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Hidden gem on 44th Street has the southern cuisine of your dreams

From catfish to BBQ ribs, black-eyed peas to collard greens, this place has everything a soul-food lover could ever dream of.
Credit: 13oys

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — There is no shortage of incredible restaurants in Grand Rapids. But with so many options, how do you choose where to indulge? We — 13 ON YOUR SIDE digital producers Riley and Amy — have set out to find the tastiest spots and are documenting our journey with a series called 13 Eats.

13 Eats is all about highlighting the best restaurants in the Grand Rapids area. This week, we’re making our way to The Candied Yam for some classic southern soul food. 

About The Candied Yam

We may be miles away from the southland, but we don’t need to go far to find some incredible southern cuisine. The Candied Yam is a downhome gem located right here in southeast Grand Rapids. It’s been serving up soul food since August 2016. 

From catfish to BBQ ribs, black-eyed peas to collard greens, this place has everything a soul-food lover could ever dream of. AND, to make it even better, it’s all made from scratch and served by people as sweet as the food itself.

Credit: 13oys

►Learn more about The Candied Yam here.

The Food

To get a full grasp of their Southern cuisine, we decided on the Catfish with Mac and Cheese as a side ($9.25). The meal was loaded into a divided Styrofoam to-go container cloaked in parchment paper and served with a side of cornbread —  but don't let the innocuous package dissuade you, this thing was chock full of flavor. 

The mac and cheese was perfectly cooked and had a creamy, sharp cheddar taste to it that made us polish it off soon after we began eating. But the true star of the show, the catfish, was what made us decide once and for all we would be back to eat again soon. 

The coating was perfectly crunchy while the fish was incredibly soft — our plastic silverware cut through the entrée with no problems. The fried exterior tasted like pepper, garlic and lemon goodness, leaving no grease on the container below it. 

Credit: Amy McNeel 13oys

Next up, we chose the Smothered Pork Chops with a side of Collard Greens ($9.25). The pork chop was soft and hearty, coated in a delicious, salty gravy. Though it was both of our first exchange with collard greens, we knew it wouldn't be our last. The greens were a wonderful texture, with a flavorful dressing that really shined.

Taking a bite of the cornbread square, we were surprised to see sweet potatoes inside the soft breading. It was a perfect mixture of sweet and savory that rounded the meal out.

Credit: Amy McNeel 13oys

To finish off the tastiest Southern meal we've had since we moved to Michigan, we scarfed down the restaurant's namesake, a side of Candied Yams ($3.25). We'll be honest, we are huge into the savory meals, so we were apprehensive about this ultra-sweet dish. But this one seemed to be different. The yams tasted like Thanksgiving in the middle of February and it had us coming back for forkful after forkful. 

Credit: Amy McNeel 13oys

Learn more about The Candied Yam here.

The Vibe

Walking into The Candied Yam feels like walking into a family kitchen. The doors lead you into a bright space filled with the most delicious smells that are certain to get your mouth watering. On the left side of the eatery is a long bar filled with sizzling southern delicacies. You tell the server what you want, and snap, crackle, pop — it’s plated right there in front of you. It reminded us of ordering at an ice cream parlor, only the ice cream is a bunch of amazing, heritage-rich soul food. We love this order-and-serve style because it makes things quick and effective, which was great at the time because we were HUNGRY. 

The overall décor and design of the eatery is unassuming and modest, but in a way that feels welcoming and homely. The walls are bright and the windows are big, letting natural light flow through the entry. Overall though, we feel like the décor is understated in a way that really lets the food shine. The atmosphere isn’t flashy or overly modern. Instead, it’s subtle and sweet and pairs perfectly with the classic yet simple southern food they serve. 

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The Verdict 

The Candied Yam was the kind of place you can never go just once. With their vast menu full of delectable options and their hilarious, friendly staff, it immediately makes you want to become a regular. 

We'd recommend the Candied Yam to anyone who remotely enjoys southern food. Comfort, flavor and soul all rolled into one, it's a perfect destination for a meal in the Grand Rapids area. 

Don't let the modesty of this restaurant fool you. One day, we're sure there will be a line out their door for a taste of their southern delicacies —  and we know we'll be waiting in it.

►The Candied Yam is located on 2305 44th Street SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49508

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