Monday, December 19, 2011

Cherie Inn, 969 Cherry St - 12/1/11

Anyone who has lived in Grand Rapids for any length of time knows this restaurant, and it’s a very cool little spot. You will find it where Cherry, Lake, and Diamond streets converge in the East Hills business district, and it’s open for breakfast and lunch (closing at 3pm, and closed on Mondays). 
Cherie Inn claims to be the oldest restaurant in Grand Rapids (opening in 1924) and it occupies a building that’s at least 100 years old. It’s divided into two long, narrow dining areas, and we love the eclectic setting, complete with tin ceilings, camouflaged restroom doors, and a small art gallery. 
Since there weren’t appetizers with which to start, we defaulted to the soup of the day and were happy we did. Tomato Florentine soup came with chunks of tomato, celery, carrots, pasta, and a nice dose of thyme.
We were here last March and remembered the Cherie burger as being amazing. Delivered once again medium rare as ordered, and on a pretzel roll with provolone cheese and kettle chips, this burger has to rank among the best in Grand Rapids. It’s topped with lettuce, tomato, french friend onions and cajun mayo. If you would like more fat and flavor, you may also add bacon.
Our second selection was a special of the day: a roast beef wrap served with wasabi mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and cheddar cheese. On the whole, we don’t go for “wraps,” and don’t even like the name. But this time it was a winner. The flavors were beautifully balanced and the sandwich was very wrap worthy. Wasabi mayonnaise was the magic ingredient.
Our server was wonderful - the perfect blend of good service and great personality. We have not visited the restaurant for breakfast but it seems to be a love or hate thing based on online reviews. 

We learned from an online video that the owner (since 1997) pronounces the name Cherie with the accent on the second syllable, and not “cherry.” Now you know.

The restaurant is very interactive on Facebook, where you can also see their specials. Otherwise check out their website at
Cherie Inn on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 2, 2011

Rush Creek Bistro, 624 Port Sheldon Rd, Grandville - 11/8/11

What used to be open to club members only is now open to the public. The bistro is located in the Sunnybrook Country Club and if you use your GPS, it won’t be hard to find, even in the rain.
The entrance brings you into a large dining room with booths along one wall and tables elsewhere. We walked in and seated ourselves in a booth; there were several other tables occupied. A waiter came up to us and said we should seat ourselves in the bar area.  Hmmm - was it the clothes? The non-golfer look? Whatever it was, it was the most unwelcome greeting ever.

We moved into a booth in the bar area, which is a good-sized L-shaped room adjoining the dining area. The decor everywhere is tasteful and subdued, and the windows everywhere overlook the golf course. Our server here was much friendlier and told us that the dining room was closing, which explained the bum’s rush.
The menu is large and looks like it is trying to be all things to all people: a couple of interesting appetizers, pizza, pasta, seafood, chicken dishes, an enchilada, meatloaf, pork tenderloin, steak, and shepherd’s pie. That’s pretty diverse for one kitchen but maybe it’s due to catering to the country club set and their families.

We picked the crab-stuffed mushrooms for our appetizer and did not go wrong. The crimini mushroom caps were filled with Alaskan crab stuffing, fresh lemon and herbs, and topped with Chablis cream sauce. The crab and mushroom flavors were enhanced by the lemon but remained distinct and not overwhelmed by the sauce. A perfect pick.
Our first entree was the chicken cavatappi: grilled chicken on a bed of pasta with spinach, cherry tomatoes, and mushrooms, and topped with a light Alfredo sauce and parmesan cheese. Pasta was al dente and the dish was a taste delight.
Shepherd’s Pie on a menu is usually irresistible and today was no exception. It was a beautiful thing to behold, and to consume. The hearty stew consisted of ground lamb, beef, carrots, spanish onion, garlic, and a house blend of fresh herbs and spices. It was wonderfully topped with creamy whipped potatoes.
Both dishes were served with garlic toast and an efficient and informative server. When the bar dining area was invaded by very loud, obnoxious golfers fresh off the course, our server semi-apologized for them and explained that they think they own the club (they are members) and were not used to sharing it with the public. That’s too bad as we didn’t enjoy listening to them shouting about who won and what the losers owed. 

The food was good, the ambiance is pleasant, the golfers indoors were unpleasant, so take your chances. Watermark Properties owns this and two other country clubs, each of which offers a restaurant open to the public. (We had a taste of Fire Rock Grille at the recent Wine Beer & Food Festival). 
Wine, Beer, Food Festival
You can also find them on facebook.
Rush Creek Bistro on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wild Chef Japanese Steakhouse, 3303 Alpine, Walker - 10/25/11

This restaurant is well-established in Holland, and the owners recently took over the very large, old Bennigans building for their second location. You will see some Bennigans layout remaining but teppanyaki grill tables now fill most of the space, a large dining area floor has been raised to the main floor level, and the bar is now also a sushi bar. The renovations and the real estate had to be pricey, and I hope they make it. 
The teppanyaki-style restaurant originated in Japan in the 1940s and it was discovered, not surprisingly, that foreigners were more interested in an elaborate chef show than were the Japanese. One thing led to another, and in 1964, a wrestler named Hiroaki “Rocky” Aoki opened the first Benihana in New York City.
You know the style, you know the show, and here in Grand Rapids it could/can be experienced at the Shangai Garden (now gone) and at Ichiban, both of which feature(d) a Chinese wing and a Japanese wing.

