Eating and Drinking (a lot of coffee) in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Originally published July 18th, 2017.

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I just spent the past few days in the Finger Lakes region of New York.  I visited some spots, and was going to write about them... when I realized, wait a second. It has been two weeks since I was in Michigan, and I haven't written a word about it.  

That ain't cool.

Whenever I take a look at my blog analytics, I am always surprised how many people read my Kalamazoo post. 👋 👋 Michigan peeps. Thanks for your support. 

Grand Rapids is a cool city. I make fun of Grant pretty often (see: all the time) for how much Michigan people love Michigan, but as someone who loves Pittsburgh, I get it.... and it is endearing. 

I spent an evening exploring the city. Once everyone who found out I'm a pseudo food writer (well, everyone who asked why I was reading alone at a bar) just gushed about every place I had to see. 

They also asked if I had ever met Anthony Bourdain.  I said yes... because, why not?


Here are some of the places I checked out... and a few that I missed,but people insisted were great!

Food, Coffee, and Booze in Grand Rapids, Michigan:

Madcap Coffee

I visited Madcap in August of 2016. 

Way back then (*cough* literally less than a year ago), I cared less about the 3rd wave of coffee, and more about injecting as much caffeine into my system as humanly possible. 

Since, I have discovered that Madcap is a giant in the craft coffee movement.  Coffee shops ship these blends across the country to their shops, and patrons go out of their way to purchase them. It is basically Stumptown, but from Michigan (and even more hipster, if possible).

The actual Madcap Coffee Shop is big, and a good place to do work, or chat with a friend over coffee.  It is also really aesthetically pleasing (not surprising when you look at their coffee bags). 

The BEST part is that you can ask their knowledgeable staff about the differences in the blends, and get some legit answers on which one you will like best.

So if you like coffee..... yeah. Good place. 

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Rowster Coffee

Another coffee shop?  Yep!

I didn't spend too much time here - in fact I cruised in an hour before closing. (Do you know what it is like it need wifi?)

However, the staff was so friendly (maybe this is a Michigan thing), and the place was really cute. Good seats for working, outlets, and GREAT MUSIC. 

This isn't rocket science, folks - it is a trendy coffee shop in a cool neighborhood! 

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Donkey Taqueria

I didn't plan on going to Donkey Taco.  In fact, pretty much the opposite. I had tacos for lunch AND dinner the day before, so I wasn't exactly craving them. 

Luckily, tacos fall into the small category of foods that I could eat anywhere, anytime, and from any place (well.. maybe not from any place... that doesn't seem smart). 

I walked past the shop three times, and the place was so busy. People were pouring out onto the lawn. There was no sign, so I was intrigued. I grabbed a seat at the bar, and quickly made friends with Gary, the dude next to me, and table of ladies behind me.  

We all chatted about Gary, why I was reading a magazine alone, Gary, my friend Anthony Bourdain, and Gary. 

Everyone was kinda trashed, and I don't mean the ladies behind me - I mean everyone in the restaurant. I don't blame them.  Every person I mentioned Donkey Tacos to has said the same thing:

"Donkey Tacos? That place is supposed to have good margaritas."

I didn't partake, but that was almost better. Instead I just observed the madness around me. 

The service was a little slow, but it was a crowded Friday, so I get it. If I had had a margarita, I wouldn't have cared. The lamb taco was decent, but the PORK BELLY TACO was OUT OF THIS WORLD. 

This would be a fun place to go with friends (and get one of them pitchers of margs that literally EVERYONE was sipping on). 

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A fancy cocktail bar?  Okay. I'm cool with it. $15 cocktails are my kryptonite (is that sad?) 

This place is kinda like a speakeasy! It is located inside of a pizza shop atrium by Madcap Coffee.  That is all that I will say.

It is small... and I mean SMALL. If you go, don't show up in large group. You probably won't get in... and it is rude.

Respect the bouncer, who is a 5"2 female, and has the difficult job of maintaining fire codes (we are talking 15 person capacity), and dealing with drunk patrons.

I haven't even gotten to the drink menu, which was the highlight of the whole experience! It is a straight up tome.  I brought a magazine to read, but I actually preferred pursuing their endless cocktail list.  Each page is broken down into flavor concept (sour, spicy, fancy, ect.), and each drink has a paired quote. 

Finally, the staff, and girl who sat next to me (hi! if you're reading this) are friendly and knowledgeable. 

This is exactly what a cocktail bar should be.

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Resources that are not me:

An Actually Useful Guide to Grand Rapids, Michigan by Bon Appétit 

America's 10 Best French Fries by Food Network

Places people told me about:

  • Marie Catribs (three up votes)
  • Founders Taproom on the 1st Sunday of each month for free music from the Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra
  • Electric Cheetah (two up votes, two down votes)
  • Yesterdog (two up votes, one down vote)
  • Brewery Vivant (two up votes)
  • The Green Well (one up vote, one indifferent vote)
  • Harmony Brewing (one up vote, one down vote)
  • Elk Brewing (one up vote, one indifferent vote)
  • Wealthy Street Bakery (one 'go everyday!' vote)



Honorable mention: GR Bagel

If you want a solid bagel sandwich, look no further. 


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