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Southern Fish Fry

July 3, 2016
  • 1117 Wealthy Street SE
  • Grand Rapids, MI 49506
  • (616) 233-9744
  • Website
  • Menu

Once again, the call of chicken wings was just too much.  I had just stumbled on a place in plain sight and the lure of southern cuisine is too much for me to pass.

Southern Fish Fry is on Wealthy Street on Grand Rapids Southeast side.  It’s just to the west of Fuller Avenue near Uncle Cheetah’s Soup Shop.   The space is small and apparently is one of many former locations of a Wing Heaven restaurant.  As Southern Fish Fry, they’ve been open almost seven years.

Parking for Southern Fish Fry is what you expect in this neighborhood.  There is plenty of on street parking and since the restaurant is a carry-out only shop, it’s pretty simple to find a place nearby to park to run in and pick up your food.

I really couldn’t decide between wings and rib tips on my way to find this place.  I’ve passed it so many times in the six years I’ve worked in Grand Rapids but the signage is pretty terrible with just a logo on the window.  Heck, I didn’t even see it on this trip when I was looking for it until I had already parked just knowing I was in the right block on Wealthy Street.   Read more…

Harmony Eastown

June 28, 2016
  • 1551 Lake Drive SE
  • Grand Rapids, MI 49506
  • (616) 233-0063
  • Website
  • Menu

I’ve mentioned in the past I don’t get to Grand Rapids very often on my days off.  I drive that route enough during the work week, driving it again on my weekends just seems like torture.

This past weekend, my company entered a softball tournament out in Plainfield Township.  Working nights, I never get to play on the company team, so when the opportunity came up to play on a Saturday, I jumped at the chance.

J decided she and the kids would come with me and after softball, we’d pick up lunch and do some shopping.  Since I don’t like to go to Grand Rapids much on my days off, she almost never gets a chance to hang out in the city.

We were eliminated pretty quickly from the tournament.  I had to head in to the office real quick and drop something off, so we did that immediately after the game then headed to lunch.  J asked if there was any place nearby I’ve been wanting to go to and, of course, there was.

Harmony Brewing Company set up shop in Eastown in early 2012.  At that time, the single taproom was simply known as Harmony Brewing Company.  Last year, Harmony opened Harmony Hall in the old Little Mexico building on the west side.  They renamed the original building Harmony Eastown to differentiate between the two spaces.

Harmony Eastown sits on Lake Drive just to the south of the five point intersection with Wealthy and Norwood.  Harmony took over an abandoned, dilapidated building from the 1920’s that used to be Jack’s Liquor Store and turned it into something the neighborhood can be proud of.    Read more…

Town Fried Chicken & Pizza

June 27, 2016
  • 725 Eastern Avenue SE
  • Grand Rapids, MI 49503
  • (616) 284-2020
  • No Known Website
  • Menu

Sometimes you find amazing friend chicken in the weirdest places.  Sometimes you get exactly what you think you’re going to get from the weirdest places.  It’s a crap shoot, but it’s a crap shoot that I like to play.

I drive along Eastern Avenue quite a bit and for years, I’ve seen a sign for chicken at a party store.  It wasn’t until I stopped in one day to grab a Pepsi that I actually looked at the menu and made that mental note to stop back one day when I was hungry.

I’m pretty sure the name of the joint is Town Fried Chicken & Pizza….at least that’s what the menu says and they claim to be under new management.  I know the owners behind New York Fried Chicken used to operate this space at New York Town’s Fried Chicken until they moved out on their own.  Other than that, I know next to nothing about this place because there is literally nothing online about it.

The small carry-out space is inside Fannie’s Corner on the corner of Eastern Avenue and Bates Street SE.  The store isn’t in the greatest shape and the carry-out counter fits in with it’s surroundings.  It’s interesting that the convenience part of the store has bullet proof glass protecting the cashier, but the restaurant part does not.   Read more…

Torti Taco

June 26, 2016
  • 5275 Beckley Road
  • Battle Creek, MI 49015
  • (269) 224-6941
  • Website
  • Menu

My knowledge of Battle Creek restaurants is limited to what I run across when I happen to be in town.  I’ve always got a small list of places in the back of my mind, but I don’t always remember those when I’m in Battle Creek and I have time to eat.  It’s like…if only someone would invent a device that would let me write notes and keep them in my pocket….

