Friday, July 22, 2016

Iron ~ 25 Ottawa Ave SW

This address always struck us as a great location, being right next to the Van Andel Arena. But its history, up to now, has proved us wrong. Margarita Grill closed there in 2008, due more to assaults than to the location. The subsequent reincarnations, 25 Kitchen and Bar (2010 review) and the very short-lived McKays tried to utilize the same huge space (2 levels) but didn't make it. This new business owner (who also owns Osteria Rossa) made a smarter decision and took a little more than half of the original space. And it's a very fine space.
Rustic and sleek at the same time, the interior is tasteful, warm, and welcoming.
We were promptly greeted, seated, and given the lunch menu.
We could not resist trying the tomato soup made with heavy cream and served with a mini grilled cheese. The grilled cheese arrived in the soup, which first delighted us but subsequently dismayed us as we couldn't figure out how to consume it. It was a messy but delicious item.
The menu is intriguing and interesting and we finally settled on our two choices. The apple grilled cheese sandwich was doubled up with cheese, gouda and cheddar, and with the charred apple, radish sprouts, and mustard, made an outstanding selection.
The "Sherminator" was massive, and spectacular. The beef patty was topped with mystery Iron sauce, crispy onions, fried cheese curds, horsey slaw, and bacon. And it arrived medium rare, as ordered.
We could see the outdoor patio from where we were sitting (lack of shade kept us dining inside),
and we checked it out before we left. A bar and a fireplace seating area have been added and the patio is altogether pleasant and inviting.
The interior dining area holds tables for 2 or 4, and high tops are located in the bar area which also contains one large booth. Two silent TVs are above the bar and a classic rock and roll soundtrack was playing throughout. Restrooms are single use, unisex (that's how you do it). If you're going for dinner, reservations are recommended. You can find their website at and they have an active page on facebook. Check this place out and you will certainly become a fan!
Iron Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato   

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Chinatown, 69 28th St SW ~ 6/21/16

In business since 1975, the restaurant began its life renting the space from the owners of Robert Hall (that long ago defunct clothing store). When a 1980 fire destroyed the building, business owners Alex and Alice Lin bought the real estate and rebuilt the restaurant. They've been here ever since. And we know this because Alice told us.
When we walked in Alice was the only other person we saw in the restaurant. She was working behind the bar with a TV playing but immediately upon our being seated, the TV was turned off and a wonderful, greatest classical hits music track began playing. Seldom heard in most restaurants, we found it even more interesting and enjoyable playing here. The air conditioning was also fired up and we had the place to ourselves. (There were three cars parked out front when we pulled up, which must have belonged to employees/owners. It's a good plan because we wouldn't have stopped in if there wasn't a car in the lot.)
The bar was filled with lucky cats, a side dining room was darkened, the Japanese Steakhouse wing has been long closed, but the lunch area was pleasant and traditionally decorated. About eight tables and two booths filled out the space and could obviously handle the lunch crowd, which today was us.
We started out big with the Genghis Khans Platter for two.
Dumplings, Crab Rangoon, BBQ, Shrimp Toast, and Egg rolls made up this appetizing array. We followed it up with Hot and Sour soup, always judged against that produced by Wei Wei Palace. This was sweeter but full of vegetables and still commendable.
Each dish took its time arriving and in the meantime, Alice introduced herself to us and gave us the history earlier related. When we ordered our main dishes, she mentioned that food was cooked fresh and to order, and spice levels ranged from 1-10. We were happy to wait and enjoyed chatting with her. She delivered our main dishes and continued to chat, and continued, but that was our fault because we asked questions. Eventually she left us to our food.
Szechuan Pork was well prepared, spiced up to level 8, contained crunchy vegetables and the asked for hotness, and was an all around great dish. Our next entree was one of the Signature Dishes, Bird's Nest Double Happiness ~ irresistible, ordered at spice level 7.
Shrimp and chicken were stir-fried with crispy vegetables and were supposed to be served in a crispy noodle basket. It wasn't much of a basket but it was appealing all the same. We usually avoid shrimp in an Asian restaurant because they tend to be rubbery but this was not the case here. A signature dish indeed. 

We were entertained by various instructions found in the restaurant.
The owners have tried to sell the business previously and maybe still are (we found a 2010 YouYube listing from a local realtor). Running this business since 1975, they are probably ready to retire. The building is huge and they are only utilizing a portion of it. So enjoy this satisfying food while you can in this iconic building with its interesting history. And be sure to say hello to Alice, the friendliest hostess/server/owner in town. Social media accounts are inactive or inaccurate so just check out this place in person.

Chinatown Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato  

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Social Kitchen and Bar, 435 Ionia Ave SW ~ 6/8/16

The restaurant opened in the Downtown Market this past spring and today we walked through its doors. It's taken up the entire open dining area that customers have used since the market opened but this is a much better use of the space (probably not from other vendors' points of view, however).
A wall divides the restaurant into two parts, dining room and bar, both about equal in size.
High tops fill up the bar area along with much counter seating.
The dining area continues the salvaged material decor and is equally interesting.
From the dining area we could see into the open kitchen that also had a pizza oven on the side.
We were promptly seated and provided with a lunch menu and a make-your-own-salad-bowl option.
We did not avail ourselves of the social greens menu but started with chicken and waffles, probably one of the strangest combos to ever come out of the South :-) But if you take a momentary break from being health-conscious, what's not to love about a buttery waffle and maple syrup topped with some chicken. It was a small and tasty treat.
An egg sandwich was next, layered with guacamole, sriracha, tomato, cheddar cheese, and house-made bacon. Some fresh greens accompanied the sandwich. Buttery toasted bread held the ingredients that combined just fine, especially if you like a dash of sriracha with your food.
The Turkey burger was touted as being house-ground and to be served with parsley salad, sriracha, garlic mayo on homemade pita bread. Add options included bacon and a fried egg.
This sounded good but the egg being over easy instead drenched the sandwich in liquid, which would not have been bad except that the dish was served on paper on a tray. One cannot attempt to fork and knife a soggy burger when paper is your base. In addition, the bacon was too tough to bite and, with the rest of the sandwich being soft, made the entire thing a mess. On top of all that, there was no detectable seasoning to the turkey. A little seasoning and being served on a plate might salvage this item.

We added a $6.00 side of fries because they came highly recommended. But seriously, how many people would you need to consume this tray full of fries, as good as they were? A quarter of the size and price might be an improvement.
They have their own restroom facilities downstairs (I think the rest of the market uses the facilities on the 2nd floor), and there's a nice patio outside of the bar that looks out onto the parking lot.
They have rolling doors to close off their space for private events or for when the rest of the market is closed. Overall, Social Kitchen and Bar is a robust and interesting addition to the Downtown Market.
Social Kitchen and Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato