The West Side of Grand Rapids is transforming, making the beloved neighborhood a destination for dining, shopping, and nightlife. In 2015, we saw the addition of Harmony Hall and Black Heron to the food scene, joining old favorites like The Blue Dog and Maggie’s Kitchen. Last year the neighborhood experienced even more culinary expansion, with the addition of New Holland’s The Knickerbocker and The Sovengard

This month, we continue our feature of new restaurants and bars on Grand Rapids' West Side with Butcher’s Union.

Butcher’s Union

Butcher’s Union is located at 438 Bridge Street, the former home of Monte’s Lounge. Inside, you'll find a cool and trendy atmosphere. The bar, stocked with more than 100 kinds of whiskey and spirits, is typically packed. I recently visited with friends, and people filled every seat and stood elbow to elbow at the bar. Our waitress told us it’s been that way since it opened last month.

Bar at Butchers Union in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Prepare to be impressed by the extensive whiskey selection at Butcher’s Union. Photo credit: Jackie Stone

From start to finish, Butcher’s Union was fun, with a big city vibe and innovative menu items that will keep us going back for more.

Let’s start with drinks. Well, whiskey, because that’s their thing.

Although they eventually plan to serve whiskey flights, right now you have to create your own by ordering what you’d like to try in the small serving size. I started with a taste of four different whiskeys.

Butcher's Union whiskey flight
I went with Bushmills and Jameson (two Irish whiskeys), Featherman’s Last Journey, made in New Buffalo, MI (a Rye), and Slaughter House (a bourbon with a cool name). Photo credit: Kirsetin Morello

Not a fan of whiskey? Butcher’s Union also serves beer, wine and spirits, offering variety to the extensive whiskey menu.

My friend, Kelly, tried the Peruvian daiquiri, which tastes just as good as it looks. It’s a shaken daiquiri made with Capel Pisco, maraschino liqueur, fresh lime juice, and ruby red grapefruit juice that’s sweetened with a honey syrup.

Butcher's Union Peruvian daiquiri in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Who wouldn’t want to try this Peruvian daiquiri at Butcher’s Union? Absolutely delicious! Photo credit: Kirsetin Morello

Once drinks were ordered, it was time to try some of the “meat” in “Meat and Whiskey.” We ordered three appetizers because my husband insisted we couldn’t come to a restaurant with that tag line and not try the bacon!

The “mild-mannered meatballs,” made from freshly ground local beef and local pork, had a pleasantly surprising kick. They’re served over polenta in a stewed blistered tomato sauce with shaved Parmesan. The slow braised short ribs were perfectly garnished with fresh Granny Smith apples. Their tartness perfectly complemented the slightly sweet ribs, which are glazed with a sesame-soy sauce. And the peppercorn bacon slab my husband insisted on trying? So worth it. I’ve never seen bacon that thick! It’s served with Michigan maple syrup, which adds just the right sweetness.

Peppercorn bacon slab at Butcher's Union in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Photo courtesy of Butcher's Union

For dinner, we switched to beer and wine, both of which paired well with our food. I ordered the adobo chili braised pork shoulder, which had just the right balance of heat and sweet. Served with tomato sauce, a perfectly married jalapeño-pineapple salsa, toasted pepitas, and crispy black bean cakes, this entrée was an absolute winner.

Smoked pork chop at Butcher's Union in Grand Rapids
If you think you don’t like pork chops, try this one. It might change your mind! Photo credit: Kirsetin Morello

After he tried that yummy bacon, my husband was challenged to find something else he’d enjoy just as much for dinner. He went with the slow smoked pork chop, which was thick, tender, and juicy — the way I’ve never managed to cook them at home. The savory chop was served with braised greens, a delightful fennel-apple slaw, and apple cider jus, all heaped over creamy polenta.

Our friends branched out and ordered salmon and a pastrami sandwich. Both delivered on presentation and taste! The butter roasted salmon is served with a generous portion of baby shrimp and capers in a tomato butter sauce and paired with perfectly cooked almond broccolini.

For a more casual meal, take a peek at the sandwiches. Our friend ordered the smoked pastrami sandwich, piled high with deli-shaved beef pastrami, a tart apple slaw, and cheddar cheese. It’s served on Field & Fire Jewish rye bread with sweet mustard. If you order a sandwich, don’t miss out on the hand-cut fries. Add them. It’s well worth the $2!

Kirsetin Morello and her husband at Butcher's Union restaurant
Happy diners! This place has an impressive drink selection and seriously good food. Photo credit: Kelly Wade

I wanted to try the chocolate pot de crème for dessert, made with Grand Marnier chantilly cream and served with fresh raspberries, but I was so incredibly stuffed from dinner that there was no room left in my belly. Next time, I think I’ll start there.

More West Side Hot Spots

In addition, be sure to check out these new West Side venues, which are quickly becoming popular spots to gather, eat, and drink.

  • New Holland’s The Knickerbocker Brewpub & Distillery. This 40,000 square foot restaurant, brewhouse, and distillery features high ceilings, cool décor, a rustic and seasonal menu, and a full bar featuring New Holland brews.

  • The Sovengard. Focused on sustainability, The Sovengard serves up Scandinavian fare with a Michigan twist. Step out of your comfort zone and try their Michigan spelt risotto.

  • Steel Cat Bar. This one’s not a restaurant, but how cool is their frost rail? They serve all kinds of fun drinks in addition to icy cold beer.

Development is expected to continue on the West Side this year, with both Ando Asian Kitchen (by the developer behind local favorite Maru) and The Rower’s Club by Rowster Coffee scheduled to open this spring.

If you’re looking for new restaurants beyond the West Side, check out the past posts in this series: