Flavors of 2020: 8 Grand Rapids restaurants for the new year

It’s 2020. A new decade, an election year. There’s much to anticipate (or dread) as our communities shift, policies change, and personal and political opinions are voiced. But when you’re seeking a break from the conflict on the national, state, or city level, and are simply looking for a delicious bite to eat, look no further.

Grand Rapids has plenty to offer this year in the way of new restaurants, coffee shops, and bars. Particularly this year, GR’s entrepreneurs of color are opening doors to eateries and entertainment venues in the downtown area, showcasing the diverse talent pool in our region. So what are we waiting for? It’s clear you’re hungry …

GRNoir Wine & Jazz Bar

Shatawn and Nadia Brigham, co-owners of GRNoir Wine and Jazz.One of the recent recipients of the recent DGRI retail incubation grant funds, GRNoir Wine & Jazz will add another unique food and music venue to downtown’s burgeoning entertainment scene. This woman and Black-owned business is helmed by couple and business partners Shatawn and Nadia Brigham, who note that “GRNoir Wine & Jazz will leverage two of the most powerful communal essences in the world: wine and jazz to bring forth a venue where meaningful connections take place.”

They add, “GRNoir exists to cultivate interest and accessibility to wine and jazz, and celebrate the rich culture that both bring. We intend this to be a place where folks can breathe, unwind, and have fun. GRNoir will offer over 40 different wines with a wine dispensing machine, and offer wine by the ounce, glass, flights, and retail about 100 different wines. GRNoir will also have live jazz two to three nights a week, and pipe in different jazz genres throughout the space. We will partner with local businesses to create a unique menu for GRNoir and offer small plates and a handful of local beers.”

Nadia, who served as a program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Shatawn, who previously worked at Kent School Services Network,  launched equity and leadership development firm Brigham Consulting, LLC in April of 2019. They hope to open GRNoir Wine & Jazz in the spring of this year.

Gaia

If you lived in Grand Rapids before 2014 and were a vegetarian or an avid foodie, you likely had the pleasure of tasting buckwheat pancakes or the beloved “Gaia cookies” from the vegan brunch spot of the same name at Diamond and Cherry. 

The new Gaia location on Plainfield.Sadly closed six years ago and mourned by Grand Rapidians of all stripes, Gaia has been reborn at the helm of former manager and now owner Andrea Bumstead and in partnership with another beloved but shuttered organization, the Division Avenue Arts Collective. Sharing and renovating space designed to cater to each other’s unique missions, Gaia and the DAAC have been working steadily since the spring of 2019 to bring their partnership to life.

Andrea BumsteadHaving already launched their coffee club and sold 74 dozen Gaia cookies in a holiday frenzy, Bumstead promises to open soon to a hungry Creston neighborhood and beyond.



Royals

The Wealthy Street corridor domination of Paul Lee (All-In Hospitality Group) — founder of Winchester, Donkey, What the Truck, and Hancock — continues. After managing the operations of Johnny B’z for one year, Lee is renovating the space and reopening under a new name — and a new concept. 

Royals GR, described on their Facebook page as “A neighborhood diner open for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” has already undergone extensive renovations, which appear to include installing outdoor seating options.

In an article in Mlive, journalist Brian McVicar writes, “Royals will offer a variety of “classic” breakfast options, including omelets, pancakes and waffles. It will also offer shakes, as well as a number of vegetarian and vegan items. Lee said he wants the restaurant to feel like a ‘familiar’ place, the sort of diner that families have gone to for ‘generations.’”

Ambiance GR Kitchen & Lounge

Yes, we included Ambiance in last year’s list. But finally, after a year of construction, grant-winning ($45k from DGRI) and development, this bar, restaurant, and entertainment venue is finally ready to open its doors.

New lounge and restaurant Ambiance GR is headed up by Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses (GRABB) Founder and CEO Jamiel Robinson and co-founder of The Midwest Tech Project Jonathan Jelks. Lace Jones will head up day-to-day operations.

Ambiance will be housed in the renovated space at 106 Pearl NW, and will feature a full menu of American food with Creole and Cajun options, as well as wine and spirits, and a wide variety of entertainment options. 

