Speak EZ, Grand Rapids

Not far from the Brass Works Building where I used to work years ago for marchFIRST is Speak EZ. It had been Cambridge House a few months earlier, a place I regretfully never visited, because they had some good-sounding nachos on the menu.  But as I was perusing Mlive, I found an article that something new had taken its place, and that something new was Speak EZ.

The place was a stylish sort of dark. The walls were decorated with bits of text about the repeal of Prohibition.  If you happen to find yourselves in the men’s room, it had tin ceilings (I noticed because you’re not supposed to look down) and corrugated metal walls (because if you’re not looking up you should be looking straight ahead) with black urinals – a very fancy bathroom.

OK, this isn’t a bathroom blog, intriguing an idea as that is. Onto the food. I decided on the Pastrami Goodness, because pastrami and goodness are two things I like. The pastrami had a nice mild flavor and the mustard aioli and muenster were certainly goodness.  The bread was dark and foreboding. And toasted. For reasons I can’t explain, I felt like a Russian peasant while eating it. Did Russian peasants eat dark bread? I don’t even know. Either way, it’s a heavy bread.

I had my choice of sides, and the side I tried were the Empress Potatoes. They were hoity toity poofy cheesy potatoes with ruffles. They were also very creamy and smooth, and another good choice on my part, if I do say so myself. However, I don’t know why they were called Empress Potatoes. No crown appeared on my head ala the “Imperial Margarine” commercials.

If you find yourself on Trowbridge Road in Grand Rapids, stop in for a beer or sandwich or a look at the bathroom, whichever suits your fancy. But if it’s the latter, remember: Up or straight ahead.

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Twenty Five, Grand Rapids

A beautiful night in Grand Rapids, preceded by a walk at Hodenpyl Woods in East Grand Rapids, found me at Twenty Five. I had passed it many times and thought it a good spot for my final visit to the west side of the state, being that my contract in Holland is almost at an end. It was a small challenge just to get to the restaurant, as the construction on Fulton blocked many of my attempts not only to reach the restaurant, but to park. But I prevailed.

It was a slow night, especially on the patio, where I was the only one. It was also a little cool, but I didn’t mind having the area to myself. Maybe my waitress did, but it didn’t show. The downside of the patio was the constant white noise from the power station next door. It wasn’t overwhelming, and I didn’t notice it after a while. And it was still pretty sweet to be able to sit outside and eat. For much of the year in Michigan, this just isn’t possible.

Patio at Twenty Five

Patio at Twenty Five

Now I’ll actually talk about food. I ordered the American pizza, one of about a dozen different or so kinds of pie that Twenty Five offered. The American had ground beef, tomatoes, lettuce, and cheese on a soft, pita-like crust. It was good, and I would order one of their pizzas again. (Unless they get nachos – then I’ll order those.) The crust was excellent, though I should have taken up the waitress’s offer for ranch dipping sauce – it would have tasted really good with the crust. The beef needed a little more spicing, though – it wasn’t too flavorful. Not bad, just needed more oomph.

Just look at that pizza, though – it’s a thing of beauty:

American Pizza

American Pizza

I did like their selection of craft brews on tap. It was a hard decision, but I went with Will Power from Right Brain Brewery. It was a good choice, if I do say so myself, though to be honest, looking at the RBB web site, I would not have guessed it was a pale ale – it seemed more like a porter to me. Which was good – I prefer porters.

As an aside, the best beer I have ever had was from Right Brain Brewery. I had an amazing chocolate caramel stout that blew me away. I was sad because that was my second beer, and I wouldn’t be able to have a third, and my first choice (I can’t remember what it was) just didn’t measure up to the stout.

Recap: Twenty Five – good pizza, excellent beer selection, right next to Van Andel Arena, you can eat outside, good luck navigating the construction.

Beggars Banquet, East Lansing

We had not visited Beggars Banquet in quite a while, but we were drawn by the Wine Wednesday 50% off wine special. The honor of cheap(er) booze went to Callaway Cellars pinot noir, a very tasty beer reminiscent of a beautiful winter’s morning in Michigan with a cup of hot chocolate and Scooby Doo on TV. Andrea and I sat in a corner booth by the kitchen, the red neon lights casting disturbing shadows on us, giving the impression that we had been in a bar fight.  So you’ll forgive me if the colors look a bit off.

For an entrée, I decided on Mac & Cheese, Bob’s  Way, because who knows better than Bob how to make that? Bob made it with grilled chicken, bacon, and jalapenos. Not only was the spring-shaped pasta the cheesiest, it was covered by a layer of slightly crunchy crumbled cheese of a make and model I am unaware off. Very good, my new favorite meal at Beggars, but after I have the nachos, I’ll let you know how they compare.

Mac and Cheese at Beggars Banquet

Mac and Cheese at Beggars Banquet

Andrea’s favorite dessert there is the Chocolate Mousse, and she said it had improved over the last few times she had ordered it. I decided on the Banana’s Foster Cheesecake. DO NOT EAT THIS… by yourself. It was enormous, and is easily enough for two people. It was very carmely and very tasty. I would have it again, but not alone. It’s frightening how rich it was.

Bananas Foster Cheesecake

Bananas Foster Cheesecake

I mentioned the nachos before, and I’ll be returning in the near future to taste them on $4 draft beer night. I know you’ll be eagerly awaiting that report.

Fried food-o-rama at Rock Island Family Restaurant, Holland

Are fried foods a separate layer on the food pyramid. I sure hope so.

I stopped at Rock Island Family Restaurant on M40 just south of the interchange with I 196. It’s basically a truck stop restaurant, but one with a nice interior and good service. I went in with an open mind and absolutely clueless as to what I was going to have. Most of the time, I have a specific food category I’m looking for (burger, nachos, bacon-wrapped ice cream cookie), but in this case, nada. But when I saw the fish and chips special, I was set.

Rock Island Family Restaurant

Rock Island Family Restaurant

They certainly didn’t skimp on the fish. Two big pieces of deep fried goodness were waiting for me aloft a bed of nicely fried fries. That’s what I’m talking about. The fish was nearly perfectly, though a crispier breading would have moved it into the perfect range. Still, they tasted good, as were the fries.  And a huge glass of Mt. Dew kept the afternoon sleepies away.

Fish & Chips

Fish & Chips

Now, not everything in my fish basket was fried. I’ll have you know that there was not a smidge of breading cooked in oil on my coleslaw, which is why I didn’t eat it all. Come on, let’s get some deep-fried cabbage on the menu, people.

So if you’re in a truck, of the semi-kind or otherwise, stop in to Rock Island. If fish isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other things on the menu, including nachos. (Yes, I do occasionally pass them up .)