Thursday, May 10, 2018

ROAM by San Chez, 250 Monroe Ave NW ~ 5/3/18

We noticed this sign on 2/18/18 when leaving DeVos Performance Hall.
About a month later it was open and we made our way there today for lunch. As soon as we walked in, we knew we were somewhere special. The map-top tables, the huge windows, interesting glass lights (they look old), and cool artwork all added up for a pleasant and unique atmosphere.
It's not a big place but it is charming. There are 6 tables for 4, and 6 more for parties of 2. The bar seats around 10 and a counter along the South window seats about 7 more. There are 2 long high-tops near the bar that look to seat 8 each.
The bar and high-tops appeared to be made from recycled wood to very cool effect. 
The menu is small but so intriguing, emphasizing what they call global street food, 'they' being the owners of San Chez, who have been specializing in tapas since 1992.
Our server politely asked if we needed help navigating the menu but we did not. Our first choices were the Kati Roll and Gua Bao (descriptions, along with source country, are included on the menu).
You also choose your sauces, with server recommendations. We had Ragili Ginger with the Kati Roll and soy sauce with the Gua Bao. We loved them both although the Kati Roll is really greasy. Maybe that's part of what made it so good :-)

Our next two items were the incredibly huge Nolburger (with pork belly, peanut butter, & more) and Currywurst, served with a spiced, smoky tomato sauce.
And if we didn't think this place was cool enough, a trip to the restroom confirmed our impression.
The restroom interior was awesome as well.
Being Dutch, we couldn't resist ordering the Oliebollen to go. By the time I remembered to take a photo there was just one left. And it was so much better than the ones I remember from my childhood. Those were dry, deep-fried dough with a raisin or two to be found. These were chuck full of cherries and apples. So either my relatives had it all wrong or Michigan/ROAM has improved the oliebollen!
ROAM has a full bar with a creative cocktail list, as well as many appealing non-alcoholic beverages.
We sat at the window and saw the chairs that are soon to be out on Monroe for some outdoor dining.
Being right across from DeVos Performance Center should be great for business. ROAM is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you like eating the same familiar things constantly and do not seek out new food experiences, this is not your place. For all the rest of you, set your sights on ROAM.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Citizen, 2115 Plainfield Ave NE ~ 4/27/18

Grand Rapids now has its own Tiki Bar and Restaurant and it is a cool little spot. Parking is around the back and you have to walk down the side of the building to get to the front door entrance.
There are back doors, and most restaurants with parking in the rear also have a rear-door entrance but not here.
The walk through is nicely decorated, complete with patio lights.
And the patio is now open for business, which should do wonders for their street visibility.
At lunchtime, customers are invited to seat themselves. It was wide open so we picked a table in the middle.
A padded bench runs along one wall, high-tops fill the center, and the bar is located on the opposite wall. The space is long and narrow, and creatively decorated.
There are 17 menu items divided into Small Chow, Big Chow, and Hand Held Chow. We really wanted to try everything on the menu but settled on Fried Peking Duck Spring Rolls to start.
The sweet chili mango sauce nicely accompanied the duck, rice noodles, carrots and onion. Both of our next selections came from the Hand Held column. The Luau Burger arrived with grilled pineapple, marinated red pepper, sliced onion, spicy mayo, and huli huli bbq glaze on a Hawaiian sweet roll. It was big and messy, but pretty tasty. Unfortunately, the burger was overdone, particularly on one side. To be fair, we didn't ask for medium rare nor did our server ask how we wanted it done.
Our second item was Banh Mi. It's not what you'd get at Ly's Sandwiches (4242 S Division) but it was decent and flavorful. Citrus marinated pork, herbed chicken liver pate, cilantro, pickles carrots and daikon with hoisin sauce glaze on French bread.
Of the three sides available with the Hand Helds, we chose spicy togarashi fries, and carrot and ginger salad (the third choice was smashed cucumbers).

The leftover boxes are superb (no styrafoam!) and the bill and receipt came as creatively as one would expect from this restaurant.
So we like this place, a lot, but think coming here for dinner is more interesting (or ordering from the Big Chow list). Thankfully, a group of us did just that a few weeks ago so I'm going to include a few photos from that visit just to round off this review. First of all, the cocktails. The reverse side of the food menu lists the alcohol selections: Tiki Bowls, Tiki Cocktails, Sake, Wine, Drafts, and Bottles & Cans. The cocktails are glorious to behold and even better to consume. Pictured here are Tiny Bubbles, Mai Tai, Little Grass Shack, Snowbird, and a weekend special, Tropical Negroni.
One of us may have poked herself in the face with that long piece of green vegetation in the Snowbird :-) We started with the Ahi Tuna Poke,
and moved on to Pork Belly Ramen, Green Curry Noodle bowl and Pepper Steak Stir Fry. They have a very good chef. Service is also superb (both visits).
You can see why dinner is so much more exciting than lunch (unless you're drinking cocktails and eating bowls of food for lunch). The restaurant opened last November and should not be missed! (P.S. They have a fun instagram account at #citizengr)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Shelley's Kitchen, 1140 Burton St SW, Wyoming ~ 4/10/18

We were looking for breakfast and bandied about the usual suspects: Real Food, Westsider, Peppermill, but we've been to all of them numerous times. Then we found Shelley's Kitchen. It's not new but it was new to us. The building is also not new and somewhat non-descript and a little seedy but there were people in it and we decided to check it out.
And it is as cute as can be. It's tiny, with booths for four on the ends and booths for two the long way along with the counter.
There is one restroom, for one, quaintly called the Necessary Room. It also is small.
We were promptly offered menus and we placed our beverage order. Our server returned in two minutes to take our order but we hadn't even looked at the menus yet. We mentioned we needed a few more minutes. That was fine but then she never returned. Fifteen minutes later we caught the eye of the cook with whom she was chatting and wrapping silverware. He told her to look behind her where we were both trying to get her attention. So there was one snafu but everything else went fine.

The oatmeal sounded good (brown sugar and raisins) on the the daily special page but our server suggested the baked oatmeal instead and offered to bring out a taste. How nice was that!
And it was delicious with raisins, apples, and cinnamon. Sold.
Our toast substitutions were English muffins and we split a side of bacon.
Our other dish was a Western Omelette, and it was so greasy and yes, delicious; the omelette and English muffin were both dripping. This just solidified the whole 'greasy spoon' nomenclature :-).
From a newspaper article on the wall, it looks like this place opened in 2001 and the neighborhood is obviously supporting it. The very large menu includes some Mexican dishes and lunch/dinner items. This is a breakfast-lunch place (due to their hours) but you could grab an early dinner here as well. We laughed at the senior menu (sorry, one pancake?).
Your bill has to be brought up to the counter and you do not know the amount until it gets rung up (ours was $23 something).
So there you have it. An altogether satisfying experience at Shelley's Kitchen and we would definitely return to try some of their lunch/dinner items. If you enjoy an old-school diner experience, this is your place.