Have Appetite, Will Travel: A Guide to Grand Rapids Restaurant Week 2014

Restaurant Week Grand Rapids is happening August 13-24, 2014. Sixty restaurants offer three-course tasting menus featuring their culinary team’s skills and the West Michigan harvest. Molly Crist, Experience Grand Rapids blogger and Onward Travel tour operator, fills us in on this year’s RWGR highlights.

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Grand Rapidians love food, beer, wine, and getting out on the town… which makes Restaurant Week one of the best times of the year in our corner of the Mitten. It’s time to head to West Michigan and warm a restaurant seat while soaking up the waning summer because RWGR is happening Wednesday, August 13 to Sunday, August 24. Read on for highlights of this year’s event that combines creative chefs, a range of beverages, the peak of Michigan’s harvest, and summertime revelry.

Great food for a terrific value

Three-course menus are $28 per person, though you’ll find two for $28 at several restaurants: Lindo Mexico, Rezervoir Lounge, Fajita Republic and Osta’s Lebanese Cuisine. Check out Fajita Republic’s DIY guacamole – fresh haas avocados with a selection of toppings (spiced pepitas, pico de gallo, bacon, chiles, oh my!) that you can mix until your heart’s content.

Perfect timing

August is the height of harvest in West Michigan. It’s the best time of the year for farmers markets and gardeners (holy summer squash!), which means locavore chefs are smiling, too. RWGR menus celebrate the bounty and your taste buds will, too. From sweet corn, to heirloom tomatoes, to Great Lake fish, it doesn’t get any fresher.

Food and beverage pairing

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Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

This year’s theme is Perfect Pairings. GR’s reputation as Beer City USA is well established with fifteen craft breweries and more popping up all the time. The Great Lake’s ability to insulate coastal farmland, keeping it cool in summer and preventing a bitter freeze in winter, means Michigan has a climate for wine production, and fortunately many local producers are creating delicious wines. Distilleries are popping up around the state, with creative spirits growing in popularity. To celebrate Michigan’s status as a beverage-producing-triple-threat – not to mention all the carefully roasted and brewed coffees – RWGR’s theme emphasizes the art of pairing food and drink.

CitySen is featuring a Southern-Style American menu, from Fried Green Tomatoes, to Chicken and Waffles, to Pecan Pie. Try the Baby Back Ribs braised in Bell’s Oberon paired with a pint of Oberon mixed with Founders’ Rubaeus, a good complement to the fruity house-made BBQ sauce.  Bar Divani has an eclectic, flavor-forward-menu that offers an appetizer, salad, and entree – try starting with the Pulled Pork Rangoons with Sesame Chili Sauce, paired with a glass of Noel Bougrier Vouvray.

Local beverages are in the food, too!

In addition to pairing food and drink, chefs are cooking with locally-made beverages. At Grand Rapids Brewing Company, you can enjoy Michigan’s only certified organic brewery and chef-inspired, gourmet cuisine. The Brewer’s Flan on GRBC’s RWGR menu is a chocolate stout custard with cocoa nibs, salted caramel and mint, no doubt delicious with some stout in your glass, too. The Rubeaus Cheesecake at Licari’s is quite decadent, too, with Amoretti Cookie crust and a suggested pairing of Ferris Coffee Nicaraguan brew or Atwater’s Decadent Chocolate Stout.

Do good while dining

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

One dollar from each meal goes towards a scholarship fund at the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College. Since 2010, RWGR participating restaurants have donated almost $75,000 to the fund. It’s all about growing our local food culture in Grand Rapids, from farms to classrooms.

Cocktail competition

Local mixologists at participating RWGR restaurants are shaking it up for the Grand Cocktail competition that debuts August 6. Mixologists will vie to win an all-expense paid trip to Woodford Reserve in Kentucky. You can participate by sipping cocktails around town and voting at restaurantweekgr.com. Start at Judson’s at the B.O.B. with a sip of their Bufala Negra, a seasonal concoction of Woodford Reserve, basil, brown sugar, ginger beer and balsamic brown sugar simple syrup. Cheers, indeed!

