11 Reasons Why People Who Don’t Live in Grand Rapids, Michigan Should Wish They Did!

1. Small Town Comforts with a Big City Vibe…

Location, Location, Location…Grand Rapids, MI is a city where you can bask on a pristine sandy white beach, kayak down a lazy river, take a horse-drawn carriage through a thriving down town area and tour a historic neighborhood all within one day.  In fact, all of this within 30 – 45 minutes of driving time without the hassles of big city traffic.  Grand Rapids, MI is a place where people still smile and say ‘Hi’ and will often open the door for you to walk through first, especially if you’re carrying an arm full.

Architecture of Grand Rapids

2.  Art Prize & Beer City US

Yep!  Very few cities can lay claim to both.  But in Grand Rapids, MI citizens enjoy the flair and drama created by hundreds of artists from around the country and world lending their creative muse to public spaces throughout the community.  Art Prize is the world’s largest community art contest in which the citizens choose the winning entry by electronic vote.  Truly a democratic affair! As for the beer thing, Grand Rapids has won the nationwide vote for the best crafted beer two years running…2012 & 2013.


3.  Maker’s Spaces & Cool Funky Creative Vibes

If you love to build stuff, create new things, innovate and invent – there are few cities of its size which offer what Grand Rapids MI does to the entrepreneurially inclined.  There’s a vibe that you can instinctively feel about Grand Rapids.  It’s citizens are curious souls.  Hardworking too.  There are several communities specifically geared towards working together to collaborate and invent.  These include:  Start Garden, The Factory and the Geek Group to name a few.

think outside the box in vintage wood type

4.  Gorgeous Green Space & Eclectic Art Sculptures

Green space abounds in Grand Rapids MI. The urban landscape is frequently punctuated with park benches to stop & rest awhile.  The city overseas over  1,200 acres in 71 city owned parks.  There’s also a lovely quirkiness about how Grand Rapidians decorate their outdoor spaces.  It’s not unusual to see gardens with numerous lawn ornaments, including dutch shoes.  In the heart of downtown, Rosa Parks Circle designed by famous renowned artist Maya Lin features ice skating in the winter and line dancing in the summer.


5.  The Downtown Market

Opened a year ago in 2013, the Downtown Market is an eclectic spot where you can browse through fresh offerings from local farmers during three days of the week or shop throughout the week in the indoor market which features an array of different kinds of shops.  Where else can you find an all natural juice bar, a European Bakery, a Crepe Shop, Fish Market, Meat Market, Spicery, Coffee Bar, Wine Bar and take classes in yoga and gourmet cooking all under one roof? Oh and yes…there’s also a roof top garden where you can enjoy a view of the city and several restaurants to boot!


6.  Awesome Eats & Sweets

Grand Rapids MI has truly become a ‘foodies’ town.  The Farm to Table concept has grown roots into the community and today, several great restaurants feature items sourced from local farms.  One of the most interesting cluster of restaurants to open in the area centers around the East Town Community just east of the downtown core.  Some of our favorites include: The Grove, Green Well, Marie Catrib’s, and Terra.  Downtown we recommend: Reserve, Osteria Rossa, Ruth Chris Steakhouse, Rockwell Republic and Six One Six. For lovers of international cuisine, there are a number of Indian restaurants, Mexican Restaurants and one of our favorites, a Persian themed restaurant Shiraz Grill which features live entertainment as well as excellent food.  Each year, the city showcases restaurants during Restaurant Week, a great opportunity to try out something new at a reasonable cost.


7.  Affordable Housing & Unique Neighborhoods

Forbes magazine recently ranked Grand Rapids MI as the 2nd Best Place to Raise a Family in the United States.  The ranking was based in part  on Housing Affordability, Home Ownership Rates and Safety.  The median house price for Grand Rapids is $167, 000 according to recent data available from the Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS.  Lonely Planet dubbed Grand Rapids MI as its ‘TOP DESTINATION’ for 2014.  If you’ve been thinking about a vacation to an exotic locale with gorgeous sandy beaches, West Michigan with it’s pristine shoreline, wineries and orchards might be exactly what you need.  Living in an area where your mortgage note doesn’t require scrimping on your life style and in communities which take pride in their homes is a wonderful bonus. Housing stock covers a wide range including: downtown condos, apartments, suburban homes, historic homes, pastoral estates, row houses and gated communities.


