The 5 best restaurants in Grand Rapids, according to readers

Steak at Butcher's Union Restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Photo courtesy of Butcher's Union

By The 'Gander Staff

May 9, 2024

We asked more than a thousand Grand Rapids locals to tell us their favorite restaurants. Here’s what they said.

When it comes to dining out in Grand Rapids, the options are endless. From cozy neighborhood bistros to upscale steakhouses, there’s something for every palate in the Furniture City. To help you navigate the culinary scene, we asked our readers to tell us their top picks. We tallied over 1,200 votes and compiled the top five best restaurants in Grand Rapids, as judged by locals.

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1. Butcher’s Union

Butcher’s Union is a haven for meat lovers. It’s a place that celebrates the art of butchery and elevates the dining experience with a creative flair that’s hard to match. The ambiance strikes the perfect balance between rustic charm and contemporary sophistication.

The focus at Butcher’s Union lies on two things: meat and whiskey. So start your visit with an old fashioned and an order of Wagyu Beef Tartare. Each bite of hand-cut steak is enhanced with capers and parsley, setting the standard for the rest of your meal.

Moving on to the main event, you’ve got plenty of choices to fulfill your carnivorous cravings: a wide range of succulent steaks, house-made pasta in an earthy bolognese sauce, braised pork shoulder, and more. But our pick is the Smoked Ribeye Sandwich. The aged cheddar melts seamlessly into the meat, and the caramelized onions add a silky-smooth sweetness that’s beautifully offset by the pesto aioli’s tang. Simply put: It’s a masterpiece.

To finish things off, treat yourself to a slice of Chocolate Mousse Cake. Rich, creamy, and smooth, this is a dessert that ensures you’re ending your night with a sweet embrace.

Every visit to Butcher’s Union is an opportunity to satisfy all your carnivorous cravings. It’s a meat lover’s journey through flavors, textures, and culinary creativity.

2. Leo’s

Scallops at Leo's Seafood Restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Photo courtesy of Leo’s Seafood Restaurant

If Butcher’s Union is a haven for meat aficionados, Leo’s Seafood Restaurant & Bar is a lighthouse for those who cherish the bounties of the sea. In business for 20 years, this upscale spot takes pride in its dedication to bringing diners the freshest, most delectable seafood delights, drawing from local waters whenever it can to ensure each dish sings with the flavor of the ocean.

Embark on your maritime adventure with a plate of Fresh Shucked Oysters on the half shell. Each oyster, meticulously chosen for its quality and freshness, offers a taste of the sea in its purest form. The briny, refreshing start paves the way for a journey through the ocean’s depths, where each bite is more enchanting than the last.

Now, turn your attention to the main course: the Char Grilled Sea Scallops. These gems are grilled to perfection and wrapped in smoked salmon, setting the stage for a multi-layered bite. The flaky salmon introduces you to a golden crust that in turn gives way to a tender, melt-in-your-mouth interior. Paired with a dijon mustard sauce that adds a zesty contrast to the scallops’ natural sweetness and paired with a side of garlicky green beans, it’s a dish that somehow feels like you’ve got the ocean on a plate. Bonus points if you accompany the meal with a glass of white wine.

3. Chop House

If you’re looking for something that bridges Butcher’s Union’s reverence for meat and Leo’s love of the sea, Chop House might be the place you’re looking for. There’s an old-school vibe to the place, with an ambiance that whispers luxury into every detail.

For your seafood fix, go for the Maine Lobster Bisque. Each spoonful of this rich, creamy concoction is a velvety embrace that prepares you for the courses to follow.

When it’s time to choose your entreé, you can’t go wrong with the Filet Mignon. It’s a centerpiece, a conversation starter, and a reason to pause with every bite. Renowned for its buttery texture and subtle flavor, the steak is seared to perfection, creating a crust that encases the tender, juicy interior. It’s a dish that exemplifies peak steakhouse cuisine.

But no visit to Chop House is complete without a slice of their Mudslide Cheesecake. It’s a crowning glory, a harmonious blend of creamy, tangy, and sweet that manages to be both indulgent and refreshing.

At Chop House, every visit is a journey—a chance to indulge in the kind of meals that are talked about long after the plates are cleared. It’s a sanctuary for those who revel in the nuances of top-tier steaks and seek an ambiance that matches the caliber of their meal.

4. Bistro Bella Vita

Bruschetta at Bistro Bella Vita in Grand Rapids, MI

Photo courtesy of Bistro Bella Vita

Embark on an enchanting journey to the heart of Italy without ever leaving Grand Rapids when you step into Bistro Bella Vita. This delightful bistro serves as your culinary passport to the rich, robust flavors of Italian cuisine, all while embracing the farm-to-table ethos with its commitment to fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

Begin your Italian escapade with the Bruschetta, a delectable appetizer offering roasted tomatoes, fragrant pesto, and creamy ricotta atop toasted bread. It’s a symphony of flavors that sings the praises of Italian simplicity and quality.

For your next step, try the Bucatini Amatriciana. Al dente bucatini twirls gracefully around a savory blend of crispy pancetta, tomato sauce, and a generous dusting of pecorino, creating a dish that’s both comforting and indulgent.

Each visit to Bistro Bella Vita is an adventure, a chance to indulge in the art of Italian dining where every dish is prepared with passion and served with pride. From the warm, inviting ambiance to the attentive service that makes you feel like family, this bistro is a beacon of Italian hospitality in downtown Grand Rapids.

5. The Old Goat

The Old Goat captures the essence of neighborhood charm, blending it seamlessly with an innovative culinary approach that leaves guests feeling both nourished and delighted. It’s a restaurant where every visit feels like coming home.

Start your culinary retreat with the Brussel Hustle, a dish that will convert even the staunchest sprout skeptics into fervent believers. These little green jewels are tossed with quinoa in a vinaigrette that zings with the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity.

If comfort is what you’re after, there can’t be a better main course than the Old Goat Grilled Cheese. With creamy white cheddar and muenster cheeses between hearty slices of sourdough painted with a tangy tomato jam, this isn’t quite the grilled cheese sandwich you grew up with. Rather, it’s classic comfort food elevated to something special.

Of course, no comfort food experience is complete without dessert. You can’t go wrong with any of the options here, from the Mascarpone Cheesecake to the Peanut Butter Mousse. But we recommend trying the Creme Brulee, in whatever rotating flavor happens to be available on the day of your visit.

NEXT UP: The best new restaurants in Grand Rapids

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