Friday, February 21, 2020

Las Rocas Postres y Taqueria, 2106 Division Ave S ~ 2/21/20

We didn't think there were any Mexican restaurants in town that we haven't been to at least once but we found one today, and it was a great find. The entrance is off Andre Street where street parking is available. Christmas decor was still up :-)
It was counter service so we stepped up to check out the menu. It's a good sign of authenticity when goat and tongue are on the menu. Oddly, hamburgers, hotdogs, and fries were also on the menu, added for obvious reasons I suppose (kids, American tastes). 
Besides the usual items, they also specialize in fruity beverages - a lot of them - and claim to have the best coffee in town.
There was one woman working behind the counter and another in the kitchen, and no one else was in the place at the moment. Our food arrived fairly quickly and looked beautiful. One veggie taco and a bean burrito - both chock full of vegetables, queso, and rice. (This burrito puts Butch's bean burrito to shame, fyi.) Both were flavorful and delicious. Hot sauce is on the table so you make it as hot (or not) as you would like.
Our second platter was a tongue taco, a shrimp taco, and a steak gordita. We don't know if they make their own tortillas here but they sure seemed fresh. The tacos were top notch but the steak in the gordita was overly salted. Other than that, the food here is wonderful, each entree nicely balanced and combined with plenty of fresh vegetables.
It's not a cozy space but rather utilitarian. More tables would fit in the space but we're guessing a lot of their orders are take-out. There's one TV playing and we had to move out from under it due to the volume.
You will have to hazard your own guess as to maximum occupancy (find the sign :-) ).
While we were eating, a man came in and started talking to us, incessantly, and it became quickly clear he was a panhandler. That was a first for us in a restaurant. After about 3 minutes we told him we didn't want to talk any longer and he did an about-face and walked out immediately. He and the woman behind the counter greeted each other when he entered so he must be a regular.

Standing at a counter perusing a menu while someone is waiting to take your order always adds a little pressure to ordering. So if you go, pay attention to the extras and order the traditional chips and salsa that are brought out automatically in full service restaurants, because it's a tradition :-) Would we return here? Absolutely! Next time you're around Burton & Division, stop in for some excellent food!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Danzon Cubano, 1 Carlton Ave SE, Grand Rapids ~ 11/20/18

Named after an Aaron Copland composition, the restaurant opened last October on the ground floor of the Fulton Square building (corner of Carlton and Fulton).
The owner is not Cuban but according to their website, he was inspired by Cuban immigrants fleeing Castro's Cuba. The site mentions one particular person, and that his father was friends with Ernest Hemingway in Cuba, but the connection between them is not made clear, and Hemingway is just irrelevant.
Nonetheless, enter off of Carlton (street parking or park across the street at Family Fare) and you walk into a long rectangular space, tables laid out from the entrance to the far windows, with a bar on your left just after you enter. The entrance wall is covered by a map of Cuba and posters of well-known Cubans.
The bar is a lovely piece of work. Some (maybe all?) of the wood looks repurposed, and in a space that is otherwise not warm or cozy, the bar is a stand-out.
We took a table at the far end of the restaurant and were promptly served by a friendly and informative server, Courtney.
We first asked what was behind this mystery door in the middle of the wall :-) It turns out it's a very small office.
After perusing the menu, we began our dining adventure with Tostones Rellenos (twice-fried plantains) stuffed with spicy shrimp. The plantain cups were spicy but the shrimp not so much. The house-made citrus & garlic sauce that was served with the plantains, however, called Mojo, was a delicious accompaniment! All in all, it was a very fine dish.
The Cuban sandwich has been tried in pretty much every restaurant we have ever been in, so today it was a must-have and it did not disappoint. In fact, we are claiming that this is the best Cubano you will find in Grand Rapids (mojo-braised pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, house-made pickles on Cuban-style bread), all the flavors blended and mashed together to form the perfect Cubano.
There are many vegetarian options if you're dining out with non-meat eaters and the Tamal en Cazuela sounded too interesting to resist (Cuban-style polenta with bell peppers, onion, garlic and seasoned ground tempeh, served in a tomato white-wine sauce). It was impressive, full of flavor and texture contrasts.
We noticed that the tables near us were black and the rest of the room was filled with brown tables. The reason for that is the black tables are removed on the weekends for a dance floor. Color-coded tables :-)
With all of the windows it would be difficult to over-decorate but what they have done is tasteful and clever. Some tall greenery hides a service station.
We sat overlooking their patio, which we hope to enjoy this summer. We also appreciated the paper straws.
We are looking forward to returning here soon. Danzon Cubano is a great addition to Grand Rapids!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Jonny B'z, 701 Wealthy St SE ~ 8/24/18