8.  World Class Entertainment & Fun Festivals

There’s always stuff to do in Grand Rapids MI.  In fact, the variety is surprising for a city of its size.  You can enjoy the opera, ballet or symphony or attend a concert or show at the Van Andel Arena or DeVos Hall.    The city features several Festivals which include: Laughfest, Festival of the Arts, Hispanic Festival,  Soul of the City, Oktoberfest and Art Prize.  For sports enthusiasts, there are dozens of golf courses within a 30 minute drive.  Sports teams include the Grand Rapids Griffins hockey team and the West Michigan White Caps, an affiliate of the Detroit Tigers.  If you’re into biking, you’ll love the fact that the city has many miles of dedicated bike trails including dedicated lanes on the roadways.  In 2009, the League of American Cyclist named the city as one of the Top Bicycle Friendly Communities within the United States.

1994-08-033 002

9.  Top of the Line Healthcare

Even some Grand Rapidians might be surprised to know that two of the areas top employers are associated with the healthcare industry.  Spectrum Health along with Mercy Health St. Mary comprise a significant portion of job offerings in the West Michigan area.  It’s never a good thing to get sick, but if you need excellent care or specialized services, Grand Rapids MI rivals the nation’s best when it comes to wellness and disease treatment.   In addition, the Van Andel Institute is recognized as a world leader in biomedical research and science education.  The campus of the MSU College of Medicine (Secchia Center) is located along the Medical Mile.

doctor working on computer

10.  Great Place to Find a Job & School

Due to a diverse economic base, Grand Rapids MI has thrived economically despite the recession which has plagued much of the country and the State.  The area is home to more than 90 International companies and four of the largest private companies featured on the Forbes List.  Blessed with a hardworking and diverse workforce, Grand Rapids has attracted investment from a variety of industry sectors.  Average earning are just under $50,000 according to data from the Right Place and the average work force age ranges from the 20’s to 50’s. Data sourced from The Right Place.

The Grand Rapids area features a number of choices for residents when it comes to elementary, highschool, college and post graduate study.  These include public and private schools as well as charter schools.


11.  Gorgeous Weather – (well, most of the time)

Yes, winter can be brutal in Michigan, but you have to live here to understand why folks are willing to put up with a little excess from Mother Nature during that season.  Summer in West Michigan is wonderful.  Enhanced by the fact that you’re never more than six miles away from a body of water and approximately 30 minutes from Lake Michigan, Grand Rapidians revel in summer.  We also enjoy fall, when the trees break into glorious splendour and put on a show that’s absolutely exquisite.  We like the change of the seasons – watching the pristine beauty of winter give way to the promise of spring.  One thing about Grand Rapids MI weather that’s for certain is that it’s never boring.






ArtPrize 2011 Grand Rapids, MI …A Celebration of Art and Life!

ArtPrize ® defined…

“ArtPrize® is a radically open competition. Open to any artist in the world who can find space. Open to anybody in Grand Rapids, Michigan who wants to create a venue. Open to a vote from anyone who attends.”

The weather this fall has been mostly cooperative.  A perfect compliment to the colorful array of exhibits that are displayed across 164 different venues in Grand Rapids, MI.  Every year, since its’ inception three years ago, the ArtPrize competition has grown bigger and better.  This year, performance art was added into the mix.  So in addition to the displays of sculpture and paintings, one hears and sees the expressions of ‘living’  art…individuals singing, playing instruments, juggling, telling stories…  Absolutely delightful!

I’ve been to several locations downtown a few times.  One could spend entire days simply looking at the exhibits from over 1500 artists from all over the United States.  The competition has been a boom to business across the area, but especially to those located in the downtown area.

This past Saturday, we checked out dining at the restaurant, Tre Cugini.  It’s a family owned restaurant that has rich tradition and history in the Grand Rapids area.  Although we were arriving well past the regular lunchtime hour, the restaurant was still quite full and the hostess seemed a little harried as she tried to keep track of the crowd of patrons.

