7 Best Restaurants in Downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan

Food & Drink, Michigan

Whether you’re exploring downtown Grand Rapid’s museums or discovering the outdoor murals and sculptures, you will work up an appetite. Sustenance is necessary, and Michigan’s second-largest city’s flourishing food scene won’t disappoint you. 

Deciding which ones to feature was difficult since you can find a wide range of dining experiences, from fine dining to outdoor beer gardens. Finally, I selected these Grand Rapids restaurants because they offer homemade components from local ingredients.

Here are seven of the best local restaurants in the heart of Grand Rapids listed in no particular order.

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MDRD sits on the 27th floor of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel’s Tower side, featuring some of the best views of downtown Grand Rapids’ skyline. Pronounced “Madrid”, the restaurant’s menu focuses on Spanish flavors. As the tagline says, the Rhythm of Madrid. MDRD is an upscale fine-dining restaurant that combines local ingredients with Spanish imports. If you aren’t familiar with Spanish food, the servers will help you make comfortable menu selections. MDRD is a great spot to learn more about Spanish food.

Inside MDRD in Grand Rapids
Seating at MDRD

The Atmosphere

The elegant restaurant featured a marble bar with gold and white tile walls. A local artist’s murals added pops of color to the stylish setting. Table settings from the Iberian Peninsula add to the Spanish vibe. We felt comfortable in our smart casual attire. 

The Dinner Menu

We began our meal with traditional Spanish tapas, or small plates, which reminded me of those I often found in a tapas bistro in Spain. After spending three months in Madrid a few years ago, I couldn’t wait to reminisce with a plate of patatas bravas and some croquetas de jamón. I fondly remember having these two dishes with my colleagues before dinner at a bar while working in Madrid, Spain. MDRD’s version didn’t disappoint.

Filete a la Plancha at MDRD
Filete a la Plancha at MDRD

The menu included Spanish classics like roasted Iberian pork belly and seafood specialties like Spanish octopus. I selected the Filete a la Plancha, a beef tenderloin steak accompanied with blistered heirloom tomatoes, roasted brussels sprouts, and a confit shallot, on a bed of parsnip and dillweed purée, and green peppercorn jus.

Árbol de Caramelo, which featured a dark chocolate souffle, a quenelle of crème fraiche gelato, and an amarena cherry compote at the base of the dessert
Árbol de Caramelo

What stood out about the dishes at MDRD was the presentation. They’re works of art. One example was the Árbol de Caramelo, which featured a dark chocolate soufflé, a quenelle of crème fraiche gelato, and an amarena cherry compote at the base of the dessert. Then, a chocolate trunk and branches formed the tree. Finally, the chef created the canopy from spun sugar and garnished it with a few small edible flowers. This dessert was so pretty I almost didn’t want to eat it. The chef changes the flavors of this beautiful dessert seasonally. 

A View of Grand Rapids from MDRD
A View of Grand Rapids from MDRD

Piper’s Pro Planning: Make a reservation at sunset to enjoy the panoramic city views through the floor-to-ceiling windows.

Churro Pancakes at Sundance
Churro Pancakes at Sundance

Sundance Bar & Grill

Sundance Bar & Grill offers two locations, one in downtown Grand Rapids on Ottawa Avenue, known as a lunch place. The 28th Street location is a must-try place for weekend breakfasts. Both locations also serve lunch and dinner. It’s my go-to spot for weekend breakfasts or brunch.

The Atmosphere

The restaurant has a casual, family-friendly atmosphere with bright, cheerful décor.

The Menu

They serve American food with a Southwestern twist. My favorite sweet dish here is the churro pancakes. They spin traditional American buttermilk pancakes into churro pancakes by adding cinnamon chocolate chips. Then, they add chocolate sauce and sprinkle churro crumbles on top. Eggs your way accompany the pancakes along with bacon. I also couldn’t resist ordering one of their giant cinnamon rolls with icing for the table.

For lunch, I enjoy tacos, especially the carne asada or shrimp versions. I like to add some guacamole and chips as a side paired with the house salsa trio—hatch chile, fire-roasted tomato, and avocado poblano salsa.

Piper’s Pro Planning: Sundance Bar & Grill, located in a strip mall, has plenty of free parking.

Taqueria Luna Cocina

In downtown Grand Rapids, Taqueria Luna Cocina combines Latin America and West Michigan into a venue with ecology as the central theme. The restaurant’s roots are in sustainability. While they concede that West Michigan doesn’t have local avocados, they use locally sourced ingredients, including produce and meats, as much as possible. They purchase non-local ingredients, such as avocados, from independent suppliers when needed.

