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Dining & Nightlife : Innovation + Job News

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Gallafe: Gallery + Cafe and the first Grand Rapid's Asian Festival

When we want a taste of some of our favorite foods from abroad, we may go to our usual standbys—the places we discovered by chance while driving around the city. 

Some of these places are recommendations from foodie friends, if we are so lucky, but at times it can be difficult to find new places for the discerning palate. Enter Gallafe, a blend of a food photo gallery and aspiring cafe.

Local artist and educator Zyra Castillo is the mind behind Gallafe. She says “It started out as a blog then an instagram account. Different people kept asking me where they could find different ethnic food restaurants. I decided to finally make a blog to feature different places I would visit. A couple years ago, a friend and I hosted a big Filipino cookout. We roasted a pig, and had a large spread of Filipino food. We had a lot of positive feedback, asking where they could find Filipino food. That's when I starting taking the idea of owning a restaurant more seriously.” Having decided to keep honing her craft a bit longer before opening up a brick and mortar location, she has moved onto bringing more cultural food events to Grand Rapids.

Castillo adds “During that time, I also started going to Kultura Festival in Chicago, and was inspired by how they put together their programming and celebrated culture through cuisine.

I'm also aware that as a small city, we do not have a lot of exposure or competition. I want to be part of what drives some of that change. As well as set a precedence for my food heritage before someone else comes in and colonizes my food.”

Gallafe has since been molding its brand and putting on events as Castillo tells us, “This past spring, Gallafe threw a small event at Mexicains San Frontieres to educate about Filipino cuisine. It was to raise money to help with expenses for Filipino Artist Kristian Kabuay for the Asian Festival.”

With so much momentum being carried into the next year, we asked Castillo what is on the horizon for Gallafe she told us, “The future of Gallafe would be to expand its online presence and have more posts related to food culture, asides from just images. I would like to do more collaborations with artists and other areas of community for cultural and educational events.”

Finally, we asked Castillo if she could share with us a shortlist of the Asian restaurants that she frequents and has gotten to know from her work in organizing this past June’s Grand Rapid’s first Asian Festival.

Below are some of the restaurants that Grand Rapids offers. 

Bangkok Taste
Angel Thai
First Wok
Emonae
Indian Masala
Wei Wei Palace
Pho Soc Trang
Curry Kitchen
Palace of India
Seoul Market Cafe
Mikado Sushi
Ju Sushi
Pho 616
Kobe

You can find Gallafe online here. Don’t see your favorite place? Let us know in the comments!

Ken Miguel-Cipriano is Rapid Growth’s innovation and jobs editor. To reach Ken, you can email ken.miguel.cipriano@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

A guide to GR's black-owned businesses

Showing up for each other economically is one of the ways we can ensure livability and economic prosperity for our community as a whole. To celebrate our talented entrepreneurs and commemorate Black Entrepreneurship Month, we have crafted a short guide of a few of our favorite local black-owned food establishments working hard to satiate our taste buds!

 

Ellnora's Kitchen - 547 Eastern Ave SE

Specializing in grilled meat, ribbed tips, pork chops, turkey knuckles, and chicken—here you can find homemade soul food with every side imaginable of greens, macaroni cheese, potato salad, spaghetti or black eyed peas. A locally owned restaurant, this joint is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11am-9pm or until thefood runs out. Catering is also available upon request.

 

Ma’Dear Soul Food – 817 Franklin Street SE

Serving up the award winning barbeque, the southeast community knows as Sandman’s, this joint serves up home-made soul food. The restaurant located near the corner of Eastern and Franklin street and serves barbeque every Wednesday through Saturday. Every Sunday, you can expect to be served their soul food specialty home made grilled chicken with barbeque and a side of warm mashed potatoes.

 

Irie Kitchen - 6630 Kalamazoo Ave SE

If you are looking for some local Jamaican delicacy, look no further than Irie Kitchen. They promise to provide you with healthy, non GMO food every time. They also offer vegetarian options filled with flavors unique to Jamaica. Open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

 

Icons Coffee – 2433 Eastern Ave SE

Located in the Alger Heights neighborhood, this eclectic coffee shop features ice chai tea lattes, bubble tea, blackberry vanilla lavender lemonade shaken iced tea, and of course the all-time crowd favorite: a good warm cup of coffee. At this joint you can also find eight delicious Hudsonville ice cream flavors, D’arts Donuts, and bagels. Open Tuesday through Thursday 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., Fridays until 9 p.m. and Sundays until 7 p.m.

 



Go-Jo Ethiopian Cuisine
- 956 Fulton St E

Offering traditional Ethiopian dishes all served with Injerra, Ethiopian flatbread. Expect to get your hands messy if you want to enjoy your meal the traditional Ethiopian way. If you call ahead, you also also have the opportunity to observe an Ethiopian coffee ceremony, a daily tradition to welcome visitors. Vegan and vegetarian options are also available upon request.

 

Local Mocha Coffee – 96 Monroe Center NW, Suite 100

A downtown Grand Rapids stable, this coffee shop specializes in serving premium, fairtrade and organic coffee. Also offering fruit smoothies, home-made tomato soup and chili, delicious espresso drinks with homemade chocolate and caramel. Opened 7 days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

 

Malamiah Juice Bar - Downtown Market / 435 Ionia St SW | Suite #128

Located inside Downtown Market, this family-owned juice bar offers specialty juices and smoothies to help you glide with energy all day. Or, if you are recovering from a particularly long weekend, you can pick up a quick booster shot packed full of vitamins and minerals. This Juice Bar unlike any other juice bar, partners with local organization to hire and employ youth from the community and provide them with meaningful employment. Open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

 



Boston Square Ice Cream & Café
– 1553 Kalamazoo SE

Looking for a new place to grab brunch? Visit Boston Square Ice Cream & Café and get a taste of their delicious Boston Big Breakfast of home-made eggs, pancake, sausage, and crispy hashbrowns. Breakfast and lunch are served all day. A welcoming feel to all visitors, expect to be greeted by cheerful staff. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday for Soul Food from 12 to 6 p.m.