Be a part of the fun

Beyond the tantalizing food choices, RWGR is an annual dining highlight because of the bustling atmosphere and feeling of culinary-inspired revelry.

Take advantage of an opportunity to visit a spot that might normally be out of your price range, a newly opened restaurant, or a place you’ve never been. invite your friends and enjoy wonderful food, a bustling city, a walkable downtown with many dining choices, and al fresco dining options to make the most of the beautiful summer nights ahead.

Do you plan to check out Grand Rapids Restaurant Week? 

6 Reasons Grand Rapids is Lonely Planet’s Pick for Top 2014 Travel Destination

As you begin to plan your travels for the new year ahead, here are six reasons why Grand Rapids is Lonely’s Planet’s Top 2014 travel destination from Experience Grand Rapids

When Lonely Planet named Grand Rapids the #1 travel destination of 2014, citing its natural beauty and beaches, ArtPrize, and the local craft beer scene as a winning combination, West Michigan residents weren’t surprised. They already knew that Grand Rapids is a gem just waiting to be discovered by the rest of the world – and here’s why:

The art.

Grand Rapids has been home to the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park for almost 20 years. The park houses rotating exhibits, as well as its own collection, and continues to expand. In 2007, Grand Rapids kicked its commitment to art up a notch with the opening of the new $75 million Grand Rapids Art Museum, the first art museum in the world whose entire facility is built to LEED standards.

Of course, the event making the biggest splash today is ArtPrize. Named one of the Five Festivals You Won’t Want to Miss in 2013 by Time magazine, this open art competition with prize money totaling $350,000, attracts artists and visitors from across the globe.

The beach.

Just 30 minutes from 300 miles of Lake Michigan coastline, the beach is never out of reach for those who live and play in Grand Rapids. And not just any beach, but a stretch of white-sand shoreline featuring expansive blue waters and a portion of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, named “The Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America.

The beer.

From its designation as “Beer City USA” for the past two years running, to individual awards granted to some half a dozen if its breweries, Grand Rapids has earned its reputation as a beer-lover’s paradise. New breweries, focused on sustainability and crafting that just-right-draft open regularly, and what was formerly a little neighborhood spot, Founders Brewing Co., has grown up, expanded, and taken its place in the international spotlight.

The food.

Grand Rapids’ restaurant scene is flourishing. A farm-to-table scene rivaling that of a major metropolis; innovative partnerships between brewers, winemakers, and chefs; the long-established Fulton Street Market; and the new Downtown Market – a culinary treasure trove – all mean that local foodies never have to look far for fresh ingredients, inspiration, and a world-class meal.

Performances aplenty.

Looking for live music? Check out one of Grand Rapids’ venues featuring local, regional and national talent both established and up-and-coming, take in a performance from the top-notch Grand Rapids Symphony, or experience a production from the Grand Rapids Opera. If live theatre is your passion, you can see touring Broadway productions or watch a play staged by one of several local professional theatre companies or the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, one of the largest community theatres in the country.

The scenery.

Despite all Grand Rapids has to offer, while in the city you’ll never be far from the rolling hills and abundant trees and wildlife of Western Michigan. Nature lovers can quickly get out of the city and enjoy the lush greenery surrounding its borders, but even right downtown, nature is always within sight – and within grasp.

With all that waiting for you in beautiful West Michigan, now’s the time to take the Lonely Planet’s advice and plan your trip! See you in Grand Rapids.

Established in 1927, Experience Grand Rapids (EXGR) leads the marketing of Grand Rapids/Kent County as a premier convention & visitor destination providing a significant positive impact to the West Michigan economy. Previously named the Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention & Visitors Bureau, EXGR represents the second largest city in Michigan with over one million residents.