Margherita pizza at Ottawa Tavern, Grand Rapids

Have you heard the expression “If you leave hungry, it’s your own fault”?  Well, I left hungry, and it wasn’t exactly my fault.

But maybe it was. I ordered the pizza at Ottawa Tavern at Pearl and Ottawa in Grand Rapids. It wasn’t in the “Appetizer” section, so I thought that meant a small pizza, but one that would be a meal, not a snack. No such luck. There was only one size, so it wasn’t “I should have gotten the large’, it was “I should have bought two”. Live and learn.

I ordered the Margherita pizza, which was topped with mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. It had a nice flavor, and the chewy crust was especially good. So I can’t complain about the taste, but I can – and have – complained about the size. I saw a burger passed to someone else, and that looked like a normal sized item, so perhaps only the pizzas are mini-sized.

Pizza at Ottaw Tavern

Ottawa Tavern seemed like a place people caught up over drinks than a destination to visit downtown GR and eat. It’s got lots of tough competition – the city has quite a few bars, especially around Van Andel, which is where I’ll be heading the next time in I’m town.


“Nachos” at Twisted Rooster, Grand Rapids

Twisted Rooster is located on East Beltline north of I 196 in Grand Rapids (Northeast Beltline?) I often noticed the sign as I passed through town and the name intrigued me.  I looked over their on-line menu, and it looked decent, so I decided on a visit. After all, they did have nachos. Sort of. They were waffle fries with some junk on top.  But I knew that going in, so I’ll treat them a little differently than I would normal nachos.

My first impression – my, what a teeny tiny amount of nachos. The plate was long and narrow, the same kind of dish that some sushi is served on. I was wondering when the rest of them were going to be brought out. Maybe there was a nationwide waffle fry shortage I hadn’t heard about.

On a related topic, nachos are typically in one of two section on the menu, appetizers and Mexican. Those at Twisted Rooster definitely fell into the former. Eating them by myself, I could have eaten another item, that is how “appetizer-like” they were.

Enough complaining about the size. They actually tasted pretty good. The cheese sauce (dare I call it queso dip?) was spicy and went well on the fries.  The chicken was, well, chicken – if there was any kind of flavoring on it, I couldn’t tell. And the jalapenos were dangerously hot. I think the chef made them mad before they were served to me because they were giving me a thrashing. There were a few scattered onions and a line of sour cream to round things out.

Drink-wise, they had lots of Michigan beers to choose from, so that was nice to see. Of course, that was the night I didn’t feel like a beer (I do have those) so I went with a Coke. If you can, get your drink from the north dispenser – the Coke out of the south side dispensers was flat. But that was over a month ago, so I’m sure it’s all good now.

I would return to the Twisted Rooster, though not for the “nachos”. I liked the feel of the place, the drink selection was good, and there were plenty of TVs to enjoy a game. And the music was loud enough outside that you could just hang out dance in the parking lot, though you’d probably get some strange looks. I’ve heard.

Burger at Goog’s, Holland, MI

The receipt said Goog’s burgers had been voted West Michigan’s best burger four years in a row. The Cottage Bar (Grand Rapids) burger got the nod from USA Today as Michigan’s best burger.  So I’m not sure which gets the award for the better burger. Maybe a UFC-style battle between owners is needed to settle it. Just a thought.

I know what you’re thinking – Goog’s, you say? Yes, Goog’s. It’s fun to say – Goog’s. Goog’s is in Holland, MI. It’s very easy to find. You just have to take a back street near US 31, then jump a condemned bridge, and travel on a dirt road somewhere in Canada. Having a Flux Capacitor doesn’t hurt either.

I was in a burger mood, and I had a hard time deciding which to get – there were lots that looked great , including one that involved a food challenge  that would most likely have ended in vomiting. Instead of running desperately to the bathroom after stuffing my face, I decided on the Birtles burger. It was topped with an egg and bacon, and it was a beautiful thing.

And it was big. I didn’t finish it, and I wasn’t the only one to leave a little burger in the basket. (I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere.) Be forewarned – it was a juicy / greasy burger. You’ll definitely need your napkin, and a squeegee wouldn’t hurt either.

Verdict: I liked Goog’s, and I will be making a return trip to try their nachos. Very good burgers, wide selection of foods if burgers aren’t your thing. In fact, the group I went with included a vegetarian – he didn’t weep too loudly as the rest of the tables consumed cows by the dozen.

Nachos at The Roadhouse, Beulah

It was Friday night which made it alright for frozen Margaritas at The Roadhouse in Beulah. On our last visit, after a day at the beach in Frankfort, we sat outside and enjoyed the summer weather in northern Michigan. On this visit, we enjoyed the mid-autumn weather by sitting inside.

The margaritas were excellent. I usually have them on the rocks, but I’m now a convert, at least to the frozen ones at The Roadhouse. Not too sweet, not too sour. Even better, we arrived in time for happy hour. And luckily for me, they didn’t run out – I had to deal with a restless four year old on the car ride up from Lansing.

I was happy to see nachos on the menu, so that is what I went for. They looked great. And… wait for it… they were on the small side. But Andrea didn’t eat all of her fish tacos, so that (and the margaritas) helped to fill me up.

Nachos at The Roadhouse, Beulah

Nachos at The Roadhouse, Beulah

The nachos were excellent. The RH was generous with the ground beef, which also tasted great. Lots of cheese and tomatoes, topped with a dollop (yes, a dollop) of sour cream, and a few green peppers thrown in for good measure, but not enough to overwhelm the important stuff (beef, cheese, and chips). The menu listed the black olives on the nachos, but as olives on nachos are the devil’s work, I left them off.

I’d like to give a shout out to The Roadhouse salsa. Very tasty, not spicy, and I ate it all up – only teeny tiny tomato pieces were left, the salsa crumbs, if you will. And I went to the local Shop and Save and bought more the next day to take home.

I’m sure when you think of Mexican food, you think Beulah, so head up US 31. Bypass McDonald’s, keep on past the min-golf and self storage (they’re the same business), and stop in for food from a warmer place.

Brann’s Sizzling Steaks and Sports Grille, Grand Rapids

On 28th Street, just east of I 96 as it swings towards Grand Rapids, is Brann’s, a sports bar that is hard to miss. I had noticed it when I went to Gipper’s a few months ago for their brat and beer special. Brann’s looked inviting, so there I went, despite the fact that they added an unneeded “E” on the word “Grill”.

I had the nachos, which is probably no surprise to those who read this blog. My first impression: Looked good, lots of toppings, a little small. I know, I’ve said “a little small” before , but in this case, it was true. About 20% more would have been perfect, but I didn’t walk away from the bar hungry, both because the nachos were a little more filling than I first thought, but also because they had the very attractive $2 20 oz. Rolling Rock on draught. I’m a fan of beer specials like I’m a fan of nachos, so I was very happy with that one.

Nachos at Brann's, Grand Rapids

Nachos at Brann's, Grand Rapids

Back to the nachos. The beef was almost like chili, and it tasted alright – like you would expect chili to taste. There were large chunks of vegetables, including onions, so watch out – spouses may disapprove of you eating those. So I can’t complain about the generosity of the toppings – meat, cheese, and veggies were all in abundance.

As for its sports bar credentials – excellent. There were TVs nearly everywhere, service was good, and the night I went, they were passing out Budweiser gear. I left my bottle cozy there because, honestly, I don’t want yet another beer cozy. But booze, food, and free stuff is a very good combination.