Southerner Meets Michigan: Exploring Eastown Grand Rapids

Southerner Meets Michigan: Exploring Eastown Grand Rapids

The Awesome Mitten-[Exploring Eastown Grand Rapids]
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bowman
Ah, Eastown–where creativity runs rampant and “old meets new” is a way of life. This community of innovative, driven people is also a hub for emerging fashion, culinary, and lifestyle trends that focus on the importance of craftsmanship and individuality. If you haven’t yet experienced it for yourself, check out these five characteristics that make Eastown so unique–then plan a day trip to experience this awesome part of town firsthand!

Eastown is . . . STYLE

The Awesome Mitten-[Exploring Eastown Grand Rapids]
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bowman
Can I be blunt? Walking into any bustling area of Eastown is like finding yourself on the “Explore” page of your Instagram feed. It’s topknot city and black-and-white stripes galore, with loads of thick-framed glasses and a dash of Peter Pan collars tossed in. I had to laugh at myself a little as I realized that while my life is a little more “mainstream” (i.e., boring), there really are places where people make Pinterest-style dreams a reality.

Eastown’s penchant for fashion may be, in part, a result of the fantastic boutique and consignment options available in the area. One particular store that caught my eye, Rock Paper Scissors, impressed me with its colorful displays and high-quality inventory. Typically, I love consignment items, but often find that resale shops cater to an older demographic or stock cheap, trendy items in an effort to draw a younger crowd. In contrast, Rock Paper Scissors offers labels like Loft and Anthropologie to keep up with customers who seek a stylish, affordable wardrobe that also holds up well.

The Awesome Mitten-[Exploring Eastown Grand Rapids]
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bowman
Eastown is . . . UNIQUE FLAVORS

Whether you’re in the mood for pizza, brunch, or healthier options, Eastown won’t let you down in the food department. Following a local shop owner’s recommendations, my husband and I opted for lunch at Marie Catrib’s–a deli/restaurant hybrid that specializes in vegan, gluten-free, and far-from-ordinary cuisine. Brussels sprouts, macaroni and cheese, and lots of curry-seasoned options filled display cases of freshly-prepared food, while the dining room menu (uniquely printed on a sheet of varnished wood!) featured a great variety of salads, sandwiches, and sampler plates. The restaurant does offer carnivorous options, as well, so I went with our waiter’s suggestion and tried the Vermaire (chicken cranberry) sandwich. I have to say, though . . . it didn’t hold a candle to the amazing roast beef on rye my husband ordered. In my opinion, a mostly-vegan place that also knows how to prepare meat is proof that there are some solid cooks cranking it out in the kitchen.

Eastown is . . . ANTIQUES & ODDITIES

The Awesome Mitten-[Exploring Eastown Grand Rapids]
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bowman
In an eclectic community like Eastown, it’s only natural to find stores filled with overwhelming amounts of hand-picked merchandise. Eastown’s selection of antique odds and ends is so vast, there are literally hole-in-the-wall shops popping at the seams with piles of old doors, desks, mirrors, and so on. The variety can be slightly overwhelming, but is great for anyone who doesn’t mind taking a few minutes to browse. Take, for instance, Phil’s Stuff–the weirdest store I’ve browsed in a very long time. This shop combines a random assortment of everything from light fixtures to milk crates, and emits a fun, but slightly-eery vibe that’s reminiscent of circus sideshows. You’d better believe, though, that there’s something in that building just perfect for you . . . all you have to do is figure out where it is.

The Awesome Mitten-[Exploring Eastown Grand Rapids]
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bowman
Eastown is . . . RECLAIMED & HANDMADE

If you’re not in the mood to hunt for your diamond in the rough, don’t worry–Eastown’s got some wonderfully-creative people who have already done the work for you. Stop by Hunt and Gather, the brainchild of Kelley and Troy Howley. This mismatched-but-lovely store showcases some of the Howleys’ favorite vintage and modern finds, laid out in a way that makes you feel as though you’re shopping in your best friend’s living room. When you’re done, do not miss out on Rebel, an adorable shop located a couple streets away. Stocked with loads of reclaimed and Etsy-esque items, Rebel’s entire store is pure eye candy. I was constantly distracted by pretty home decor and stationery, and literally had to circle the store twice to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

Eastown is . . . GOOD READS

Looking for a good spot to curl up and relax? Eastown’s got books–lots of them! While I’ve heard Argos Book Shop is a great contender, I popped into Redux Books for a bit to browse the store’s extensive collections. Antique books, Michigan books, books by Grand Rapids authors, classic children’s books, and more–some of the most unique and specific genres you’ll come across. It was almost like a mini-John K. King, but with more of a mystical (less urban) vibe.


Have you visited Grand Rapids’ eclectic Eastown? What kind of things do you look for when searching for a unique shop, restaurant, or other hang-out spot? Share in the comments below!

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I’m Jennifer, a native Virginian trying her hand at living the Michigan life. I moved to the mitten with my husband in 2011, and since then, have been busy exploring the state and looking for the best of what it has to offer. So far, I have no complaints—except maybe that whole “longer winter” thing. But, hey—even that just gives me an excuse to buy more sweaters. When I’m not searching for new places or immersing myself in media news (I’m an advertising junkie), I’m usually writing stories for my blog, Wading in Big Shoes. I love connecting with new people, so feel free to find me there or at my Twitter handle, @JHBowman. In the meantime, I’ll see you around the mitten!