
201 Monroe Ave. NW
Downtown’s go-to spot for wine and cheese awards patrons with weekday happy hour pricing from 4-6 p.m. featuring $5 red, white, rose and sparkling wine pours and $5 cocktail selections. Order half off modern classic pastas or handhelds including a cheeseburger and grilled cheese and go ahead and get that second pour.
45 S. Division Ave.
You voted it “best happy hour of 2020” in our annual Best of GR ranking, and we get why. Its $7 happy hour includes sushi rolls, shared plates and plenty of boozy options: $4 cosmos, $5 daiquiris, $6 mules and select wine pours, $7 old fashions, and $13 sangria pitchers (get the red-white mix!). Special pricing available from 3-6 p.m. and 10 p.m.-midnight, Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Sunday.
Max’s South Seas Hideaway
58 Ionia Ave. SW
Stroll down to this tiki paradise for “aloha hour” from 4-6 p.m. weekdays, where it’s summer year-round. Sip on $6 cocktails — picking from colorful combos like the Aku Aku, Blue Hawaiian or Le Lani Nouveau — or $2 off draft or wine pours. Fill your belly with $5-$10 shareables, small plates and entrée selections.
San Chez Bistro
38 W. Fulton St.
Grand Rapidians’ favorite tapas spot offers half-off wine, drafts, sangria and $2 off specialty cocktails from 2-6 p.m., Monday through Friday. And since it’d be impossible to visit without eating, enjoy $1 off bites
like hummus, queso, empanadas and croquetas.
One Trick Pony
136 E. Fulton St.
Our Heartside darling, One Trick Pony, resides in the oldest continually occupied building in the city and memorabilia decorating the walls pays tribute to its 164-year-old past. Drop in from 3-6 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, for a bit of local history, cheap drinks and tasty bites. Enjoy 25% off pizza and apps and wash it down with $3 house wines, Founders drafts, well drinks, sangria and margaritas.
Wheelhouse Kitchen & Cocktails
67 Ottawa Ave. SW
Situated just across the street from Van Andel Arena, this contemporary bistro is centrally located, making it easy to pop in for after-work refreshments, including $5 drafts and wine and $7 cocktails, and discounted flatbreads, tartine and deviled eggs. Happy hour pricing is available 3-6 p.m., Monday through Friday, but not on Van Andel Arena event nights.
MeXo Tequila & Mezcal Bar and Restaurant
118 E. Fulton St.
MeXo brings some modern flair to pre-Hispanic foods of Mexico and boasts extensive tequila and mezcal selections. Treat yourself any day of the week with $4 house wine pours, $3 Estrella drafts, $6 cocktails and $10 food specials like ceviche, sope and queso. Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
547 Cherry St. SE, Suite C
Kick back in the comfort of a ‘70s living room, complete with wood paneling, tweed couch, tube television and TV tray at The Commons lounge. From 3-6 p.m., Monday through Friday, drop in for happy hour drink pricing — $5.75 drafts, $8 wines and $8.50 cocktails. Also enjoy discounted bites — $5.50 peanuts, pretzels and fries, and $10.50 mac n’ cheese, Brussels sprouts and
The Hotel District offers a great night’s sleep — or place to crash after a night on the town.
By Austin Langlois
SoHo (NYC), Notting Hill (London), the Gothic Quarter (Barcelona), Wynwood (Miami) — there are so many neighborhoods that have become more well-known than the city they call home. These neighborhoods carry their own identity and exude their own special vibe.
In Grand Rapids, we’ve seen a rise in identity neighborhoods, from gentrified neighborhoods like the West Side and Belknap Lookout to commercial areas like the Arena District or Gaslight Village.
Recently, a new branded area has emerged — the Hotel District, centered around, you guessed it, downtown hotels. It’s an area previously referred to as the Central Business District, bordered by I-196 to the north, Division Street/Sheldon Street to the east, Fulton Street to the south and US-131 to the west.