 

Daddy Pete’s BBQ - 2921 Eastern Ave SE

Specializing in delicious, Southern, slow-smoked meats served with a homemade, finger-lickin’ BBQ sauce, Daddy Pete’s is a must-visit. You can also find their smoked meats at their food truck. Open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

 

Load-A-Spud - 2919 28th Street

Hungry for a loaded potato or a loaded tacos? Visit Load-A-Spud or schedule a delicious delivery of hearty potatoes and all the toppings you can think of. Offering delivery and catering or dine-in service—you can enjoy a loaded potato from anywhere. Open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 12 to 8 p.m.


Creston Brewery - 1504 Plainfield Avenue NE

If you are looking to quench your thirst with a cold beer, or a cider on the northeast side of town make sure to check out this brewery. Featuring seven hot sauces ranging from mild spiciness to dangerously hot. Vegan and vegetarian dishes also available for those with dietary restrictions. It’s ample and beautiful space outside and in is just the perfect atmosphere to host your next work meeting. Open Monday through Thursday 12-11p.m., Saturdays 11-12 a. m., and Sundays 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.

 

If you are looking for more local black-owned restaurants, and businesses check out Grand Rapids Area Black Business (GRAAB) directory here. This list has been collaboratively compiled thanks to Jamiel Robinson, founder of GRAAB.
Let us know if we missed your favorite spot in the comments!


Michelle Jokish Polo is Rapid Growth's On The Ground Editor. To connect with Michelle, you can email her at michellejokisch@gmail.com and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.


Cheap thrills: How to explore downtown Grand Rapids without breaking the bank

This article is the first installment in Rapid Growth’s series covering ways to explore our city’s incredible neighborhoods without breaking the bank. This week, we head downtown. Don’t let the new, shiny buildings fool you: there’s still plenty of ways to have fun and not spend a ton of dough.

There’s nothing better than an unexpected day off. So, what is there to do around the city if you have an entire free day to spend? Michigan winters can snow on your parade a bit, but it can also unexpectedly, and quite literally, brighten up your day.

First things first, text your best friend and see if they’re available. If you’re a first time day-off adventurer, it may be best to tag team the day with a friend. For all others going solo, bold or otherwise, don’t forget to grab your headphones and make sure your favorite music and podcasts are all downloaded and synced while you still have some strong wifi at home.

If you’re fortunate enough to live inside the city limits, grab your bus pass and check the Transit app for the next bus headed downtown. If you live outside Grand Rapids, or you don’t have a bus pass, grab those keys and head downtown.

This is where you might be asking yourself: why should I take the bus? I have a car with gas to burn and a need for speed. Allow me to answer your question with the following: Slow down, fast and furious, it’s an adventure so try something different; don’t waste your day/money looking for parking, and finally use the free time to hang with your friend or sink into your favorite podcast.

So, the best place to start is at the Downtown Market. If you don’t have bus passes, mosey up the hill to the Silver Line stop on Division near Wealthy and purchase a day pass ($3.50 for an adult). Head back down into the market and grab a hot chocolate and pastry from either Field & Fire or the market’s newly arrived Madcap. As you munch away, put together a loose plan of what you feel like doing. It’s a day off, so don’t stress on packing the day with activities. Travel from spot to spot and let your mood guide you through the day. Heck, I’ve spent whole afternoons riding the same transit line back and forth in major cities just listening to music, and popping out just for snacks -- and I don’t regret a second of it. Here, with your $3.50 day pass, you can kick back and relax while getting to be a tourist in your own city.

When you’re finished with breakfast, head down Ionia, past the bridge underpass and then take a right to pop back up onto Division, where you should be sure to head into any of the Avenue for the Arts shops. Walk into Parliament the Boutique and check out the team’s latest crafts, or just admire the cat it in all its orange glory.

Cross the street to check out some music at Vertigo, and be sure to find a favorite artist in the stacks. Then browse nearby in the same genre and see if you can’t find something that catches your attention. I have found plenty of new favorite artists this way. You can snag plenty of music for under $10 -- including some amazing vinyl finds for $1. Just have your headphones ready for an impromptu album listen right there in the stacks.

Now, if you’re still feeling chill from the Vertigo vibes, take a walk down the street to the UICA and catch a noon film ($4 for members, $8 for non-members). Heads up: for discounts to places like the UICA, check out a Michigan activity pass with your public library card.

Don’t feel like sitting for an entire movie? Keep those legs moving and wander around the city streets, soaking in architecture, art, more art, and history with self-guided (read: free!) tours. Be sure to take this free interactive tour of GR’s Civil Rights history. Created by Kent Innovation High students, the tour includes 12 stops that provide insight into incredible achievements by our city’s African American residents and organizations, such as Helen Claytor, who fought tirelessly for racial justice and was the first black woman to serve as president of the Grand Rapids YWCA.

And, if you’re hanging out on a Tuesday, be sure to head to the Grand Rapids Art Museum -- you’ll be able to get in free all day. (You can also bypass admission costs on Thursday evening from 5-9pm.)

Want to move your feet in a different direction? Head north and keep the tunes blasting because you’ll be catching the Dash North (free and no bus pass needed) to Higher Ground Rock Climbing for some fancy footwork. Be sure to get off the dash near the 6th street bridge and walk on over to Higher Ground. Get set up for your climbing session and let it rip. Pro tip: having wireless headphones will let you turn your climbing session past 10 and straight to 11. (At $22, which includes a day pass and all the rental equipment, this is the most expensive thing on our list -- but you can stay there for as long as your feet can keep climbing.)

So you’ve rocked it at Higher Ground, and now your stomach is clamoring for food. Cross the street and start walking down to the Dash stop right on the corner of 6th Street and Monroe. Be sure to get off right before the bridge underpass. When you’re off the bus, head down to the Silver Line stop, heading south and get off at the Wealthy Street Station to walk back to the Downtown Market.