We were finally seated after a wait.  The food was excellent!  It’s definitely worth a visit to try out this local gem when things are a little more calm.  There are a number of excellent restaurants in the downtown area of Grand Rapids and the wider region.  Check out some of my recommendations here.

Chipotle Grill…Home of the Gourmet Burrito & More!

I’ve driven past the Chipotle Grill located on the south side of 28th Street in Grand Rapids, MI (just across the street from Arnies Restaurant & Bakery) many times, but finally decided to stop in today.  I had heard that the franchise placed great care and attention in providing great food and that they were passionate about working with local farm suppliers whenever possible.

The environment of the restaurant is contemporary and modern.  It was just before lunch rush hour and the seating area was approximately half full.  What was most impressive to me was that the wait staff behind the grill didn’t just assist me with the order, they also interspersed the dialog with information about how the animals which provided the meat were raised (humanely & without hormones, free range) and that their dairy products also had no additives.  In addition they indicated that they work with local suppliers for their produce and try to provide seasonal items whenever possible.

I carried out my order thinking about my experience….one which lasted perhaps 6-7 minutes.  I wasn’t leaving with just as Burrito, I was leaving with the knowledge of what had gone into that meal and the intention of the restaurant to serve food responsibly.  Within that 6-8 minutes, a line had gathered behind me, but the manager/staff indicated that they wanted to make sure that I understood what went into the food as this was my first time & didn’t rush the order to get me out of the way.

Later, I drove about 5 miles to a local orchard to pick up some dessert.  As I waited for my order, a couple of ladies stood behind me with stoic looks on their faces.  I could sense the manager was perturbed as he rushed to place my order and get on to the next customer.  This was interesting: I spent the same amount of time in each establishment, but the experience could not have been more profoundly different.

Some take-aways for life and business:

Always give your best to others…not just with words and advertising, but in intention and follow-through.  It makes a difference!

Know your stuff…important in serving food and always a must in serving people!

Strive to be fully present ~ a bird in hand is always worth 2 in the field.  Ignoring or rushing the customer you have is not prudent business.

Never miss an opportunity to share your story ~ I’ll never eat a burrito in quite the same way again.  And…BTW, it was delicious!

Here’s some information from  Chipolte Grill in Grand Rapids, MI in their own words:

“Food With Integrity” isn’t a marketing slogan. It’s not a product line of natural and organic foods. And it’s not a corporate initiative that will ever be finished or set aside to make room for other priorities. It’s a philosophy that we can always do better in terms of the food we buy. And when we say better, we mean better in every sense of the word- better tasting, coming from better sources, better for the environment, better for the animals, and better for the farmers who raise the animals and grow the produce.  (read more here)

3610 28th Street Southeast

Grand Rapids, MI 49512-1606

(616) 957-0690

Get directions

When you don’t Want to Cook…Try Marie Catrib’s Deli Take-Out!

Readers of my blogs, know that one of my favorite restaurants in Grand Rapids, Mi is Marie Catrib’s .  While I enjoy dining in and enjoying the atmosphere and diversity which make the location an engaging and friendly place, I’ve also visited their deli on more than one occassion in which I didn’t want to cook or simply had a yearning for some freshly baked bread or desserts.

In fact, just about anything that is on the menu can be ordered for take-out.  But, if you don’t want to call ahead or wait, the deli is usually chock full of delectables.

Recently, I’ve tried the mini savory pies which are offered in the deli section.  The first one I took home was a Salmon Potato mini pie.  The combination of salmon with herbed mashed potatoes was very tasty.  The deli also features a variety of fresh salads, bread, pita chips and desserts.  I love the fact that Marie strives to use the freshest ingredients possible and her creations often feature local, organically grown produce.


1001 Lake Drive Southeast
Grand Rapids, MI 49506-1536
(616) 454-4020

Heritage Restaurant…A True Value Grand Rapids MI Restaurant!

It was a surprising large group which recently got together for a meet-up in Grand Rapids, MI.  Loosely named, the ‘Lunch Bunch,’ the ladies ranged in age from the late thirties to the mid 70’s.  I had been asked to join the group for a meal at the Heritage Restaurant in Grand Rapids, MI.

