Pho Challenge #4. Mekong Restaurant

I have already written a post for Mekong, but this entry is just for the Pho Challenge I started several years ago.

20151121_194348-1
SIDE OF THAI BASIL, JALAPENOS, LIMES AND SPROUTS
20151121_195136-1
SPECIAL COMBINATION PHO
20151121_195854-1
SPECIAL COMBINATION PHO WITH ALL MY ADD-ONS

They are generous with the fixings here, with a good amount of different types of beef. They are also not stingy with the tendon, which I always appreciate. Their broth isn’t my favorite. I like that it’s not as sweet as Asian Palace Pho 99, but I like the flavor at Pho Anh Trang more.

This restaurant is my favorite place to get Vietnamese food, albeit not my favorite for pho. It’s still good, don’t get me wrong. Just not my number one. Check it out! They have a great menu and good service.

Advertisements

Anna’s House

Anna’s House is a very popular “retro diner” that features unique dishes for breakfast and lunch. According to their website, they currently have seven locations, but I believe the original started on Plainfield Avenue here in GR. I have only been to the newest (GR) one, right off the East Beltline.

annahouse
HIPPIE HASH
annahouse3
AMERICAN FRIES
annahouse2
VEGGIE QUESADILLA

At Anna’s there is a large focus on using local and quality ingredients. They also cater to popular dietary restrictions as well.

Chances are, there will be a line and at least a half hour to forty five minute wait when you get here. They tend to get packed! Regardless of the crowd, I’ve always received good service and have never waited long for my meal.

One Bourbon

At this point, saying that the west side of GR is booming will probably sound like an understatement. Bridge Street, specifically. When I go there now it’s almost incredible how different the area looks, and more importantly, feels.

There are new places popping up left and right. One of the newest ventures is called One Bourbon, and they are bringing the whiskey and bourbon movement with farm to fork dining to Grand Rapids.

20170409_232421.jpg
PICKLES & CHEESE

For an appetizer Nathan and I shared the Pickles & Cheese plate, which we both enjoyed. The bread was fantastic, and I liked nearly everything on the plate (I’ve never been a fan of olives).

20170408_214231.jpg
LOADED MAC ‘N’ CHEESE

The cheese for this dish was milder, which was good. The chicken was very tender and fatty, so uh, I loved it. I also loved the fresh jalapenos in there, and the generous amount of it. The only thing I wasn’t wild about was the bbq glaze over everything. The dish would have been more enjoyable if the sauce was only over the chicken, or if there was a smaller amount of it.

20170409_232204.jpg
CHOCOLATE MOUSSE PIE ALA MODE

For dessert, they have rotating kinds of pie, so we went with the Chocolate Mousse with vanilla ice cream on the side. Good stuff!

The service we received was great. Nathan and I went on a Saturday evening during prime dinner time, and we put our names in for a forty minute wait. The hostess let us know that we could grab a drink at the bar and head upstairs, where they have a large, sort of lounge area? There is also another bar in a separate room, but that didn’t look completely finished yet. The hostess came upstairs each time to let people know that their table was ready, which I thought was a nice touch. Our server did a good job as well. 

 The ambiance of the atmosphere is nice,  although the restaurant doesn’t appear to be completely finished yet. Be prepared,  the noise level on a full night is intense. It’s something that I don’t typically notice but Nathan did immediately. 

Overall I enjoyed my time here. I don’t think they’ve been open for even a week yet, so I’m interested in going back again when some time passes and see what it’s like then!

Brickroad Pizza

So some time ago, as vague as that can possibly be, I wrote an entry about one of my favorite places to get pizza, at Nantucket Baking Company . At the time, I stated that the title of one of the best pizzas belonged to them. Well, that’s because I actually have another crowned favorite as well. In fact, as time has gone by, I will even dare to declare that this restaurant is officially my favorite place for pizza.

Brick Road Pizza on Wealthy Street!

20160123_133532-1
BRICK ROAD STICKS & TOMATO BASIL BISQUE
20160123_134641-1
HAND TOSSED CRUST WITH EXTRA HOUSE SAUCE, EXTRA GARLIC (FRESH, NOT ROASTED), MUSHROOMS, FRESH BASIL

I order from Brick Road so often that I’m kind of hoping that none of their employees reads this, as my Old Faithful pictured right above would give me away, and that’s kind of embarrassing for some reason that doesn’t make sense.

The pizza here is fantastic, folks. Great sauce, fresh ingredients, and a large variety of toppings, sauces, cheeses, and faux meats are all available! In fact, Brick Road doesn’t just have pizzas. Their menu also consists of a large selection of sandwiches, pasta, salads, burgers, appetizers, calzones….if it sounds like every other pizza place, yes, you’re right. But I’m telling you, it’s not. What’s different? Well, the ingredients are high quality. The choices are creative. And the menu focuses heavily on vegan options, and using locally sourced food and goods! But keep in mind, the menu is not strictly vegan. There are plenty of classic ingredients as well.

