7 Fantastic Restaurants to Try in Grand Rapids


Grand Rapids is Michigan’s second largest city and has a thriving food scene. You’ll find everything from fine dining to taco stands. I chose these restaurants because their dishes feature homemade, seasonal and local components.

Here are seven fantastic Grand Rapids restaurants randomly listed.

Mushroom Bao Buns (Photo credit: Amy Piper)

1. The Green Well

Located in the East Hills neighborhood, The Green Well has a laid back and friendly atmosphere. The green in the restaurant’s name refers to the restaurant’s natural and sustainable elements. One wall features green plants as a nod to nature. To emphasize durability, you will find cloth napkins rather than paper. If you want a straw, ask for it, because they’d rather not use them.

Their menu changes constantly, but the theme is comfort food with an international twist, prepared with ingredients from local suppliers. We found traditional American comfort food on the menu, like deviled eggs, Creole shrimp and grits, and barbecue pork polenta. But we also found the international side of the menu with items such as beef bulgogi and Green Well curry.

We had the mushroom bao buns with an Asian twist. We chose this starter because the server assured us it was Instagram worthy. The chef made the buns from a white dough and shaped it into a taco shape as a base. Then they cooked the mushrooms in a hoisin sauce to give them a meaty flavor. My husband, who doesn’t eat mushrooms, asked what kind of meat it was. He knew very little. Then they added pickled carrots, cucumbers, and a few slices of jalapeno, for some crunch and heat. Finally, a sprinkle of cilantro and sesame seeds garnished the dish. If you visit, give them a try.

Vanilla cheesecake with blueberry sauce at Green Well.
Amy Piper

For dessert, we chose the vanilla bean cheesecake. The base was an oatmeal cookie crust. The pastry chef infused the filling with real vanilla bean pieces, then they topped it with a maple-blueberry sauce. Dessert was easily shareable.

Pro tip: Ask the kitchen to split the plate if you want to share a starter or if you want to share a starter between the grandchildren. They will do this at no additional cost.

Grove Restaurant exterior.
Amy Piper

2. Grove

Grove, also located in the walkable residential neighborhood of East Hills, has been completely renovated in a modern aesthetic during the pandemic. They support local farmers and artisans with their farm-to-fork meals. The basis of their seasonal meals follows the Midwestern agricultural season, so you won’t find fresh tomatoes on the menu in January.

Try their twice-cooked squash with quinoa, flavored with coconut milk and apricot, harissa and pumpkin seeds.

When I was there the menu included potato crusted wild striped bass with carrot, ginger and bok choy. Unfortunately, like most farm-to-fork restaurants, the menu is constantly changing, so your favorite may not be available until the following year.

Pro tip: Plan to make reservations to ensure you get a spot at this often full venue.

Tacos at Luna.
Amy Piper

3. Taqueria Luna Cocina

In downtown Grand Rapids, Taqueria Luna Cocina combines Western Michigan and Latin America in a venue with ecology as its central theme. They are deeply rooted in sustainability. While they admit that West Michigan doesn’t have local avocados, they source local meats and produce as many as they can. When they need non-local items like avocados, they buy them from independent vendors.

I ordered a mix-and-match plate of three tacos. I love carnitas and this one did not disappoint. They made it with braised pork, which they call cerdo. Additionally, I selected the carne asada, a steak version, and the mildly spiced chorizo. Each taco used a double corn tortilla so the meat wouldn’t break apart and the tortilla wouldn’t fall apart. They each served with onions and a sprinkle of cilantro. The plate also came with pickled red onions, grilled onions and lime wedges. I also added guacamole.

At the same time, I had elotfresh sweet corn, cut on the cob, then tossed with chilli, butter, a squeeze of lime, aioli and a pinch of cilantro.

Pro tip: They also offer an extensive menu of Mexican drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, such as Jarritos.

Salsa trio at Luna.
Salsa trio (Photo credit: Amy Piper)

4. Sundance Bar & Grill

Sundance Bar & Grill has two locations, one in downtown Grand Rapids known as a lunch spot, and the 28th Street location known as the go-to place for weekend breakfasts. While the 28th Street location also serves lunch and dinner, I tend to go there for brunch on the weekends.

They serve American dishes in a southwestern style. One of my favorite dishes here is the churro pancakes. They take traditional American buttermilk pancakes and add cinnamon chocolate chips. Then they add chocolate sauce on top and sprinkle with churro crumbles. The dish comes with eggs as desired and bacon. You’ll also want to order one of their jumbo cinnamon rolls with frosting to spread on the table.

I enjoy their lunch tacos, especially the shrimp or carne asada versions. I always add guacamole and fries on the side and pair it with the homemade salsa trio of fire-roasted tomatoes, avocado-poblano, and hatching chili salsa.

