Sweet Chili Collard Wraps from Bartertown

Crocuses aren't the only things peeking out early this year: faced with an unusually mild winter, spring menus are making their appearance sooner than you might expect. I'm guessing Grand Rapids chefs feel like kids in a candy store, with customer's palates ready to indulge in dishes normally reserved for later in the year.

Because there's no need to wait until May to roll out spring- or summer-themed salads, side dishes and entrees, if you ask me. Most of us sitting here in sandals and enjoying the 60-degree temps are ready now to eat light, fresh and with zest, with meals that fold salad greens, fresh fruit and veggies into the mix. And since this is Grand Rapids we're talking about, you can bet that locally-sourced ingredients will take center stage.

During my recent trip to Grand Rapids I specifically hunted down restaurants where sourcing local was part of their mission. Unfortunately for me, I came across more options than I had time to visit in the three days I spent in the city. However, I did get a chance to scope out Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, where I sat down in its lovely cafe with sunlight streaming in through the windows and home to a glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly that's suspended from the ceiling with the Michigan salad, topped with dried cherries from the state.

Some other options in Grand Rapids for farm-to-forks eats focused on spring are the Son of the Bartertown Monster at Bartertown where local greens mingle with tempeh, coconut curry coleslaw, garlic aioli and more on homemade foccacia; Grove Restaurant's many concoctions, like Shaved Farm Vegetable Salad with rainbow carrots, fennel, radishes, turnips, that are a result of partnering with Real Time Farms; and The Winchesters Thai Lettuce Wraps with matchstick carrots grown in Michigan, or red oak lettuce from Vertical Paradise Farms on the Soft Shell Crab BLT, a lighter option to bacon.

Grand Rapids is about to get yet another farm-to-table focused eatery. A major supplier to many of the city's restaurants Trillium Haven Farm, a CSA in Jenison is opening its own restaurant in June, on Wealthy Street in the Easttown section of Grand Rapids. At 4,000 square feet this is no corner cafe.

Guess I better start planning my next visit to Grand Rapids, huh?