Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Raad's Mediterranean Grill, 962 Cherry St SE ~ 8/11/15

We've been hearing about this place and finally made it there today for lunch. It's been in business for two years and when we walked in today, it was empty. That can't be good.
There are about nine tables set in a pleasant atmosphere and six chairs lined up against a street-facing window.
We walked in and were greeted with "to go or here?" Not the most welcoming greeting by our server. We seated ourselves and perused the 6-page menu. Appetizers & salads, two pages of entrees, beverages-smoothies-desserts, an ala carte and kids page, and a lunch menu. We had to start with a few appetizers ~ Samosas and Falafel. Our server, "is that all?"
The samosas were served with delicious tzatziki sauce and the falafel arrived draped in tahini and parsley. This was all made to order and we waited for it, but it was worth the wait. We next ordered from the entree menu, Gyro and Kafta. Each entree comes promised with salad, rice, hummus, fresh pita bread, and optionally served as a wrap or plated. We took plated. And we need to talk about the salad first.
We'd like to eat this everyday, seriously. There's a lemony dressing (house recipe) that tops off radishes, parsley, tomatoes, onions, lentils, pita chips made on the premises, and pomegranate seeds. The salad is alive with flavor and texture and is altogether amazing. The Gyro then arrived.
Hummus, rice and gyro were beautifully presented. As we are waiting for the Kafta, the owner and/or chef stepped out to ask whether I'd like tzatziki or garlic sauce (he whispers 'garlic'). How could we not take the garlic :-). He then notices our notes and camera. "Are you food critics?" Well, we do have a blog. "Why didn't you tell me? I would have taken good care of you." No. That's not how we like to review restaurants. And when the Kafta finally came out he accompanied it, chatting up the food, and due to his hovering we neglected to get a food photo, until the leftovers arrived at home :-)
There are 16 spices in the rice, according to our chef, and the garlic sauce and the rest of the food was well prepared and fresh. The garlic sauce was a great recommendation so don't miss it. We asked about the lack of customers and our guy said it's always like this because no one knows about them, which is sad because the food is wonderful. It's made as it is ordered, table for table. Pita bread is brought in from Detroit and was promised with the Kafta entree but never arrived so we can't comment on that other than we didn't get it.

Ideas for improvement? Train your servers to be more welcoming and customer savvy. Add building signage and update the tacky sandwich board sign. Clean the one bathroom customers use. Avoid loud conversations between the server and chef while customers are waiting for food, and don't make customers listen to your phones ring as well as to your subsequent conversations. And maybe change the soundtrack to a consistent mideastern vibe rather than a random jazz/pop thing.

Online reviews complain about the prices but there is a lunch menu available with reduced costs. We hope he stays in business and maybe he does well enough with take-outs and catering to stay alive.
The smoothies were recommended to us by the chef as being all natural with no added sugars, etc., so we took two to go. Delicious! Check out this place, at least for the falafel, hummus, garlic sauce, and the salad! They have local delivery service and you can find them on facebook and at
Sad Update 2/18/16 ~ we drove by earlier this week and the restaurant is closed and the building vacant.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sushi Kuni, 2901 Breton ~ 3/26/15

They call themselves a Japanese Fusion restaurant and five years ago moved into the space that used to be Shogun.
Enter this establishment and you are immediately struck by the lovely ambiance. The lighting is dim and the decor subtle and tasteful. The place is divided into two areas, this row of booths and small tables upon entry,
and another dining area with a few larger tables, a few booths, and the sushi bar.
The menu features Korean dishes, sushi, and Asian Fusion, so there are choices galore. Sometimes this style of restaurant tries to be too many things to too many people but we think it works here overall. And we started with tempura and dumplings.
The shrimp tempura was a little bland but the dumplings (beef gyoza) were great. The sauce enhanced the flavor of these perfectly prepared and not overly fried dumplings. So on to the entrees.

Two of us are huge fans of Udon, those thick, chewy Japanese noodles, so two dishes soon arrived ~ Vegetable Udon and Spicy Seafood Udon.
The mildly flavored broth in the vegetable dish was excellent and the spiciness of the seafood dish broth slowly built up while eating. Both are classic dishes well prepared, and the noodles had the perfect, chewy texture we hoped for.