If your head is spinning from these transfers you can always get out your phone and hail a Lyft, so if your stomach is roaring it’s best to tame the beast and head to food quickly!

Now that you’re back at the Downtown Market, head to Slow’s BBQ. Get the small, $3 pit smoked beans and watch as they kindly fill it to the brim with beans and small chunks of barbecue meat. Walk over to Field & Fire and buy the smallest bread available to help slop up the delectable beans and sauce. Turn around and grab a cold can of guava juice from Rak Thai, then head upstairs into the greenhouse seating area to soak up the sun while it’s still up.

So you’re back where you started, and you’ve had a full day. Congratulations on your mini-adventure, but there’s still hours left on your watch and the night is young. Do you double down and head back out or call it a day? Let us know in the comments how you would continue your mini-adventure, or if you would like to hear our second half of our day off adventure!

Until next time, stay moving, stay cheap, stay curious.

Ken Miguel-Cipriano is Rapid Growth’s innovation and jobs editor. To reach Ken, you can email ken.miguel.cipriano@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Their fingers on the pulse of Grand Rapids, GRNow's new owners roll out big plans for website

What’s going on in Grand Rapids this week? Well, for starters: the Lumineers are playing at the Van Andel Arena, internationally renowned artist Ai Weiwei’s exhibit opens at Meijer Gardens, the Grand Rapids Symphony is performing a live score for “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” and there’s the USA Cycling Fat Bike National Championships -- not to mention about a billion other things.

It’s no secret that Grand Rapids’ cultural and entertainment scene is exploding, with everyone from international superstars (think: Kanye and Garth Brooks) to local celebrities (Vox Vidorra and Lady Ace Boogie, to name a couple) providing the soundtrack to our city, the debut of a nearly constant stream of new restaurants and bars, venues like 20 Monroe Live and Studio C opening their doors, and, of course, arts and music festivals that have landed the city in headlines across the country.

With everything that’s happening, it’s become an almost daunting question: What should I do tonight? This weekend? This spring (or on the strange winter days when it feels like flowers will be blooming at any second)? CJ DeVries and Jeff DeLongchamp want to help you answer that.

DeVries and DeLongchamp, both longtime Grand Rapidians, purchased the website GRNow.com from the former owner, Josh Depenbrok, last August, and the duo have been unrolling ambitious plans to make it, as DeVries says, “the most comprehensive list of events” in the city, from sports happenings and live music to art openings and theatre performances -- and everything in between. Plus, the website features bloggers covering Grand Rapids’ food, fashion, city living, and art scenes.

“Both CJ and I are big Grand Rapids fans; we’ve been here for a long time,” says DeLongchamp, who also co-owns ELK Brewing and owns ElectionSource, a Grand Rapids-based company that provides election products and services nationwide. “That we can provide a media outlet for everybody, one place where everybody can go and not just list events but find events that are going on is exciting. We want it to be the place to go. If you’re going out on the weekend, we want this site to be the site you go to.”

Like DeLongchamp, DeVries, who founded and owns Innovative Social Exchange MKTG, a Grand Rapids-based creative marketing firm, says she was thrilled to take on a new role as co-owner of GRNow.com.

“With my marketing company, I had used GRNow from the advertiser perspective, so I got to see how powerful it is,” DeVries says. “It made me believe it’s such a great platform; it helps local businesses grow. And I used it personally, so when I found out Josh was getting out, I was like, hands down I want to do this. It’s really neat that Jeff and I get to have something that I’ve really looked up to.”

The site, which DeVries and DeLongchamp are planning on growing, currently has about 10 people working for it, and the two owners are set to unveil a new GRNow.com website this year, apps they’ll soon be beta testing, and more content.

“The apps will have features that people are really going to like,” DeLongchamp says, hinting that the upcoming applications will be event-heavy. “There will be some very fun things, and I think they’ll be used immensely.”

Plus, DeVries notes that they will in the near future launch a show during which they’ll talk about upcoming happenings in the city. For the program, she’ll be partnering with former Second City comedian Joe Anderson -- who’s set to soon open a new downtown comedy club in Grand Rapids.

With all of this new movement from DeVries and DeLongchamp, the work that Depenbrok invested in the site and the site’s massive social media presence (it has more than 70,000 Facebook likes and nearly 32,000 Twitter followers), GRNow’s reach is skyrocketing -- its recent 2017 development roundup (written by Rapid Growth’s former publisher, Jeff Hill), was seen by 135,000 people, for example. With those kind of numbers, DeVries says the owners are hoping the site’s weight will translate to major support for the city.

“We’re using this medium, this platform, to help charities, and we’re very much trying to collaborate with other businesses,” she says.

As connoisseurs of events, restaurants and more in GR, DeVries and DeLongchamp shed some light on some of their go-to favorites in the city.

What's your favorite restaurant/bar?

DeLongchamp: ELK is number one. And we have great restaurants: Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, The Chop House -- those are two favorites, but there are so many great local restaurants, so many places to eat, like Electric Cheetah, in Grand Rapids; it’s unbelievable. We have a lot of great food in this area; it’s changed so much over the past 25 years I’ve been here.

DeVries: My favorite place to eat is Little Africa; it’s awesome. My other favorite restaurant is whichever the next one I’m going to try -- I love the fact I can walk out of my office and see a new place opening up. But we have to understand even if there’s a new place, we still have to patronize the places that have made Grand Rapids what it is.

What upcoming event are you excited about?

DeLongchamp: The 12th annual Winter Beer Festival at Fifth Third Ballpark in February. [Tickets for the festival’s Saturday event on Feb. 25 are sold out, but brew lovers can still snag a spot on Friday, Feb. 24 here.]

