A Taste of Grand Rapids

One of my favorite things to do is showcase amazing restaurants in unexpected places. Oftentimes, small cities are overlooked although they are usually the ones packed with the most adventure, flavor and hospitality.  This is definitely true of Grand Rapids, Michigan. I know because I called Grand Rapids home for several years as a  college student, and it’s always a pleasure to return. This city’s food scene has continued to grow & there’s an exciting emerging Black food scene with several restaurants & food businesses to explore. Grand Rapids is one of those communities that is big enough to have lots to do  & explore but small enough to feel welcomed and at home. The best part is a foodie adventure to Grand Rapids  won’t break the bank. 

We created a guide for your next trip to Grand Rapids that includes amazing Black-owned restaurants, local products & city attractions to visit. Check it out. 

EAT 

Forty Acres Soul Kitchen

1059 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

The first restaurant I visited pays tribute to the beauty of African American soul food and the resilience it represents. 40 Acres Soul Kitchen‘s name is inspired by America’s broken promise of reparations after the civil war & recognizes that African American cuisine was the original farm to table style cooking. I loved that this restaurant proudly celebrates Black culture and provides a modern and welcoming space perfect for a dinner with friends. Their menu is filled with creative & delicious takes on soul food, like their grits trio with tasty different regional styles of grits or their 40 rolls, a soul food stuffed egg roll. As someone who loves to try a little bit of everything, I loved that there were lots of sharing options so you can sample all the delicious flavors.

 

Chez Olga

1441 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

If you’re looking for an awesome selection of Creole Caribbean cuisine, this restaurant nestled in the hip Eastown neighborhood, is it! The exterior has creative woodwork that’s art in itself. But once you step inside this restaurant has a very welcoming  small mom & pop shop feel, so you know the food is going be GOOD! Chez Olga serves delicious Haitian eats with a twist. The owner/chef is just as vibrant as the food on her menu and after a conversation I felt like I was home. I let her choose what I would eat, and I’m glad I did!  Below are a few snapshots of the delicious foods she prepared for us.

The Creole Sampler includes a full spread of Haitian snacks like accra, fried plantains, pate & shrimp marinade with a side of pikliz- a spicy Haitian slaw that pairs perfectly!

 

The creole chicken is a flavorful medley of bell peppers, spices and more. Just be sure not to get the spicy version. As a certified hot sauce lover, and African foodie even I was sweating, but it was totally worth it! 

Snack

Malamiah Juice Bar

122 Oakes St SW Ste 122, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

 

At this local  juice bar you can grab a nourishing and tasty fresh juice to help you get your day started. This black family owned business is actually named after the couple’s sons and their paintings on the walls brighten up the space. This is a testament to the businesses commitment to family and community. They’ve got a great story and a delicious selection of healthy snacks. My favorite was the Southern Greens juice made with kale, celery, apple and more. Pick up a fresh juice or smoothie and then get ready to explore.

 

Mosby’s popcorn 

15 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

If you’re a serious snacker like me, you’ll love Mosby’s Popcorn. Located in downtown Grand Rapids they have over 100 popcorn flavors to choose from and after sampling a bunch,  I can tell you it’s delicious! This Black family owned business has perfected their popcorn flavors and the space has seating if you’d like to enjoy your treats inside. I ended up picking up a few bags of my favourite, Chicago style which is a blend of cheddar popcorn with caramel.  They’ve also got a candy bar that’s filled with old school favorites. I stocked up on some pop rocks & gummies that I hadn’t seen in ages. 

 

After a day of exploring,  I headed over to Bridge Street Market to grab a few more treats & drinks for later. I stocked up on a few more locally made goodies like Daddy’s Dough cookies, another black owned family business that you’ve got to try! As a cookie connoisseur, I absolutely loved each flavor I tried and the fun names like the Beauty (chocolate, toffee, pecans) & Beast (classic dough with chocolate, butterscotch, walnuts, and coconut).

I also picked up a bottle of Motu Viget Brut,  semi-dry, sparkling wine with pear and apple aromas. It was the perfect fit for a kickback later that evening at the Ace hotel and it was great to see that this young black owned spirits company based in Grand Rapids was taking off.

Experience 

While in Eastown, I highly recommend checking out some of the unique local shops & restaurants that make Grand Rapids a great place to visit. Having lived in Grand Rapids many years ago, it was amazing to see the growth and creative new businesses that had popped up since then.  Beyond the amazing food, the hospitality here was unmatched, every store owner, server, bartender etc made me feel at home. This is what sets Grand Rapids apart, you can get the diverse range of cultural sites & restaurants available in a big city while still enjoying the small town feel. 

 

The Plant Shop 

1056 Wealthy St SE

If you’re interested in plants & how to make your space more beautiful and fresh- this spot should be on your list.  It’s great for all the road trippers who can easily stock up on some really beautiful plants & accessories for home. 

 

Sacred Springs Kombucha 

1059 Wealthy St SE 

This was definitely one of the most interesting stops on my trip and an awesome alternative to visiting a traditional bar. Sacred Springs brews its own kombucha in several delicious flavors and actually infuses their kombucha with sound- it’s quite unique! Plus the space is designed for social gatherings and often hosts live performances. I ordered a flight of kombucha & really enjoyed it and the vibe this space offered. 

 

Max’s South Seas Hideaway 

58 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Cocktail lovers, this spot is for you. Located in downtown Grand Rapids it’s a Hawaian cocktail oasis that’s perfect for a few drinks with friends. They also have an extensive menu filled with lots of tasty shareable apps and creative desserts. 

 

Vinyl & Vino at The AC Hotel 

50 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI

I stayed at the modern & comfy Ace Hotel in downtown Grand Rapids which was a perfect place for a foodie ready to explore. Not only did they have ultra comfy beds, sleek rooms and great service- they also had a popping bar downstairs. My favorite part was the library room in the AC Hotel. It was perfect for a gathering of a few friends who helped me sample all delicious snacks I picked up. Then we enjoyed the Vinyl & Vino event with drink specials and a Dj mix from 5-8 pm. DJ Composition was playing all my favorite tracks including my Usher request so you know it was lit. 

 

Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA)

2 Fulton St W, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts is the largest contemporary arts center in Michigan, and focuses on exhibitions, events and film programming. They currently have an exhibit that explores Black masculinity, called Translating Valence: redefining black male identity. The artwork was incredible and I found myself getting lost just staring at the different pieces displayed. 

 

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

1000 E Beltline Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525

Home to the largest tropical conservatory in Michigan as well as beautiful outdoor trails, unique sculpture gardens and more- this is definitely a must visit while in Grand Rapids. A stroll through the botanical garden is so peaceful and beautiful. If you’re into art & nature, this is a great place to visit in between a food tour of Grand Rapids.  

This Article has been sponsored by Experience Grand Rapids. 

However all thoughts and opinions shared are my own.

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