My sister-in-law, Bethany, was graduating with her master’s degree and we definitely wanted to be at the ceremony to celebrate her big accomplishment. Marc and I decided to take Friday off and so did Marc’s brother, Matt, and his fiancee, Meg. I had a list of things to do that I thought would be fun until the graduation ceremony in Grand Rapids, but there was no race to check everything off the list. I wanted to have a relaxed, fun time.
Our first stop was Marie Catrib’s (a restaurant from my Where I Want to Eat in 2012!) We walked in and discovered a place decorated with an eclectic mix of iron work, art and giant chalk boards. I wasn’t sure where to put our name in because the place was packed, but the hostess noticed my lost look and kindly took our name. I always feel at home when I experience the warm and friendly nature of West Michigan folks.
I noticed a large chalkboard with a list of the local farms that produce their food. That’s how you know you’re in the right place.
Meg and I both ordered the sweet potato and quinoa burger with ginger-tomato chutney and curried veganaise on their branny oat bread. It was incredible! Their menu isn’t completely vegan and they offer lots of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.
Marc ordered the gyro and it was easily the best we’ve ever had. You could really taste the fresh lamb. We really enjoyed the minty iced tea, too, which really hit the spot on that warm summer day.
Grand Rapids is nicknamed “Furniture City” and was a major lumbering center during the second half of the 19th century. It is still considered a world leader in the production of office furniture. My list of things to do included the addresses of a bunch of vintage and repurposed furniture shops and lucky for us, they were all a short walk from our lunch destination.
We slowly meandered through three shops on the same street that were full of interesting finds. The kind of finds that make you want to spend lots of money and take your home decor in a new, vintage direction.
Across the street was a bakery that had clearly been a staple on Fulton street for a while and I imagine the decor hasn’t changed much in that time. Bright yellow trays display their donuts, coconut macaroons, cookies and flaky pastries. We stopped in for a little snack.
The graduation ceremony was coming up and now that it was 5 or time to have a drink. Brewery Vivant was our first stop for beer and sparkling cider. This brewery is a converted funeral home that is dark and moody inside with many details to crane your neck for. They have large wooden booths and a wooden communal table that is perfect for gathering with friends. The inspiration for their beer comes from the farmhouse breweries in southern Belgium and northern France. Above is Meg’s apple-raspberry sparkling cider, which was delicious.
We were perfectly relaxed at Brewery Vivant, but then someone asked to see what else was on my list and a speakeasy with craft cocktails sparked interest. It was located very close to where the graduation ceremony was happening, too. We packed up and headed for drink destination number 2.
The Viceroy is one of those places that is trying to bring the romance of prohibition back. The lighting is dim, but we were there during the early evening and had a nice amount of natural light as we sat in the comfy chairs up front. My Mom and brother met up with us after they dropped off the graduate for rehearsal.
Marc and I ordered the sazerac which was a good strong cocktail to get us through a graduation ceremony with big grins on our face. Matt ordered an old fashioned and it was exceptional. We chatted for a few minutes and then it was time to see the girl in the cap and gown.
The graduation was an intimate ceremony with speeches from teachers and mentors. Each student was told they could say a little something if they wished after the hooding ceremony. Some of them were really sweet and some made us laugh. We are so proud of our graduate!
A short walk from the graduation venue was Bistro Bella Vita. Bethany suggested this place and I remember seeing it in previous trips to Grand Rapids because their entrance is memorable. We had a reservation for dinner and they seated us in a secluded spot towards the private rooms which worked out perfectly.
My Mom and I decided on the salmon with brussel sprout salad and potato latke in apple brown butter. Oh my goodness. The exterior of the salmon was perfectly crisp and the shredded brussel sprouts and potato latke in the rich apple brown butter was such a wonderful combination. A unique dish with elements that work so well together.
For dessert we splurged on the ricotta pound cake with pastry cream, wild berry sauce and strawberries. Everyone loved their food and I hope to go back sometime.
Our day went by too quickly, but we enjoyed our mini vacation that took us into the late night. I think we were all charmed by this little piece of Grand Rapids.
We only had so much time, but Grand Rapids has many more things to offer like the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park and several interesting museums. Check out this Design Sponge Grand Rapids city guide for lots more to do. It’s ideal for a long weekend.
And hey, on our way home from west Michigan, we had the distinct pleasure of meeting up with food blogger Jeannette and her husband in Ann Arbor. We met for a drink at the Arbor Brewing Company and chatted for a few hours. We talked about Detroit, Vancouver, Chicago and Jeannette and Cornelius’ North American roadtrip. The best way to cap off our weekend!
Where we went in Grand Rapids
Marie Catrib’s 1001-1003 Lake Drive SE Grand Rapids, MI 49503 (616) 454-4020
Blue Door – 946 Fulton St. East 616-456-7888
Rebel Reclaimed – 926 Fulton St. East 616-218-9257
East Fulton Art and Antiques – 959 Fulton Street East 616-774-3320
Van’s Pastry Shoppe 955 Fulton St E, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 616-458-1637
The Viceroy 53 Commerce Avenue SW Grand Rapids, MI 49503 616-774-8423
Bistro Bella Vita 44 Grandville Avenue SW Grand Rapids, MI 49503 616-222-4600