Wild Chef is purely Japanese. We opted out from a teppanyaki table (sometimes called hibachis and many would claim to differ) and took a booth, a few of which are grouped together to one side of the bar.
Service was friendly, prompt, and informative and we finally decided to start with Yakotori: Japanese-style chicken kabob brushed with teriyaki sauce. Very flavorful and beautifully presented, it comes highly recommended and we would have gladly eaten more.
An annoying rap-rock soundtrack was playing loudly (an owner’s iPod, as we discovered) and before we said anything, we heard our server ask her to change it (shades of Shiraz). The younger one of us may have mentioned that the older one of us is just getting too old, but as the older one, I’m sticking to my point that restaurant music should enhance the dining experience, not distract from it.

Sushi is half off Sunday - Thursday, and the younger went for it with spicy tuna and spider rolls. Spider rolls with the fried soft shell crab filling were a huge hit, and the tuna rolls came in second as not being very spicy. Sushi fans should check out this restaurant and we think you will be favorably impressed.
Our second entree was Yakiniku, marinated sirloin in garlic, ginger, and Japanese spices. The thinly sliced meat was tender and a taste treat, particularly if you love garlic and ginger, which I do. It was accompanied by crisp vegetables, well-prepared rice with its own delicious white sauce, and ginger sauce for the meat and vegetables. 
Arriving before this was onion soup and a green salad with a house dressing. We are big fans of their house-made dressings and sauces, and the way all of the food was prepared and presented.
We’ll have to go back for the show sometime, and for you rowdy groups, there is a private party room that seats 20 around the grills (the converted Bennigan pop station). But it seemed a little tight.
Instead, opt for tables in the dining rooms. If you don’t like the show, you will enjoy the food. 
You may like them on Facebook (with “steakhouse” as one word). (The paper menu uses two words and their website uses one. On Urbanspoon, the Holland location uses two, and the Grand Rapids, one. But now we’re just being picayune.) Regardless of how you spell steakhouse, you will find this restaurant worthy of your time and money.
Wild Chef Japanese Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Shiraz Grille, 2739 Breton Road, SE - 10/13/11

Shiraz: it’s a wine, an ancient city in Iran, and a wonderful restaurant in Grand Rapids. The owner is Iranian (Persian) and the food is as unique to Grand Rapids as is the ambiance. 
The exterior will not grab your attention but the interior certainly will. It’s lovely with dark wood and carpeting, some Iranian decor (faux and real), a small bar, a separate banquet room, and a small outdoor patio. 
There is a lunch (petite) menu available until 2:30 but luckily for us, our server brought us the full menu by mistake. All of the items were available for lunch, which we wouldn’t have known.

We chose Persian Shrimp Cocktail for an appetizer. Grilled and chilled, the jumbo shrimp were pomegranate-glazed and came with a delicious mint, yogurt sauce. Pomegranates, mint, and yogurt are staples of Iranian cooking and this was a fine starter.
Ordering from the dinner menu, everything was ala carte. Our server ably and expertly suggested soup and salad and we couldn’t resist. The soup offering is seasonal only and therefore not described on the menu; we loved the seasonality and the soup. It was  a wonderful mung bean based soup that included kidney beans, mint, and onion. 
All of the salads sounded interesting but we decided to share a Shirazi. Chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, and parsley came marinated in olive oil, lime juice, and mint, and it was an exquisite limey, minty treat.
From the entrees, one of us ordered Barg and the other ordered Sultani, and here are the menu descriptions:
Barg: (filet mignon Persian-style) $20.00
A juicy skewer of marinated tenderloin, charbroiled to perfection.
Koubideh: (seasoned ground kabob) $14.00
Two juicy strips of our house-blended beef and lamb.
Sultani: (Barg and one Koubideh) $22.00
Combination of charbroiled filet mignon and a strip of seasoned ground beef/lamb.
We assumed that the Sultani would be smaller portions of the previous two menu items but to our surprise, the Sultani was a replica of the Barg but with the addition of a strip of beef/lamb described in Koubideh. For two dollars more, please order the Sultani.

