Z’s Grille & Bar
It seems like every concert we go to see in Grand Rapids is on a Sunday night. Well, this time it was one J wanted to see. I would have rather went to Tim McGraw on Saturday night, but she really wanted to see John Mayer. As much as I wanted to, I didn’t want to pay for two concerts back-to-back. It was tempting, but I thought better of it.
The last couple times we’ve gone to Grand Rapids, it’s been a Sunday and we always have a hard time finding someplace to eat. A few weeks ago, Van Andel Arena made things a lot easier. They actually sent out a tweet pointing to a Facebook posting which listed places that were open on Sunday before the Mayer concert. They listed five or six places and we narrowed it down to a couple. Ironically, one of the places was a bar that J saw while at work one day and thought it would be a good place for us to go. Since they were open, that’s where we went.
Z’s Grille and Bar is on Louis Campau Promenade NW just south of Pearle Street and east of the JW Marriott. There was a lot going on downtown so street parking was at a premium. We went around the block once and decided paying for a lot was going to be our best option. There were two garages right across the street. We chose the cheaper of the two.
The entrance is around the corner from the street side in a little courtyard. Like I mentioned, there was a lot going on. Besides the concert, Rail Jam was going on at the B.O.B., so there was a lot of reason to be downtown.
We walked in to a pretty hopping bar. There was no hostess per se, but as we started walking down the aisle between the bar and a row of booths, someone stopped and asked if we were looking for a table. When we said yes, she went to work cleaning a booth.
The space is laid out pretty uniquely. In the middle is a huge circular bar. Above the bar, all the way around, is a wooden rack holding the liquor. On one side of the bar is a row of elevated booths which is where we sat. On the other side, which was a little more raucous, were a numer of tables and TV’s.
We’re not the kind of people who get sloppy drunk at concerts. In fact, we were pretty lucky the concert wasn’t sold out because the guy behind us was one of those guys. During the opening act, he spilled beer on the guy sitting next to me and they almost got in to it. It’s amazing to me how people who act like that don’t realize they’re in the wrong and spilling beer on someone is never ok…even if you’re “just having a good time.”
Anyway, for that reason, we both ordered Coke’s although I’m pretty sure they were Pepsi. Better for me. I’d rather have a Pepsi. It wasn’t listed on the menu and the waitress didn’t correct us, but I’m pretty sure I saw the Pepsi logo on the fountain behind the bar.
The reason J thought I would like this place is because they brag about their award-winning ribs. They’ve won “Taste of Grand Rapids” seven times. She told me she wouldn’t make fun of me if I ordered the ribs. That’s nice of her because I hate eating ribs in public. I’m a sloppy rib eater. I thought about, but the menu said they are “slow cooked.” That’s fine, but not really my thing. I’m a purist when it comes to BBQ. It’s gotta be smoked. I’m sure they’re still delicious, but for the price, I decided to pass.
Instead, I went with Z’s Burger. It’s 1/4 lb of fresh Angus char-grilled and served on a Kaiser roll with sharp cheddar, bacon, and Z’s award-winning BBQ sauce. Notice I didn’t mention mayo. It didn’t say mayo on the menu, but when I got the sandwich, it had mayo. Besides the fact that it wasn’t on the menu, why would you mix BBQ sauce and mayo? It’s just going to water down a sauce you’re proud of.
Fortunately, the bun was toasted, so the offending sauce was easily scrapped off with a knife. The burger was cooked perfectly with just a hint of pink in the middle. It was really juicy and the BBQ sauce was a sweet Memphis style sauce. The bacon was a little rubbery, but it still had a good smokey flavor. Other than a sauce that’s not on the menu appearing on my sandwich, I actually really liked it.
The sandwich came with chips, but I opted to upgrade to fries for an extra $1.50. I ate them without thinking anything about them. To me, they were typical restaurant fries, but J thought hers were underdone. They were crispy on the outside, but still a little raw in the middle. Mine didn’t seem that way, but I was so hungry, I tore through them without really thinking.
J went with the Western Chicken Sandwich. The grilled chicken breast is marinated in Dijon then topped with Swiss cheese, bacon and the world-famous BBQ sauce. Again, the sandwich showed up with mayo. Now, not only do you have the BBQ sauce, but you have the Dijon flavor that is essentially cancelled out by the mayo. Like me, she was able to scrape it off pretty easily, but again, it didn’t show up on the menu, so why is it on the sandwich? After getting the mayo off, she really liked the sandwich. The chicken breast was pretty thick, but it was really tender. She thought about going for a pulled pork sandwich or a wrap, but she really made the right decision with this chicken sandwich.
Our bill was a little over $22 due to the fact we both got fries with our meals instead of chips. Z’s gets pretty good reviews on all of the restaurant review sites and I would do the same if it wasn’t for the fact that mayo showed up on both our sandwiches. A huge pet peeve of mine is items that show up on your plate that aren’t on the menu. How do I know to ask to leave it off if I don’t know it’s there?
Other than that issue, Z’s really is a great bar. It’s a really cool space with way above average pub food. It’s location to Van Andel Arena makes it perfect for a pre/post-game/concert meal/beer. The kitchen is open until 2 AM, so late night food is also an option. We were sort of running late on purpose, but we ate and were on our way to the show in just a little over a half hour. Can’t beat that. My overall feeling was that I really like the place and had it not been for that one miscue, I wouldn’t have anything bad to say.