Spearheaded by George Aquino, vice president and managing director of AHC+Hospitality, the name and marketing campaign was officially launched in June 2019 with the launch of the AC Hotel by Marriott.
“It’s common for large cities to call the areas with the most theaters as Theater Districts or museums as Museum Districts,” explained Aquino when asked about the name. “It doesn’t mean that all the theaters or museums in the city are located there; but is simply an effective way for cities to help locals and visitors navigate through the city offerings. To help us attract more visitors and convention-goers to the city, it made sense to name the area the Hotel District since it’s home to the largest concentration of hotel rooms in the metro area.”
He presented the messaging and marketing plan in the winter of 2019 to hotel, restaurant and bar managers in the area, and also solicited support from Experience Grand Rapids President and CEO Doug Small, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. President and CEO Tim Kelly and Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss.
“Even though we’re a relatively small city, it can be daunting figuring out where to stay,” said Aquino in a SOLACE article — AHC’s magazine for the company’s Grand Rapids hotels. “The Hotel District identifies those locations specifically. And in establishing this new district in a formal way, it allows all the restaurants and retail shops and everything else to become part of something bigger.”
Amway Grand Plaza
187 Monroe Ave. NW
The grande dame of Grand Rapids’ hotels, the Amway Grand Plaza boasts 680-plus rooms in the former Pantlind Hotel. It’s currently undergoing a $40 million renovation project that’s scheduled to be completed in 2021 to update the Tower façade and increase energy efficiency.
235 Louis St. NW
One of only 22 JW Marriott hotels in the country, you can’t miss its unique architectural shape in the Grand Rapids skyline. The rooms feature panoramic views of the city
and the Grand
River. Don’t miss its lobby restaurant Margaux for upscale French fare.
Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Grand Rapids
11 Monroe Ave. NW
The third of Grand Rapids’ three skyline hotels, Courtyard is a more relaxed, approachable property. Its location directly across from The B.O.B and 20 Monroe Live make this the perfect spot for live music lovers.
Downtown Holiday Inn
310 Pearl St. NW
Directly across the Grand River from the city center, Holiday Inn is a quieter respite within walking distance of downtown attractions. Depending on the season, it can be a more affordable option than peers
CityFlats Grand Rapids
83 Monroe Center NW
CityFlats is an eco-friendly boutique hotel concept, awarded as a LEED Gold Certified building and designed with reclaimed wood, plastic, glass and cork. Drift into sleep in arguably the most comfortable bed in the city while wrapped within silky hypoallergenic bamboo linens.
AC Hotel by Marriott
50 Monroe Ave. NW
This Euro-modern hotel is a mix of local and international tastes. From the lobby decked out in Herman Miller furniture to its open-concept lobby bar and the minimalist rooms, the AC Hotel hits the sweet spot on today’s luxury trends.
140 Ottawa Ave. NW
The newest hotel to the area, Hyatt Place features 160 spacious rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, free breakfast and it’s pet friendly.
Homewood Suites by Hilton
161 Ottawa Ave. NW
Homewood Suites caters to longer-term guests — many of them repeat business guests. The apartment-style living makes this a more comfortable option for your home away from homestay.
There are a number of retail corridors where you can find gifts, clothing, home goods and more.
By Charlsie Dewey
Grand Rapids has a number of local boutiques and retailers stocked with unique items and many of them are even Michigan-made. The city’s local artist community is churning out pieces you will definitely want to display prominently within your dwelling and the city’s makers are eager to create custom furniture items, décor and more for your homes. You also can find designer goods imported from around the country and world at many of these small shops.
Places like the Heartside neighborhood are working to attract more artists and start-up ventures to its environs, while organizations like Uptown host shopping events throughout the year to attract regulars and newbies to its shops.
It is easy to spend an afternoon shopping in the more walkable areas of the city. Pick a corridor and enjoy your afternoon — don’t forget your credit card!
The stretch of Cherry Street from Diamond to Eastern is one of the most walkable areas in Grand Rapids. You’ll find restaurants, gift shops, a jewelry store, multiple eyeglass stores, a kids store, home goods stores and more on this street.