The Atmosphere

It was summertime when I ate there, and they offered outdoor tables. The atmosphere inside is more modern West Michigan, rather than Mexican. The restaurant had a casual, upbeat vibe.

The Menu

I chose a mix-and-match plate of three tacos. They had so many great options I had a difficult time deciding.  I love carnitas with cilantro and onions, and this one didn’t disappoint. They made it with braised pork, which they call cerdo. In addition, I selected the steak taco called carne asada and a slightly spicy chorizo. Each taco had a double corn tortilla, so the protein didn’t break through, resulting in a broken or soggy taco. They served each with onions and a sprinkling of cilantro. Pickled red onions, grilled onions, and lime wedges came on the plate. I chose to add some guacamole, too. 

As a side, I had elote. This dish featured fresh sweet corn off the cob, then mixed with chile, butter, aioli, a squeeze of lime, and a sprinkle of cilantro.

Piper’s Pro Planning: They also have a full bar with a complete menu of Mexican cocktails, mocktails, Mexican beer, and classic Jarritas.

The Exterior of Bistro Bella Vita
The Entrance to Bistro Bella Vita

Bistro Bella Vita, One of the Best Restaurants in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Bistro Bella Vita, located in the same part of town as the Van Andel Arena, features modern French and Italian cuisine in an upscale atmosphere. Their from-scratch menu uses sustainably sourced ingredients with as many locally sourced foods as possible. While they serve Italian food, I don’t consider it a typical Italian restaurant. They offer pasta, but the menu includes meat-forward dishes, like beef brisket bourguignon. 

The Atmosphere

 The bistro has a great atmosphere of casual elegance, making it the perfect place for special occasions. 

Burrata at Bistro Bella Vita
Burrata at Bistro Bella Vita

​The Menu

When I ate a Bistro Bella Vita, my starter was the Burrata, a soffrito, herb oil, and arugula that I put on a crostini. I chose filet mignon with brown butter and mashed potatoes. The chef served it with cauliflower, an onion marmalade, gremolata, and sauced meat with Bordelaise. If you prefer something more decidedly Italian, select the Bucatini Amatriciana with pancetta and tomato sugo, a type of tomato sauce used to top pasta. The chef tops it with pecorino, basil, and black pepper. 

Tiramisu at Bistro Bella Vita in Downtown Grand Rapids
Tiramisu at Bistro Bella Vita

​You’ll want to order the traditional Italian dessert, tiramisu, a layered dessert with espresso-soaked lady fingers, sweet mascarpone cream, and chocolate.

​The American Apéro, Bistro Bella Vita’s take on Happy Hour, offers craft cocktails, beer, and wine.

Piper’s Pro Planning: If you aren’t up to dining out, you can order Bistro Bella Vita’s menu online and have some of the best food in Grand Rapids at home.

Founders Brewing Company

Founders Brewing Company, known worldwide as one of the world’s best breweries, is in downtown Grand Rapids. Today, their craft beer is rated number two in the world. Additionally, eight of their craft beers have won at least 13 medals.

The Atmosphere

The big old building is a former trucking depot turned brewhouse. The multi-story brick building features ample outdoor space. Modeled after a German beer hall, complete with an outdoor beer garden and patio, it’s my go-to brewery in the warmer months because I love the outdoor seating. In the event of a cooler evening, they have a fire pit to help take the chill off. But during the winter months, don’t worry, the inside space is comfortable. They have a stage where you’ll frequently find live entertainment in various genres.

The Menu

My favorite sandwich at Founders is “The Glutton.” They make it from in-house bourbon barrel-smoked pulled pork, crispy onions, thick-cut bacon, Dirty Bastard BBQ sauce, and beer cheese dip—on a toasted bun topped with “everything bagel seasoning.” What I love about this sandwich is that they incorporate beer into the beer cheese dip. So, you’ll taste beer in the beer cheese dip, the barbecue sauce, and the pulled pork smoked in a bourbon barrel. In addition to great food and beer, Founders Brewing Company features live music from nationally known talent.

Piper’s Pro Planning: The brewery offers public tours and classes to learn more about your favorite beer.

To learn more about Beer City USA’s breweries, check out the article “10 Grand Rapids Breweries to Throw Back a Cold One.”

Seating inside Little Bird
Inside Little Bird

Little Bird

Little Bird, a family-owned bar and bistro in downtown Grand Rapids, is within a short walk of the Amway Grand and the JW Marriott hotels, so it is an excellent alternative to the hotel breakfast spot if you’re staying multiple nights. Also, if you’re exploring downtown for the day, start at The Little Bird and then visit the Grand Rapids Art Museum

The Atmosphere

The environment is casual and friendly. The black-and-white tiled floor and button-tufted booths add a bit of a retro vibe. During the warmer months, you can sit on the street-side patio at one of the cheerfully colored tables.

