The fall colors are getting better each day in West MI. Grand Rapids, a.k.a. Beer City, is full of great Oktoberfest beers right now, as well as morning brews at local coffee shops. To celebrate all that GR has to offer, Local First, an area non-profit, is hosting Fork Fest this month! Normally an in person celebration, they are encouraging community members to take part in local food events and post on social media using the hashtag #VirtualForkFest, and tag @LocalFirst!
Stop at Outside Coffee Co to enjoy their selection of cinnamon rolls and donuts alongside seasonal fall drinks, like their decadent espresso milkshake. They offer outdoor seating in an adorable garden setting. Check out their sister store, Woosah, while you’re there to see some naturally inspired artwork and printed clothing.
Another great java option is Sparrow Coffee & Newsstand which currently offers both indoor and outdoor seating. They offer a wide range of coffee and bubble tea alongside their diverse newsstand! Try their Cardamom latte and take home some of their ethically sourced beans. They also sell beans from Joven, a youth-owned coffee brand that supports young farmers.
On Wednesdays and Saturdays, you can visit the Fulton St Farmers Market, the hub of West Michigan’s local food scene. Along with farm fresh produce, you can find incredible jam from Cellar Door Preserves (we recommend their Pear Ginger or Balaton Cherry), foraged mushrooms from Mycophile’s Garden, and chips and vegan dip from Mike’s Famous Bean Dip! Fulfill your fall desires with apple cider and donuts from Country Mill Orchard, or barrel-aged hard cider from People’s Cider Co. If cider isn’t for you, try Sacred Springs Kombucha! If you’re lucky, you can snag some of their small batch brews for unique flavors.
Head to the Downtown Market where you can shop, snack, or grab a drink! The Market has a food option for everyone, from pho to tacos, with plenty of vegan options. Be sure to hit Field and Fire to take home some irresistible freshly baked croissants and breads. For dessert, split a pint of Love’s Ice Cream, such as their rich, seasonal Pumpkin flavor right now, or one of their all time favorites like the Lavender Blueberry and Madcap Coffee. Within the Downtown Market, there is indoor seating as well as plenty of covered outdoor options.
Dinner and Drinks
Consider making reservations wherever you go! It helps businesses plan and keep everyone as safe as possible.
Head to The Søvengard for a hyper-local menu that changes with the seasons. They offer indoor seating as well as an outdoor biergarten with heaters and fire pits. Their new fall menu features Oktoberfest beers and craft cocktails, which you can take home bottled if you like! Consider making a reservation– this place is popular.
Elk Brewing on Wealthy St. has outdoor seating with heaters as well, and you can bring take-out to have with your brews. Elk is surrounded by restaurants, but give Forty Acres Soul Kitchen a try for some authentic American soul food, like chickens and waffles, fried green tomatoes, hush puppies, and vegan soul rolls. This Black-owned restaurant celebrates and shares black culture and history, and the owners run a community nonprofit as well. Their food is amazing!
Nearby, you can find Brewery Vivant, with farmhouse ales including a pumpkin ale, their classic Red Coq ale, and one of the best Oktoberfest beers around, Coqtoberfest. Cheers to election season with their dry-hopped lager, “Vote! A People Power Beer”. They are LEED certified, source much of their food and beer inputs locally, and donate to Kid’s Food Basket for every meal purchased.
Support the Community!
There are some amazing things happening to support local food in GR, consider supporting them while you visit.
- South East Market GR will open their store in January that sources from BIPOC owned farmers and producers. This business is bringing food to an underserved area of GR and is owned by Women of Color. Consider donating to their Pay It Forward funds that cover grocery costs and/or upgrade the quality of items in another’s self chosen grocery order. Learn more and donate here!
- You can also donate to Linc Up, a nonprofit owned by the minds behind Forty Acres Soul Kitchen. Linc Up is providing Covid relief to residents and supports residents to mobilize social justice change and advocacy.
- Native News Online was started by a journalist based in Grand Rapids who is a member of the Potawatomi tribe. This news source supports Indigenous peoples nationwide and uplifts their voices. They accept donations to keep the site running.
- Local First supports local businesses in the Grand Rapids area to build local wealth and build social capital.
Where are your favorite local food hangouts in Grand Rapids? Let us know! On social media, be sure to use the hashtag #VirtualForkFest and tag @LocalFirst as you enjoy fall flavors through October!
Photos Courtesy of the Fulton St. Farmers Market Facebook, Outside Coffee Facebook, The Sparrows Coffee Facebook, the Sovengard Facebook, Forty Acres Soul Kitchen Facebook, Brewery Vivant Facebook Page, Progresssive AE website, Love’s Ice Cream Facebook Page, Field and Fire Facebook page, and Samantha Ruth Photography.
Payge Lindow was the West Michigan Local Food Coordinator for Taste the Local Difference.
Find more great stories at www.localdifference.org/blog/