DeVries: The Yoga Dance Party and Brunch at Lions & Rabbits, Huntin' Time Expo at DeltaPlex Arena, Cookies and Canvas at Cheshire Kitchen, and the USAC Fat Bike Nationals at Indian Trails Golf Course.

What’s your favorite hidden gem in Grand Rapids?

DeVries: Dime and Regal -- they have very minimalistic jewelry; they want you to be able to have artwork but at moderate prices. Nothing in the store is over $75, and there are local artists. Also, Goodwill has an upscale boutique, reBlue; it’s amazing.

DeLongchamp: There are so many. If you’re looking downtown, there’s so many neat little niches. The SpeakEZ -- Eric Albertson, who owns it, has done a great job with that place.

With a nod to neighborhood history, Creston Brewery kicks off beer branding competition

Flash back to the turn of the 20th century: Creston wasn’t yet named Creston; instead, it was often referred to as the North End or the Fifth Ward. The area, a working class community of Grand Rapids, was growing, its streetcar line running on Plainfield Avenue attracting hotels and shops to the neighborhood populated by immigrants from places like Ireland, France and Poland. Not long after the dawn of the new century, in 1905, residents formed the first neighborhood organization in the city -- and one of their first orders of business was to select a new moniker for their area, a community wanting to reclaim its pride after being tarnished in the press as the “Bloody Fifth” following a series of crimes.

A year later, in 1906, the Citizen’s Committee announced in the Evening Press newspaper that they would award $10 to the individual who came up with a winning name for the neighborhood. The names came in: Pride of the City, Shanahan Heights, Riverside, and others. So far, no Creston. Then, hundreds of people arrived at the then-Shanahan Hall (now the Rezervoir Lounge) to select the new name. A community leader, A.W. Morgan, suggested the name Creston (or, at the time, Crestown) -- which, as we know, was the name that stuck.

Now, more than 100 years later, the recently opened Creston Brewery, is getting inspired by its neighborhood’s history and is turning to its residents to help it with its own branding campaign. Beginning Feb. 1, the brewery owned by Scott Schultz, Vincent Lambert, Molly Bouwsma-Schultz, and Cailin Kelly is launching a branding competition for its flagship beer, GRale. Through Feb. 28, artists are welcome to submit entries that will be the artwork for t-shirts, posters and labels for bottles and cans.

“Creston founded itself on competition and community, and we wanted to honor that with a competition with artwork for our first Grand Rapids beer, the GRale,” says Andrea Bumstead, the sales and events coordinator at Creston Brewery.

Following the end of the submission period, an artist committee made up of some of the city’s most highly respected artists and art influencers, including Tommy Allen (also Rapid Growth’s publisher) and Miranda Krajniak, the executive director of the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, and the brewery’s owners will select the top 10 branding entries. From March 10 through March 29, the final entries will be displayed on professionally printed posters, and the public will get a chance to vote for their favorite design. To be eligible to make your pick, you’ll need to make a purchase in the brewery’s taproom in order to get one vote. And if you order a pint of the GRale, you’ll get an additional ticket to vote.

Come April 3, all participating artists will be invited to join the community for an unveiling party of the final pick. The winner will land a $250 gift certificate to the brewery, their artwork will be displayed on bottling labels for GRale (as well as on other merchandise), and more.

For those who are interested in participating, you’ll probably want to know what the GRale is -- if you haven’t already imbibed.

“More than being our flagship, it’s our very definition of our approach to beer: flavorful, distinctive and as antagonistic as it is approachable,” Creston Brewery writes in a press release. “How’s that? Well, it’s all about the ingredients. We start with a base of pale malts and oats to deliver a chewy and rich medium body with a beautiful hazy golden color. Then we add just the right combo of superstar hops -- Michigan Nugget, Simcoe, and Citra -- to provide big flavors of citrus, mango, and pine with a beautifully balanced bitterness that we can only refer to as ‘righteous.’ With our beautifully fruity house yeast strain rounding out the flavor profile, we dry hop with more Citra hops to make this an absolute aromatic masterpiece to experience.”

In other words, you’re probably going to want to grab a drink to get your creative juices flowing.

Some basic details about the contest:
 
  • Submissions will be accepted from Feb. 1 through Feb. 28
  • You may submit artwork to andrea@crestonbrewery.com.
  • Artwork will only be accepted if the image is 72 DPI or higher and is submitted in a 10x10 format size or smaller.
  • Do not send images of your artwork that have been framed or contain watermarks.
  • Files should be titled in the following format: name, art title and medium used (example: ScottSchultz_OilPastel_GoldenSubmarine).
For further information, you can email Andrea Bumstead at andrea@crestonbrewery.com.

Carvers: There's a new butcher in town

There's a new butcher in town.

Or more accurately, there is a new butcher at the Downtown Market.

Carvers: Grand Rapids’ Finest Meats, opened for business Oct. 7, becoming the newest tenant inside the Grand Rapids Downtown Market Hall.

Carvers will feature the traditional products you expect to find in a neighborhood butcher store, plus a little more. Cases will be packed with a variety of high-end meats (beef, pork, poultry, lamb, etc.) at an “approachable price” (more on this later). Beef options will include a full line of 100 percent grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free beef as well as high-end Kobe options. Heritage Kurobota pork, pork belly, unique house-made sausages, and organic, free-range chickens will also be available year-round. 

Carvers too will feature a full-service kitchen with made-from-scratch items, including a $5 burger feature, chicken wings, pastrami and corned-beef sandwiches, and  a full-service deli, where customers can customize their own grab-and-go sandwiches and salad bowls, made to order by deli specialists.

The founder of Carvers is none other than Jeff Butzow, the culinary impresario behind Fish Lads, a Downtown Market anchor.

Between fish mongering and opening his new business, Butzow is very busy but Rapid Growth managed to catch up and ask a few questions about Carvers via email.

With your experience at the market, why is Carver's needed after the previous butcher closed?  Are you going to be doing anything different?

