7 Restaurants that you are missing, but shouldn’t be.

Pierogies from The Black Heron

Of course, everybody has their favorite restaurants, and so do I.  It is not uncommon for me to get into a rut about a certain place and talk about it ad nauseum. That said, there are some restaurants that have been habit forming for me and that I think should get a lot more attention than they currently do.  The following are seven restaurants in the greater Grand Rapids area that I think you should give a try this year and see if they are worthy of being part of your regular restaurant rotation. (In alphabetical order):

The Black Heron (428 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504) opened their doors in the middle of last year and were almost immediately smacked down by construction on both of the streets that border their building.  For months, they had an uphill slog in what should have been their honeymoon period.  Both streets have finally been repaired and people are starting to find them.  There is no longer a good excuse not to get down there and try their offerings.

Ganders (4747 28th St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546) gets almost all of their food from local sources.  Because they are situated inside of the Doubletree Hotel, people often forget that they are there and that they are dedicated to locally sourcing their food.  They are also typically one of the few places open during the holidays serving up a pretty solid buffet on those occasions.  There are several good reasons to pay them a visit.

Walleye and Spaetzle at Ganders

Gursha (4301 Kalamazoo Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49508) is one of the city’s 3 Ethiopian restaurants, and most people don’t even know it exists.  Located in the strip mall on Kalamazoo near 44th street, Gursha serves a classic Ethiopian menu that includes things like sega wat, kik alicha, and lentils all served on a huge piece of injera.  Most Grand Rapidians have not experienced this cuisine and some of that has to do with a lack of awareness.  Now that that impediment has been removed, this is your chance to give their food a try.  Bring cash, as the last time I went there this was the only type of payment that they were taking.

Luna (64 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503)  has only been open a few months, but because it is located just beyond all of the Barfly properties on Ionia street downtown (Hopcat/Stella’s, etc.) I feel that people tend to stop walking 1-2 buildings short of Luna and don’t even realize that it is there.  Available for a quick taco pick me up or something a little fancier, Luna is not to be missed. They also have margarita flights!

Noodle Monkey (formerly Rak Thai 5260 Northland Dr NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525) recently made the switch from Thai food to Japanese ramen, and they really got it right.  Virtually everybody I know who has been to Japan describes Noodle Monkey as “authentic” and “on point” with their ramen offerings.  Unfortunately, people seem to be slow in finding this gem on the north side of town.  It is definitely worth the trip to Noodle Monkey to check out this unique noodle experience.

Ramen Noodles from Noodle Monkey
Ramen Noodles from Noodle Monkey

Philly Steak and Cheese Express (655 Eastern Avenue Southeast, Grand Rapids, MI 49503) replaced the old “Sam’s Philly” down on Eastern street and is a beacon of comfort food in the middle of the city.  Hamburgers, Italian Beef, and Philly Cheesesteak all grace the menu here.  Hard working people putting out some good product at a reasonable price.  I frequent this restaurant a lot, but with only one table I would describe them as “take-out only”.  They also have a fairly large delivery radius for those who don’t want to trek outside of their home for good food.

La Vencedora, (on Quigley near Division) is popular in the local Latino community but, beyond that loyal following, most people cannot even find the building. Open only Friday-Sunday 7am-8:30pm, this is probably the most authentic Mexican restaurant in Grand Rapids.  Tacos asada for breakfast at 8 a.m.?  Yes, please.  Anybody remotely interested in authentic Mexican food should check these guys out.  Since they are so hard to find, I am providing a visual aid.

Visual directions to the unmarked La Vencedora
Visual directions to the unmarked La Vencedora with division St. Popeye’s in the background.

Hopefully one or more of these restaurants are places that you are unfamiliar with and you will have an opportunity to give them a try.  I hope that you find them all as enjoyable as I do.


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