Pro tip: If you can’t get here in time for breakfast or brunch, they have breakfast for dinner on their menu.

Ricotta toast at Terra.
Ricotta toast (Photo credit: Amy Piper)

5. Earth

While they’re offering dinner, I love having brunch at Terra, aka Earth. Terra’s menu features farm-to-fork fresh dishes using local, seasonal ingredients. Terra is a relaxed, family-friendly environment in a building that is almost 100 years old.

An exhibition-style kitchen and exposed brickwork contribute to the laid-back vibe, while modern artwork on display adds a splash of color to the walls. The open kitchen is equipped with a wood-fired pizza oven.

Summer alfresco dining offers patio seating with large umbrellas. The menu is seasonal, so what’s on the menu when I visit may not be in season when you dine there. But I loved their ricotta toast which started with toasted milk bread. Then they spread it with lightly sweetened ricotta and topped it with fresh strawberries and fresh basil. The dusting of sunflower seeds added a slight crunch.

Dog's hair at Terra.
Dog hair (Photo credit: Amy Piper)

The bowl called “The Hair of the Dog” starts with a base of buttermilk biscuits topped with sausage sauce. Garlic infused cookies were sprinkled with shredded cheddar cheese. Then they topped it with kale and charred onions. The homemade jalapeno hot sauce brings a bit of heat balanced with a hint of honey. Then it is topped with fluffy scrambled eggs. You can order a simple version of cookies and sausage sauce as a standalone dish.

Pro tip: Terra staff approves parking in adjacent lot.

6. MDRD

You’ll find MDRD in downtown Grand Rapids, located on the tower side of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel at 27and stage. The restaurant has been completely renovated and offers stunning views of the city.

The restaurant, pronounced ‘Madrid’, offers a menu focused on Madrid’s next-level modern Spanish cuisine, as the tagline says, The Rhythm of Madrid. MDRD is an upscale gourmet restaurant that combines Spanish imports with local ingredients. Our servers warmly answered our questions about the dishes. Their enthusiasm will add to your comfort if you are unfamiliar with Spanish cuisine.

The elegant atmosphere includes a marble bar and gold and white tiled walls. Murals by a local artist add a splash of color to the elegant setting. Table settings imported from the Iberian Peninsula add to the Spanish feel.

We started our meal with traditional Spanish tapas or small plates. After spending 3 months in Madrid a few years ago, I was looking forward to reminiscing with a plate of patatas bravas and some croquetas de jamón. I fondly remember having these two dishes with my colleagues before dinner at the bar, and the MDRD’s version did not disappoint.

The menu included Spanish classics like mixed paella, roast Iberian pork belly, and seafood specialties like Spanish octopus.

The mixed paella was a work of art. The protein in this version included shrimp, chicken and slices of bites. Bomb rice added salty chunks and texture, called socarrat. This version also had artichokes and piquillo pepper.

Pro tip: I suggest making your reservations for sunset to enjoy the panoramic scene from their floor-to-ceiling windows.

Pizza Sub with homemade fries.
Pizza Sub (Photo credit: Amy Piper)

7. Monelli’s Italian Grill and Sports Bar

Located in the suburb of Grand Rapids, Wyoming, Monelli’s Italian Grill & Sports Bar is a family-run restaurant serving homemade Italian specialties. Although it’s a full-service Italian restaurant with dishes like chicken piccata and classic lasagna, you’ll also find a variety of sandwiches and pizzas on the menu.

If you’re there for a game, choose to sit near the bar, which has several big-screen TVs. If you prefer a quieter dinner, choose the dining room. Either way, the food is the same.

I must mention some of the items that are homemade here. They make their own bread, sausage, meatballs, pizza sauce, beer cheese dip, and even potato chips. With everything homemade, it’s fresh.

Arancini at Monelli.
Arancini (Photo credit: Amy Piper)

For an aperitif, start with the Arancini, homemade risotto balls stuffed with fresh mozzarella, then lightly breaded and fried until golden brown. Then they serve them on a bed of homemade roasted red pepper aioli and top them with a dollop of light lime dressing. Another good starter is the beer cheese dip with hot pretzel sticks.

The pizza sub was exactly pizza on a grilled sub roll. First, the cook spread the roll with homemade pizza sauce, then topped it with applewood smoked ham, pepperoni, mushrooms and onions. Then they melted mozzarella cheese over it all and covered it with homemade sausage cubes. It’s a nice change from a traditional pizza with all the flavors of pizza. Finally, they serve it with homemade chips.

Pro tip: Monelli’s is a freestanding building in a strip mall, so you won’t have any parking issues.

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