Bell’s Eccentric Cafe
When I started telling people we were moving to Kalamazoo, the most common reaction was, “Isn’t that were Bell’s Brewing is at?” Of course, I had heard of Bell’s, but I’m not a big micro-brew guy, so I really had never had any of Bell’s brews.
I figured if we were going to really see everything Kalamazoo has to offer, stopping by Bell’s was a must. I get lazy on Friday’s and really don’t feel like cooking. When J got up from her nap (she works overnights), we decided to head out for dinner.
Bell’s Eccentric Cafe is on Kalamazoo Street in the Central Business District. We found the General Store pretty easily, but the Cafe didn’t jump out at us when we drove by. I was in the wrong lane anyway, so we had to go back around the block to try again.
On the second attempt, I saw a sign painted on the building that pointed to the back. There was a small parking lot back that way that was full and quite a few cars parked on Porter Street so we knew it had to be back that way somewhere. There was a green door at the top of a flight of stairs that we saw another couple entering. That had to be it even though there was no signage.
We entered the door and immediately realized we were in the right place. Like most brew pubs, Bell’s Eccentric Cafe has a unique charm. The first foyer area leads into the main pub. Once you enter the door, you go down a step or two. In front of you is the bar. There are tables scattered throughout the space and all but one of them was full. We found the one empty table and grabbed it before anyone else could.
Now we run into the confusing part. We went to Bell’s with the intention of eating dinner. We were both going to get a beer to, but we were not going just to drink. We sat at that table for a few minutes trying to figure out if there was a waitress and if they even had food. We noticed a line of guys at the bar getting beer and walking away, so I headed towards the bar to get a couple beers and see what was going on.
On my way to the bar, I noticed a window near the kitchen and menus hanging on the wall. I grabbed a couple of those menus and walked back to the table, so J could start looking over it. Inside the menu was ordering instructions. It really, really would have helped if these menus had been on the table when we got there, but we figured it out.
I went back to the bar and got two 16 oz. Bell’s Lager’s. Like I mention over and over, I am not a beer connoisseur . I like my cheap, watered down domestics, so I got the beer that was going to be most like a Budweiser. My hope is that now that I’m exposed to such a great local brewery, my tastes will mature and I’ll appreciate beer for what it can be and get away from the national brands.
When I got back to the table, J had figured out the ordering system. What happens is you have to go up to the window at the kitchen and place your order directly with the cook. He then gives you a ticket to take to the bar to pay and they give you a buzzer that you take back to the table with you. When your order is ready, the buzzer goes off and you go to the kitchen and pick it up…..along with napkins and silverware.
I thought about getting the Pub Dip sandwich, but I’ve been craving a hamburger. I ordered Bell’s Burger which is a 1/2 lb. Angus patty that I got with Cheddar cheese. The sandwich comes with chips and a pickle. The burger was good. Still want to try the pub dip
J ordered the Black Bean Burger . The vegetarian patty is topped with guacamole, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion. Instead of potato chips, her sandwich came with corn chips and salsa. She seemed to really like it and loved the idea of the guacamole on the sandwich.
Our total with the two beers was right around$21. We didn’t stick around because there were a lot of people waiting on tables and we were not really drinkers. Bell’s is a place I will definitely bring my out of town friends when (if) they come to Kalamazoo.
UPDATE – 8/10/10 – I’ve actually been back to Bell’s several times since this initial review and have tried a lot more of their menu. It seems that every time we go, we find something new we like. Just like I hoped, my tastes in beer have matured. I always have a six pack of Two Hearted Ale or Oberon in the house. I feel like I’m a true Kalamazooian (did I just make up a word?) now.