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Top 5 Restaurants in Grand Rapids, Michigan

- Hye Sung

It’s been a pretty stressful freshman year. For me, stress means two things. 1) I need better time management skills. 2) Time to eat.

Since I just started attending college this fall in Grand Rapids , MI and have gotten a great taste of the town. I once heard somebody refer to Michigan as the land of meat and potatoes. They obviously never went to Grand Rapids.

5. Yesterdog

Locals from Grand Rapids often bring their visiting friends to Yesterdog to give them the “Yesterdog experience”, a privilege not many in the world even know about. This retro-styled eatery has become a spot I’ve gotten to know well this school year. After long nights of studying, I often go to Yesterdog with a few friends around midnight to treat myself to a hotdog. Now, it may sound boring–what can be so special about a hot dog place? First of all, the hot dogs themselves are delicious. In general, I am not much of a hotdog guy. At a barbecue, I tend to go for the hamburger. The hotdog used at Yesterday is not the same hotdog you’ll find at a block-party barbecue or at a baseball game. Simply put, they are delicious. I was surprised by how much flavor they have. For 2$, you can get the classic “yesterdog”, which includes chili, onion, pickle, ketchup, mustard. I tend to go for the “cheddardog”, which is a chili-cheese hotdog. There is also a veggie-dog, so lose no hope vegetarians, you can have the experience as well! This is a great place to make a quick stop for lunch with your family when making your way through Grand Rapids. I mean, why wouldn’t you want the Yesterdog experience?
Yesterdog site:

4. Electric Cheetah
Electric Cheetah (EC) has become one of the hippest restaurants in Grand Rapids. They are known for being eclectic, alternative, and hip as can be, but in no way do they come across as pretentious or trying too hard. I’d even say that EC simply knows how to have fun. Just look at their menu–with dishes named “lil’ pickle tickle” and “sloppy jalopy”, you can tell the chefs had a blast coming up with their dishes!

Their menu is affordable, vegetarian-friendly, and has many ingredients grown locally. If you’re an on-the-go business man, don’t worry–they have free wi-fi! If you’re a fan of root beer, you will be overjoyed to read through the varieties of root beer that EC has, which is of 26 craft root beers. The menu is almost overwhelming because of how many choices are offered, but I personally recommend “burgertime” which is 1/2 lb. burger served on a Kaiser roll with leaf lettuce, red onion, tomato, and one topping of your choice. If you’re into eggplant and mushrooms, and if you love cheese half as much as I do, the “singing eggplant” will do the trick. I promise, the “singing eggplant” never fails to satisfy your savory (and organic) desires. Plus, they use sea salt!
The Electric Cheetah site:

3. San Chez Tapas Bistro (and Cafe)

Tapas are basically appetizers. Imagine dozens of appetizers. Kind of overwhelming, huh? It can be. Once you settle on what tapa seems best, you will only have to wait for your taste buds to be pleased–and they will be. The “ensalada de pollo y curry”, which is a curried chicken salad, was probably my favorite dish, especially since I love curry in all forms. The “gambas asadas al fuego” was a close second. This dish is roasted spicy shrimp in a delicious banana cream sauce with rice. Yes, shrimp and banana may be completely foreign to your gustatory framework, and I knew I was being a bit adventurous when ordering this dish, but I knew I made the right choice as soon as it’s aroma hit me.

San Chez may be for a more mature palate (and for adults: San Chez offers dozens of alcoholic drinks), but you will be able to find something good for your kids. A good friend of mine brought his 11-year old twin daughters and they enjoyed sharing a plate of “Solomillo de Pavo”, which consisted of turkey, mango chutney, and curry aioli. There are a great variety of vegetarian options, the best of which would either be the gazpacho, which is a chilled tomato and cucumber soup, and “fritos de queso azul”, which is blue cheese fritters and red pepper aioli. San Chez is a bit pricey, but it offers unique takes on classic “tapas” that I consider worth the pay.
San Chez site:

2. Chez Olga

I went to Chez Olga once with a group of friends but out of all the restaurants I had been to in Grand Rapids, the service at Chez Olga was the warmest. The waiters were all friendly and extremely helpful. The owner of the restaurant even talked to us for awhile and helped us choose according to our tastes. None of us left unsatisfied or feeling that we ordered the wrong thing. The food is Caribbean with a heavy Haitian influence. Though the entrees are quite filling, I recommend ordering appetizers just because they are all so delicious. The “pates”, which are pastries filled with either beef, chicken, or vegetables, are my favorite appetizer. The Creole Sampler gets the job done, though,  for you get accra, fried plantains, pate and shrimp marinad. Though the sampler is pricier at 11.99, you will undoubtedly enjoy it. The menu is quite simple and it is not pages long, like San Chez, but the choices all sound promising. I had a taste of the creole chicken, chicken & broccoli, and the gumbo, and it was all great. I have to say, I know I made the best choice when I ordered the saute shrimp… well, at least for me.

Though there is no kids menu, the atmosphere is very family-friendly and the “Haitian Island Drinks” will satisfy that sweet tooth of yours and your children’s. Also, if they ask you how hot you want your food, do not be too wild. The heat may keep you from tasting the food and that kind of goes against the whole point of going out to eat, right?
Chez Olga’s site:

1. Marie Catrib’s

The website for Marie Catrib’s describes the menu as “something for every taste bud” and I must agree. Much of the cuisine puts a spin on classic American dishes, such as the grilled cheese and the reuben sandwich, as well as new spins on Lebanese dishes. Marie Catrib’s is for everybody with it’s vegetarian-friendly menu and “Good Kid’s Stuff”. Marie Catrib often can be seen walking around talking to customers and offering free desserts. I have seen this two of the three times I have been there and I was lucky enough to enjoy some cookies and organic granola bars. Not only is Marie Catrib’s delicious (and healthy), but it is also affordable.  “The Salmon Surprise”, a maple-ginger-lime marinated salmon with feta sauce, spinach, and bread, was definitely one of my favorites, but I have to say that the “shoarma”, or the gyro, was my absolute favorite at Marie Catrib’s. Of course, you can get a gyro in plenty of restaurants and even in carts in the city, but at Marie Catrib’s, they really know what they are doing and you can taste it. Their gyros are not haphazardly put together. You can taste perfection in each bite. The meat in the gyro is all locally-grown, as well, and the cucumber yogurt sauce is probably the best I’ve ever encountered.
Marie Catrib’s site:




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