We all know about the great local spots in Grand Rapids. What about the hidden gems, the oft-overlooked spots that aren’t as flashy or don’t get as much hype? Here’s a guide to some of the most underrated spots in GR.
Eat: Choo Choo Grill
Don’t believe the hype, Stella’s does not have the best burgers in Grand Rapids. Even if you like your burgers all fancied up, stuffing your burgers with other ingredients besides meat is a sure way to signal that your patty alone is lacking for something (flavor, juiciness, etc.).
Instead, dear reader, if you find yourself craving a truly delicious burger in Grand Rapids, you must make a pilgrimage to Choo Choo Grill, a small hole-in-the-wall type place on the city’s north side. Established in 1946, Choo Choo Grill’s burgers have a flavor that can only be found on meat cooked on well-seasoned grill.
The place is tiny, but that’s part of its charm. There are only two booths, so it’s likely you’ll end up sitting at one of the dozen or so bar stools that overlook the grill. You can watch as your food is cooked, and chat with the cooks and others who’ve posted up on the adjacent seats, many of whom are usually regulars.
What makes the burgers so good at Choo Choo Grill is that the patty can stand alone. They are large, with a good sear on the outside that imparts a lot of flavor while still being juicy on the inside. There is a time and a place for fancy ingredients, but here you’ll recognize that those times are few and far between.
Elk Brewing is located on one of the busier stretches of Wealthy Street in Cherry Hill, a district that’s seen a good amount of gentrification over the past decade or so. With bars and restaurants moving in, it was inevitable in this town that eventually someone would add a brewery. Elk was in the works for quite some time–a “Coming Soon” sign seemed to hang on the building for what seemed like years–but the wait was worth it. The old non-descript white and blue building that once stood looking abandoned has been updated, now sporting large windows that give it a more modern look. Inside, it isn’t the biggest taproom you’ll find in Grand Rapids, but it’s a big open space with a bit of an industrial feel.
What about the beer? All around, Elk is solid. A personal favorite is the Rowsters Coffee Porter. If it’s summer and you’re looking to beat the heat, the Hefeweizen is a good bet. All around, I have yet to have a beer that I did not enjoy.
Grocer: Kingma’s Market
Of course you have your Meijers and your Family Fares, which are solid grocery stores, but if you’re looking for something a little more specialty, try Kingma’s up on Plainfield Avenue. It’s got tons of bulk candy and other goodies which give off an enticing aroma when you walk in. There’s also a very solid butcher in back, featuring meats from local producers. Cheese lover will want to give check out Kingma’s as well, since they boast over 300 varieties.
Entertainment: Celebration Cinemas Woodlands
Celebration Cinemas at the Woodland Mall is a true gem. It’s a bargain theater, meaning you can see movies that have been out for a while at a discounted price of $5. Better yet, Woodland often gets indie movies that don’t always make it to the other Celebration theaters, and some are still priced at five bucks! If you’re a fan of arthouse films–foreign movies and indies that only see limited screenings around the country–Celebration Woodland gets a number of those, too, although they are sometimes priced a bit higher since they fall under their “Specialty Feature” category. It’s great to have such a multitude of options and still be able to save a few bucks.
There they are. Have anything you’d like to add? Feel free to let us know in the comments!