The service here is always great, and they have a small bar in the back of the restaurant that I like relax at. The drink menu is fun and changes with the seasons, and I would say the prices are on average with the Uptown/East Town area.

Am I right, am I wrong? Is there another spot in town where their pizza is a can’t miss? Let me know!

Harmony Hall.

Grand Rapids’ Harmony Brewing Company recently opened their second project, Harmony Hall, located in the West Side. Considering that I imbibe like it’s my freakin job, beer is surprisingly a scene that I don’t partake in. I know, what a waste of a GR resident, amirite?  What I can attest to, however, is the the food and enjoyable ambiance here.

20160501_124508-1
PEAS AND CARROTS

I was very pleasantly surprised by the Peas and Carrots appetizer, and will order another one to myself the next time I visit. No sharing. The pancakes were more savory than I had expected, and these were my favorite part of the entire meal. Served with sweet potato puree, the dollop of creme fraiche was perfect with the pancake. Good stuff.

20160501_125842-1
BRAUN MI

Of course I ordered the Braun Mi, as everyone knows that I am a huge Banh Mi fan. I ordered extra jalapenos so the sandwich was stuffed pretty full. The freshness of the ingredients was great, and the pate was nice, but I wasn’t crazy about the kimchi in there. The kimchi itself was good, I’d just prefer the sandwich without. What mildly killed the sandwich for me was the sauce, because there was just so much of it. I think banh mi and variations of it are amazing because of the lively flavors of fresh greens and tangy pickled vegetables. With the heavier sauce (in flavor and amount), all the prior is inadvertently snuffed out. The fries were pretty overdone as well, but the curry ketchup was good.

I did have a bite of the Che’s Baret, Harmony’s version of a Cubano sandwich, and it was fantastic. I will definitely order that the next time. The menu is heavily inspired by German cuisine, which  I’m not typically a fan of, but I love that there is also plenty of unique, global influence going on, such as Asian and Latino fare. They do fusion here very well!

The ambiance is wonderful. With two stories, Harmony Hall is just that; a grand hall that is comfortable, modern, laid back, and pretty. It just feels so nice being in there. The cocktail menu is fun and they do have a full bar as well. So far I’ve only received good service. What else? Their menu consists of food from local farms and suppliers, and they highlights those ingredients on the menu. I love that! So it is safe to say that Harmony Hall has already become one of my favorite spots in town.

Curry Leaf.

In my mid to late twenties, Indian food was an obsession. I couldn’t get enough of it. As time went on, the diversity of my food choices was greatly broadened and my love of the cuisine quietly slipped away from the spectrum. On top of that, the last two or three times I had  Indian food  were disappointing and only compounded my dead desire for the cuisine. That is, until Curry Leaf opened.

Located in the old Fleetwood Diner in Kentwood (R.I.P. Fleetwood Diner) it’s confusing when looking at it from the outside. They haven’t remodeled at all so it still looks like a restaurant from an era ago. When Nathan and I walked in this past weekend, I was very surprised to see how busy it was. At an off time on a Sunday afternoon, the place was nearly packed! And with about 80 percent of the customers being Indian, I took that as a very good sign.

20160515_145423-1
MIRCHI-KA-SALAN AND MUSHROOM MUTTER MAKANI

We didn’t know that we would receive complimentary dosas in the beginning of our meal. A thin crepe with a layer of cheese and filled with spiced potato, they were fantastic. For an appetizer I ordered the samosa, typical I know, but I was really craving potatoes. Next time I’ll go with the dosas instead, and I recommend for you to do the same!

Everything was great. From the appetizers to the naan to the entrees to the tea, so delicious! And what really surprised me was Nathan’s enthusiasm about the whole meal, especially about his Mushroom Mutter Makani. There have been times in the past when I craved Indian food and he never wanted it. I have a feeling this restaurant will likely change that.

The only tiny negative we had about the meals was the spice level. I asked for mine spicy, and it was good, but I would have enjoyed a little more. Nathan said the same about his dish, and keep in mind that he’s kind of a wuss. He asked for medium spice, and found it a little lacking. But you know, something like that is subjective, so take it with a grain of salt. (See what I did there?)

After only one visit, I can say that I love Curry Leaf. The food was awesome and the service was warm and friendly. You can tell that they are genuinely excited and happy to be there. I think the prices are typical for an Indian restaurant. As Nathan said, he will surely miss his Hippie Hash from Fleetwood, but, Curry Leaf is quite a welcome addition to the neighborhood!