Chef's Choice Sushi was our third dish, and it was fine although not as fresh or well-cut as that found at Maru.
The soundtrack playing was really interesting and we couldn't quite figure it out. It was completely instrumental and each of us recognized different tunes ranging from "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka, a theme song from Lord of the Rings, a praise chorus worship tune, and a Metallica hit. It was a unique and strange soundtrack for our lunchtime dining :-) But our major complaint was that the overhead light at our booth was disconcertingly bright and not centered over the table so it only bothered the person it shone upon.

Find them on facebook but they haven't posted since November of 2014. And their website at is halfway functional and doesn't reflect their current menu. In order to read the menu pages that are there, at least three clicks are required to get it to a readable size.

So check them out in person. The atmosphere is great and we'd like to go back to try some of our favorite Korean dishes. And be aware, you have to walk through the Suma wrestler's curtain legs to find the restrooms (and notice the aforementioned blinding booth lights in this photo!).
Sushi Kuni on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Cabana Tres Amigos, 1409 60th St ~ 3/10/15

We've heard good things about this restaurant so drove out to Kentwood to check it out. It's housed in a big building that must have been something else in a previous life. There's not much else around it but residences, and nothing to draw you to the area. But being family-owned, we were in.
We walked in and found a large entry way with a weird decor mix of Aztec-ish paintings and a blow-up beer can. A large dining room to the left was empty but for one couple. We were seated in an aisle of booths running along the kitchen, the width of the building. Everyone else was seated there too, except for that one lucky couple in the dining room.
Straight ahead from the entry was the bar, containing a few booths along the back, mirrored wall and fairly large u-shaped bar seating. A patio was also visible, which would be lovely on a summer night. Our server immediately announced that they had coke products and a full bar. Good to know.
So we were seated in the 7-booth alley and while we were waiting, we were treated to the sound of jack hammers going off in the bar (probably just a drill but it was jackhammer loud). We asked our server what was going on and she informed us, in a necessarily loud voice, that Keno was being installed in the bar. Well-timed construction, not. Fortunately, the work ceased after about 15 minutes, just minutes before we were headed for the door.

Perusing the pretty typical, large Mexican restaurant menu, we looked through five full-sized pages that contained an additional insert for features. And we started with Chorizo con Queso. The homemade Mexican sausage and cheese sauce made for a mighty fine dish. The cheese was mouth-watering delicious and not too rich as to be overwhelming but rich enough to make us want more. The Chorizo was mildly spicy and could have been hotter but that was fixable at the table.
We asked our server if she had a favorite and she promptly recommended Carnitas ~ pork marinated in a secret family recipe, which was listed as one of their specialties. It had to be tried. The pork was tender and the secret family recipe marinade brought a lot of flavor to it. Accompanying the pork were peppers, pico de gallo, refried beans, rice, and corn (or flour) tortillas.
Being greedy to taste more food than two people could/would normally eat, we ordered two additional dishes, Tacos al Pastorale, and Shrimp Empanada (Empanda on the menu). (Our server asked us why we were ordering so much food - why would she care? :-)
The tacos were fine but we were taken by surprise by the empanada because we expected the traditional concoction ~ pastry stuffed with good things. Because we didn't pay enough attention to the menu description (even with all that time), we discovered that instead of pastry, a filet of tilapia was the vessel for the shrimp. And it kind of worked. All would have been good but the promised orange and limes were nowhere to be found, and their citrus, acidic presence was missed. Avocado, tomatoes, cucumbers, and pico de gallo were fresh but didn't make up for it.
The menu categories range as follows: starters, salads, nachos, vegetarian selections, features, house specialties, from the gulf, fresh taste of old mexico, fajitas and burritos, combinations, tacos enchiladas burritos, lunch specials, gringo grub (consisting of a chicken sandwich, and burger and fries), desserts, and beverages. We mention these only because you can't find them on their website.