Breakfast at Little Bird
Breakfast at Little Bird

The Menu

Their menu includes brunch, Tuesday through Sunday, and dinner, Tuesday through Saturday. While the restaurant refers to their first seating of the day as brunch, they’re open as early as 9:00 a.m., so you can still enjoy breakfast here.

While proteins like duck and wagyu beef appear regularly on the menu, they change the dishes throughout the seasons. When I visited, they offered duck and egg fried rice, while on today’s menu, the chef featured duck egg foo young. Both dishes feature duck confit, but the dishes are decidedly different. If you are particular, check out their menu online before you go. 

Piper’s Pro Planning: The restaurant isn’t open on Monday.


Terra, meaning Earth, is one of my go-to brunch spots in Grand Rapids. Yes, they offer dinner, but I love the brunch menu here. They offer farm-to-fork fresh dishes from seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. 

The Atmosphere

Terra is a casual restaurant with a family-friendly environment in a 100-year-old building. The exhibition-style kitchen features a wood-fired pizza oven. The exposed brick contributed to the casual feel, while the modern artwork on display added pops of color. The seasonal outdoor patio features seating shaded with large umbrellas. 

The Menu

The brunch menu is seasonal, so what’s on the menu when I visit may not be when you visit. I loved the ricotta toast with toasted milk bread as the foundation. They applied a lightly sweetened ricotta and then topped it with fresh strawberries and basil. Then, the addition of sunflower seeds offered a slight crunch.

The bowl, “The Hair of the Dog,” starts with a base of buttermilk biscuits covered in sausage gravy. The garlic-infused biscuits came sprinkled with cheddar cheese. Then, they covered it with charred onions and kale. A hint of honey balanced the house-made jalapeno hot sauce. Finally, they covered it with fluffy scrambled eggs. You can order just biscuits and sausage gravy as a stand-alone dish.

Piper’s Pro Planning: The Terra team endorses parking fees from the adjacent parking lot.

Bonus: Anna’s House

Anna’s House has three locations in Grand Rapids, but the closest is about a five-mile drive from downtown. I didn’t want to leave it out because it is one of my favorite breakfast restaurants on the Grand Rapids food scene. The food is consistently delicious, and a great place if you have vegans in the group. If you are going to explore attractions away from downtown, like Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, this restaurant can easily be on your way to those attractions.

The Atmosphere

The environment is bright and cheerful, with light teal and white walls and an occasional pop of chartreuse. If you’re a fan of the show Mel’s Diner, you’ll see some of your favorite characters in murals. The overall feel is a retro vibe.

The Menu

While I generally find something tempting on the seasonal menu, my go-to appetizer for brunch is the traditional monkey bread with cinnamon and sugar. My favorite entrée is Anna’s Skillet, which starts with cubed red skin potatoes. Then, add to that ham, onion, green pepper, mushrooms, tomatoes, melted cheddar cheese, and finally, top it with green onions.

The Anna’s House menu offers gluten-free, vegetarian, and a whole menu section of vegan meals. 

Piper’s Pro Planning: Anna’s House is a free-standing building near the mall, so parking isn’t an issue. Consider adding yourself to the Yelp waitlist to reduce the time you spend waiting in line. 

Pin this to your favorite Michigan Restaurant Board!

Amy Piper
Author: Amy Piper

While Piper is a lifelong Michigander, she’s had adventures worldwide. Bomb-sniffing dogs chased her in the middle of the night in Bogota (working late), gate agents refused her boarding to Paraguay (wrong visa), and US Marshals announced her seat number on a plane while looking for a murder suspect (she’d traded seats). It’s always an adventure! She even finds exciting activities in her home state of Michigan, where she lives in Lansing with her husband, Ross Dingman, her daughter, Alexis, and two granddaughters.


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  1. Sonia

    I wish I had had this list when visiting Grand Rapids, we didn’t stumble on any of these restaurants. Saving this in case of another trip to the area!

  2. Michael Taylor

    Based on your posts, if I ever visit Michigan, I’m going to have to go on a diet when I get home. The food looks absolutely amazing!


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Welcome to Follow the Piper! Discover interesting destinations, and practical planning tips for packing more travel into your everyday life.

Our founder and author, Amy Piper, is a freelance travel writer, blogger, photographer, and author specializing in traveling through a food lens and multi-generational travel. She is a native Michigander who travels through the lens of a food lover and has been to 41 countries and 45 states.


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