Folks shopping at the Downtown Market have missed the option of having fresh meat, on-demand. We’ve listened to customers for the past several months and put together options that will hopefully satisfy everybody. From a line of grass-fed beef that’s never been treated with antibiotics or hormones to American Wagyu beef to heritage pork and organic chickens, we’re trying to reach consumers who are seeking sustainable and delicious options. We also have a full-service deli that features a full line of nitrate- and nitrite-free lunch meats and charcuterie.

What does "approachable price" mean? 

Because meat products come in greater quantities and are easier to cross-utilize than high-end seafood, we’re able to pass along cost savings to consumers. Our menu features a $5 burger made from high-end beef we grind in house from our steak trimmings. Customers will be able to pick a sausage from the case and get it grilled right then from the kitchen. We know consumers have expressed surprise at some of the prices in the Downtown Market, and we want to show that this is an experience open to anyone regardless of income level.

Are you working with any local (or regional) farms for the meats?

We are proud to be retailers of Otto’s chicken and turkey, from their farm in Middleville. Our pork comes from DeVries in Coopersville, and is excellent. But, like Fish Lads, we’ve strived to reach across the globe to source the very best products for consumers that fit with our commitment to quality and sustainability. For example, our grass-fed beef comes from Australia, and we selected them as our provider because of their ability to consistently provide diverse selections of antibiotic- and hormone-free cattle.

How many jobs will Carvers be "carving" out?

We have added eight new staffers, and been able to create more hours for our Fish Lads crew. We are currently hiring, and encourage anyone interested in joining our growing team to come down and apply.

What are the similarities and differences between Fish Lads and Carvers?

Carvers is essentially an extension of the Fish Lads experience, just meat-centric. The same front-of-house staff that serve customers at Fish Lads will extend their reach down the counter to Carvers. We’ve hired experienced butchers that know their meat and will serve as great resources for customers, whether they’re looking to try out a new cut of meat, or simply want a new recipe to spice up their dining routine. We aim to serve the highest quality products without pretense.
 
For more information about Carvers, you can check out their Facebook page here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Meet Little Lucy's and Brighton Graye's: The newest additions to Plainfield's burgeoning food scene

There are many Grand Rapids neighborhoods undergoing extreme makeovers. Ever-looming cranes and bulldozers dot massive construction projects. But there is also quieter redevelopment going on in the city, where old buildings are being repurposed into something new. 

Case in point: the Creston/Cheshire neighborhood.

Little Lucy’s Cafe and Brighton Graye’s Bistro are a two-restaurant concept housed in the former D’Amico Food Market on North Plainfield.

Larry Zeiser, partner at L&B Portfolio (owners of Graydon's Crossing, Logan's Alley and Derby Station), is one of two owners of the restaurants and sees the recent addition as being a complimentary addition to the rapidly developing food scene on Plainfield.

Although the restaurants share the same building, each one has a separate entrance, its own kitchen and its own identity.

Little Lucy’s, named after Zeiser’s daughter, opened in late May and has a focus on breakfast, lunch, coffee, deli options, and bakery items. It is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. seven days a week. The bakery and deli are open most days from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. It offers seating for 60 inside and  28 outside at a dedicated open air patio. A complete menu can be found on the Little Lucy’s website at www.littlelucyscafe.com.
 
Brighton Graye’s Bistro just debuted in late June. Brighton Graye’s is named after L&B Portfolio partner Brian Giampapa’s son. It’s a bit more upscale and brings the feel of urban dining to the Creston neighborhood, with an emphasis on modern American cuisine. Brighton Graye’s offers small and large plates made primarily with locally-grown ingredients that changes on a daily basis.
 
Another focus of Graye’s will be its craft cocktail selection. Brighton Graye’s offers seating for 100 people inside, including 14 at its bar and capacity for 36 at its outdoor open-air patio on the south side of the building. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Thursday from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m.and Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. until midnight, with an after-dinner happy hour starting at 9 p.m. each night.

Both partners are residents of Grand Rapids’ northeast side, and Zeiser describes himself as a “big-believer in a great neighborhood.”  He says he has worked with the neighborhood association for more than five years and said the availability of the specific property was the catalyst for the development. “The key for me was D’Amico’s being vacant. It’s a natural connector between Creston and Cheshire,” Zeiser says, adding that the development of the neighborhoods is more akin to Cherry Street than the recent work being done on the westside.  “We are bringing something different to the neighborhood. We don’t have burgers but other places have them,” he says.

So, for those of you unfamiliar with the food scene on Plainfield Avenue on the  northeast side, here is a quick guide. Starting just north of Leonard you have the Choo-Choo Grill (burger, fries, shakes) and Graydon’s Crossing (Indian/English food, craft beers). Going north there is The Rez (pizza, Cajun, beer, pub food), the soon-to-be-opened Creston Brewery and continuing up the road you have Little Lucy’s and Brighton Grayes, Frosty Boy (an iconic ice cream stop), La Huasteca (traditional Mexican), Cheshire Grill (classic diner), and Fat Boy’s (burger and fries). For the DIY crowd, there is the local grocery store Kingma’s, which features fresh produce, a wide selection of beer and wine, groceries, and one of the finest full service meat markets in the city.

Check it out.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

The ultimate BBQ: A West Michigan guide to briskets, butts, birds, and ribs

The West Michigan Tourist Association recently sent out a press release highlighting the best BBQ in West Michigan. 

Their heart was in the right place, but it was a little too… touristy. (FireKeepers Casino Hotel? Really?)

Fortunately, cooler heads have prevailed and Rapid Growth has prepared a simple guide to help you find great, authentic barbecue in the region, this summer and beyond.

Downtown GR

Slow’s Bar B-Q
Located at the Downtown Market (435 Ionia Ave. SW).
Traditional meats, sides and a very nice craft beer selection.

Two Scotts Barbecue
Located at 536 Leonard St. NW in a a refurbished root beer stand.
The two Scotts work hard and do a good job with their meats and sides.