And if you're checking out their website, be sure your speakers are turned down or off. Because immediately Cielito Lindo will begin blaring. Search as you might for the full menu, you won't find it. You can try clicking on price options, which will provide a specific dish, but there are no food categories from which to search. Their facebook account is also under-utilized. Other than one posting in 2015, the others go back to 2011. And if it's your first time looking for this place, this is the street signage to look for. The restaurant has none.
Obviously, this restaurant is relying on its loyal, local customers and we imagine they are many. If we lived nearby, we would return as well. But we can't recommend driving out there from Grand Rapids when we have Maggie's Kitchen, El Granjero, and La Taqueria San Jose right here. There's no reason to drive Kentwood for good Mexican food, but maybe for the summer patio and full bar!
Sidenote on the women's bathroom ~ you can look right over the top of the stalls ~ very poor design feature so be forewarned!
CabaƱa Tres Amigos on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Pupuseria El Salvador La Original, 4639 S Division Ave ~ 1/20/15

Driving south on Division Avenue is always an interesting ride and we've discovered some unique little restaurants doing that. But someone mentioned this place to us (thanks, Sarah Scott!) so today we drove down Division with a specific destination in mind. And we missed it the first time. One our way back north, we spotted the sign and turned in to find the small, set-back restaurant.
We weren't sure at first if it was counter-service only so stood about for a minute or two trying to figure it out. A friendly man soon greeted us and told us to sit wherever we would like and he warned against sitting by the windows. Good advice as we froze anyway away from the windows but it was a bitterly cold day.
The restaurant felt small at first with booths crammed everywhere but when we did some calculating, it appears the space could hold upwards of 50 people. Ten booths are back to back with each other and there are five smaller tables and chairs along the side wall. Today we shared the place with one lone soul.
A large menu is posted on the wall but our server also brought us the huge 9-page menus to peruse. Some items are described in Spanish & English, others just in Spanish but there are pictures galore. It was difficult to make a decision with so many choices. And for those of you looking for breakfast choices, if you can wait until 10 or 11am to eat, there is a full page of breakfast selections whose descriptions were very tempting. Other than the menus, there was very little wall art, this being one exception.
Our server was patient as our indecision was obvious and he suggested we start with guacamole. He asked if we liked it hot but he didn't trust our "yes" because we had to make it hotter when it arrived. But fresh & flavorful it was, complete with the avocado pit and a wedge of lime.
We were surprised with the complimentary lentil soup which we happily consumed. And after further conversation with our server, we started with two pupusas & fried plantains. One pupusa was steak and cheese and the other was jalapeno pepper and cheese. These were divided amongst us and were such a treat! The pupusa is a thick tortilla, but with twice the flavor, and stuffed before cooking, which can be opened like pita bread and filled with additional items, like the fermented cabbage slaw that accompanied it. Or the cabbage can just be placed on top of the pupusa and eaten like a taco. Our server assured us that both methods were acceptable :-)
The fried plantains were exceptional, particularly due to the crema y frijoles that came along with them. We were advised to mix the sauces together before dipping the plantains. And we can assure you that you have not tasted anything like those sauces in any other Mexican/Spanish restaurant here in Grand Rapids.

We could have stopped there but were so thrilled with this new-to-us food that we ordered more, knowing we'd take the bulk of it home with us. Pork tamales, steak tacos, and taquitos rounded out our meal here (well, there were three of us :-) ).
We were all happy with our choices, and again, this is so much better than the stuff served up in your average Mexican restaurants, but the stars of this place are the pupusas and the plantains with the sour cream and bean sauce. The ingredients are fresh and the food is prepared after you order it. Here's our server in the kitchen doing just that.
There was one other person working in the kitchen and when we asked about the history of the place the information was a little spotty but apparently it's been open about 10 years with ownership changing hands among family members.

The restaurant is book-ended by a car wash and a laundromat that explained the "no change" signs on the door.
And although the neighborhood might seem a little dilapidated with 24/7 security cameras necessary, don't be dissuaded from checking out this place. We have 29 more pupusas to try in this Rincon Magico (as they call themselves).
They are on Facebook, and their current hours, per our server Joseph are as follows:
Monday-Thursday ~ 11:00am - 8:30 or 9:00pm
Friday & Saturday ~ 10:00am - 10:00pm
Sunday ~10:00am - 8:30pm
We are so happy to share another local gem with you and regret that it took us 10 years to find it!
Pupuseria El Salvador La Original on Urbanspoon