J.D. Reardon, Grand Rapids

They had me at the “$10 burger and brew” special.

After a jog through the north end of downtown Grand Rapids, I decided on dinner near the site of my old workplace, marchFIRST. Ah, memories. marchFIRST was in the Brass Works Building, the former home of Founders Brewery, by the way. But there was no Founders nearby, so instead, I headed a little north on Monroe and went to another refurbished factory which now houses shops, apartments, and the aforementioned J.D. Reardon.

Sure, service wasn’t great on that particular night, taking almost ten minutes for a waitress to stop by my table. In my defense, there was one other occupied table in the place, and two tables is, like, twice as much to do as one table. But once she eventually showed up, the service wasn’t bad.

The special applied to all burgers and all beers. That was pretty sweet. So I went for Hog Heaven, a burger topped with cheese, ham, and bacon. Not bad. The burger was overcooked, but it was decent. If you’re looking for a better burger in Grand Rapids, head over to The Cottage Bar. The burger came with kettle chips.

I had a Scotty Karate Scotch Ale for two reason. First, my name is Scott, and I felt a connection to this particular brand of alcohol. Second, the menu listed the alcohol content as over 9%. That’s impressive for beer. For whatever reason, when I first smelled it, I though of cotton candy. I don’t know why that connection was made. No clue.

 So for $10, it was a good meal. There were eighteen different burgers on the menu, and for the price, I would try them again, especially if I’m going to be on the north side of town.

A new dish at Red Cedar Grill

Red Cedar Grill in Williamston is my favorite restaurant. #1. El primo. And it has been for a while, ever since a couple of bad meals in a row took The Knight Cap down a few notches. And the reason why RCG is my top restaurant is that it has consistently  delivered great food. I had never had a meal I didn’t like that, and that was quite a streak to have.

But all streaks end, and this one ended last Friday.

We headed to Williamston for our pre-Wharton meal. RCG had recently changed their menu, and I was looking forward to trying something new. My choice was the Penne Napoli, penne with red sauce, cheese, and sausage.

The major problem was that it tasted like something I could have made at home, and that is not a good thing, since I’m not a good cook. It was penne with spaghetti sauce. One in a while, I found a glob of cheese hanging out and the little bit of sausage was very good, but not enough to save the meal. Andrea’s planked salmon, however, was very good – I should have tried to sneak more when she wasn’t looking.

Red Cedar Grill is still my favorite restaurant, even after the disappointing meal. I may go back to an old favorite the next time we go – I especially like the pot roast – though one of my old favorites, the Louisiana Cajun Fettuccini, is no longer on the menu. And I’m still hoping to see the excellent nachos appear on the dinner menu one of these days.

Bravo for Mother’s Day. Hey, we eventually got a seat…

I try not to make generalized statements, but I feel confident in making this one: I have never been seated for dinner at Bravo in Eastwood at the time my reservation for made for. It never happens. And this was the case for Mother’s Day as well. Our reservation was at 6:00, and we were seated at 6:25. Why is it that other restaurants manage to have tables waiting, even on busy occasions (such at the Mother’s Day brunch at Claddagh’s a few hours before), when Bravo finds this an impossibility? Maybe it’s a ploy to get you to drink at the bar. I didn’t fall for it, and I may start bringing my own booze to drink while I wait.

Beyond that, we had a nice meal. I tried the sausage tortellini, because it had sausage, and it was quite good. The sausage was sausage-y, and the tortellini was filled with cheese (so the cheese and meat requirements of my diet were met), and I got to try a new dish that wasn’t awful. I usually have the lasagna or the braised beef ravioli, but I am happy to add another favorite.

Sausage tortellini at Bravo

Beyond the wait, I enjoy going to Bravo. Let’s just see if they can get the whole concept of a reservation working.

Nachos at Gilly’s, Grand Rapids

I shouldn’t generalize, but perhaps restaurants with swordfish on poles illuminated by pink lights aren’t the best places to eat nachos.

Gilly's, Grand Rapids

Gilly's, Grand Rapids

 I gained this insight while eating at Gilly’s inside The B.O.B. in Grand Rapids. The nachos started off on the right foot. I was suitably impressed with the portions, and the nachos looked very good. The serving sizes of the guacamole and salsa was smaller than I would have liked and I was sure I was going to run out. I was quite wrong about both my assessments.

Nachos at Gilly's

Nachos at Gilly's

The nachos were topped with “oaxaca cheese”, “chihuahua cheese”, and “chili braised amish chicken” because you can’t say “cheese” and “chicken”. And to be even trendier, everything was in lowercase. Lowercase is “kewl”.

 I’ll start positive. The chips were good, as was the guacamole. And those chips that just had cheese and no meat whatsoever were quite good.

 Now my review takes a nasty turn, so chefs from Gilly’s, please don’t go any further. I’m just trying to be nice to you, because the next two paragraphs won’t be.

The chicken was some of the worst I’ve ever tasted. But it wasn’t bad – it was just almost tasteless, like cardboard, without tasting like cardboard. I’m not sure what kind of arcane process they used to drain all taste out of those poor birds, but it was quite impressively bad. The chili sauce wasn’t any better – it was like watery spaghetti sauce – and it caused any chips unfortunate enough to be touched by this sauce to almost liquify. Not pretty to look, and certainly not to taste. The nachos should have been served with a straw, and it was all I could do to eat one third of them before deciding my stomach didn’t deserve that kind of punishment.

In Gilly’s defense, they are a seafood restaurant, so nachos probably aren’t their thing. In my defense, I assume that if something is on the menu, it won’t suck. So wrack it up to a misunderstanding on my part. That rather harsh criticism said, I would certainly go back to Gilly’s and try their fish entrees, which looked quite good. And the next time I’m in Grand Rapids and in the mood for nachos, I’ll go upstairs to Bobarino’s.