Horseshoe Smokehouse
Located near Founder’s Brewing (333 Grandville Ave. SW).
Excellent menu with a few twists like crispy brussels sprouts.

Daddy Pete’s BBQ
The pitmaster is always in the house. Cory and his team smoke the meat and serve out of a food truck located at Rosa Parks Circle on Thursdays.  Daddy Pete’s is always on the move so check out their website for other locations. Outstanding barbecue.

Further afield

Pit Stop Catering
Located at 6479 28t St. SE.
Matt and Sue Smith helped catalyze the barbecue scene in the area when they moved their catering operation to a brick and mortar location. Great EVERYTHING.  Check out their website for hours.

The Grilling Company
Located at 6231 West River Dr. NE in Belmont, Mich.
Keith Hall is always chopping and stacking wood. That’s a very good sign. This is wood-cooked and smoked barbecue at its best.

Dallas Deli
Located at 3660 Byron Center Ave. SW in Wyoming, Mich.
A little treasure tucked away on Byron Center. Dallas Deli serves Texas-style BBQ. Very authentic.

Even further afield

Main St. BBQ
Located at 210 E. Main St. in Lowell, Mich.
One of the newer barbecue joints in the region that’s already landing big praise. Real students of the ‘que. Brisket, ribs, butts, and birds -- plus a full menu of sides.

Kurly’s House of Smoke
Located at 8025 Cannonsburg Rd. NE in Cannonsburg Village, Mich.
Really good smoked meats that are served out of a gas-station/breakfast diner/grocery store.  Kitty-corner to the famous Honeycreek Inn.

American Char
Located at 6394 Adams St. in Zeeland, Mich.
Chef Len is one of the most visible proponents of barbecue in West Michigan. His new place in Zeeland also serves ice cream. That is a winning combo.

West Michigan also boasts multiple outstanding barbecue catering businesses, pig roasters, roadside pits, and barbecue events.  Just keep your eyes open and your windows rolled down. Trust the smoke.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Photos courtesy of Pit Stop Catering, The Grilling Company and Grilladelic.
 
 

Cheers! Downtown Market launches free summer-long happy hour series

As the temperatures begin to rise outside, the Downtown Market is raising its glass to cooling things down inside.

The market is launching a free “Happy Hour Libation Lectures” series this Thursday, May 5, and the weekly event that runs through August will give Grand Rapidians a chance to learn the ABCs of mixed drinks, beer, whiskey, and more. The classes, which run from 5-6:30pm at the Downtown Market every Thursday through the end of August, will be taught by folks from local distilleries and breweries and will range in topic from greenhouse-infused mixers and cider cocktails to “the martini debate” (Gin or vodka? Shaken or stirred? The debate will rage on in a very delicious way.).

“We wanted to give smaller spirit and beer producers a mouth piece in Grand Rapids,” Jenney Grant, the culinary and beverage manager at the Downtown Market, says, noting that several of the businesses involved have recently opened, such as Big Hart Brewing. Others won’t debut until later this year, including 18th Amendment of Muskegon, which is slated to open its doors in late fall or early winter. Other businesses involved in the series include:Long Road Distillers, Gray Skies Distillery, Our Brewing Company, and Uncle John’s Cider.

“This is a chance to promote smaller businesses,” she continues. “I know what you need as a small producer to be successful, and that’s to be able to tell your story and share your passion. This celebrates the things we love about Grand Rapids — that entrepreneurial spirit and getting to watch businesses become anchors in our community.”

Plus, Grant notes, the series is emblematic of a city that is increasingly dedicated to keeping its dollars local.

“People want to support local,” she says. “We’ve seen that with food and beer and now distilling and cocktails.”

The first lecture, which will start at 5pm today, Thursday, May 5, is titled “How To Use Your Cocktail Books,” and the kick-off event will focus on the book “Tequila Mockingbird,” which, as you can imagine, is chock full of drinks with a literary twist — think cocktails with names like “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margarita” and “Vermouth the Bell Tolls.”

Other upcoming events this month include “The Martini Debate” on Thursday, May 12, “Beer 101” from Big Hart Brewing Company on May 19, and a crash course on the Scandinavian spirit Aquavit from Long Road Distillers on May 26. To see the entire schedule, please go here.

Photos courtesy of the Downtown Market

Music, glorious music: GR Live is ready to blast off on April 28

WYCE 88.1FM is launching a live radio program named GR Live beginning Thursday, April 28 at the House of Music and Entertainment (known as H.O.M.E.) inside The B.O.B. This program will occur every Thursday at noon for 19 weeks and conclude on September 1. It is free for the public to attend and will be broadcast live over the radio at 88.1FM and streamed online at WYCE.org.

“It’s going to be super cool. A big win to get the city promoting music on the same level as beer, food, and art,” says  AJ Paschka, WYCE station manager.

Super cool is an understatement. It’s freaking awesome.

GR Live will be hosted by WYCE programmer and musician Quinn Matthews (who began championing the idea last summer). The one-hour program will feature live music performances, interviews and calendars that will inform people of musical events in the city of Grand Rapids. The program will also be recorded and made available to the public at ExperienceGR.com.

“The creation of GR Live allows Grand Rapids to collect performances, interviews and calendars and use them to promote music as a thing to go out and experience when the convention visitors and tourists come into Grand Rapids,” says Paschka. Effectively, this means that the local music scene is very important to the city’s brand, growth and vitality. “Our city is becoming a music destination,” he adds.

Paschka says music lovers can expect an eclectic and wide-ranging  lineup of local and regional musicians. “There is so much good music in this town. It is very much part of the downtown resurgence,” he continues, citing the immense popularity of the Pyramid Scheme, The Intersection, The B.O.B., and concerts at Van Andel Arena and Frederick Meijer Garden. “Music always brings in the largest crowds,” Paschka says.