Anywho.  I was in Battle Creek one day early last week.  My plan was to finish my job assignment then go to a restaurant in Bedford Township that I’ve been wanting to try.  Plans changed when I was needed back in Grand Rapids much sooner than I thought.  I didn’t think I was going to get dinner at all until I noticed a sign as I was driving east on I-94 near the Capitol Avenue exit.  A sign for a new restaurant in the spot of an old restaurant that I really miss on days I don’t have much time as I’m driving on I-94 through town.

That new restaurant is called Torti Taco and it’s in the space formerly used by Redline BBQ on Beckley Road between Lakeview Square Mall and Capitol Avenue.  The backside of the building is visible from I-94 and that’s where I noticed the sign.

I was hoping it would be a counter service restaurant where I could order some tacos and get back on the road.  As luck would have it, it totally is.  In fact, the layout hasn’t really changed at all from Redline BBQ right down to the chalkboard on the wall with the menu.  They’ve gotten rid of the red and white checkered decorations that make up a typical BBQ roadhouse, but that’s about the only real change in decor.   Read more…

Tropical Smoothie Cafe – Kalamazoo Township

June 26, 2016
  • tropicalsmoothiecafe44315 W. Main Street
  • Kalamazoo, MI 49006
  • (269) 382-4044
  • Website
  • Menu

Alright.  Here we go.  Back to Southwest Michigan stuff.  I know it’s been a few weeks and I appreciate everyone humoring me as I basically journaled our vacation for myself.

Once back in town, we had a little shopping to do to get ready for a family photo shoot.  One of J’s friends started doing photography, we needed six month pictures of B, and we needed a new family shot of the four of us.  We’re not the kind of people that all sorts of matchy-matchy clothes, so J wanted to find something for me and her to wear that look good against outfits we already had for the kids.

We ended up going to Kohls because…well, coupons…and we knew we’d have luck finding something that looked good on us.  L had asked for something to drink while we were there and we kind of blew her off until we started heading home.  She then said something about being hungry.  J said we should pick something up, but we were already back to Drake and KL and there’s not much between that and our house.  Remembering that L had said something about being thirsty earlier, I asked about the new smoothie place back in the direction we just came from.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe is on West Main in Kalamazoo Township in the space that used to be Smashburger.  I didn’t really know what I was getting in to when I suggested it, but I knew they had sandwiches and I can usually find something on a sandwich menu even if I have to pick off veggies. Read more…

Maxwell Street Depot – Bridgeport

June 23, 2016
  • 411 W. 31st Street
  • Chicago, IL 60616
  • (312) 326-3514
  • No Known Website
  • Menu

The end is near.  I know most of you haven’t cared, but here it is.  The last of my vacation blogs.  The last (for a while anyway) of non-Michigan blogs.  I spent a great 10 days away from Kalamazoo.  I got to spend time with my wife and kids, my parents, brother, nieces, nephews, aunts, in-laws and my best friend from elementary school.  It was nice to get away.  It was nice to check out new cities and places from my past.

The vacation wrapped up with a yearly tradition.  My dad, my brother, my childhood friend, and I get together once a year to go to a White Sox game.   This year, we also got together for a game in St. Louis, but that was an add on, not a replacement.   I don’t think the other three really liked it, but I pushed to have the two games on back-to-back weekends.  I wanted to bookend a vacation with baseball.

The game isn’t the only part of the tradition.  Tailgating is a big part too.  This actually started in 2009.  I wanted my bachelor party at a ballgame.  My brother got tickets and I found an amazing wing place.  After that, the group was cut down to four guys, but the wings stayed.  We had to find something else for a couple of years when our go-to wing place went out of business then came back with a different owner, but it was always wings from somewhere.

I wasn’t thinking when I pushed the back-to-back weeks the first week in June.  Our White Sox game was going to be a 1:00 start.  Our wing place doesn’t open until noon.  Parking lots open at 11:00.  We had a little bit of a conundrum.  Where to get wings?!