As we piled into cars and mini-vans to wind our way downtown, there was a palpable sense of excitement with the joy of a social outing in the middle of a seemingly interminable Michigan winter. 

Lunch at the Heritage Restaurant, Grand Rapids MI, Secchia Institute for Culinary Education

Lunch at the Heritage Restaurant, Grand Rapids MI, Secchia Institute for Culinary Education

The Heritage Restaurant is located on the first floor of the Applied Technology Center of the Grand Rapids Community College.  We found a parking spot in the underground lot and proceeded up one floor where we were greeted by one of the college culinary instructors and his team of students!

You see, the Heritage Restaurant is a unique experience in fine dining. It’s one of the few places on the planet where you can get a five star dining experience for a one star cost.  This is because the Heritage Restaurant is staffed by ‘Tomorrow’s Chefs’…students who are being trained in the fine art of exceptional hospitality at the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education.

White linen and fine china covered the tables.  The restaurant was quite full on this particular day and it is wise to make a reservation to ensure you are seated.  Our wait staff passed out the lunch menu which included a variety of appetizer selections, soups, salads and main entrees.  I decided to be adventuresome and ordered the Moroccan Chicken spiced with cumin and cinnamon and paired with sweet potato and a mint sauce.  The combination was inventive and scrumptious!

All meals at the Heritage Restaurant are prepared by the students under the watchful eye of professionals chefs and instructors.  Our waiter informed us that the second year students were preparing the food and the first year students were serving the guests.  On both counts, the service was impeccable!

Lunch at the Heritage can be afforded within a reasonable budget.  I had a beverage, main entree and dessert torte for $13.  That amount might have simply paid for my appetizer in a more pricey establishment. 

And yet, as I looked outside the full length glass wall which provided an expansive view of the city and also highlighted ice carvings created by the students, I couldn’t help but think about how lucky we are in Grand Rapids, Michigan to have an establishment like the Heritage Restaurant which serves up such extraordinary Value with a classy, distinctive style!

CURRENT SPECIAL VALUE DEAL25% OFF(excluding beer or wine purchases) for you and a guest on Tuesday of Wednesday evening.  Treat Yourself!

Heritage Restaurant:  Grand Rapids Community College, Secchia Insitute for Culinary Education

Website:  www.grcc.edu/Heritage

Address:  151 Fountain Street NE, Grand Rapids, MI  49503

Reservations:  616-234-3700

La Crave Restaurant…New Mediterranean Cuisine in Grand Rapids, MI!

Mediterranean Salads at La Crave Restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Mediterranean Salads at La Crave Restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Word of mouth is the most effective form of advertising.  My recent experience in identifying this unique new restaurant was no exception.  La Crave Restaurant, a Mediterranean themed dining spot was recommended to my by a friend who was sure I’d like it.  Since I was in Kentwood that afternoon, I decided to stop by the restaurant which is located in a small shopping plaza just west of Woodland Mall.

I got there after lunchtime, so things were pretty quiet.  I intended to simply ask for a menu and order some take out for supper that evening.  I was greeted by the owner of the restaurant who asked me if I’d like a sample platter while waiting.  I was intrigued.  This was a novel way to open a restaurant.  Seated at a long table was another gentleman who was also enjoying a sample platter.  I agreed.  This was definitely better than simply ordering take-out.

The restaurant is fairly large; capacity is estimated by the owner to be approximately 99 at this time.  The tables were decked out in colorful purple tablecloths and artware decorated the walls.  The open kitchen allows you to see the chef at work behind the counter. 

La Crave places a premium on freshness.  The owner indicated that most of their produce comes from local providers.  They also have a selection of healthy shakes and drinks to which patrons can opt to add natural protein whey.  All meals are cooked to order.

My sample platter arrived in short order and included slices of Chicken Shawarma and Beef Shawarma with pita bread and a garlic dipping sauce. The owner explained that the meat is Halal, which makes it acceptable for people of the Muslim faith and is also considered a humane way to slaughter animals.  I also sampled the Tabouli Salad and Fattuch which is a salad combination of tomatoes, green peppers, radishes, cucumbers, onions, lettuce and parsley.

