The worker-owned vegetarian/vegan restaurant opened a little over a year ago, and not without controversy. People caught wind/sight of the mural being painted that included Che and Mao, and the comments flew, both on Facebook and Twitter.
Adding fuel to the fire, the restaurant started deleting unwanted facebook posts (the twitter debate was not so easily stopped). In April, the restaurant promised to stop deleting comments they did not like, and things seemed to calm down. The diner opened in June 2011, and people could come in and judge for themselves, both the art and the food. (I am a fan of Anthony Bourdain but was still amused to see him roasting over a fire. If you watch his shows, you'll know why he's here.)
So onto the food. “Creative” barely covers what this little restaurant produces. The changing menu is small but reasonably varied, and daily specials are posted on the board. Here are some of our selections from various visits:
Collard greens topped with tempeh sausage.Tofu rancheros - tofu scramble with black beans, onion and greens, vegan cheese, and cashew sour cream.
Son of the Bartertown Monster (Revisted) - Buffalo seasoned tempeh with hash browns, coconut-curry cole slaw, fresh greens, and maple-garlic aioli.
One of the two burrito choices on Burrito Thursday - falafel, hummus, coconut curry slaw, grilled parsnips, and brown basmati rice.
At their worst, the dishes are interesting and unique, and at their best, they are incredibly delicious.
The narrow restaurant space is decorated with a lot of art, and the furniture was created from recycled materials. The servers are friendly and informative, it’s busy at lunch, t-shirts are sold, and bike parking is available outside the restaurant.
Bartertown does an incredible job of recycling and prides itself on using organic and locally-produced ingredients. Their website is more of a blog and is updated frequently with informative and educational information; they have an active presence on Facebook.
We really dislike calling any restaurant or food offering “the best” of anything seeing as how it is a completely subjective opinion but we will bestow “The Most Unique Restaurant in Grand Rapids” title on Bartertown Diner. Do yourself a favor and stop in.