Both meat strips were tender and delicious. Persian food is flavorful but not spicy or hot and these dishes were beautifully prepared and mouth-watering delectable. Both were accompanied by saffron-topped basmati rice, grilled tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and a huge chunk of garlic.
We’re both fans of garlic but not straight up. We mashed a little up to stir into the rice but otherwise left it alone. The other vegetables were a perfect accompaniment but we were a little skeptical about the saffron. It’s incredibly expensive and frequently imitated but a staff member assured us it was the real deal, imported from Iran. 
The single thing we objected to most about our dining experience was the restaurant music. It played from someone’s iPod that held cheesy love-songs, and repeated. It was in sharp contrast to the tasteful decor and upscale atmosphere. On a previous visit for dinner, a classical guitarist was playing, and on their website, there is gorgeous music by an Iranian violinist, Bijan Mortazavi. A change-up for lunch would be wonderful. 
The lunch menu is much more reasonably priced - you just have to endure the music. So don’t let the aforementioned prices scare you off. Experience delightful Persian cuisine in this unique setting. You may "like" them on Facebook. Ba’adan mibinamet!
Shiraz Grille on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rosie’s Diner - RIP, for now

Beginning life in 1946 as the Silver Dollar Diner in New Jersey, the diner came to national attention as the set of a series of commercials for Bounty paper towels featuring Nancy Walker as the waitress, Rosie. The commercials began in 1970 and sometime during that decade, the diner was renamed in honor of its most famous waitress.
Purchased in 1991 by a Michigan artist, the diner was brought to Rockford and opened for business. Two additional diner cars eventually joined Rosie’s, and a new owner took over all of them in 2006.  One car was converted into a sports bar, and later closed.  The other car was turned into a seasonal ice cream shop in September 2010.
Last July, we had a fun lunch at the charming diner and enjoyed the 1950s decor, spicy cheeseburger soup, a sourdough melt, a cheeseburger, and well-prepared onion rings.
On October 2, a temporary closing for renovations turned permanent when the owner closed the doors. Employees were left without notice and without their last paychecks. The business is in a poor location, and with 30 full and part-time employees it was probably over-staffed but the new owner gave it a go. Before she bought it, the property was seconds away from the auction block after a default by an earlier buyer, so it’s a difficult proposition at best. 
So cheers to Rosie’s Diner and its new life, somewhere down the road, maybe near you.
The quicker picker upper :)

4/27/12 Update:  The diners were sold at auction yesterday.

5/7/12 Update: Here's a link to the latest news.

Rosie's Diner on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Monterey Grille, 9175 Cherry Valley Ave, Caledonia - 9/13/11

Edit: The restaurant has closed as of June 9, 2013.

Looking for new places to try via the Grand Rapids Press restaurant guide, we were brought to Caledonia today. It was very pleasant weather and we were happy to see an outdoor patio with only one other table occupied. We walked inside and waited about ten minutes for a person to appear.
We peeked into the dining room and into the bar but nary a soul was around. Finally a waitress appeared and when she started to seat us in the dining room, we asked if we could sit outside. She said certainly and then handed us our menus and silverware and said to seat ourselves and she’d be out there to serve us shortly. Weirdest thing ever.
She took and delivered our beverage order promptly and then didn’t return for 20 minutes. We just wanted to start with an appetizer and finally walked inside to get this accomplished.

The only interesting-sounding appetizer was firecrackers (7.95): hard-twisted eggroll shells stuffed with southwest chicken, cheese, black beans and sweet corn. Promised to be served golden brown with ranchero salsa, it did not disappoint.
We were a little dismayed when they first appeared as they looked over-cooked and dried out. But one taste proved us wrong. The shells were crispy but the contents were moist and full of flavor. The accompanying salsa was house-made and nicely spicy.

The menu is huge and obviously trying to be all things to all people. Breakfast alone covers two full pages and it may be worth a breakfast stop sometime. The rest of the menu consists of appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, pizza, salads, pasta, entrees, seafood, ribs, and six chef features.

Although we were there for lunch, we both chose dinner selections and first up was the florentine chicken dinner (12.95). The grilled chicken breast came with spinach and house alfredo sauce, and was topped with mozzarella cheese. For our two side selections, our choices were redskin mashed potatoes and a side salad.
The alfredo sauce was good but overwhelmed by everything else thrown at it. The potatoes were excellent but the gravy was way too salty. And the chicken? Chewy and underdone; very disappointing and throw-away quality. The salad was fine. We like to order the house dressing when possible but theirs was ranch and we both took a pass and ordered Italian.
Next up was the ribs and shrimp combo for 15.95 and these sides were not optional. It came with the side salad and fries. The aforementioned salad was fine and the fries were nicely seasoned. The slow-braised pork ribs were basted with house-made barbecue sauce but were cooked too quickly and were not falling-off-the-bone tender. The shrimp were hardly to be found anywhere under the breading.
All in all it was a disappointing dining experience but we can see how the cozy bar and nice outdoor patio will have their local fans. The restaurant has been in business since 2001 but no internet presence could be found. 
Monterey Grill on Urbanspoon