Back in 2012 we visited Grand Rapids, Michigan for the first time and we loved it! At the time it was the #1 beer city in the USA. Since it is less than 4 hours from home, we had to check it out.
This summer, circumstances conspired to get us back there again. We wanted to see Dolly Parton on tour but the dates close to home were on weeknights meaning booking a day off work so we could stay overnight rather than drive 2 hours home after a concert. But she was playing Grand Rapids on a Saturday night, so we could make a mini-vacation out of it!
Some things have changed a lot since we were last in Grand Rapids. It's still a beautiful, clean, vibrant city, but there are so many new breweries, bars and restaurants. The hotel we stayed in had only been open for two weeks! We visited lots of new places and some old favourites from our last trip. Here are the highlights:
We stayed at the brand-new Homewood Suites downtown. The hotel is nice and the location is fabulous. All the rooms have a full kitchen. The building is a converted furniture warehouse and has some odd features, like interior windows that face into empty hallways, and a second-floor lobby that can be hard to find from the street. But we really enjoyed the room and location. We could walk anywhere downtown easily.
But the first thing we did after checking in was hop in the car and head to Siciliano's Market for local craft beer and cider for our hotel room fridge. Then it was off to Greyline Brewing Co. for our first drinks of the day.
Greyline is one of the newest breweries in Grand Rapids, It's in the West Side area that's booming with new development.
The taproom has over a dozen different beers brewed on site and a nice little menu of sandwiches and salads. We had a brisket slider and nachos. Service was very friendly and attentive and the taproom is gorgeous. Matt found the IPA and Double IPA impressive, especially for a new brewery.
Next it was on to The Mitten Brewing Co. located in a converted firehouse. They serve nice looking pizza but we were just there for the drinks. We tried a really great milk stout. The bartender warned us it was on nitro because that's a dealbreaker for some people, according to her. I'd like to meet those crazy people! Milk stout on nitro is one of the tastiest treats ever. Nitrogen gas used in the carbonation makes the beer taste creamier, which works great with stout.
After the Mitten, we crossed the street just in time for happy hour at Long Road Distillers. We shared a botanical flight of their gin, aquavit and pink peppercorn vodka, then tried a gin cocktail. This bar is brand new with beautiful wood accents.
Next we headed to downtown. Grand Rapids Brewing Co. is a new addition since last time we were in town. It's located right beside the arena and, to be honest, we weren't expecting much - it seemed a little "corporate" from the outside. But we were really impressed with their menu. They had lots of beer choices, some cocktails, and good food. The service was great too. It was so good that we returned the next night after the show.
These are Puppies & Dogs - shrimp hush puppies and andouille corn dogs. And they were great.
Next we headed to Stella's Lounge. This is a bar specializing in whiskey, with a great selection of craft beer and terrific food.
Plus, they have a bunch of old video games to play while you have a drink. They even had my favourite from when I was a teenager:
I managed to get to #5 in the short time we were there, so I guess it came back to me.
I had a sazerac for the first time - a rye-based cocktail with an absinthe rinse. Matt had bourbon, of course. We played video games and loved the place so much we came back again the next night to try the food. We ordered some jumbo stuffed tater tots and beer- battered deep-fried avocado that was amazing!
Next stop was Hop Cat. The first time we visited Grand Rapids this was the only Hop Cat in the world. Now they've expanded to 11 other cities. We visited the one in Detroit last year.
We continued on the healthy eating train with pizza rolls and crack fries! As well as some tasty beer and cider. This place is just wonderful. It was completely packed but the service was still great.
Our final destination of the night took us on a walk just outside of downtown to Founders Brewing Co. Matt (and others) believe this to be one of the best brewers in the USA. We had a couple of beers at the bar and called it a night. We walked back to our hotel pretty happy!
The next day we visited Madcap Coffee, just a block away from our hotel. There were a lot of hipsters in there, but Matt got one of the best cups of coffee he's ever had. I had a cold brew on nitro that was amazing. The creamy carbonation made it taste like there was dairy in it even though it was black!
For lunch we headed to Yesterdog in Eastown. They sell little hot dogs with tons of toppings for 2 or 3 bucks each. This place has been around since the 1960s and it's a great stop in Grand Rapids.
Michigan cider has been on the rise for a few years. In Michigan you almost always find local craft cider alongside craft beer in bars. Michigan is famous for its cherries and I particularly love their cherry ciders. Our next stop was Vander Mill - a gorgeous new cider taproom with a great food menu.
We tried a bunch of different ciders at the bar. They were all quite subtly flavoured but very tasty!
Next we visited Brewery Vivant, another repeat from our last trip. This brewery and bar is in a converted church. We've seen more than a few breweries that used to be churches, but this is one of the loveliest we've been to. Matt's not the biggest fan of their beer, but the atmosphere can't be beat.
Time to go back to the hotel and get ready for our concert! We had such a great time in Nashville, we were excited to see Dolly Parton. She put on a great show. We were surprised she played for over 2 hours, since she's 70 years old!
Afterwards we grabbed one last drink and headed back to the hotel. On our way home the next day we grabbed another fantastic coffee. We didn't get a chance to return to Frederik Meijer Sculpture Gardens, or any other cultural pursuits. We didn't even eat any fancy meals, but we still had a wonderful time.
We'll definitely be back to Grand Rapids soon!