As a resident of Grand Rapids, I have long thought of my city as home to some of the cheapest food and drinks in the state. Then…this.
I made the trek out to Green Dot Stables based on recommendations from friends on the internet and—more convincingly—a regular at The Sugar House, an artisanal cocktail bar I stopped at while waiting to be seated at Slow’s Bar-B-Q. I was told the drinks at the Green Dot were cheap and the clientele leaned towards hipsters; however, coming from a gentleman drinking a $10 cocktail, I assumed that meant I would find reasonably priced Pabst Blue Ribbon. To say I was unprepared is a complete understatement.
First and foremost, Green Dot Stables is not located on what you would call the main drag. As I drove there with a car full of metro Detroiters, there were skeptical looks as Google directed us down empty streets lined with tractor trailers. One friend mentioned how he hoped we were not going under the Ambassador Bridge. We did not, but you can see the bright red letters of the bridge from the parking lot. Turns out, Green Dot Stables is kind of out in the middle of nowhere. The building is unassuming, looking like a bar you would find at the crossroads of two empty highways on the outskirts of a small town. The message is clear: if you wanted something fancy, go somewhere else; if you want great food and cheap drinks, you’ve come to the right place.
As the name suggests, Green Dot Stables has a horse racing theme. When I walked in, a TV across from the entrance played reruns of horse races run earlier in the day, week, or month (or year? I don’t know anything about horse racing. The men riding around in the chariots did make for some fun bar conversation, however). We were directed to our seats and given food and drink menus. After glancing at the menus, I took a minute to gather myself and pick my jaw back up off the floor; it seemed like everything was priced between $2 and $3.
After taking in all of our menu options, my tablemates seemed hell-bent on ordering everything on the drink menu. Moscow Mules, Zug Island Iced Teas, Mint Juleps, Caramel Apples, a couple Dragonmead beers (the name of which I cannot recall), Molson, Labatt Blue, and a random assortment of shots were sent to our table in waves. Once, when out of options, my friend asked our server for his recommendation. He pointed him towards a shot of Jeppson’s Malört, a wormwood liquor only available around Chicago that smells like straight rubbing alcohol and,
apparently, tastes even worse. While the description makes the drink seem like an idiotic choice, the server had apparently sized up my friend perfectly. He spent the next twenty minutes looking up details of the liquor on his phone.
When I turned to the food menu, I kicked myself for having eaten earlier in the night. The long list of sliders looked delicious. Inventions like the Cuban (roasted Pork Butt, ham, mustard, pickles, and jack cheese), The BCT (bacon, cucumber, tomato jam, and aioli), and the Bologna (grilled onions and grilled bologna) caught my eye, but I was too full to give any of them a try. I did manage to sneak a few of a friend’s malt vinegar fries, and looked on as two other members of my party scarfed down poutine. If you enjoy thin-cut fries cooked perfectly between crispy and chewy, then these fries are for you. Worth noting are a few of the menu’s other offerings: Parmesan and Mornay Mac & Cheese, cucumbers served with Crème Fraiche, Shallot, and vinegar, cheesecake, and three different kinds of soup, just to name a few. It’s worth noting that everything is priced at $2 or $3. You read that right. This place is dirt cheap. And if the scores of other people chowing down were any indication, it’s damn tasty.
Sitting back at my apartment in Grand Rapids, I can only shake my head in disbelief that a place such as Green Dot Stables exists. It’s a near perfect spot, and I’m upset it’s not located in my hometown—a haven for all things cheap. When you stop in next time you’re in the Detroit area—and trust me, you’re going to want to—try a few of those sliders for me, wash them down with a cheap Michigan beer, and let me know what you think.
Jake Cagle had a designated driver while researching this article. Be safe, don’t drink and drive.