In an article we published in October of last year, Robinson said, “Ambiance will be another option for live entertainment downtown. We don’t want to focus on one demographic. Our target market is as diverse as the City of Grand Rapids is,” he says. “Through our different entertainment options, Ambiance will be a place for everyone to come for a nice relaxing atmosphere, good wine, really good food, and good conversation with colleagues, potential business partners, or when you have family visiting from out of town and you want to show off a nice cool place.”

Boop de Boom Coffee Lounge

Creston just keeps getting funkier. And by funky I certainly mean fresh, innovative, and collaborative. Another example of this funky fresh, community-minded mentality is the nesting of new Boop de Boom Coffee Lounge within Creston Brewing Co. 

Opened in November of last year and settling in neatly just behind the Brewing Co.’s main bar area, Boop de Boom is owned and operated by Creston’s co-owner Cailin Kelly, who also serves as a barista for the cafe. Kelly and her compatriots serve up Sparrows Coffee, as well as handcrafted lattes and local pastries from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays, and from 8 to 3 on weekends. 

On their Facebook page, the coffee shop within a brewery boasts, “We are the by far the largest coffee shop space in all of Grand Rapids, MI,” and this is true. With the quiet ambiance of a cafe in the square footage of a popular brewery, Boop de Boom is calling you to spend a few caffeinated moments in their laid back space.

Morning Belle westside

The paint has barely dried at Morning Belle, a brand new brunch restaurant at the former site of Twisted Rooster on the East Beltine, and its developer, Meritage Hospitality Group, isn’t slowing down. 

Last week, the restaurant development firm that also created Stan Diego and Wheelhouse, released sketches via the City of Grand Rapids Development Center of their second Morning Belle location on Grand Rapids’ Westside. Located on Bridge Street between Jolly Pumpkin and Butcher’s Union at the former site of Esquire Hair Salon (the salon owner of 48 years Vincenzo Licari this summer joined forces and spaces with Head of the Pride owner Sarah Dilley), this second Morning Belle is currently undergoing renovations.

Though Meritage hasn’t announced an opening date for Morning Belle on Bridge, it is reasonable to assume that we may be noshing on favorites like Shrimp and Gouda Grits and The Hummingbird Omelet within the year.

Art Caribbean Fusion Cuisine

Developed by Gilma and Edward DeLaCruz, Art Caribbean Fusion Cuisine is another recipient of DGRI’s retail incubation grant. The DeLaCruz’s also own El Caribe Food Truck that serves up Caribbean style food. About their newest venture, the entrepreneur duo says,

Vilma and Edward DeLaCruz, owners of Art Caribbean Fusion Cuisine.“Art Caribbean Fusion Cuisine is a locally owned restaurant providing our community with authentic and homestyle Caribbean food, projecting to open in 2020. Art will be located at 55 Monroe Center Street, Grand Rapids. Art Caribbean Fusion Cuisine will be the first authentic Caribbean restaurant in downtown Grand Rapids bringing food and cultural diversity. Our meals will be made with fresh and locally sourced ingredients. Our mission is to ensure that every guest receives prompt and professional services while enjoying delicious and flavorful Caribbean fusion meals.”

The DeLaCruz’s will move into their Monroe Center space on February 8th, though it may be a few months before the new restaurant officially opens its doors.

Desi Spice

In Kentwood on 4445 Breton Rd SE adjacent to Horrocks Market, you’ll find the seemingly unassuming Indian and Nepalese restaurant Desi Spice. Though this restaurant is well established in the community, business partners and friends Tanka Gurung, Subash Dangal, and Deepak Pokhrel have recently purchased and relaunched the popular lunch and dinner spot on January 1st of this year.

When asked about his inspiration for purchasing the restaurant, Pokhrel says, “We just want to be [the] owner. And serve better food for people.” Handling customer service and the dining room, Pokhrel notes that the trio plan to add Mexican food to their roster later this year.

Gurung, who cooks and handles management of the restaurant, says his main goal is “To share our Asian food with the people over here … the American people, from different countries.” With a lunch buffet, $8 lunch special, and authentic Nepalese staples like momo (Nepali dumplings), homemade nann bread, and thali (a complete dish served with many components on a round platter), Desi Spice’s relaunch is off to a strong (and delicious) start.

Photos courtesy GRNoir Wine and Jazz, Alfield Reeves PhotographyAmbiance GR, Gaia (video), and Art Caribbean Fusion Cuisine.
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