Opened in 2010 at 638 Wealthy, Jonny B'z moved across the street in 2016 into a remodeled gas station. It is such a great use of an old building.
They remodeled the garage doors, which open on nice days for the main dining area.
A full bar and a hallway connect the dining area to the arcade section, unisex restrooms, and the entrance to the patio.
We've been here twice, the first time in June when there was a dishwasher failure and everything was served in/on paper goods. It didn't take way from the food, however :-)
These jalapenos were stuffed with brisket, swiss cheese, and peanut butter, and then wrapped in bacon. Served with tomato-bourbon jam, this combination of flavors was incredible although the description might sound strange. Creative goodness.
Smoked pastrami with mustard on Nantucket Bakery rye bread was delicious as was the 'Pick 3' selection under the Smoked Meats section of the menu (wings, brisket, and kielbasa). Everything is smoked in-house.
On today's visit, we began with whitefish dip, which was nicely presented, great tasting, and soon to be off the menu for the season.
Sometimes we order inadvertently very consistently, and so another pastrami sandwich was served, this time with a side salad.
The Sloppy Jonny is also being discontinued and this messy smoked rib meat in sweet, heat sloppy sauce was a winner, except for the extra napkins needed.
For a smoked-meat place, there are plenty of vegetarian options on the menu. The atmosphere is diner-like and comfortable. Service was superb on both of our visits (Mark was our server each time). They don't use styrofoam for leftovers which is always good to see. And for you hot dog loving fans, dogs are still prominently featured on the menu.
There is a small parking lot in front of the restaurant, which is convenient for customers looking to park but not so great for patrons looking out at car grills. The patio is a nice seating option, assuming it's under 90 degrees. If you're a smoked meat fan, or just want to experience a fun, neighborhood spot, be sure to stop in Jonny B'z.
Maybe someone soon will re-purpose the old Wild Bunch building across the street and Jonny B'z will have a better neighbor :-)

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Forty Acres Soul Kitchen, 1059 Wealthy St, SE ~ July 3, 2018

This new restaurant opened mid-May and is truly a wonderful addition to the Grand Rapids food scene. Both the clever name and the established date of 1863 are hugely significant moments in American history.
The interior is modern, clean, and sleek, with large windows all around and minimalist decor.
There's a full bar and outdoor seating that wraps around the building.
Everything about this interior is cool, from the lighting to all of the outlets and charging stations. Kudos to the designers.
There were so many things we wanted to try but we settled on Fried Green Tomatoes (served with tabasco-pickled okra & cajun remoulade) and Soul Rolls (black-eyed peas, collard greens, dirty rice, & chicken) for starters. Excellent choices on both accounts! The Soul Rolls in particular, we could eat everyday.
From the 'Build Your Own Platter' section (choose protein, two sides + bread), the fried chicken was irresistible and arrived with the selected grilled corn and macaroni & cheese.
For an additional cost, other sides can be added and the cole slaw was an addition. Less creamy than we are used to, the slaw was tangy and tasty. Macaroni & cheese and corn were fantastic but the cornbread was a bit dry. The chicken was as delicious as you will find anywhere, crispy on the outside and moist inside.

The fried catfish platter was served on garden spaghetti and accompanied by fried okra. It was all well-prepared and for the most part delicious. The vegetables in the spaghetti were fresh but the tomato sauce was completely bland. It definitely needed some seasoning.

Just for the fun of it, we ordered fried bologna sandwiches to go. And they were just as described: fried bologna on Wonder bread :-) but in desperate need of condiments.
There are lots of vegan options and there are also catering and take-out menus available. As one last service to customers, each bill has suggested tip amounts listed: 18%, 20%, or 22% with the amounts broken down for you. Well done, 40 Acres!