By Peter Daining
This list is comprised of five local West Michigan restaurant brands that bend over backward to connect local foodies with local farms. There are plenty of restaurants in West Michigan with a locally sourced menu item here or there, but these five companies make farm to table an integral part of their business model.
Terra, 1429 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids, terragr.com
All you have to do is glance at the menu to know Terra is a legitimate farm-to-table restaurant. Many of the descriptions include exactly what local farm the meat and produce originated from. Take the seared pork chop, for instance. The pork itself is from Jake’s Country Meats in Cassopolis, the red-skinned potatoes are from Visser Farms in Zeeland, and the collard greens are from the Ham Family Farm in Allendale. Terra is located right on Lake Drive in Eastown, one of the trendiest neighborhoods in West Michigan. Check out the daily happy hour or put an exclamation point on your weekend with the Saturday or Sunday brunch.
The three restaurants of Essence Restaurant Group, essencerestaurants.com
Bistro Bella Vita, 44 Grandville Avenue, Grand Rapids
Grove, 919 Cherry Street, Grand Rapids
The Green Well, 924 Cherry St, Grand Rapids and 8 E. Bridge St, Rockford
Essence has three highly regarded restaurants in Grand Rapids: Bistro Bella Vita downtown, as well as Grove and The Green Well, both in East Hills. The grandfather of the three restaurants, Bistro Bella Vita, has been partnering with local farms to produce its menu for 20 years now. If first built a relationship with Ingraberg Farm in Rockford back in the ’90s. All three restaurants have a business sustainability certification from B Corp. Bistro Bella Vita offers homemade pizzas, pastas, and other Italian specialties in its sprawling dining room. The Grove has a three-course concept with a nice mix of hearty comfort food like shrimp and grits or fried chicken and distinctive dishes like chicken liver pate or rabbit risotto. The Green Well has a louder pub atmosphere, daily specials, and plenty of Michigan beers on tap.
Salt of the Earth, 114 East Main Street, Fennville, saltoftheearthfennville.com
While perhaps not where you’d expect to find an authentic farm-to-table eatery, Fennville may in fact be the perfect location. The tiny town of 1,400 residents is in the heart of arguably the best agriculture region in the state, and Salt of the Earth prides itself in using ingredients from within a 50-mile radius. The team at Salt of the Earth is unapologetically on the side of quality food, going as far as to ask right on the menu for extra patience as your meal is prepared. Salt of the Earth makes all their own bread in-house, which is a fan favorite with diners. They also offer breakfast, which is fairly unique among the restaurants on this list. The owners of Salt of the Earth have taken their concept to Kalamazoo by way of Principle, 230 South Kalamazoo Mall, which brings the same quality of food to a more urban setting.
Food Dance, Kalamazoo, fooddance.net
Food Dance is another one of those places that has long been a farm-to-table restaurant before it was even a thing. The Food Dance website says it best: “We support artisans who practice craft food processes that have been around for generations — growing, raising, preserving, curing, aging, pickling, butchering, and more.” This is the only restaurant I found that lists every local food producer they are in business with, an impressive 35 in all. That includes mostly West Michigan farms, but also regional sources such as Fortune Fish Company in Illinois and Terra Spice in Indiana. Food Dance serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and is the most kid-friendly restaurant on this list.
Reserve Wine & Food, 201 Monroe Avenue NW, Grand Rapids, reservegr.com
Reserve takes its farm-to-table philosophy seriously with relationships with more than a dozen local farms and regular trips to the Fulton Street Farmers Market. In an interview with fromwayuphigh.com, Executive Chef Luke VerHulst and General Manager Peter Marantette explain that it takes an extra ten hours a week to source their food locally, rather than ordering it off one truck. The menu reinforces the extra time and care Reserve takes in order to offer farm-to-table fare. For example, the staff works with local fishermen to present a daily fresh fish option. The winter menu is also full of root vegetables like rutabagas and radishes.
Is your favorite West Michigan farm-to-table restaurant missing from this list? Let us know so that we may add it!