5 places to get a taste of Grand Rapids during ArtPrize

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Almost half a million people are expected to descend upon downtown Grand Rapids for the ArtPrize international public art competition during its almost three-week run beginning Wednesday.

That's a lot of hungry people.

But there are only two kinds of individuals in the world: those who want to be in the heart of the action and those who don't.

If you find yourself hungry at ArtPrize,  here are 10 places to try.  The list is divided into places that are sure to appeal to both types of people.

Here are 5 places to check out for those who want a taste of ArtPrize:

 1. Downtown Market

A bustling food hall and food-focused community space with a rooftop greenhouse, Downtown Market has been open since 2013. The market is an official ArtPrize venue and also a great place to grab some quick bites any time of day.

In the morning, stop by Field & Fire bakery (from former Zingerman's head baker Shelby Kibler) for a buttery croissant filled with seasonal Michigan fruit ($3.75) to pair with a cappuccino from Simpatico Coffee ($3) down the hall.

If lunch is more of what you're looking for and you can find an open stool at Fish Lads' oyster bar, try the lobster roll with both mayo and clarified butter ($23) or some fresh-shucked oysters ($3). Fish Lads founder Jeff Butzow worked in Seattle's famous Pike Place Market for 15 years before opening here in 2013. (Carver's, the artisan butcher and deli one space over, is also a brand new Butzow venture.)

Intrepid metro Detroiters can find familiar fare at the market's two full-service restaurants, both local exports: Slows Bar BQ from Detroit and Birmingham's Social Kitchen & Bar.

You'll also find about 20 more vendors hawking tacos, sushi, cupcakes, raw juice and much more. (A picnic basket will have no trouble getting filled here.) Make sure to stop for a scoop of strawberry ice cream ($3.95) from Love's, made with real strawberries and non-homogenized milk.

Downtown Market, 435 Ionia Ave. SW; 616-805-5308

2. Founders Brewing Co.

With its sprawling taproom and biergarten, Founders Brewing Co.  is another official ArtPrize venue and a 15-minute walk from Downtown Market.

The space is massive and offers many seats but draws big crowds even when the world's largest public art competition isn't in town. The patient will be rewarded with the chance to try a pint of Pale Joe, this year's special brew made especially for and to benefit ArtPrize. Expect a pale ale brewed with coffee for an added caffeine kick to get you both buzzed and buzzing.

The family-friendly brewery serves food, too, including a selection of sandwiches and French Bread pizzas ($7-$10).

Founders Brewing Co., 235 Grandville Ave. SW; 616-776-1195

3. Stella's Lounge

Also a quick walk from either Downtown Market or Founders, Stella's Lounge will be open early for weekday lunch during ArtPrize to dish out record numbers of what GQ magazine called the best burger in America.

Though it's not an official venue, this rock 'n' roll dive bar's central location one block away from the ArtPrize hub is sure to keep this place thumping. Play one of Stella's many classic arcade consoles while you wait for a seat in the dimly lit dining room, or sip on one of the 250 whiskey options.

Half-pound stuffed burger varieties include the award-winning Stella Blue ($11.75), filled with blue cheese and bacon. There's also the classic "Government Cheese" version ($11.75) and more, as well as gluttonous bar snacks and sandwiches.

Stella's Lounge, 53 Commerce Ave.; 616-742-4444

4. Reserve Wine & Food

In addition to producing works of art on the plate, Reserve Wine & Food is also home to the first ArtPrize winner — Ran Ortner's massive oil painting of a churning sea, "Open Water No. 24," hangs above the bar in this impressive, contemporary dining room.

Six years into its run, Reserve is still the pinnacle of upscale Grand Rapids dining, with co-executive chefs Zachary Pisciotta and Lucas Verhulst balancing each other well with their respective fermentation and charcuterie skills. The restaurant breaks down a whole pig every Tuesday and much of the fresh produce comes from a local farm CSA. The food is refined but pure Michigan. And even though Reserve is across the street from two steakhouses, the dry-aged rib-eye does more than hold its own.

While the rest of the city is awash in beer, Reserve is a little wine oasis downtown, offering 102 pours by the glass thanks to the Cruvinet wine preservation system.

If you're looking for a fun way to end a meal, look no further than the house-made wine freeze pops.

Dinner for two can be had for around $100, and a variety of wine can be sampled thanks to the option of smaller, gently priced "tastes."

Reserve Wine & Food, 201 Monroe Ave. NW; 616-855-9463

5. Osteria Rossa

If you're looking for something a little more rustic for dinner, Osteria Rossa in Monument Square is a good bet.

Located on the first floor of a historic building, this two-year-old modern Italian joint features house-made porchetta, pasta and wood-fired pizzas served in a handsome, sepia-brick space rich with dark wood accents and tasteful art.

The wine list leans heavily toward Italy with just a few homegrown Michigan varieties on offer. And though it bills itself as a casual dining spot, this cozy osteria is a great place for a date. Try the octopus salad starter, bright with pickled fennel, lemon conserva and an added kick from Calabrian chili oil — a lovely pairing with a glass of sparkling Italian pinot noir rosé.

Dinner for two with a glass of wine each can be had for $80-$100.

Osteria Rossa, 16 Monroe Center St. NE; 616-988-9350

Detroit Free Press


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