Remember Rafav’s Mexican Restaurant in that crazy building where you had to struggle to find the door because it was disguised as a tree? It now has a new tenant, The Chez Olga. The restaurant opened in July and is run by a couple from Haiti who immigrated to Grand Rapids in 1993. After a failed clothing store, they started a catering business that evolved into the current restaurant. Featuring Caribbean and Haitian cuisine, they invite you to “feel the heat.”
It’s not a large restaurant and the configuration is close to how it was as Rafav’s but the decor has changed and is simplified. A few booths remain and there are about 12 tables filling out the restaurant.
We checked out the appetizers and decided on pate with chicken. This is described as a Creole pastry, fried or baked, and filled with chicken, beef, or vegetables. We ordered them fried, with beef, and they arrived very hot and quite greasy. Similar to empanadas, these were better with more flavor. However, they were not served with plates so it was messy eating with grease dripping everywhere.
The Chez Olga signature dish is the gumbo shrimp and chicken served with rice, so we had to try it. Rice arrived in a large bowl accompanied by a small bowl of gumbo in red sauce. Our second dish was the Chez stir fry, a blend of onions and peppers with beef. It arrived in the same manner as the gumbo and they looked almost identical. The chef who served them to us was confused as to which was which. We sorted it out and enjoyed both dishes immensely.
When our order was first taken, we were asked by the very charming Olga to select our spice level, which ranged from 1 to 10. Having never been there before, we played it safe and chose 5, but it wasn’t hot enough. If you like your food quite spicy, 7 or 8 would probably be more appropriate. Overall, everything had big, bold flavors making Chez Olga an interesting option and something different in Grand Rapids.
The website contains their menu along with opportunities to make donations to Haiti.