J had a good idea.  Get the wings on Friday night and just heat them up in the oven Saturday morning.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was a good option and the only way we were going to get the wings we wanted.

L and I were still at my parents about an hour south of Chicago until late in the evening.  My nieces had a softball game at 6:00 PM and I wanted to see them play.  We left for Chicago at a little after 7:00…getting to L’s parents around 8:30.  By the time I got L in bed, settled down, and asleep, it was after 9:30.  The wing place is open until 4:00 AM, so I had time, but it’s not in a great neighborhood.  Still, I wanted wings.

I called in my order in the driveway of my in-laws then headed in to the city to pick them up.  I had a little bit of a wait when I got there so they gave me some fries and a pop for my troubles.  That would have been enough for dinner…if I didn’t have other plans.

After picking up the wings, I headed over to the area near U.S. Cellular Field.  I was in the mood for some good, greasy Chicago food and there’s a spot over there that I’ve been wanting to get to for a long time.

Maxwell Street Depot on the corner of 31st and Canal in Bridgeport is one of a couple Maxwell Street Depots in the city and part of the larger Maxwell Street Polish.  The building is all kitchen with a walk up window right on the sidewalk on 31st Street.  There also appears to be a small inside space with an order counter, but the outside window was open and that’s where the line was.  This is also one of the rare places in Chicago that has a parking lot.  There’s a big lot right next to the building actually on the corner of 31st and Canal.  You don’t have to try to find street parking to find good food.  There’s a long window looking into the kitchen and a counter that you can use to eat on if you either don’t want to take it home or eat in your car.  There’s no seating at this location and that’s what makes it uniquely Chicago.   Read more…

Exploration Station…a Children’s Museum

June 23, 2016
  • 1095 Perry Street
  • Bourbonnais, IL 60914
  • (815) 933-9905
  • Website

In 2008, my mom became a grandma for the first time.  My brother and his wife had the first of what would be three granddaughters (plus one grandson) for my parents.  I can’t complain at all about the things I did with my parents growing up.  From the time I was 8, both of my parents worked full time, but we still lots of great things together.  We took several trips to Wisconsin Dells, Indiana Beach, Kings Island, Six Flags Great America, Rockome Gardens, and several other smaller vacations and trips to see the White Sox play at new Comiskey Park.

As my brother and I got older, we got in to sports.  Our summers were filled with baseball and the vacations dropped off.  All we did was play baseball.  We traveled to play baseball and we traveled to practice baseball.   My mom was always athletic, but I think she started to miss the family trips we took as kids as my brother and I grew up.

Then….grandkids.  My mom gets to do a lot of that stuff again and do stuff that wasn’t around when we were kids.  As I’ve mentioned a few times, we grew up in a pretty small town.  There’s not much to do there.  The entertainment and shopping center of the area was 30 miles to the north in the Kankakee/Bradley/Bourbonnais area.  There’s not a lot to do there either.

One of the big recreations areas in the tri-cities is Perry Farm Park.  This 170 acre recreation area has a small, hands-on farm, trails, a playground, picnic areas, and a fruit orchard just to name a few.  The big attraction for my mom at Perry Farm though is the Exploration Station.

The Exploration Station…a Children’s Museum was sort of around when we were kids.  The original museum was started in 1990 in a much, much smaller building just up the road from Perry Farm.  I don’t ever remember going there as a kid.  I don’t think at the time, my parents knew what it was.  Children’s museums weren’t super popular in our area and without the Internet, there was no way to really here about all the great ones in the Midwest to even have a clue as to what a children’s museum could offer.

Eventually, the Bourbonnais Park District was able to raise money to move the Exploration Station to the Perry Farm Park in to a much bigger building.  That happened in 1997 and that’s the same building the museum is in today.

The Exploration Station is one of the first things you come across once you enter Perry Farm Park from Kennedy Drive.  You actually first see the backside of the building.  You have to drive around the building to the front where there’s a large parking lot.  Unfortunately, the day we were there, they were re-doing their lot and we had to park behind the building in a field.  We just assumed we should still use the front door, so we walked around the building in the grass to the front to find the doors locked.  Luckily, someone was standing near by and let us in.  They were actually using a side door through a conference room as the entrance, but we weren’t aware of that. Read more…

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