When I’m traveling I like to try new restaurants but am usually hesitant to do so. For all I know they might have horrible tasting food, or worst yet they might be known as a feeding place for roaches and rodents. If I’m staying in a hotel, I will usually ask the concierge for a recommendation or I’ll just stick with the chain restaurants such as Red Lobster, Olive Garden or the like. Well, so that you can try some new places when visiting my area, I want to share some of my favorite independently owned restaurants in my area.
First on my list is a tiny little hamburger joint called Ray’s Drive-In in Grand Haven. If you are not familiar with the area, Grand Haven is just 15 miles or so south of Muskegon. It is actually in between Muskegon and Holland. Ray’s Drive-In specializes in hamburgers, fries, and is famous for their great shakes. Don’t be turned off by the outside of the place. It was founded in 1960, and they haven’t done much remodeling, but it is clean. A positive to this also is that the prices haven’t changed a whole lot either. Consider this, the cost of a large shake is $1.65 and a single hamburger only $1.05. What is so special about this place? Well, for three years in a row, they were granted the People’s Choice Award by the Grand Haven Tribune for both “Best Hamburger” and “Best Shake”. I can’t tell you a whole lot about the burgers because I’m not a burger eater. I just know that they are quite big and they look nice and juicy – you know the old fashioned kind. They’ve recently added the olive burger to their menu. Now when I go I usually order the fish sandwich. Mmm! It is so good. It has a wonderful flavor and the buns used or their sandwiches are so soft, light and they have somewhat of a fresh bread taste. Their fries are also excellent, always hot, and nice and crisp. But my husband and I go simply for one reason, that is, for the wonderful shakes they have. They are so thick and tasty and the flavors are delightful. You can get the standard strawberry, vanilla and chocolate. Or you can try something different like banana, pineapple or everyone’s favorite – root beer. Note that this is not an eat-in diner, so you’ll have to take the food back to your hotel or eat it in the car. You might also consider taking it down to the beach as it’s just a mile or so away. You’ll notice that there are picnic benches on the east of the restaurant, but I wouldn’t recommend eating there. We tried it one day and my meal was ruined because of the smell of the trash. The food is much too delicious, so be sure you make plans in advance concerning where you will enjoy it.
Another one of my favorites is called Mango’s on West Sherman in the Lakeside area of Muskegon. It is just a short jaunt from the beach. The atmosphere is somewhat of an island/sports bar theme. For me bars are usually a turn-off because of the loud music and rowdy crowds, but Mango’s is somewhat calm and laid back. When my mom visits we like to meet up there with one of my girlfriends for lunch. I prefer to go for lunch because my favorite items on the menu are sandwiches. They have just an awesome portabella mushroom sandwich. I know at first I thought – yuck, a mushroom sandwich? But they take the mushroom and grill it with a mix of olive oil, garlic and vinegar, along with melted cheese and glazed onion and you have a yummy sandwich. Now one unique thing about Mango’s is the sandwich platter. Each platter comes with a small sample of a fruit salad. This is sweet, but tangy and includes fresh fruit and nuts. You also get a small sample of their freshly made coleslaw which is a perfect texture and taste. Along with the salads you get chips or fries and a pickle. It is so filling that it is plenty for dinner. Sometimes I’ll just eat a half of a sandwich and save the rest for later. My other favorite sandwich is their turkey reuben. Now my mom always gets a burger and it is huge. She always has to bring half of it home. My girlfriend always gets a chicken salad which she speaks highly of and they always give ample portions. Also on the menu are items such as fish and chips, ribs, burritos, chicken fingers and other specialty sandwiches. There are also island/fruity drinks to choose from. Being that this is a bar, there are many alcoholic selections as well. You can easily have a meal for two for around $30-$35. Don’t be surprised if the owner himself comes out to greet you or makes a suggestion from the menu. He is very friendly and lots of fun. That itself says a lot for this establishment. I hope you can give it a try.
My favorite place for more “upscale” dining is City Café in the lower level of the Frauenthal Center for Performing Arts in Muskegon. Many, many artists have eaten here. In fact, there is a display board of autographed pictures when you enter the eating area. The set up of this restaurant is very unique. You enter the Frauenthal and then go down some stairs to get down to the restaurant. The stairs are lined with colored lights that change periodically and as you walk down the stairs you can’t miss the beautiful waterfall in the center of the restaurant. The ambience is breathtaking. It is great for a “date night”, but my husband and I have also been there before attending a hockey or basketball game. If you go on a sports night be sure to get there early because of the crowds (the sports arena is down the street). It is also wonderful to have dinner and then attend one of the plays or theater performances. Again, the building itself is spectacular and the restaurant itself continues the character and unique architecture of the Frauenthal Center. So enough about the ambience, I know you’re wondering about the food. It amazes me how some fancy restaurants can have some of the worst food. City Cafe however offers a scrumptious menu. Each night they offer a special dish which is noted on a board outside the Frauenthal and again on a board at the top of the steps of the restaurant. The menu offers everything from great soups, to wonderful pasta dishes, to prime rib. A couple of my favorite dishes are the stuffed potato, the chicken salad platter and their chicken alfredo. The stuffed potato is a very unique dish. It is a large white potato stuffed with a well seasoned chicken breast with side condiments including sour cream, cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes and green onions. It is very good and quite filling. You can also get this dish with prime rib instead of the chicken. My sister-in-law goes for the prime rib each time. The chicken salad platter is my favorite of all. The chicken salad is wonderful with juicy red grapes, Michigan cherries and walnuts. What I like most however is the great orange bread you get with the salad. My husband says, “that’s not bread, that’s dessert”. Well it allows me to have dessert twice. Now I don’t get the chicken alfredo often because it is just so rich and comes with quite a few calories but it is just very good. For drinks I love to splurge on an Italian or French soda. Be sure to leave room for dessert. They have a caramel apple crisp that is served with vanilla ice cream and sprinkles of cinnamon – yum, yum, very good. People in the area rave about the restaurants French Onion Soup, homemade nacho chips and chicken Caesar salad. A couple will probably spend about $50 on a meal with no alcoholic beverages.
The last restaurant I will present is called Mike’s Landing also in the lakeside area of Muskegon. Mike’s has recently expanded. It used to be a small little burger/and ice cream stand, but has since expanded into a family restaurant. The décor is nautical and fun. It’s not fancy at all, just comfortable and very clean. The prices are very reasonable. My husband and I had a meal for under $25 (and we had dessert). Mike makes almost everything himself – his own nachos, salsa, fish batter, bread and more. The food is like grandma would have made. I think his specialty is Mexican dishes like burritos, tacos, etc. Mike also has unique desserts like homemade bread pudding in an excellent caramel sauce, or fudge brownies with strawberry ice cream and strawberry sauce. It is rarely crowded but I think the community has not yet heard the word about him. When they do we might have to make reservations.
Well, hurry and make a trip to my community. When you do, be sure to stop by these restaurants. Muskegon is just a hop, skip and jump from both Grand Rapids and Holland. Be sure to tell them Dee Dee sent you.
Grand Haven Dining