A Food Critic’s Guide To Grand Rapids, Michigan

Walk into any restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan and tell them you know George Aquino.

No doubt you will get a pat on the back, a free beer from one of the 150 nearby breweries or even run into the man himself.

As a board member of Grand Rapids newly developed Downtown Market and Food Critic of local Food/ Travel colums for MLive / The Grand Rapids Press there really isn’t a place George doesn’t know – so here are his favourites in Grand Rapids. What’s yours?


If you want more local tips on eating and drinking Grand Rapids – check this out!


Best place for breakfast in Grand Rapids?

* I love breakfast joints with soul and a sense of place. Where the chunky home potatoes are fried on the flat top and the corned beef hash looks like it’s from the Midwest and not from abroad .The Westsider on the west side of the Grand River is that type of restaurant where regulars with preferred tables bump shoulders with millennials recovering from a night out on the town. 


Secret find / discovery in Grand Rapids?

* I love to take my visiting friends to SideBar. This 16-seat cocktail lounge is hidden away in a basement of an office building where the feature entertainment comes from a record player playing jazz vinyls.The intimacy of the lounge compliments the care given to each drink by the creative crew behind the bar.


Favorite event in Grand Rapids? 

* ArtPrize draws the most attention in the city; however, I love all the Signature Events hosted by the JW Marriott such as the highly entertaining Just Wicked Halloween party, the sexy Little Black Dress Party, JW Prom night and the JW Summer Soiree. 


Must eat dish in Grand Rapids? 

* One must head to the Downtown Market Grand Rapids for the daily Crostini creation and Monger’s Choice (charcuterie and cheese board) at Aperitivo and without a doubt, the best tasting fish and chips I have ever tasted at Fish Lads called “Butt-N-Chips.”


Favorite restaurant in GR now?

* My wife Elena and I feel like we visit Osteria Rossa every week for their Octopus (served with lemon conserva, pickled fennel, arugula, white beans and Calabrian chili oil) and their Rigatoni Bolognese. For my weekly Asian fix, head over to Seoul Market (it’s really a Korean market with about 8 tables) where these Korean sisters serve some of the most authentic, fiery and funky jigae and guk this side of the Mississippi.


Favorite Brew house / Pub in GR

* GR definitely has some stellar breweries like Founder’s and Brewery Vivant, BUT, I’m a hard liquor kind of Grand Rapidian with an addiction to the Barrel Aged Gin and Kegged Cocktails at Gray Skies Distillery – hands down my new go-to when I’m in need of a damn good drink in Beer City USA.


NOTE – All images are credited to individual sites of the restaurants mentioned

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