Highlights: Books & Mortar, Hopscotch Children’s Store, Windsor Cottage
Unique businesses line the streets of the Eastown area and reflect the diversity of the neighborhood. You’ll find health and wellness stores, galleries, gift shops, used bookstores and more. It also has a handful of great restaurants for when you need to refuel.
Highlights: Rebel, Eastown Antiques, Spirit Dreams
Boutiques and restaurants line Gaslight Village, making it a great destination for an afternoon of shopping. You’ll find several leisurewear retailers here as well as a jewelry store and the EGR Spirit Shop.
Highlights: Hoffman Jewelers, Athleta
The majority of shopping on the West Side can be accomplished along two main corridors: Bridge Street and Leonard Street. These main thoroughfares are the commercial centers of this historic downtown neighborhood. You’ll find a hardware store, T-shirt shop, furniture store and a headshop here.
Highlights: The Mitten State, Northwestern Home Furnishings
In the heart of downtown, Monroe Center is a lively locale with plenty of opportunities for shopping. If you are looking for a gift, this is a great place to start with boutiques, card shops, specialty food stores and more. There is even a furniture show-room here.
Highlights: GRAM gift shop, The Old World Olive Co., Rodolfo Gonzales Interior Design
The shopping area along Wealthy Street spans many blocks and is full of stores. Kicking off at the Wealthy Street and Union Street intersection and ending in the Eastown neighborhood where Wealthy and Lake Drive converge, this stretch of Wealthy Street has everything: boutiques, home goods stores, personal care and hygiene products, a specialty market, jewelry store, flower shop and, of course, restaurants.
Highlights: Fox Naturals, Mokaya, Woosah, Dime & Regal
The evolving Heartside Neighborhood is an eclectic mix of apartments, social services organizations, galleries and retail stores. Known for its First Friday Gallery Hop events, this area is full of makers. If you are looking for a unique piece of art to add to your home or for a gift, this is a great place to find that treasured piece.
Highlights: Bold Socks, Vertigo, Premier
Monroe North/Creston neighborhoods
This former industrial center is evolving into a residential neighborhood with plenty of activities to enjoy. As a result, retail stores are starting to set up shop in this neighborhood. A little further north and you’ll come to Creston, a neighborhood on the cusp of a retail resurgence.
Highlights: Fido & Stitch, Central District Cyclery, Stonesthrow
Stretching from Carlton Street to Eastern Avenue along Fulton, you will find a handful of unique shops, including a secondhand clothing store, antique shops, a board game store and a bicycle shop. There also are a handful of coffee shops and restaurants to enjoy. This also is where the city’s biggest farmers market is located.
Highlights: Grand Rapids Bicycle Co., Urban Exchange, Blue Bridge Games
Guide to the weekend
Senita Lenear shares how to spend a Saturday in the third ward.
Third Ward City Commissioner Senita Lenear begins her mornings at the Boston Square Cafe, 1553 Kalamazoo Ave. SE. Lenear explained, “The owner and serving staff know their customers and greet them by name and remember their orders.”
According to Lenear, the third ward is the place to visit if you love to shop. The retail businesses range from local to chains and there are plenty of options. She suggests checking out the LOFT, a women’s boutique in Breton Village, 1840 Breton Road SE, for unique dresses and contemporary styles. For men’s fashion, hop on over to Jos. A. Bank, 1892 S. Breton Road, for a new and slick wardrobe.
Another shopping opportunity is the Eastern and Alger Popup Market. The market features handmade art, boutique clothes, vintage collectibles and many other locally grown and made items. The event occurs 9 a.m.-3 p.m. the second Saturday of each month June through October.
After a busy day of shopping and browsing, order some takeout from Daddy Pete’s BBQ, 2921 Eastern Ave. SE. Daddy Pete’s is home to award-winning smoked foods with pork, chicken, beef and vegan options. —Robin Gould