The food was excellent and nicely seasoned.  The staff were very friendly and welcoming. I witnessed several people stopping to pick up orders and the owner indicated that they provide Catering Services as well. 

La Crave opened just six weeks ago.  Some may remember the location as the former Adanus Restaurant.  As with any new venture, there is still much to be done including the launch of their brand new website: www.lacraverestaurant.com.  (*site was not functional as of 11/06/08) Based on my experience in sampling their food, I think this is one Mediterranean Restaurant worth checking out. 

So, if you’re craving for some authentic Lebanese food and you’re in the greater Grand Rapids, Michigan area…stop by for a visit.  Their lunch specials are unbeatable!  For $7.99 you can get a generousentree with your choice of rice or fries and a salad or soup.

Oh yes, one last thing…make sure you leave room for dessert.  The menu includes the traditional Baklava, but also features warm comfort food favorites like Rice Pudding and Cream Caramel.

www.lacraverestaurant.com (site not yet functional 11/08)

Mon-Thurs  11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Fri-Sat         11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.

Sun              11:00 a.m. –   8:00 p.m.

2923 28th Street, Kentwood, MI  49512  Telephone:  616-949-9449





GRAM CAFE in the Grand Rapids Art Museum, GR, MI

I’ve been to visit many restaurants which offer a Sunday Brunch. But, I must say that I was very impressed with the Value and Quality provided at the GRAM Cafe located within the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

If you’re in Grand Rapids, MI on a visit or if you live here and haven’t ventured downtown recently…put this on your Fall Schedule. Visit the Museum while you’re at it; the Gordon Parks photography exhibit is stunning!

To Read more…http://www.flickr.com/…880673824/

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Penzeys …A Spice Sensation For Every Tastebud!

Penzeys Spice Rack in Grand Rapids, Mi 2901 28th St Location

Penzeys Spice Rack in Grand Rapids, Mi 2901 28th St Location

An impromptu meeting at the Fresh Market Gourmet food store, recently became the occasion for an improbable introduction to one of Grand Rapids Best Spice Selections.  I struck up a conversation with a fellow shopper who shared  her passion for the Penzeys Spice Collection.  After 30 minutes in engaged discussion, I determined that I would have to seek out this shop.

Passion is a great way to describe how Penzeys Spices customers feel about this shop.  You may actually miss the store, currently located in a small mini outlet mall close to Woodland Mall in Grand Rapids if you don’t know what you’re looking for.  Over the past 5 years, the customer base has grown largely by word of mouth.  And folks have been attracted to the shop like I was…because someone raved about it.

From the moment you step into the shop, you know that service is an important part of this family business.  I had the opportunity to talk extensively with Michelle, the Store Manager.  They are preparing to move into a larger space on the northwest corridor of Alpine and 3 Mile later in the year.  The New Address will be 3150 Alpine, Comstock Park, MI in the Greenridge Square Shopping Mall.  The new location will greatly increase their space and the decor will be modeled to resemble a country kitchen.

The Midwest is generally not known for adventuresome tastes when it comes to unfamiliar spices, but there is an emerging renaissance in Grand Rapids as a number of new restaurants and their chefs have added a more cosmopolitan flair to their menu offerings.

Variety is what sets Penzeys Spices apart.  For instance, there are 4 different kinds of cinnamon, and an extensive array of different sea salts and peppercorns. You will enjoy savoring the aromatic selection of curry flavorings and all sorts of spice blends which are custom blends, unique to Penseys.  It’s the sort of place in which you could spend hours.  And what’s great is that the staff are knowledgable and willing to help you find that perfect match for your recipe.

It’s that family, service oriented feeling that propelled Bill & Ruth Penzey Sr. when they started their first store 52 years ago.  Today, there are stores in at least 24 different states!  In addition to their instore offerings, Penzeys Spices has a marvelous catalog loaded with recipes to try out. 

Now, for the best news!  These spices are amongst the freshest smelling creations that I’ve ever sampled.  And…you can sample and sniff to your heart’s content in the store.  And…their prices are Excellent!  They sell most spices in a variety of sizes, so if you’re not sure about something, you can just pick up a small sample and try it without being out a lot of cash.

