Photo: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

27 Little Things You Will Miss When You Leave Grand Rapids

by Cathy Brown Jul 7, 2015

1. Drinking yummy local-ish Two Lads Chardonnay on a porch swing of some fabulously restored Heritage Hill home, watching a summer thunderstorm roll in.

You also fondly remember the old-school days of watching said storms from the stoop of some ghetto house off Wealthy Street, drinking 40s from Little Jacks, before that area went and got all hip.

2. Always having ArtPrize as a financial plan backup.

You were somehow always pretty confident that if you absolutely needed the cash to survive, you could come up with some genius abstract something-or-other, get a sweet PR campaign going, and hands-down win that shit.

3. The Jim White breakfast on a Saturday morning from Gaia.

And getting caught up chatting with Jock Smith at his VIP table at the window while you waited for the booth in back. Yeah, whatever. You know full well Gaia closed but you are in denial. And an intense state of mourning. Let’s all take a moment of silence for the gastronomic legend that was the Mean Green Burrito.

4. REB artwork showing up in the most unexpected spots.

Because who doesn’t love sparkly, rainbow-colored chickens and lions reminding us to be kind?

5. Feeling not quite hipster enough to enter Rowster coffee.

Yet going anyways, because, damn, they know how to make a mean cup of coffee.

6. The old dude who rides his bike up and down Cannonsburg Road no matter what the weather or time of day.

You heard stories from how he is mentally ill to how he is a millionaire who just likes to ride his bike. You stopped once at 11pm in a full-on blizzard when the temperature was -20 F to ask if he wanted a ride. He very politely declined and kept riding uphill on his crap Schwinn, instantly upping your idea of what it takes to be a badass.

7. Gawking in awe at the fashion…perfection!…of the pretty boys who work at A.K. Rikks.

Step aside, Chicago, LA and NY. Whoever tries to say GR doesn’t know fashion obviously hasn’t stepped into this store.

8. Getting on stage to belt out ‘I Love Rock and Roll’ with big-haired babes on stage at the Intersection.

Because no 80s night can top Mega 80’s 80s night.

9. Feeling like an outlaw for getting away with buying a bottle of Bailey’s at 11:55am on a Sunday at Meijer.

Your outlaw standards were much lower in GR.

10. Eating cider donuts at Robinette’s until your stomach hurt from too much goodness.

And you washed it down with a ridiculous amount of cider, of course. Then bought more donuts and gallons of cider to take home. Fall only lasts so long in Michigan before the raging winter sneaks up on you, so you had to take full advantage while you could.

11. Billboards along 196 telling you Jesus was going to save you.

You always scoffed at the commercialism of the church in GR, but I daresay not in many other places in the world will you be so constantly reminded that Jesus loves you. (Unless you are pro-choice, are gay, or are not Christian Reformed. Then you’re most definitely screwed, and Jesus, or, let’s be honest here, the CRC, unfortunately doesn’t love you here as much as they could).

12. Getting your faith restored in organized religion (and humanity) whenever you hear what the open-minded folks at Fountain Street Church are up to.

Huge shout out to EmbodyGR — opening not just minds, but hearts.

13. Not being able to fully trust that going over to someone’s house for dinner could be as simple as, well, going over to their house for dinner.

No matter how many times it happened, it still took you by surprise when the Amway (Quixtar, whatever it is now) business plan got busted out by your hosts. It was annoying at the time, but now the awkwardness it always brought on seems almost comical.

14. Having government officials as freakin’ awesome as Mayor Heartwell.

To be honest, you never appreciated it while you were there, then you left and realized how good you had it. I mean, not every city can boast having the mayor who just won first prize at the US Conference of Mayors. Rock on, Mayor Heartwell — you make GR so proud!

15. Taking in an artsy movie at UICA.

UICA made date night so easy. Dinner and a movie can be predictable and lame, but dinner and a UICA movie? That was a whole different story.

16. The distinct lack of pop cans littering the highways.

10 cents is 10 cents. On more than one occasion grabbing the cans that had piled up in the garage bought you a half tank of gas to get out to Lake Michigan.

17. Spreading out your blanket on a warm summer night to enjoy the summer concert series at Frederick Meijer Gardens.

Fiona Apple, Steve Miller Band, or David Byrne. Small crowd. Summer night. Surrounded by gardens. Take that, DTE Energy Music Theater.

18. Walking in to the scent of chai cooking at Global Infusion.

And somehow always walking out with large piles of fair trade soap, coffee beans, and organic chocolate, justifying the purchases because, hey, you were just doing your part as a conscientious world citizen.

19. The thrill of walking in on a weekend morning and scoring one of the few tables at the Grist Mill in Cannonsburg.

Then walking off that greasy, comfort food breakfast by hiking the circuit at Pickeral Lake (which you still refer to as Indian Joe’s land).

20. Driving in total whiteouts down 131 South.

Xbox racing games seem downright lame after you learned to drive in Michigan winters. Potholes, asshole drivers passing you going 80 mph in a whiteout — not much phases you now when it comes to driving conditions. Ah, (somewhat) fondly remembering the days of learning how to drive a stick shift up Michigan Street hill when the road was covered in black ice.

21. Having one of the few things that people get snobby about be beer.

After we get used to Founders (named the 3rd best brewery in the frickin’ WORLD by, Hopcat (ratebeer’s #1 brewpub in the US) and Brewery Vivant, who would honestly accept a Natty Light anymore?

22. Getting bundled up to go ice skating at Rosa Park Circle.

It didn’t matter that the reality was that you sucked at skating or that droves of little kids always seemed to crash right in front of you leaving no time for you to stop. It felt magical. And Madcap being so close for warming up afterwards? Bonus.

23. Stopping for a blue moon ice cream cone at Gram’s General Store on the way back from hiking and finding turtles in the pond at Seidman Park.

What is a double-scoop cone up to now? 75 cents?

24. Marie Catrib.

If there’s a heaven, that lady is definitely up there cooking up some mean baklava and bear hugging everyone she sees.

25. Elbowing out some nice Ada soccer mom to snag an unbelievable deal on a Burton board at Cannonsburg Ski Swap.

Not speaking from personal experience, of course. *cough*

26. Drinking whatever new wine Rimple recommended at Bar Divani.

There may be new ‘cool’ places that popped up all over downtown in the last few years to hit after a Griffins’ game (hello, Stella’s), but nothing can beat the ‘cool’ factor of sipping an exquisite, off-the-radar Malbec that Rimple set aside because he just knew you were going to love it.

27. Little Africa.

You would order the alicha and ferfer, Lou would bring you shiro and azifa instead. You never cared one bit. He’s Tesh-mother-fuckin’-Lou. He can do whatever he wants and it would still be up there as one of your favorite meals in the entire world.

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