The 4 best new restaurants in Grand Rapids, according to readers

Italian Beef Sandwich, French Fries, and Beer at Chicago Beef Joint in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Photo courtesy of Chicago Beef Joint

By The 'Gander Staff

May 9, 2024

Great new restaurants are always popping up in Grand Rapids. Finding the best of them is a treasure hunt for local foodies. Luckily, our readers put together a treasure map! We asked them for their favorite spots that opened in 2023 or 2024, and four names stood out.

4. Rio Peruvian & Mexican Restaurant

Ceviche at Rio Peruvian & Mexican Restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Photo courtesy of Rio Peruvian & Mexican Cuisine

Embark on a culinary journey like no other at Rio Peruvian & Mexican Restaurant, where the vivid flavors of Peru and Mexico unite in a dazzling fusion that’s sure to ignite your senses and invite your soul on an unforgettable adventure. A sister restaurant to the nearby Maya Mexican Grill, this enchanting eatery has quickly captured the hearts of locals and travelers alike, offering an innovative twist on traditional favorites that promises to be anything but ordinary.

The moment you step through the doors, you’re greeted by an atmosphere that’s as warm and inviting as the dishes are bold and vibrant. The colorful decor, inspired by the lively streets and rich traditions of Lima and Mexico City, sets the stage for a dining experience that’s both captivating and comforting. Here, every meal is celebrated, with each dish telling a story of cultural heritage and culinary innovation.

Begin your feast with a plate of Ceviche Clásico, so fresh and zesty it transports you straight to the Peruvian coast, where the ocean’s bounty is revered and savored. The fish, marinated in a perfect balance of lime and spices, is an ode to simplicity and flavor, a testament to the art of letting good ingredients shine. From there, let your taste journey take you to the streets of Mexico with Tacos Al Pastor that are nothing short of divine. The tender, flavorful pork, marinated and slow-cooked to perfection, is paired with cilantro and onion, creating a harmony of flavors that’s both comforting and exhilarating.

But the fusion doesn’t stop at the food. At Rio, the drink menu is a celebration in its own right. The Pisco Peruano, a tangy Peruvian spirit that’s as smooth as it is refreshing, is a must-try. It pairs flawlessly with the bold flavors of the dishes. For those who crave a sweeter finale, the Sweet Experience gives you a taste of each of Rio’s desserts, from the Arroz con Leche to the Dulce de Guanábana. It’s the perfect end to a meal that’s as memorable as it is delicious.

Rio Peruvian & Mexican Restaurant is a destination for those who revel in the joy of discovery and delight in the fusion of cultures. It’s a haven for food lovers who seek an experience that feeds the soul and sparks joy. The blend of Peruvian and Mexican cuisines creates a menu that’s both familiar and novel, inviting diners to explore new tastes while reminiscing over the comfort of well-loved flavors.

3. 616 Kabob Stop

Venturing into 616 Kabob Stop is akin to embarking on an enchanting journey to the Mediterranean, where the spices tell tales and each dish is steeped in tradition. This long-anticipated gem has quickly carved out a niche for itself among food enthusiasts who crave an authentic Mediterranean culinary experience without boarding a plane.

The ambiance here is warm and welcoming, setting the stage for a feast that engages all the senses. It’s the kind of place where laughter flows as freely as the tzaziki, and every visit feels like a homecoming.

The best thing on 616 Kabob Stop’s menu isn’t a kabob at all, but the Chicken Shawarma Bowl, marinated and cooked to perfection, then served with soft, warm pita—the textures and flavors melding in a dance as old as time.

Eating at 616 Kabob Stop is about immersing yourself in a culture that celebrates life through its food. It’s about sharing stories over food and discovering the rich tapestry of flavors that define Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. This restaurant is a beacon for those who love to explore the world through their palate, offering a taste of the Mediterranean that is both authentic and satisfying.

As you leave, the tastes of cumin, garlic, and mint lingering on your tongue, you carry with you memories of an experience that bridges cultures and brings people together.

2. Chicago Beef Joint

Stepping into Chicago Beef Joint feels like you’ve been whisked away to the bustling streets of the Windy City, right here in Grand Rapids. This new hotspot has quickly become the go-to destination for those in pursuit of the ultimate comfort food. It’s a haven where the savory aroma of meat cooking fills the air, promising an unforgettable meal that’s both hearty and heartwarming.

At Chicago Beef Joint, every bite tells a story of tradition and taste. Their signature Italian Beef Sandwich is a masterpiece with layers of tender, juicy beef soaked in a flavorful au jus, hugged by a crusty roll, and then topped with giardiniera for that perfect crunch and kick. It’s a symphony of flavors that sings to the soul of every meat lover, a dish so satisfying you can’t help but plan your next visit before you’ve even finished.

The atmosphere at Chicago Beef Joint adds to its charm. It’s unpretentious, inviting, and filled with the kind of energy that makes dining out an experience. The staff greets you with smiles that are genuine and service that goes beyond. They’re sharing a piece of Chicago, a slice of culinary joy that’s meant to be relished with friends, laughter, and stories around the table.

And let’s not forget about the sides – no meal at Chicago Beef Joint is complete without them. From crispy fries that are just the right combination of soft and crunchy to the comforting Mac & Cheese Bites that taste like home, each side dish complements the main stars and completes the feast.

Chicago Beef Joint is a celebration of flavors, a place where meat dreams not only come true but are taken to the next level. It’s a testament to the simple joy of eating food that’s made with care, passion, and a touch of Chicago magic.

1. Scholar

Interior of Scholar Restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Photo courtesy of Scholar Restaurant

Since opening downtown in the fall, Scholar has emerged as a culinary gem that beckons food lovers to its doors. This place is a vibrant sanctuary where creativity and flavor dance on every plate. With a dedication to crafting unforgettable dining experiences, Scholar sets the bar high for innovative cuisine in the city.

Walking into Scholar, you’re immediately enveloped in an ambiance that’s both inviting and sophisticated, making it an ideal spot for special occasions. The chefs here are artists, their canvas being a menu that tells a story of passion, innovation, and the freshest local ingredients. Each dish is a masterpiece, designed not only to appeal to the taste but also to intrigue the mind.

Start your meal with a Caramelized Onion Dip that’s so creamy and decadent, it whispers secrets of indulgence with every bite. And when it’s time for the main event, go for the Seared Scallops, perfectly golden on the outside while remaining tender and succulent within, served alongside a symphony of flavors that elevate the dish to new heights. Scholar’s menu is a testament to the magic that happens when culinary craftsmanship meets a love for food.

And the wine list at Scholar is a carefully curated collection that complements the menu’s dynamism. Whether you’re a connoisseur or new to the world of wine, you’ll find selections that enhance your meal, turning dining into an exploration of tastes and aromas.

Scholar is a destination for those who appreciate the finer things in life. It’s a place where food is celebrated, flavors are cherished, and every meal is an occasion. As Grand Rapids continues to grow as a culinary hotspot, Scholar stands out as a beacon of innovation and excellence, inviting foodies from near and far to gather and revel in the joy of eating.





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