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 in the area 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 heading to the Downtown Market to test a variety of customer favorites, from mochi donuts to fresh salmon poke.
Grand Rapids is a city with a rapidly growing food scene, as we’ve documented here on 13 Eats. But perhaps nothing better encompasses that growth than the Downtown Market, located in the southern heart of the city.
Flooded with sunlight, adorned with greenery and filled with delicious, diverse culinary creations, the market is a metropolitan paradise right here in Grand Rapids. The place has been up and running since 2013 with the mission to be “a vibrant gathering place that offers dynamic food-centered experiences, education, and entrepreneurship opportunities dedicated to a healthier community and economy.”
Now, Downtown Market is a beloved food and beverage hub that is home to a 20+ vendor market hall with two full-service restaurants.
► Learn more about the Downtown Market here.
We began our journey at the foodie paradise with the Mini Monger charcuterie board ($18.00) from Aperitivo. Loaded with fancy cheese and sweet and savory fixings, this board had a little something for all tastes – truly, Aperitivo does charcuterie like no other. For our fellow cheese lovers, this dish is practically screaming your name. It’s the perfect prequel to any epic meal that will come from visiting the Downtown Market.
Next, we dove into the Garlic Parm Boneless Wings and Side of Fries ($12.00) from Juju Bird. The fried pieces of chicken arrived smothered in a garlicky parmesan sauce and the fries were perfectly crisp. The smell was immaculate, but the taste? Even better. The sauce was buttery, creamy, savory goodness with chunks of parmesan, so good that we found ourselves dipping the fries in the excess gathered at the bottom of the togo container. As a side note for our fellow ranch connoisseurs, the side of ranch was delectably creamy and light and we would’ve eaten it by the bottle-full.
Juju Bird garlic parm boneless wings
As our bellies filled, we popped open our Spicy Salmon Market Bowl ($13.00) from Pinktail Poke. The salmon was delectably fresh and each bite was wonderfully balanced with crunchy Tobiko, green onions and sesame seeds on the light sushi rice. There was a spicy tang to each mouthful, giving the bowl a flavorful edge. It was a perfect meal for a light lunch or, in our case, a palate cleanser before the next dish arrived.
Pinktail Poke Market Bowl
Yes, we were full, but as any good foodie knows, there’s always room for dessert. At Rak Thai, we ordered a Strawberry Milk Tea with Tapioca Boba ($4.50) and a Cookie Monster, a Birthday Cake and a Matcha Strawberry Mochi Donut ($3.50 each). Let us warn you, after devouring these treats, eating donuts will never be the same. It’ll leave you wondering why mochi donuts have not yet taken over the reins from its cakey alternative.
Rak Thai Mochi Donuts
The tea was a summery delicacy with fresh fruity flavors and Jell-O-like boba that added an amazing texture. The donuts, however, were the true star. Each bite had a firm exterior and a dreamy, silky interior, mixed with the sweet frosting coating the top. We’d compare it to eating an eclair, with the inner dough so soft it could be mistaken for cream. With only crumbs and crumpled napkins left, we made a vow: every donut we eat from now on will be compared with the mochi donuts at Rak Thai, and in our expert opinion, those future donuts we eat don’t stand a chance.
Walking the halls of the Downtown Market feels like walking the halls of an upscale, big-city marketplace. It’s almost like the creators took a piece of New York and brought it right here to West Michigan. The architecture is modern, cool and urban, ultimately setting the tone for the whole market experience.
Everywhere we looked, we were inspired. From fresh-cut fish to aging cheeses and delectable pastries, the place is packed with culinary diversity. Perhaps our favorite part of the market, however, is just how clean it is. Everything is so white, modern, earthy and bright. We felt a million times cooler just by walking in. A trip to the market really does feel like an extra special excursion amidst our everyday go-abouts.
Downtown Market: The Vibe
What is not to love about Downtown Market? The place is everything Grand Rapids is all about: It’s innovative, driven by sustainability and catered for diversity. Maybe the best part of the market is that there is – truly – a little something for everyone. Heck, there are 20 eateries right there, in one spot. At first glance, the sheer number of restaurants can be intimidating or overwhelming, but we promise you can’t go wrong.
So what were our very favorite food items? Well, all of them were delicious, but we especially loved the charcuterie, the boneless chicken wings and the mochi donuts. PARTICULARLY, the donuts were the bright and shining star of the show for us. We would literally go back again and again just for those hollow circles of heaven.
► The Grand Rapids Downtown Market is located at 435 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
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