Taken as whole, Paschka says music, like craft beer and arts, can be a primary engagement strategy for organizations marketing Grand Rapids as a place to live, work and play.

Besides providing a boost for local musicians, Paschka says this is big boon for WYCE. “This will help us grow our audience. We’ve always supported local music, so this is a nice evolution.”  Paschka also gives a shout out the The Gilmore Collection as a long time supporter of the radio station and home to the House of Music and Entertainment (H.O.M.E.).

Paschka encourages musicians to contact Matthews directly (via Facebook) to learn more about being featured on GR Live. You can also follow the program on ExperienceGR and WYCE.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor
 
 

Essence Restaurant Group lands certification for focus on local food & sustainability

Essence Restaurant Group, owners of Bistro Bella Vita, The Green Well Gastro Pub and Grove,  recently announced  that the company has become the first restaurant group in the nation to be certified B Corporation through the nonprofit organization B Lab.

This distinguished designation is awarded to companies — about 1,400 in 42 countries across the globe —  that use the power of business to creatively solve social and environmental problems. In doing so, B Corp companies consistently demonstrate and meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. In other words, a B Corp certification is to business what the Fair Trade certification is to coffee or the USDA Organic certification is to milk: it lets the public, both customers and employees, know what kind of business they’re supporting.
 
So, what does that translate to at Bistro Bella Vita, The Green Well Gastro Pub and Grove?

Lauren Jaenicke, marketing and sustainability director, says it’s a focus on both the local and the global: there’s an emphasis on sourcing the majority of the group’s products from Michigan businesses (80 percent, to be specific), which both helps to grow the city and state’s economy and significantly slashes the restaurants’ carbon footprint by not importing goods from across the country or overseas, composting, internal programs on sustainability, decreasing kilowatt usage, and more.
 
It is, Jaenicke says, a recognition that the private sector has a social and environmental obligation to its community — and world.
 
"It is not just a government’s and non-profit’s responsibility,” she says. “Businesses have an unique opportunity to contribute. It is in our DNA to work with local suppliers."
 
First approached by Local First, a Grand Rapids group focused on developing and supporting a local economy, about applying for the B Corp certification — a long and in-depth process that requires extensive documentation and proof that a business is as socially and environmentally conscious as they say — Essence immediately jumped at the chance to become certified.
 
“Businesses can be this incredible force for change,” says Jaenicke, who graduated from Aquinas College’s Sustainable Business program and became Essence’s marketing and sustainability director in 2014. “It’s taking this new approach; businesses have a responsibility and the resources to make significant change.”
 
A big part of that change is a shift to a business that almost entirely offers Michigan products, and Essence partners with 39 companies in the state for their food, including Visser Farms, Grassfields Cheese, S&S Lamb, Ingraberg Farms, Ham Family Farm, and many others.
 
In addition to making their business more environmentally conscious, the restaurant group has advocated for change on a policy level. For example, Jaenicke has met with state Rep. Winnie Brinks, who represents Grand Rapids, about how small businesses can be a voice for renewable energy.
 
All of this adds up to a company that far more easily retains employees in an industry that often faces a high turnover rate.
 
“Over 70 percent of millennials want to work for a company that stands for something,” Jaenicke says, citing a recent Harvard study.
 
Essence Restaurant Group has several policies in place that focus the organization on supporting local independent suppliers and supplier diversity

In two years, Essence will have to reapply for B Corp certification — something which Jaenicke says will help to inspire them to continue to evolve for the better. Going forward, she says the company will encourage their employees to volunteer more in the community, as well as further educate the farmers with whom they work on sustainability issues.
 
“It’s not a question of if we get it again, but how we can get better,” Jaenicke says.
 
Essence joins nine other Michigan companies that have received the B Corp certification, including Grand Rapids’ Brewery Vivant, Cascade Engineering, Bazzani Building Company, Gazelle Sports, Catalyst Partners, and The GFB, as well as Zeeland’s Better Way Imports and Monroe’s Buy The Change.

To learn more about Essence Restaurant Group you can visit their site here. To learn more about B Corporation, visit its site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor, with additional reporting by Anna Gustafson
 

Summer job help wanted: Must love animals, nature and people

Looking for a summer job on the wild side? John Ball Park Zoo has more than 130 job openings available, and they are filling up fast.

The positions are both part-time and full-time for the summer months. There are opportunities in the gift shop, concession stand, events and rental department, experiences (like the zipline and touchable stingrays), education department, membership, and maintenance.  For most positions, there is no experience necessary.

Nancy Johnson, interim human resources manager at John Ball Park Zoo says that, beyond the need to make some spending money, this is the ideal summer job for those pursuing a job in education, hospitality and tourism, biology, zoology, horticulture, and environmental science/conservation.
 
"Those looking for internships may be able to use their work experience here to fulfill those requirements,” she says. “Many of the jobs offer a good experience base for building a career." 

Johnson recommends that all job seekers attend a zoo job fair on Saturday, March 4, from 10am to 3pm. The zoo suggests responders apply online before attending the fair, where they’ll have an opportunity to speak to the hiring managers about the jobs. Applicants can easily apply for multiple jobs through the online application process.
 
 "It's a great place to work,” Johnson says. “You get a lot of great experience, meet wonderful people and it's a wildly fun atmosphere."

The job fair will be held in the John Ball Zoo ballroom, located on the second floor of the zoo administration office outside of the zoo gate. People can find out more by going to: www.jbzoo.org/careers. Applicants must be 16 years of age and older.

John Ball Zoo is located at 1300 W. Fulton, 1 mile west of downtown. For more information, call  (616)336-4300, email info@jbzooo.org, check out the zoo’s Facebook page, JB Zoo, or visit www.jbzoo.org.
 

Room to grow: Grand Rapids to host craft beverage workshop

The Craft Beverage Education Association will bring its one-day educational workshop targeting individuals interested in learning more about the craft beverage industry to the Grand Rapids Doubletree Airport on February 12.

