Pure Grand Rapids

Fettuccine Michael at Pietro’s

“I am having friends come in from out of town, where/what should I take them to eat that is distinctly Grand Rapids.” I see that question a lot, and I really like it. People are not asking for the best item or trendiest place, those restaurants come and go. They want to know what food has been the bedrock of our community and what makes us who we are.

My daughter has befriended the German exchange student in her school and the first thing I did was take the girls out for a wet burrito and some superman ice cream. Hopefully these are some of the things that she will remember about Grand Rapids when she returns to Germany.

EatGR recently identified some of these local treasures. Let’s see if you agree.

The Sizzler at Brann’s

The Brann’s sizzler: For about 80 years, Brann’s has been a pillar of our food community. Even my parents, who never went anywhere, always went to Brann’s on their anniversary. In part, because of their reasonable pricing, the sizzler has always been a popular menu item. Steak ain’t cheap, but everybody can afford the Brann’s sizzler.

The wet burrito at Beltline Bar: It is widely observed by most people that the wet burrito is a West Michigan thing. We own this one! There is always a dispute about the origins of this dish. I will say to you, after much back and forth on this topic, that the official EatGR position on this is that El Sombrero was the likely originator of the dish. Over time, however, the Beltline Bar has done the most to advance this local dish. With over five million wet burritos sold, Beltline Bar is the place to bring those out of town friends.

Wet Burrito at Beltline Bar

Fettuccine Michael at Pietro’s: I am sure that I have probably been told the history of this dish, but have since forgotton it. I do know that the dish has been around forever and is even part of the birthday special offered by the restaurant. I certainly plan to drop by Pietro’s on my birthday in a few weeks and pick up this classic, local pasta dish.

The prime rib at Tillman’s: If anybody is talking prime rib in Grand Rapids, and Tillman’s was not part of that discussion, somebody missed the memo. Tillman’s is another one of those local places that really built its’ reputation on the strength of their signature dish. If that is the meal that your out of town friends are looking for, this is where you take them.

Prime Rib at Tillman’s

The olive burger at The Filling Station: This popular west Michigan dish was made super popular locally by Mr. Fables, which is where I ordered my first olive burger back in the day, but they are no longer with us. It is true that you can get one almost anywhere in town, but the Filling Station probably has the closest version to the Mr. Fables Classic. Bring your friends there and show them that you know all about Grand Rapids olive burgers.

Crack fries at Hopcat: Although Hopcat has not been around for that long, their crack fries have quickly become a local standard. Every restaurant with a place in local food lore started out as a new restaurant that evolved into an iconic local destination. I suspect that Hopcat will be one of those places.

Although I am sure that there are some other very “Grand Rapids” dishes out there, these are the ones that I think of and the places where I would send people to experience our town’s food history. Did we forget anybody? Let us know that as well.




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