GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Take one step inside the New Hotel Mertens restaurant and you get the sense that this place is different than anywhere else. Housed inside a building rich with Grand Rapids history, it has a distinctly Old World European vibe...and an approachable French menu. We checked it out for this week's Taste of My Town.
"What communicated to me that this space needed to be a brasserie was simply walking in it the first time," said restaurant director Anthony Tangorra.
The 1/2 inch tiles will immediately catch your eye -- which are the originals from 1914 when the Mertens Hotel on Oakes Street was brand new.
"We've been given a tremendous gift with the space that we inherited. It is authentically Grand Rapids and has 100 years of Grand Rapids history living inside it," said Tangorra.
After years of sitting vacant the space has been re-imagined as the New Hotel Mertens, Grand Rapids' only French restaurant.
"We've built a menu that is based on familiar, time-tested, accessible French food. We like to call it 'meat and potatoes' French," he explained.
With Chef Patrick at the helm, French classics are gracing the tabletops of this truly remarkable space, where you'll notice some surfaces were intentionally left untouched to share the buildings' story.
Chef Patrick showed us how he prepares the Coq Au Vin.
"There are a lot of interesting traditional qualities in the food," said one diner. "Even the service aspect. Like having a cheese tray that is rolled to the table. I used to live in northern France. When I walked through the doors it sort of stopped me in my tracks. It reminds me so much of the Old World."
You can't talk about French food without talking about wine. The New Hotel Mertens has what they believe is the largest Michigan wine list anywhere.
"There is a different kind of feel here that I'm not used to, I think it's the French old school vibe," said another diner. "I think Grand Rapids really needed something like this."
And it's not just for lunch and dinner. You can stop by for a pastry or an espresso made on an Italian machine -- the only one of it's kind in the United States.
The New Hotel Mertens is hosting two seatings for Thanksgiving Day, as well as New Year's Eve, click here for a look at those menus.
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