Food & Drinks

Must-Try Unique Restaurants in Grand Rapids

Updated at : 22 May, 2024

Grand Rapids is home to some incredible dishes that you’ve probably never heard of. I’m always on the search for places that disrupt the paradigm and offer something genuinely special. Let me assure you, this jewel in Michigan did not disappoint!

From a tiki bar that’s a tropical escape to an intimate cafe serving up Colombian staples, I’ve been there, relished every moment, and now, I’m here to share these discoveries with you.

1. Max’s South Seas Hideaway

Max’s South Seas Hideaway in Grand Rapids transforms dinner into an island retreat. Picture this: a space where every corner explodes with Polynesian and Hawaiian appeal, down to the ocean-themed music. I took a seat in the peaceful back bar, but if you prefer a performance, the main bar allows you watch bartenders constructing flaming cocktails.

Their liquor list? Over 100 to choose from. And the cuisine matches up. We sampled the pimento cheese with crab, smoked jerk chicken, and waffle potatoes. It was all excellent!

2. Little Africa Cuisine

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Heading to Little Africa Cuisine feels like you’ve stumbled upon Grand Rapids’ best-kept secret. It’s this intimate little pub where the welcome is as welcoming as the cuisine. Here, consuming vegan Ethiopian cuisine feels like a home-cooked meal, due to the extraordinary woman who operates the place with all her heart.

Right off, they bring you basins of water—because you’re going to want to dive in with your hands. The injera bread is my unequivocal preference. It’s ideal for gathering up all those luscious, flavorful dishes. And if you’re feeling adventurous, upgrade to teff bread. I always go for the vegetarian sampler. It’s a feast in itself and extremely affordable.

3. Chez Olga

At Chez Olga, Caribbean flavors are on full exhibit, and Olga herself makes the place shine. She’s the kind of proprietor who greets you like family. The last time I stopped in, I cast caution to the breeze and let Olga astonish me. She comes out with this mélange that just blew my mind.

The flanks are no lark either. Olga’s plantains are the ideal kind of delicious, the passionfruit cocktail zings with flavor, and finishing it off with rice pudding? Chef’s embrace. I was already planning my next visit before I’d even departed!

4. Los Mariscos de Pancho

Next up, let me introduce you to Los Mariscos de Pancho. One of the finest restaurants in Michigan, it’s an exceptional family-run Mexican establishment on the Westside.

Their quesabirrias are to die for. It’s an ideal balance of bouillon, meat, and cheese that strikes just the right place. And the price? You won’t believe how excellent it is for what you get.

The flavors are dead on, too. Not too peppery, but with just enough bite to keep things intriguing. The establishment itself is on the modest side, but they’ve got outdoor seating which is ideal when the weather’s good.

5. The Electric Cheetah

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The Electric Cheetah on Wealthy Street is famed for its root beer collection and inventive mac and cheese dishes. Seriously, where else can you select from 15 various root beers?

When I visited, there were five various macaroni options to choose from. I opted for their Torpedo Jones mac and cheese, with its house-cured smoked ham, pickled onions, swiss cheese, and potatoes on top. As you’d anticipate, it was wonderful. The flavors just work.

6. Roam by San Chez

As someone who’s traveled extensively and sampled dishes from all corners of the globe, I can confidently state that Roam by San Chez is a rarity. This place brings the globe to your plate, with renowned dishes you’ll recognize from Eastern Europe to Central Asia.

Their menu feels like you’ve stepped into an international food truck procession, but with the comfort of indoor dining. Everything’s made right there, and you can taste the difference. We went for a little taste of everything – pierogi, hummus, Satay chicken, but let me tell you about the Umami Slam Sammy. It’s this crazy-good sandwich that feels like a mash-up of a barbecued pork sandwich with a twist of Japan and Hawaii.

7. Sheshco Mediterranean Grill

Sheshco Mediterranean Grill in Grand Rapids North is your go-to for standout Middle Eastern cuisine. Their handcrafted pita bread is famous among locals, it’s exceptional. I sampled their shish kebab, which was delectable.

For those who enjoy variety, their mezze options have you covered, and the platters are ideal for sharing. Don’t pass on the baklava, either. It’s the lovely ending you deserve. Plus, the portions here won’t leave you famished.


MDRD - Grand Rapids MI, 49503

If you’re on the search for entertaining restaurants in Grand Rapids, MDRD is a must-visit. Picture this: a tapas joint atmosphere that whisks you away to Barcelona, but with a wrinkle – you’re treated to an exceptional view of downtown Grand Rapids. Those Iberian Pork chops are a game-changer, and delving into the tapas is like a mini adventure for your taste senses.

What really makes MDRD flourish are the vistas. Dining with the city splayed out below you adds a whole new dimension to the experience. The menu might be a trifle costly, but the combination of delectable flavors and the cityscape is absolutely worth it.

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9. Mithu Srilankan & Indian Cuisine

Mithu Srilankan & Indian Cuisine in Grand Rapids turned out to be the surprise highlight of my visit. The instant you walk in, the place surrounds you up in the kind of warmth only a family-owned site can offer. And the food? Absolute comfort in every morsel. The fish biryani and masala tea were so memorable, they’ve been on my mind ever since.

Let me give you a tip direct from the heart: you’ve got to taste the coconut sambal. It’s like a secret flavor weapon—sprinkle it on and watch your dish transform. This place has rapidly become my first stop whenever I’m desiring the rich, comforting flavors of Sri Lanka and India.

10. Irie Kitchen

Irie Kitchen is this gorgeous location in Michigan that provides a taste of Jamaica right to your doorway. My companion and I opted for the goat curry, and wow, talk about flavor! If you’re into fiery cuisine, this curry has your name on it. It’s got just the perfect amount of energy.

Don’t even get me started on the sides. The fried polenta and plantains? Perfect complements to the cuisine. Oh, and you’ve got to sample the ginger beer—it’s the genuine deal. For my vegan acquaintances, you’re in luck. There are plenty of options for you here.