Craig B. Rashkis, program chair, says the workshop is geared towards helping both new craft beverage business owners and entrepreneurs considering entering the market to navigate the complexities of industry.
 
"This is a highly regulated industry,” he says. “Many startup issues are the same in every business, but this industry introduces a whole slew of issues that are unique to the craft beverage industry."  

Rashkis says the material covered in the workshop is applicable  for anyone considering — or in the early stages of establishing — their own craft beverage business. 

It is full-day, hands-on workshop with discussions focusing on the entire craft beverage industry.
 
"We are not focused on one area, instead we are covering issues for breweries, wineries, distilleries, meaderies, and cideries,” Rashkis says, noting that someone can have a great recipe and is highly skilled in making their product, but they lack the business acumen or experience to turn their interest into a successful business.
 
"You know how to make the product, but what about everything else?” he asks. “Once you are running a business, you realize you need to start thinking like a business person."

Speakers include representatives from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, distributors and producers who have recently begun operations in Michigan, and groups focused on legal and insurance issues.

The Craft Beverage Education Association (CBEA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping its members from the wine, beer, spirits, cider and mead industries navigate the business of craft and artisanal beverage productionRegistration and programming information are located at www.craftbeverage.org/workshops. 

This will be second time this workshop has been held in the country. The Grand Rapids workshop is supported by Experience Grand Rapids, Promote Michigan, PR Pirates, and members of the Michigan Brewers Guild, Michigan Wine Council, Michigan Craft Distillers Association and Michigan Cider Association. 

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor
 

American Char awakens: May the smoke be with you

It's been over six months since Chef Len Towne closed up his popular barbecue restaurant in West Olive, Michigan and gave his smoker a short respite.

But the wait is over. American Char is reopening and is ready to bring the "char" to Zeeland, Michigan. 

The new location will be at 6394 Adams Street, in the former ice cream shop, Village Dippers.  American Char will feature a wide variety of traditional barbecue fare: smoked wings, brisket, pulled pork, ribs, and specially sausages. 

Customers will order at a counter and then can use any sauce that beckons to their palate, including an Alabama white sauce, Carolina mustard sauce, and Memphis-, St. Louis- and Texas-style sauces. Towne says American Char will feature multiple side dishes made from scratch, with the majority of vegetables being sourced from local farms.

Towne says the decision to open in Zeeland was a natural extension of his restaurant career.
 
"Zeeland is a good community,” he says. “I had a breakfast space there and have a following so people know my work."

Even with numerous barbecue restaurants being open in West Michigan,Towne feels the market remains strong.  "People want barbecue year around now. Not only is it the perfect summer food, it is a taste of summer in the winter.  Plus I love protein."

Besides barbecue, American Char will also feature Sherman's Ice Cream and will be serving "amazing shakes,” plus other ice cream treats.

American Char is located at 6394 Adams Street in Zeeland and is expected to open in mid-January. The winter hours will be Tuesday through Saturday from 11 am to 9 pm. Towne says he anticipates to be open seven days a week in the summer.  He says he will employ between seven and 12 employees.

There will be inside seating for about 44 to 48 people with additional deck seating in warmer weather.  Customers can order for pick up and catering. Towne uses a custom-made portable wood burning smoker, using primarily hickory and Michigan cherry.

To follow American Char, you can like their Facebook page here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor
 

Local 'concert-going fools, music nerds' find success with dizzybird records

"We are concert-going fools, music nerds and spend way too much money on records and beer."  

Brian Hoekstra's self-introduction for the founders of dizzybird records really says everything you need to know about this music-obsessed duo. Meet Nicole LaRae and Brian Hoekstra, the co-owners and founders of dizzybird records, a West Michigan-based music label that is all about spreading the word about interesting new artists and bands.  

Hoekstra says the business model is pretty straightforward. "We produce albums on vinyl for our artists and bands," he says. "We also organize, curate, and promote events for them. We manage the digital distribution of their releases. We run an online store (dizzybirdrecords.com) and keep people up to date on everything they get into via our social sites, Facebook and Twitter."

dizzybird was officially launched at the Pyramid Scheme on October 17, 2014. Hoekstra says that, besides announcing their business, it was also a release party. "Our first two records came out on that date, a Heaters 10" (Solstice) and a Gringo Star 7" (Long Time Gone b/w World of Spin)," he says.

Following the launch event, dizzybird was part of "The Michigan House" at the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas: "We had a label showcase featuring our bands Las Rosas (Brooklyn), Gringo Star (Atlanta), Heaters (Grand Rapids), and friends of the label The Mystery Lights (Brooklyn). It was basically a bucket list situation for us, to have our very own showcase at SXSW. We can't wait to do it again next year."

Both Hoekstra and LaRae are in deeply involved with the local music scene. LaRae is the Venue Manager/Talent Buyer for The Pyramid Scheme and the Community Relations Coordinator for 88.1 FM WYCE. Hoekstra is the Music Content Manager for Grand Rapids-based AMI Entertainment, managing the digital music catalog for a network of touch-screen jukeboxes in bars and clubs across the U.S.

Hoekstra says the inspiration for dizzybird was a natural evolution for the duo. "We've both made a lot of interesting friends and connections over the years working in music. We are naturally drawn to this kind of work. There is so much energy in the region for live music, and we travel to a number of music festivals throughout the year. It seemed like a perfect fit for us. We came to the realization that if we teamed up, we could offer artists real opportunities," Hoekstra says. "That, and we are always sharing new sounds with friends, family and whoever will listen. Seems like we absolutely had to give the label thing a shot."

Upcoming events for dizzybird bands include the Local First Street Party (6/6, Heaters) and Founders Fest (6/20, Gringo Star). "We are also in the planning stages for our one-year anniversary party, to be held in October! Stay tuned!"

To learn more and stay tuned to dizzbird records, you can visit their website here and like their Facebook page here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News
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