If you’d like to check out the store, it’s located at 2901 28th Street SE, Grand Rapids, MI  49507.  Telephone number:  616-954-7077.  Tell Michelle you heard about them online at Grand Rapids Real Estate Musings…

Famous Daves Dang Good Ribs Rock Taste of Grand Rapids Festival!

Today, we stopped by the Taste of Food Festival in John Ball Park, Grand Rapids, Michigan.  It was a wonderful day for the event with nice sunny weather.  The grounds were packed! 

While coming in, we met some friends who recommended Famous Daves Ribs.  The line in front of the stand was one sign that their recommendation was on target.  I also tried their bread pudding which included pineapple…different but very good.  Definitely recommend this Festival if you are in Grand Rapids during the summer.  Great food, Great place, Great people!

1300 W. Fulton St. Grand Rapids, Mi 49504


1300 W Fulton St, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Culinary Reds On the River…

If you’re in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area, I’d suggest you work in a trip to visit one of the areas’ most interesting and unique new dining options…Reds on the River

 Located approximately 10 ~ 15 minutes north of Grand Rapids in Rockford, Michigan, Reds…which sits astride the banks of the picturesque Rogue River is quickly becoming a much loved dining hot spot.

My interest in Reds on the River was peaked by a blog post by a colleague & fellow Grand Rapids broker,  Eric Webster.  Although it took me some time to head over to check things out for myself, I recollected his enthusiastic, yet balanced description of how much he and his wife enjoyed their dining experience.

Yesterday evening, on a whim, we decided to head ‘up north.’  The restaurant is located in the quaint, historic Rockford Village downtown area.  It’s a huge building with a Tuscany inspired architecture.  Walking up to the door, I marvelled at how large the place seemed to be. Well, that’s because there’s more to this restaurant than the main dining room.  Included in the complex are a very well stocked wine shop, banquet and catering facilities, business offices in the upstairs area and a patio dining area which runs the entire length of the building; providing an unrivalled view of the riverfront.

We choose outdoor seating as it was a beautiful summer evening.  The service was superb.  From the moment we stepped into the restaurant, the wait staff were attentive, prompt and well informed about the menu. 

Now let’s talk food…The menu presents an interesting and somewhat eclectic mix of options.  Reds prides itself on it’s extensive array of wines…particularly the red wines, and the steak and seafood selections.  According to their site, the seafood is flown in fresh daily. 

Our waiter informed us about the fact that their steaks are aged on site for approximately 3 weeks.  In addition, the restaurant works with local farms to provide fresh produce of a seasonal variety.  The bread which was also from a local Grand Rapids, Michigan bakery was deliciously warm, moist and hearty.  I, in particular appreciate a restaurant which cooperates with local farms to benefit it’s patrons and our community. 

For starters, we ordered the chicken empanadas which were served on a bed of lettuce greens trickled over with a seasoned mayonnaise.  An inventive touch to the empanadas was the addition of raisins…a nice complement to the savory blend of spices in the filling.  My husband had a crock of  French Onion Soup. 

I decided to try the Torch Lake Chicken for my main entree and my husband opted for a Cuban inspired dish, the Ropa Veija.  I wondered if the pristine, upper mid-Michigan lake was the inspiration.  The cherry glaze was the hint.  The chicken was succulent and the cherry glaze was not overly sweet.  A bed of whipped Yukon potatoes served as a robust base atop which curly crisp onion rings added a whimsical touch. 

Saving room for dessert is highly recommended as the sweets selections are prepared on site.  There were many options, but I decided on the Tres Leches Cake on of my favorites.  Reds on the Rivers’ twist on Tres Leches included a fruit compote (in red syrup of course) and a raspberry sorbet. 

As the sun began to work it’s way down and the evening cooled, the Meijer White Pine Trail allowed walkers, joggers and cyclists to enjoy the view too.  After dinner, we strolled around the building along the river…a perfect way to end a lovely evening.

photo courtesy of mandj98’s photostream on flickr.com @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/mandj98/225328319/

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