Birthdays have never been a big deal to me. At least my own. This year, my birthday (which happens to be my 30th) fell on a day that I had to work. Of course, I didn’t turn down a job just so I could go out to dinner, but J still wanted to do something nice, so we pushed it back a week.
Over the last few years, J and I have seen a number of country acts in concert. There are a couple that have been a little elusive or playing nearby on days one of us had to work. Dierks Bentley was one of those acts.
This year, Dierks was playing the B93 Roofsit for Kids at Van Andel Arena on a Sunday night and it worked out perfectly for us. J bought me tickets to the show for my birthday and we celebrated a week later.
Before the show, we had to go out for dinner. Now, I know most people use birthday’s as an excuse to eat steak or lobster, but that’s not really me. I didn’t want to go to some dive, but I really just wanted a good burger.
We staked a couple places out on line, but as I was checking out websites Saturday night, I found that most of them were not open on Sunday. In fact, most of the restaurants in downtown Grand Rapids seemed to be closed on Sunday, so that made the search much harder.
Harder, but not impossible.
I finally came across the Ottawa Tavern (which is part of the Gilmore Collection) on the corner of Pearl and Ottawa Avenue just a few blocks from Van Andel Arena. Since it was a Sunday, I decided to look around for street parking assuming the meters would be off. We found a number of free spots just a block down Ottawa from the Tavern, so I pulled in to one and we walked back.
We were met at the door by a hostess who showed us to a seat in the bar area. I didn’t get a good look at the entire space, but the area we were in had the feel of an upscale bar. We were seated at a pub table in the corner. There were a few more of these than ran along the wall that backs up to Ottawa Avenue.
In the center of this big space was a huge, oval-shaped bar. There was seating all the way around and small LCD TV’s hanging above it. In fact, there were TV’s everywhere. Since it was a Sunday, every one of them featured NFL football. We weren’t there to watch a game, so we didn’t really pay attention.
My first order of business, hit the restroom. While I did that, J ordered drinks. Since we were an hour from home, we both passed on liquor. I got a Pepsi, she got a Diet. By the time I returned to the table, we had decided. A few minutes later, the waitress came back.
The reason we chose Ottawa Tavern was the Custom Burger menu. They don’t have a huge a menu. There a lot of appetizers, a few entrees and sandwiches and a massive create your own burger option.
First option is meat. I went with the 1/3 lb ground beef patty cooked medium. Option two is bun. I went with a Kaiser roll. Option three is sauce. I passed completely. Most, if not all, were mayo based. I hate mayo. Final option was to choose three toppings. That’s three out of forty…and it’s not forty run of the mill options, many of these are high quality ingredients. I chose a fried egg, Michigan white cheddar, and pancetta. This was a gourmet burger at a pub price. I could have easily paid over $12 for this same creation at a different restaurant, but all the burgers at Ottawa Tavern are $6.25 no matter which toppings you choose. They don’t come with any sides though. Your add-on options are either a side salad for $2.95 and/or hand cut truffle fries for $1.85. I went with the fries.
When the burger was brought out, my eyes lit up. The sandwich was loaded with pancetta. So much the bun was lifted a good inch or two off the meat. After biting in, the first thing I notice is the patty. Forget the toppings, the meat was fresh and hand pattied. It was literally melting on the plate. It made the sandwich unstable, but totally worth it. The toppings just made this burger even better. It really was like a gourmet bacon cheeseburger….with a fried egg. I wanted a good burger for my birthday and I got it.
The fries were really good as well. They looked like out of the bag crinkle cut fries, but they were really crispy and golden brown. They had a sea salt and parsley on them. Not too much, but just enough.
J also did the custom burger option, but she got a chicken breast instead of a hamburger. She chose a pretzel roll as her bread, a chipotle ranch sauce, spring mixed greens, zesty pepperjack cheese, and hickory smoked bacon. She got both the salad and fries with her meal. The salad was just mixed greens and veggies. Nothing fancy, but a good start to the meal.
Her sandwich was delicious. She mentioned more than once how she loves pretzel rolls and was very excited to see that as an option. The combination of pepper jack cheese and chipotle ranch sauce provided a little big of a kick. She didn’t get it right away, but after a few bites, she started to feel it. She gave me a quarter of her sandwich so she could have more room for the fries. These fries were cooked just the way she likes them. Since she had to make a choice between the fries and the sandwich, she chose the fries….it wasn’t an easy decision.
Our bill was just under twenty-five bucks and we were both really happy with our sandwiches. The meal took less than 45 minutes and we were able to leave our car parked and walk to Van Andel (that way, we didn’t have to worry about a flood). The show awesome. Josh Thompson (opening act #1) put on a helluva show for a newcomer and Gary Allan didn’t bore me like I thought he would. Dierks was amazing.
Ottawa Tavern was never recommended to us and it was buried in just about any search I did, but as a burger lover, Ottawa Tavern couldn’t have done much more to make me happy.