Gojo Ethiopian Cuisine

Ethiopian food is easily one of my favorite types of cuisine. I went to a festival years ago that was held downtown in GR, and Gojo Ethiopian Cuisine was one of the vendors down there. That’s how I first tried Ethiopian food, and I immediately fell in love. However, the popular restaurant Little Africa became my go-to for African fare. Only recently I visited Gojo again, and I found out that there are new owners that took over the little restaurant in East Town. Gojo was good before, but you know what? After my two recent visits, this place has jumped to the top of my list; definitely not pushing Little Africa from its throne, but more so forcing room so that they can both sit comfortably in the same spot.

20160503_154336-1
VEGETARIAN PLATTER
20160517_002758
MY FAVORITES

The new owners at Gojo plan on changing the menu gradually, where you can choose what dishes you would like. Currently, they are still using the old menu where they don’t have individual sides as much as they have platters. Because of that, I don’t know all the names of the dishes that were served with the Vegetarian Platter I ordered, so I just circled the ones that I found to be absolutely delicious. Alicha, spicy green beans, salad with fresh jalapeno, beets, and stewed lentils. So good.

The new owners have been very friendly, just like the prior ones. So far it seems that the new menu will reflect lower prices; I feel like higher price points was a reoccurring complaint about the old menu, but that’s just what I gleaned from reading old reviews.

If you ever think about visiting Gojo again, or for the first time, I highly recommend it! They have plenty of meat dishes as well, like tibs wats and siga wats. If you’re going vegetarian and not knowledgeable about the names of dishes, like me, show them the photo above with the circles. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Seoul Market Cafe

Hey. Hey! Korean food in GR! Korean food in GR!

I visited Seoul Market Cafe about two months ago, within their first week of opening. Located inside one of my favorite stores, Seoul Market, they put up some walls and made a tiny space into a dining area that offers a large selection of traditional Korean jjigaes (stews), soups, Korean BBQ, and stir fried foods.

So don’t hate me. Actually, if you do, I legitimately couldn’t care less. I did have a couple minor complaints about my meal.

First of all, the banchan (side dishes) were good and most importantly, fresh. The complimentary mackerel that comes with jjigaes was fantastic. It made my mind and feelings hurtle back through a portal of time to my childhood. It’s amazing when our senses do that to us, isn’t it? For my meal, I ordered the Kimchi Jjigae. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was good. But, the meat was marinated and sweet, which I didn’t like. And there was much more kimchi than anything else in the stew , so it was actually a bit too sour for me.

Do I still love this place? Yes I sure do. Overall everything was great, and  in my opinion, Grand Rapids needs more cuisine that is culturally diverse and authentic. Not to mention the fact that my opinion is based on only one visit, within their first week of them being open! I’ve only heard great things from others about the place, and the excitement of a legit little Korean restaurant opening here in town cannot be denied.

While you’re there, take the time to look around and see what the rest of the market has to offer. I highly recommend the Cuttle Fish Snacks. Trust me.

 

Uncle Cheetah’s Soup Shop

I’ve been on a big soup and bread kick lately, which is pretty new to me. I don’t know if it’s the weather or what, albeit this winter has been pretty tame so far! This new found craving brought me to Uncle Cheetah’s Soup Shop. The same people as Electric Cheetah and The Old Goat, the soup shop focuses on high quality ingredients with a variety of options, including those that cater to vegetarians and vegans. Their menu consists of sandwiches, salads, and soup that change on a daily basis.

I enjoyed the Sammut Code, which was made with organic spinach, roasted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and balsamic reduction. You get a couple choices of bread so I picked garlic toast, or something like that. The Curry Corn Soup was very good and not sparse with ingredients. (Some places like to be stingy with their fillings!) The pretzel bread was boring. Yes, there is such a thing as boring bread. There’s an idiom about it somewhere out there, right? I’m really bad at those.

I’m glad I finally stopped by this cozy shop. The food was good and they consistently have new and more unique soup choices that sound enticing. The service was good too, and even though the space is quite small, it was still comfortable to dine there. As long as you can manage to snag a table!

 

Wolfgang’s.

I have mentioned before that I’m a very rare breakfast eater. I’m never awake during the time reserved for the early bird meal, and if I am, it entails me rolling out of bed and heading straight to work.

Grand Rapids is crazy about their breakfast spots! All the ones that I see on a regular basis always seem to be packed out. The long line for typically bland or oddly sweet food has never appealed to me. However, Wolfgang’s  is an exception. This incredibly popular breakfast and lunch joint has been a part of East Town since 1977!

You’re probably thinking that my choices look a little boring, especially in comparison to the large menu boasting more exciting (and some creative) choices such as skillets, omelettes, burritos, pancakes, and loads more. But what I really like about Wolfgang’s is that here, even the simple is flavorful. The redskin potatoes are fantastic and the homemade granola was so tasty too! Mo’s sandwich really hit the spot.

Usual long line in the morning? Yes. Worth it? Surprisingly, yes! The food is great, and I’ve always had good service as well. You can always dine in after the busy hours too. The last visit I went around one in the afternoon on a Saturday and there was plenty of seating available!