As a meeting planner, sometimes the best option for a meal is to encourage attendees to venture out into the host city and enjoy the local flavor.

Thanks to its location in the fertile farming area of West Michigan and the fact that it’s home to one of America’s finest culinary schools, Grand Rapids has a rich and diverse restaurant scene. So rich, in fact, that the choices can be overwhelming.

With the help of some locals, we compiled a list of suggestions for a variety of tastes, all within a short walk from the city’s convention campus. But this is by no means comprehensive.

Experience Grand Rapids helps the selection process with a convenient guide to the city’s restaurants on its website along with an online list searchable by several parameters. Simply choose “downtown” for the neighborhood, and choices abound.

Here are a few to get you started.

FINE DINING

  • Ruth’s Chris Steak House, this well-known, high-end, New Orleans-born steakhouse is conveniently located right inside the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
  • Chop House, another high-end steakhouse, is across the street from the convention center and is praised for its service. (For those who are interested, there is a cigar lounge in the basement.)
  • Reserve Wine & Food offers a wonderful charcuterie menu along with dinner entrees. And, thanks to a custom-made cruvinet that preserves open wine bottles for up to six months, the menu features more than 100 wines by the glass.

UPSCALE CASUAL

  • Leo’s specializes in fresh fish and seafood, but the menu offers something for those who are not seafood fans, as well.
  • Bistro Bella Vita offers modern French & Italian food made from scratch with as many sustainably-sourced ingredients as possible.
  • The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck, yes, that Wolfgang Puck. With views of the Grand River, this restaurant offers gourmet pizzas, appetizers, salads, noodles and entrees.

CASUAL

  • San Chez Bistro is a lively tapas restaurant featuring European and Mediterranean cuisine. It’s also known for its sustainable practices, including using green energy, composting and recycling.
  • Stella’s offers award-winning burgers surrounded by graffiti-covered walls with the added bonus of ‘80s arcade games.
  • Ando Asian Kitchen features an Asian-fusion menu that takes its inspiration from Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean cuisine, including ramen, sushi and kimchi.

NEW AND TRENDY

  • The Sovengard promotes a taste of “Scandinavia via the Midwest.” They feature a biergarten and focus on hyper-local, responsibly-sourced, seasonally-based items.
  • Mazzo Cucina D’Italia is a modern Italian restaurant where special attention is given to handmade pastas, local ingredients and seafood, including a raw oyster bar.
  • Butcher's Union hangs its hat on “meat and whiskey” and offers it in a warm, rich atmosphere.

QUICK BITES

  • CitySen Lounge is the restaurant in the lobby of the CityFlats hotel. Grab a quick meal of sharables, sandwiches, burgers or salads. Menu changes with the seasons.
  • ATO Sushi features Korean and Japanese offerings. Locals rave about the sushi and incredible service.
  • Russo’s International Market the second location of a family-owned international market that opened more than 100 years ago. Unique to the downtown location is a restaurant offering charcuterie, gourmet sandwiches, pizza, salads and Italian entrees.

BREWERIES

  • CityBuilt Brewing Company features a menu deeply influenced by the flavors and character of Puerto Rico, including tostones, pastelillos and bori balls.
  • The Knickerbocker has an expansive menu of appetizers, salads, sandwiches and pizza. They also practice whole-animal butchery in their in-house meat shop and choose humanely-raised animals and sustainably-raised seafood.
  • Founders has a well-rounded pub menu anchored by a list of beer-inspired sandwiches and French bread pizzas.

Remember, this is just a sample. Make sure to check out the convenient guide to the city’s restaurants and the searchable list.